Options for driving in France
Moving to France and unsure of your best motoring options when you live there?
There are several directions for drivers to take:
- 1. Sell your UK-registered car and buy a left-hand drive (LHD) when you get to France
- 2. Take your right-hand drive car (RHD) to France and sell it a few months after settling in
- 3. Take your right-hand drive car to France and never sell it
- 4. Buy a LHD in the UK and have it delivered to your new French home
- 5. Buy a LHD and drive it to France
For most people moving permanently to France, having a left-hand drive car is the most common option to choose, and many who have done so (notably those on our forum) say the same thing: leave the right-hand drive wheels behind. This will help avoid certain practical and safety issues that anyone driving a RHD in France needs to contend with, such as sighting difficulties when overtaking and at roundabouts.
Another obvious problem that can be avoided by having a LHD in France is at the car park. Our Property and Living Editor Sylvia Davis tells an amusing anecdote: “A long time ago, I was staying for a few weeks in the Var and was offered the use of the car they had brought over from England (i.e. steering wheel on the right side). When I get in, I see a pair of long barbecue tongs on the passenger seat. Hmmm…. peculiar.”
“Then I got to the parking lot and understood. When she went through tolls, parking garage or push-button gates, she used to roll down the passenger window, take her ticket (or push the button) with the tongs and … voilá!”
The benefits of buying in the UK
If you don’t fancy using tongs for the duration of your life in France, and if you choose to buy a left hand drive car prior to moving to France, there are several more practical advantages. Firstly, there’s a financial consideration: many UK left-hand drive dealerships will accept your RHD in a part-exchange deal. Contrary to this, options 2 and 3 in the list above might preclude this because it’s fairly unlikely that a French car dealer will take your RHD off your hands given that the majority of their potential customers will be French and not given to driving a RHD car!
Another thing to remember cost-wise is that if you buy a LHD from a UK dealer and choose to have it delivered instead of driving it there yourself, there will be a cost to factor in, probably more than £500.
And finally, the other key benefit over buying a car in France is that you can carry out the transaction comfortably in English, often with much of the paperwork being done for you. The process of buying a used car in France has its own challenges and rules, as we explain here.
More tips for buying a vehicle outside of France
Other things to check when buying a LHD outside of France include:
- Check that the speedometer runs in kilometres per hour. This will allow you to more easily check your speed instead of doing rapid mental calculations. Speeding ticket avoided!
- Check that the light fittings are set up for the right side of the road. This will avoid paying for amends or risking invalidating your insurance should the police spot your lights not be set up correctly to not dazzle French drivers.
- Make sure the warranty is EU wide and that the car comes with a manufacturer’s certificat de conformité (certificate of conformity or COC). You can contact the company direct though they may charge you, probably around €150, for the privilege. You might be lucky and not have to pay – it depends on the company.
- Is the exchange rate working in your favour? With a strong pound against the euro, you may get better value buying in France, Belgium or Germany. But not if the car is overpriced to start with! Do your research.
Where to buy a LHD vehicle in the UK
As with most vehicle purchases, your search can begin online, just so that you get a feel for the range of cars available and the kind of sale price to expect. There are many specialist dealers in LHD cars and they all have a website to research before visiting their car showroom: Left Hand Drive Place, LHD Car Supermarket, TransEuropean LHD Sales, Heathrow LHD, LHD Car Showroom Uxbridge and London LHD centre.
In short, when to comes to deciding where to buy your vehicle for a new life in France, it’s clearly a matter of taste, preference and resources.