Owning or keeping a car in France


It’s perfectly possible and often financially sensible to bring your own car over from the UK to France or indeed, to source a left-hand drive car in the UK and bring it over. Second-hand cars are notoriously expensive in France so do beware of this, although the market for new cars is pretty much on a par with the UK. We actually bought 2 left-hand drive cars in the UK and brought them over here successfully.

If you are moving to France or staying longer than 6 months you will have to have your car registered in France with a French registration number. You can then, of course, fill out the export section of your log book and reclaim any tax remaining on your car from the DVLA so there is an added bonus of having your car change nationality!
To register your car in France you first need a Certificate of Conformity which basically means that the car complies with French standards. On older cars this is usually obtained from the manufacturer. You should fill out a “demande d’identification” which you can obtain from the offices of DREAL (used to be called DRIRE). You can find the address of your nearest DREAL in yellow pages, online or ask at the mairie. The DREAL may in some cases provide the Certificate of Conformity themselves - but otherwise you must obtain it from the manufacturer. This costs roughly €100, although prices vary according to the type of car and where you are in France.
Next you will need to have a certificate of road worthiness which involves having a “controle technique” at a local garage. This is similar to the MOT. You may be advised to change the headlights for right hand dipping and they may require other alterations, but if so, once these are done, you will not pay a second time for the testing to be done. This costs approximately €80, again with variation.
You will then need proof of your identity and place of residence as well as insurance for your car in France. (We can recommend insurers for you.)
Once you have all these documents you need to go to your local prefecture to obtain your French vehicle registration; make sure you take along your UK log book too. This will then be processed and you will obtain your ‘certificate d’immatriculation’ or ‘carte grise’. The cost for this is something in the region of €200 to €300. Normally you will be assigned your new number plate and a temporary note for a month and your ‘carte grise’ will arrive in the post approximately a month afterwards.
You will find that most garages affix your new number plate in just a few minutes. Simply hand them your proof and notice of the new number and they will prepare your plate and charge an extra €10 or so for fitting (the cost of the plate is around €20). Then you can stand back and salute your new French car!
The total cost of re-registering your car in France may be as much as €500 to €600 but once it is done, it is done. Car insurance in France is fairly reasonable. Expect to pay anything from €300 to €600 per year depending on the type and age of the car. It is the car in France which is insured, not the driver, so once done anyone can drive your car with your permission.
Incidentally, if you are driving over temporarily to France you will need to let your insurance company know. You should automatically have third party liability cover but you may wish to take out an extra premium to cover you comprehensively.
If you are a second home owner, we would not advise re-registering your car unless you are happy to leave it for longish periods whilst you are not in France: it is probably more worthwhile to rent a car at the airport each time you come over - naturally, this will depend on how often you visit of course. We have friends who have an arrangement with friends they have made here to borrow their car each time they come over for a small fee so once you get established in your second home, you may be able to find someone to do something similar for you.
Petrol and diesel are roughly the same price as in the UK and many petrol stations have automatic payment machines which accept most credit cards. This can be useful in the evenings and on Sundays when sometimes the actual petrol station is closed!
There is no road tax in France but many motorways have a toll system and the toll cost can mount up. However, the upside is that the roads are very well maintained with few roadworks or contra flow systems – and of course there is FAR less traffic!
As far as your driving licence goes, there is nothing to stop you driving in France on your UK driving licence, but if you are going to be living in France it probably makes sense to change to a French licence. Again, this is done in the prefecture. If you commit any driving offence such as speeding or drink/driving, you will be asked to change your licence to a French one. This is so that you can affiliate to the system as there is currently nothing reciprocal between the countries so that if you were to have, say, several speeding convictions in France, you would not receive any points on your English licence (you will still have to pay a fine in France though!). The system in France is the other way around with everyone starting off with 12 points. In other words, an infraction means points are taken away, not added so that when you have none, you will receive a ban. 
Driving in France is normally a pleasure. There is so much more space, after all! Happy motoring!

Further reading for Living In France


Finding work in France

There are a number of ways that UK expats can fund their lifestyle in France.


Education in France

Are you emigrating to France with school-age children?



Social life in France

The best way to get settled in France is to find out as much as you can about your new community.



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