The best guide: How to import a vehicle to France from day 1

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All the information you need to import a vehicle to France.

Import a vehicle to France

Introduction

If you are planning to take your car with you to France from an EU or non-EU country, you will need to follow some regulations, and complete all the paperwork necessary.

Who needs to register the vehicle in France:

If you are staying in France for more than six months, then, you need to register the vehicle in France and plated with a French registration number.

What needs to be paid when importing a vehicle to France:

A new or used vehicle on which the VAT has been paid in another EU country can be imported free of French VAT by a French resident. If you buy a new car abroad on which the VAT hasn’t been paid (VAT should already have been paid on a second-hand car), VAT is due immediately on its arrival to France.

VAT is calculated on the invoice price if the vehicle is less than six months old or has covered less than 6,000 km. Otherwise, a reduction is made according to its age, and the VAT is payable on the balance.

In addition to the VAT, customs duty must be paid on cars imported from outside the EU (there’s no duty on cars imported from another EU country)
The rate of duty varies depending on the country of origin (some countries have reciprocal agreements with the EU, resulting in lower duty rates).

Register a vehicle in France:

Before you can register the vehicle, you must contact your local Direction RĂ©gionale de l’Industrie, de la Recherche et de l’Environnement (DRIRE), listed in the yellow pages, which will send you a checklist of the documentation required. This may include the following:

  • The customs certificate (Certificat de Douane 846A).
  • A manufacturer’s certificate of construction (certificat/attestation de conformitĂ©).
  • Proof of origin of the vehicle (justification de l’origine du vĂ©hicule) or a certificate of sale (certificat de vente).
  • Evidence that VAT has been paid in the country of origin (dĂ©claration d’impĂŽt).
  • A registration request form (demande de certificat d’immatriculation) and a demande d’identification (confirming the vehicle’s details).
  • The foreign registration document (titre de circulation Ă©tranger).
  • A test certificate (rapport de contrĂŽle technique) not more than six months old if the vehicle is more than four years old.

Step by step to obtain the documentation needed:

-Visit the DRIRE with all your vehicle documents, including the vehicle identification number (VIN), proof of your identity and address (plus copies just in case) and tell them you want to register a car. They should enter the VIN into their computer. If the number is recognised, which it should be if your car isn’t too old and was built for the European market, they will give you a certificat/attestation de conformitĂ©.

  • If the VIN isn’t recognised, you must contact the vehicle manufacturer to obtain a certificate (if your car has a non-European specification or has been modified, buy another car!). This will cost you up to €150, depending on the manufacturer, and you will still have to pay the DRIRE €30 for the French certificate.
  • Go to your local HĂŽtel des ImpĂŽts and ask for a dĂ©claration d’impĂŽt. Present your car registration document, the attestation de conformitĂ© from the DRIRE and your proof of residence, and you should be given the appropriate form – free (unless the vehicle is brand new).
  • If the vehicle is more than four years old, you need to take it to a test centre. If it fails the test, it must be rectified and documentation provided to prove that this has been done (justification).
  • Take all the documents you have now amassed to the local prĂ©fecture (not a sous- prĂ©fecture, where you won’t be able to get everything done on the spot but must wait while the paperwork is sent to and from the prĂ©fecture) and ask for a registration application form ( demande de certificat d’immatriculation) and a demande d’identification (confirming the vehicle’s details). Fill in the forms, hand in your documents and wait.
  • Take all your documents to an insurance company or broker and to a garage or other outlet to obtain a registration document and registration plates.

Will you need to change the headlights on your UK vehicle?

In order to pass a Control Technique in France, the headlamps on your car will need to meet French standards – a deflection sticker will not suffice.

Whether your headlamps can be adjusted for Left-hand-drive or need to be completely replaced depends upon the vehicle and headlamps in question. You should find this out before you decide to import a vehicle from the UK.

How to obtain your Carte Grise for a UK vehicle:

Once the vehicle has arrived to France, you must register it and obtain a Carte Grise (Certificat d’Immatriculation) – this is France’s Vehicle Registration Document. You have one month in which to obtain the Carte Grise after arriving to France, or four months if your vehicle requires a single vehicle approval inspection (you can check our technical Datasheets).

The process for applying for a Carte Grise is now carried out online, not at your local prefecture (although they should still be able to advise you if you need extra help). The application process is simple, but when importing a UK vehicle there is a long list of required documents and obtaining all of them can sometimes take time.

FrenchEntrĂ©e Tip: Websites such as Eplaque.fr can be a big help with this process – their online platform allows you to add and save all your documents for your Carte Grise and/or license plates. They also have a free English language helpline.

What documents you need to import a UK vehicle to France:

  • Passport and a valid driver’s license.
  • Proof of your French address.
  • Green Card insurance or proof of car insurance.
  • Vehicle registration document or V5C
  • Dated and signed Application for Registration of the Vehicle in France (you can download it here: Demande de certificat d’immatriculation)
  • Vehicle Bill of Sale (if the vehicle is already in your name, no further proof is required)
  • Signed Mandat dÂŽimmatriculation form
  • Certificate of conformity (you can check here our technical Datasheets)
  • Import tax certificate or 846 A
  • Control technique certificate not older than 6 months.

Does your UK vehicle need a Control Technique?

If the vehicle is 4 years old or more, it must have a Control Technique (M.O.T), which needs to be carried out every 2 years.

Prior to Brexit, a British M.O.T certificate under 6 months old was valid for used cars being imported to another EU country. From 2021 onwards this is no longer the case, and all cars will older than 4 years need a French Control Technique certificate.

Importing a Vehicle from an EU country:

The above procedure is more or less the same for importing a vehicle from any EU country, except that the import tax certificate required is different. If your vehicle is currently registered in another EU member state, then you will need a ‘quittus fiscal’ which you can obtain from your local tax office on production of the vehicle registration document and proof of address.

For vehicles imported in the EU, the following rules apply:

Used vehicles: There should not be any VAT or customs charges applicable to vehicles imported from another EU country.

New vehicles: VAT rules require that a new vehicle is taxed in the country in which it is to be registered. Thus, if you import a new car (less than 6 months/6,000 km old), then VAT is due in France. It should therefore be bought VAT free in the country of purchase to avoid paying VAT twice and having to try and reclaim it from the country of origin.