How to register a foreign vehicle in France
Registering a car or motorcycle from abroad can sometimes seem tedious and risky. Fortunately, with a little method and preparation, you should be able to get through it without any trouble. Here is a short, non-exhaustive guide covering the usual cases. par TeamBenzin
Registering a vehicle in France from the European Union
This is the most common case. The agreements between the countries of the European Union greatly facilitate the procedures and reduce the costs, in particular thanks to the absence of customs duties or payment of VAT (fees may still apply under certain conditions).
There are two cases depending on the age of the imported vehicle.
a) If the vehicle is less than 30 years old
After purchasing your vehicle, you will need to register it:
- To obtain a COC (European Certificate of Conformity) from the vehicle manufacturer. This document can be obtained either directly from the manufacturer via a service often dedicated to this purpose, or via generalist websites that can provide it to you. This document will cost you on average between 150€ and 300€.
- Requesting a tax receipt from the SIE (Service d'Impôt Entreprises) of your place of residence is a free and nowadays often dematerialized procedure. This document allows you to determine if you are liable for taxes, including VAT (see remarks below).
- Carry out a technical inspection if the vehicle does not have one. Know that today, most of the European technical controls of less than 6 months are accepted by the French administration, and avoid you to have to pass it again.
- The purchase invoice if you bought the vehicle from a professional or the sales contract if you bought the vehicle from an individual.
It will be enough then, with the choice :
- Do the procedure from the ANTS website, under the heading "Make another request" and then "Register a vehicle in France for the first time".
- To entrust the file to a professional
- If the vehicle is less than 6 months old or less than 6,000 km: if the vehicle meets one of the two conditions, you will be liable for the payment of VAT, which in France is 20% on the purchase price
- The vehicle must have been sold for the first time in an EU country. A vehicle of non-EU origin that has been registered in an EU country may be refused entry into France if it does not meet the French homologation criteria (see next case).
b) If the vehicle is over 30 years old
If the vehicle is more than 30 years old, you can either use the previous procedure (if you manage to obtain a COC), or consider registering it as a classic vehicle.
You will need:
- To obtain a certificate from the FFVE (https://www.ffve.org/attestation-ffve-pour-l-ex-carte-grise-de-collection). The formality will cost you about 60€.
- To ask for a tax receipt from the SIE (Service d'Impôt Entreprises) of your place of residence, it is a free procedure and nowadays very often dematerialized. This document allows you to determine if you are liable for taxes, including VAT (see special cases below).
- To carry out a technical control if the vehicle does not have one. Know that today, most of the European technical controls of less than 6 months are accepted by the French administration, and avoid you to have to pass it again.
- The previous registration certificate or, failing that, a document proving the origin of ownership of the vehicle
It will be enough then, with the choice :
- To do the procedure from the ANTS website, under the heading "Make another request" then "Other request" and "I can't obtain a vehicle registration document using the remote procedure".
- To entrust the file to a professional
Registration as a collector's vehicle is only possible for vehicles in their original configuration: vehicles that have been heavily modified (especially the engine) may be refused, except in exceptional cases (especially in the case of very old and rare vehicles whose original parts cannot be found).
Registering a non-EU vehicle in France
If the vehicle does not come from the European Union, you will have to go through the homologation process, also called "Réception à Titre Isolé" or RTI, delivered by the DREAL.
Several cases are possible, depending on whether the vehicle was marketed in Europe in a similar configuration or not. In all cases, the first step is to ask the manufacturer for a certificate of non-conformity or partial conformity.
You will then have to make the necessary modifications to bring the vehicle into compliance with European standards: this often involves modifying the headlights, the anti-pollution system or the noise level. The complexity of the modifications varies according to the vehicle, and it is always preferable to get information from specialized professionals before taking the plunge.
Finally, the DREAL officer will inspect the vehicle and there are three possible outcomes:
a) Your vehicle is compliant
If the modifications are sufficient and compliant, the DREAL will issue your RTI and you will be able to apply for registration as explained above for vehicles coming from the EU.
b) Your vehicle must pass tests
If the agent considers that tests are necessary to validate the conformity, then you will have to go to the UTAC so that a battery of tests is carried out. In this case, the bill is high: about 2000€ per visit. If UTAC determines that your vehicle is not compliant, either they will give you a new appointment if the problem can be corrected, or they will not follow up and you will not be able to register the vehicle. If it is compliant, congratulations, you will get your RTI!
c) Your vehicle is not compliant
If the officer determines that your vehicle is not compliant, he or she will either reschedule you if the problem can be corrected, or will not proceed and you will not be able to register the vehicle.
To go further
Calculate the cost of the car registration
The government has set up a cost simulator available here : Click
Transiting a vehicle purchased abroad
The question of how to move the vehicle often arises when buying a car or motorcycle abroad.
The simplest solution will almost always be to use a carrier or to tow the vehicle yourself. This avoids the problems of registration and insurance. However, if you wish to repatriate the vehicle by road, here are some tips.
To drive on the road, a vehicle must be registered. This seems obvious, but it is less so when vehicles are sold without plates. This is the case in most European countries outside of France such as Belgium, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands or Spain.
The solution is temporary registration: either by purchasing export plates in the country of purchase, or by applying for temporary French plates (called "WW" plates).
a) Registration with temporary "WW" plates (or CPI - Certificat d'Immatriculation Provisoire)
This will be the easiest and will also allow you to drive in France for up to 4 months. Today, almost all European countries allow to drive with these plates on their territory, except Germany. In the latter case, Germany forbids to drive with WW plates for a vehicle you just bought in Germany. You will have to buy export plates.
b) Registration with export plates
Most countries offer the purchase of export plates, allowing you to drive in a limited time on the territory. The other advantage is that many car professionals offer to provide them, which can greatly facilitate your task. The disadvantage is that these plates are often valid for a shorter period of time and cost more than the French WW plates.
The second step to get around is to get insurance. You have several options for this:
a) Have the vehicle insured by your insurer
This is the simplest case, provided that you already have an insurer who agrees to insure a vehicle that is not permanently registered.
b) Take out temporary insurance
This is the fastest and most flexible solution. Several companies exist and offer you insurance for different periods. They are generally not very particular about the vehicle purchased.
c) Buy temporary plates with insurance included
Some provisional export plates include insurance and save you from having to purchase it separately. This is definitely a time saver.
Registering a vehicle purchased abroad is becoming more and more common and the procedures are becoming simpler. For a vehicle coming from the EU, there are few unpleasant surprises because the procedures are standardized between countries. For those from outside the EU, caution is required because the process can be a difficult and costly one, and in most cases it is preferable to contact a specialized professional who will know exactly what to expect.
Benzin makes it very easy to buy a car abroad, first of all by offering very detailed ads and easy communication with the seller, which saves you unnecessary travel. The payment is secured by the use of an escrow account (eligible vehicles), which removes any fear of sending a payment abroad. Finally, the transport service saves you from having to manage the repatriation or having to do additional steps for the provisional registration.
ANTS website (registration): ANTS
Website of the FFVE (Collection registration) : FFVE
Achat de COC : Eurococ
Immatriculation WW (CPI) : Self-care
Provisional insurance : JLassure
This article is only intended to present the usual approaches encountered in the most general cases, may contain errors and may not be up to date with the latest regulations at the time of reading. It can in no way guarantee the success of a personal procedure. The registration of a vehicle is always your responsibility.