Importing and registering a car in France
French vehicle registration is known as immatriculation
and the certificate is the carte grise
, (grey card). It is controlled by the Département
in which you are living and applications should be directed to the Préfecture.
The process varies according to the source of your car:
New cars bought in France
This is quite simple – if you buy a new car in France the dealer will arrange for the issue of the carte grise.
Used cars bought in France
The car you are buying must have a carte grise
. The old carte grise
is cancelled and replaced with a new one which you must apply for within 15 days of buying the car. The vendor should give you a certificate or note of sale and you will need to present this together with your proof of residence or passport at the Préfecture.
According to a FrenchEntrée reader, you can also do the paperwork at your local mairie
. According to Jan Lees: "Our local mairie
not only had the forms, they completed it for us; all we had to do was sign. They also looked up the cost for us. Then the mairie
took the notification of sale and the registration document, plus a form of identity (in our case utility bills) and sent it off to the Préfecture for us. We received the new registration document directly from the Préfecture."
This is where life can become more complicated because the imported vehicle will need to conform to French construction and use regulations. This means you may need to change parts of the car, for example headlights, to conform with French road legislation. From January 1, 2008, Contrôle technique in France
(MOT) got tougher, with more stringent regulations.
The following is a set of guideline instructions for obtaining a carte grise
for an imported vehicle. Please note that the process may vary slightly from one region to another
– it is worth checking with your mairie
first in case the procedures are different.
NB: If you stay in France for more than one month you will have to change the registration of your car, although the evidence on the road suggests that this law has not been strictly observed in the past.
The first step is to contact your local DRIRE office (Direction Régionale de L’Industrie, de la Recherche et de l’Environnement) who will send you a check-list of the documents required to register your car.
This is likely to include:
- Customs Certificate
A 'certificat de régularité fiscale' for cars impoted from within the EU or a 'Certificat de Douane 846a' for non-EU imports.
Take the original registration documents and receipt of sale to your local Centre d’Impots. They will advise you on whether any VAT or Customs Duty (for imports from outside the EU) is payable on the car (there should not be any if you purchased the car second-hand or if you can prove payment of VAT in the country of origin)
- Manufacturers Certificate of Conformity
(Attestation de Conformité): you can request this from a car-dealer, French importer or direct from the manufacturer. Note that this process can become much more challenging for older or more obscure or classic models of car.
- Proof of origin
of the vehicle or certificate of sale
- Evidence that VAT
has been paid in the country of origin
- Registration request form
(demande de certificat d’immatriculation), available from your local prefecture
- The original
- A test certificate
(Rapport de contrôle technique) if the vehicle is more than four years old: if you are importing the car you will need to pass the contrôle technique at a vehicle test centre or authorised garage, which checks the car’s condition: identification, brakes, tyres, noise levels, emission levels, lights, steering and chassis. The test is due every two years thereafter.
- Proof of identity and residence
You will need to take or post these documents to the car registration bureau within your local Préfecture who will process your application. Depending on the age and type of vehicle the DRIRE may ask you to bring your car for an inspection to check the conformity with French standards.
Once your car is approved by DRIRE you can submit the application form via your Préfecture (or your local Mairie
might do this for you), then sit back and wait. You must also pay a fee to obtain your carte grise
and this varies according to engine size.
The application may take some time, depending on the complexity of your application or the efficiency of your local office.
However, at the end of this period you should receive in the post a carte grise
with a new registration number. Take this to your local ironmonger, key-cutter or other similar outlet where they will make up your number plates.
* Getting a French licence
* Contrôle technique in France
Driving in France Home Page
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