Making our English cars legal in France

During all the to-ing and fro-ing we have done between England and France over the years that we have had a home here, all I have had to think about is having European insurance and breakdown cover, using the sticky beam-benders on our headlights (to avoid dazzling approaching drivers after dark) and carrying the requisite safety gear.

Things changed when we finally moved here permanently. As French residents we were required to officially import and re-register our trusty motors. Basically what we needed for the van and the car was a Carte Grise literally ‘Grey Card’, the equivalent of the UK V5 log book. Easily said but finding out exactly how to do this was no simple task.

Two things I’ve found out about living abroad are 1. Don’t assume anything works like in your native country; it rarely does, even in these international, global times. 2. I don’t know what I don’t know!!

Until quite recently the system was to pop along to your local Préfecture, County Hall and fill in the necessary forms. French friends who had not changed cars recently were adamant that this was all we needed to do. However France recently introduced their new online ANTS site, where all car registrations and updates to owners have to be done.

But to use this site you need to be in the business (a car dealer) or personally have official identification, which typically consists of an income tax reference, to register. As we haven’t been tax-resident for a full year yet, we won’t get these until we do our first tax return in April/May of this year. Happily (?!) the occasion of our van’s gearbox problem meant that we made the acquaintance of our local Renault dealer. When I asked him if he could help us re-register the car and van he was happy to help. He told us all the documentation we would need and we left promising to return in the new year when we had it all ready.

So all we needed for each vehicle was:

UK log book (VO5)

A European certificate of conformity,

French insurance

A Controle Technique (MOT equivalent)

Quitus fiscale (VAT import tax declaration certificate)

Plus the usual passport photocopy, utility bill (proof of address), bill of sale for the vehicle (who the heck has one of these when you bought it privately?), and a completed “demande” form, cerfa 13750.05

Getting a British registered car insured by a French insurance company is not easy – most do not want to know. We heard via Facebook that AXA would give 3 months’ provisional cover while you went through the process of re-registering so we paid a visit to our local AXA agency and 2 hours of paperwork (and a ‘gulp’ premium) later we left with a little square piece of green paper to display on our windscreens.

Next, the Contrôle Technique.

We booked both the car and the van in for a CT the following week at the local registered CT centre. I quizzed the manager about how he felt about beam-bender stickers on the headlights, as I knew they were technically legal for a CT, but that loads of Brits had had problems getting French CT centres to accept them. “No problem”, he said, and then wanted to know why we were moving to France. Was it because of Brexit? “Not good” he opined. We had to agree.

We knew that the Audi badly needed two new rear tyres so we went down to the local tyre fitter and booked the car in to have the tyres fitted on the morning of the CT test. (The earliest they could do, as they had to order them in)

The following Monday we took the van to the CT test centre and handed over the key along with a spare pack of beam-bender stickers ‘in case the current ones weren’t in exactly the right place’.

Forty-five minutes later the technician came back and reported a clean bill of health and issued our certificate and stuck the little square token to the windscreen. Result!!

A day later the tyre-fitting centre rang to say they couldn’t get hold of the tyres for the Audi for another week. (moderately-rural France is a totally different experience from the UK) I Googled the tyre and found an on-line supplier who could deliver the tyres to a local ‘partner’ garage for fitting. The price was good so I ordered and selected a garage about 6 km away. The supplier reported the tyres had been dispatched but after 3 days I had still not heard from the garage, so I rang to make an appointment for the fitting. The garagiste informed me that he didn’t fit tyres that had been bought over the internet- “he supplied tyres himself so why would he?”, he said.

So I rang the online tyre company and asked what I should do? “Leave it with us”, said the very helpful lady.

An hour later she rang back to say the the garagiste had decided he really did want to stay as a ‘partner garage’ with them (would’ve loved to have been a fly on the wall for that conversation) and that I would hear from him shortly regarding the fitting.

Meanwhile we had the appointment for the CT on the Audi. I agonised for a day about whether to cancel the CT, but decided to keep the appointment anyway and take the hit for the tyres. It would be another 20 euros for a re-test but we would have a piece of paper to say we had been ‘done’ which is all we needed apparently, for the registration people.

Back at the CT centre we read the local papers for an hour before the mechanic came back. He filled in forms without a word, so I summoned up the courage to ask how things had gone? “C’est une Audi“, it’s an Audi, he said with one eyebrow raised, as if only an idiot would think it could fail. Colin and I looked at each other, doing a telepathic hi-five then followed him outside, watched him fix the little Pass sticker to the windscreen, before waving a cheery bye-bye. “Oh, and you might just want to check the rear tyres” he winked as we got in.

Later that afternoon the garagiste rang and offered an immediate appointment, which we accepted, dropping everything to spend an hour sitting with his cheery wife and being licked to death by their Jack Russell while he fitted the new tyres. Not a word did he utter during the whole transaction.

Next the Quitus Fiscale…you’d better go and make yourself a cup of tea.

5 thoughts on “Making our English cars legal in France

  1. shearmyste says:

    Lucky for us we won’t have this issue, only having our electric bikes so far! Although we were boarded by the ‘douane’ a couple of weeks ago and when we said we were buying a property they immediately asked if the boat was staying in France and implied that as soon as 29th March arrives they will be back for our taxes! They said it with a smile on their faces or were they just rubbing their hands in glee!!


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