Importing a UK Vehicle and Registering it in France After Brexit


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Importing a UK Vehicle and Registering it in France After Brexit

If you are moving to France and want to bring your UK vehicle with you or plan to purchase a new car in the UK and import it to France, you probably have a lot of questions about how to go about this. Will you need to change your headlights? How do you obtain a Carte Grise? What is a Certificate of Conformity? And with the UK now outside of the EU, does this mean you’ll be hit with extra VAT and customs charges? Here’s everything you need to know about importing a UK vehicle and registering it in France, including post-Brexit changes.

In this article:
Importing a UK Vehicle to France: the basics
Will you need to change the headlights on your UK car?
How to obtain your Carte Grise
How much does a Carte Grise cost?
Documents needed to import a UK vehicle to France
Does your UK vehicle need a Control Technique?
How to obtain a Certificate of Conformity
Post-Brexit customs charges and VAT: obtaining a 846 A
Importing a Car or Vehicle from an EU country

Importing a UK Vehicle to France: the basics

Registering a UK car or vehicle in France is a relatively straightforward process, although it does require a number of different documents and there are a number of potential costs to factor in. This procedure applies to anyone living or intending to live in France, as well as second home owners wishing to permanently maintain a vehicle at their French property.

The basic steps are as follows. All steps are explained in more detail throughout this article.

Before bringing the vehicle to France:

  • Ensure you have all the relevant documents needed to register your UK car in France (full list below).
  • Change your headlights (if applicable) and check that your car speedometer has a km reading (if not, this will need to be fitted)

On arrival in France:

  • Contact your local customs office to obtain your 846 A certificate
  • Book your car in for Control Technique (if required)
  • Apply for your Carte Grise
  • When you have received your Carte Grise, request your French number plates

FrenchEntrée tip: Do not leave it until the last minute to get your documents together – some documents, in particular the Certificate of Conformity on older vehicles, can take some time to get hold of. If you are considering buying a new car, take a good look at the list before purchasing and be sure that all documents can be obtained before buying.

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

One question that keeps coming up is whether you will need to change the headlamps on your UK car when importing it to France. 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 or not your headlamps can be adjusted for Left-hand-drive or need to be completely replaced depends upon the vehicle and headlamps in question. Our recommendation is to find this out before you decide to import a vehicle from the UK.

FrenchEntrée Tip: Replacing headlamps can cost upwards of €500 and it is worth comparing prices in both the UK and France as, depending on the make of the vehicle, you may find one is much cheaper than the other. If purchasing a new vehicle in the UK, consider negotiating the headlamps into the sale price.

How to obtain your Carte Grise

Once the vehicle has arrived in 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 in France or four months if your vehicle requires a single vehicle approval inspection (see the section below on ‘How to obtain a Certificate of Conformity).

In the case of a trailer/caravan, if its gross weight is under 500kg then it does not need to be registered and it only needs to display the number plate of the towing vehicle.

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.

FrenchEntrée Tip: Websites such as 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.

How much does a Carte Grise cost?

The costs of a Carte Grise include 4 different taxes and a fee, the most significant of which are the regional tax (taxe régionale) and the pollution/carbon emissions tax (taxes sur les véhicules polluants).

Regional tax (taxe régionale)

The regional tax is based on each (department) region has a base level tax (the ‘cheval fiscal’) typically between €27 and €52) which is then multiplied by the vehicle’s ‘puissance fiscal’ (PF), calculated according to the vehicle’s Horsepower and Carbon Emission (gr/km). There are other factors at play here too, including a 50% reduction for vehicles over 10 years old, an exemption for electric- and hydrogen-powered vehicles, and 50% or 100% exemptions for E85, GPL, and hybrid versions.

The example given on the French government website is a petrol car under 3.5 tonnes, with a taxable horsepower of 5 and a carbon emission rating of 103 g/km de CO2 registered in the Île-de-France department, would total: 231€

Pollution tax (taxes sur les véhicules polluants)

If you are looking to register a new vehicle, especially a petrol or diesel car with a high CO2 emission rate, perhaps the most significant cost will be the pollution tax. This ranges from 0€ for vehicles under 133 CO₂ to a whopping €30,000 for a vehicle over 218+ CO₂.

The good news for owners of used vehicles is that this tax is no longer applicable to used vehicles since 1st January 2021.

FrenchEntrée Tip: Get an estimation of the registration costs of your vehicle before you import it to avoid any unwelcome surprises. This is especially important if you’re looking to purchase a new petrol or diesel vehicle with high carbon emissions. This online Carte Grise calculator will do the maths for you.

Documents needed to import a UK vehicle to France

The following documents are required for all UK registered vehicles, new and used, being brought into France from 1st January 2021 onwards. Note that these documents have changed from those required prior to Brexit.

  • Your passport and valid driver’s licence
  • Proof of your French address, e.g. a utility bill less than 6 months old
  • Green Card insurance or proof of car insurance
  • Vehicle registration document or V5C (or export certificate if the registration document has been retained by the original issuing authority). You must complete the ‘permanent export’ section of the certificate. If you are purchasing the vehicle, you must also complete the ‘New Keeper’ section.
  • Dated and signed Application for Registration of the Vehicle in France  which you can download here: Demande de certificat d’immatriculation (Cerfa 13750*05)
  • Car Bill of Sale – if you have bought the car from someone else. If the vehicle registration document is already in your name, then no further proof is required
  • Signed ‘Mandat d’immatriculation (Cerfa 13757*03)’ form
  • Certificate of Conformity (see the below section on ‘How to obtain a Certificate of Conformity’ for more details)
  • Import tax Certificate or 846 A (see the below section on ‘Post-Brexit customs charges and VAT: obtaining a 846 A’)
  • Control Technique certificate (French ‘MOT’) no older than 6 months (if applicable)

Does your UK vehicle need a Control Technique?

All cars older than 4 years old in France must have a Control Technique (the French version of an M.O.T), which is carried out every 2 years. If you are importing a UK vehicle to France, the same rules apply – any car older than 4 years must pass a Control Technique and you will need this to apply for your Carte Grise.

Post Brexit changes: 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.

You should try to book your Control Technique as soon as possible when your vehicle arrives in France, which can be done directly through your local Control Technique centre. You will need your Vehicle registration document and will likely also be asked to present your Certificate of Conformity. Tests typically cost between €65 to €100, and if your car does not pass you will be given 2 months to carry out the necessary work on your car and return for a retest.

Locate your local Control Technique centre.

FrenchEntrée tip: Change or adjust the headlights of your vehicle before going for your Control Technique – you don’t want to waste time and money having to take your vehicle back for a retest.

How to obtain a Certificate of Conformity

All vehicles brought into France from overseas are required to have a Certificate of Conformity, which confirms that the vehicle conforms with EC Type Approval (the standard required within the EU).

The availability of a Certificate of Conformity depends upon the type and age of your vehicle/trailer.

If you have a:

  • passenger car from 1998 onwards
  • motorcycle from 2002 onwards
  • camping car from around 2002 onwards
  • panel van under 3500kg from 2010 onwards

then you obtain an ‘EU certificate of conformity’ from the manufacturer/importer’s head office in the country where the vehicle is currently registered.

Since 2016, the situation for motorcycles is that unless fitted with ABS, it is a legal requirement that they are limited to 106 bhp, and therefore the owner must take the necessary steps to restrict the power. It will also be necessary to ensure the correct headlamp and speedometer reading in KPH are fitted.

If you have a:

  • passenger car prior to 1998
  • motorcycle prior to 2002
  • panel van under 3500kg prior to 2010
  • trailer or caravan over 500kg on commercial sale in France

then you obtain an ‘attestation d’identification’ from the manufacturer/importer’s French head office. For motorcycles, the importer will also require a dealer letter confirming that the engine output is below 106bhp and that the headlamp and speedometer are configured for use in France.

If you have a:

  • ‘grey’ import, e.g. a vehicle originally built solely for the Japanese or US home markets
  • vehicle modified to run on LPG
  • camping car prior to around 2002
  • commercial vehicle with a non-factory built body, e.g. a horsebox
  • trailer or caravan over 500kg not on commercial sale in France
  • modified/rebuilt vehicle/kit car

then you will need to submit it for a DREAL single vehicle approval inspection, provide certain technical documentation and, in some cases, submit the vehicle for additional tests before your vehicle/trailer can be approved. The conformity certificate (procès-verbal de titre isolé) is issued by the DREAL after completion of the inspection.

How to obtain a Certificate of Conformity after Brexit

With the UK now outside the EU, it will no longer be a requirement for cars manufactured from 2021 onwards to conform to EC Type Approval. In reality, this is unlikely to change anything and shouldn’t prevent you from obtaining a Certificate of Conformity, but if you are looking to purchase a new car in the UK and intend to import it to France or might do so in the future, it’s worth asking this question before buying.

Post-Brexit customs charges and VAT: obtaining an 846 A

The biggest change for UK vehicle owners importing a car to France since Brexit is the possible addition of customs duties (droits de douane) and VAT (TVA), but what does this mean in practice?

From 1st Jan 2021, all UK registered non-commercial vehicles being imported to France will require an 846A certificate (Certificat de dédouanement). This is issued by your local customs office (in France) which you can look up here. You will need to send them two copies of the Déclaration d’entrée en France en franchise de biens personnels en provenance de pays tiers à l’Union Européenne, along with a copy of your proof of former residence in the UK, the Vehicle Registration certificate, and the Car Bill of Sale. You will then be informed of any customs or tax payable and, upon receipt of payment, will be sent your 846A certificate.

Customs duties and taxes on new vehicles after Brexit

For new vehicles bought in the UK and imported into France, expect to pay customs duties of 10% and 20% VAT. Note that the VAT on a new purchase intended for export will be paid in the country of registration (France) not in the UK (so you won’t be paying the VAT twice!). However, you must declare your intention to export the vehicle at the time of purchase.

Customs duties and taxes on used vehicles after Brexit

An important exception is made for a used vehicle that is currently in your possession if you move residence to France. For example, a UK resident that moves permanently to France and wants to bring their car with them. You must have owned the car for at least 6 months prior to moving to France and must declare the vehicle on your inventory of goods when moving to France. In this case, an exemption is made and the vehicle will not be subject to custom duties or taxes.

However, for used vehicles bought in the UK (for example, by a person already resident in France) and imported to France, customs duties of 10% will also be applied. You will also be liable to pay 20% VAT in the country of registration (i.e. France). If you are buying the car from a UK dealer, be sure to let them know that the vehicle is intended for exportation – this means that they can zero-charge the VAT (i.e. you will purchase the vehicle in the UK free from VAT, but instead will pay the VAT in France on importation).

For used cars bought from a private seller, where VAT would not normally be applied, you will still be subject to the 20% importation VAT when importing the car to France, so be sure to account for this when budgeting for your purchase. Alternatively, you could look at buying a second hand car in France.

FrenchEntrée Tip: If you’re buying a new or used car in the UK for export to France, always declare that the car is for export and insist that the seller zero-charge VAT. Otherwise, you will have to pay the VAT twice (both in the UK, then upon import to France) and subsequently request a refund on the VAT paid in the UK. Not only does this require sufficient funds, but it’s a time-consuming process that is best avoided.

Importing a Car or 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/6000km 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.

What else has changed in France after Brexit?

What else has changed for British expats or second-home owners in France after Brexit? Head to our Brexit zone to learn more about living, travelling, and property in France from 2021 onwards.

Driving in France

Whether you own a car in France, travel to France in your UK or EU-registered car, or hire a rental car – FrenchEntrée has all the need-to-know info about driving in France. Our Essential Reading articles will take you through buying, registering, and insuring your car, as well as offering tips and advice on driving and car ownership in France.

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  •  Christine Ward
    2021-07-22 02:49:10
    Christine Ward
    I am totally confused by the ‘Declaration d’entrée en Franchise de biens personnels en provenance de pays tiers á l’Union Européenne’ I want to import a vehicle and can locate nothing relevant on this form that applies to my request. Can anyone help ?