Buying Cars in France

If you want to buy (or sell) a second-hand car (van, boat, bike, caravan, etc.), you can now do so on this site - just follow this link...

Gary from Gary-Automobiles has very kindly shared a great deal of advice and guidance for anyone in the car market. Follow the link to read his article on How to buy a new or used car in France.

(To visit Gary's own website go to:

But, if you are still unsure about the documents you need to check when buying a car, do please contact Sarah.

Someone came to Sarah very recently with a tale of woe having spent tens of thousands of euros on a vehicle from a so-called "reputable dealer". She only discovered when something went wrong that the dealer had sold the vehicle without all the relevant paperwork. Sarah is working hard on this case trying to sort out what she can. But it would have been so simple to ensure this mistake never happened - if only Sarah had been called in when the sale was being made...

If you do buy a second-hand car, it will need to have passed its Contrôle-Technique. This is roughly equivalent to the English MOT, but it is only done every two years (for cars over 4 years old) and by government-appointed professionals.

As of January 2008 there have been some changes to the testing of vehicles, making it harder for non-roadworthy vehicles to pass:

Shock absorbers are not legal if they have “oil leaks forming droplets” and oil on the body of the shock absorber.

Seat belts will fail if: there are burn marks on the belt; it sticks when unrolling; there is worn stitching; or where the belt fixes to the body of the vehicle is weakened.
Rally style harnesses are no longer allowed.

Airbags The container of the bag must not be damaged.

Pollution Testing of the onboard pollution monitor in modern vehicles – for petrol vehicles sold after January 1, 2002 and for diesels after January 1, 2004.

Brakes Insufficient fluid level or the absence of rubber or anti-slip material will be a reason for failure.

Bumpers There will be checks on vehicles sold after May 25, 2007.

Lights General tightening of the rules on the state of headlamps and side lights

Once your car has passed its CT, you will have to display the contrôle sticker in the window. The person from whom you buy the car will have to have put it through the test no more than six months before the sale, so you should have at least 18 months before worrying about it.

If you have a utility vehicle, you will need to put that through an annual pollution test as well as the Contrôle Technique.

Also, make sure that the car you buy has a certificat de non-gage. This means there are no outstanding fines, debts or loans secured on the vehicle.

If you need any help with buying a car - new or second-hand - simply

contact Sarah.
(Sarah's knowledge of and enthusiasm for cars could earn her a place on Top Gear!)

Transporting your vehicle into France

The following information is brought to you directly from the DVLA:

If you are taking your vehicle out of Great Britain permanently you must notify DVLA. If you have a Registration Document (V5) you can do this by completing section C to show the intended date of export. The V5 should then be returned to DVLA or to a DVLA Local Office. In its place you will receive a Certificate of Permanent Export (V561) as confirmation of your vehicle's registration.

If you have a Registration Certificate (V5C) then you must notify export on the purple section (V5C/4). You must take your Registration Certificate with you as you may have to hand it over to the relevant authority when the vehicle is registered abroad.

Further information on this subject, including advice on taking a vehicle to Northern Ireland, can be found in leaflet V526 'Taking your vehicle out of the country'.

Temporary Exports

If you are taking your vehicle out of the country for less than 12 months you must make sure you take your Registration Document (V5) / Certificate (V5C) with you. If you do not have one, you should apply to a DVLA Local Office on form V62.

The Registration Certificate may take up to 14 days to arrive. If you need to travel during this time you will need to apply for Temporary Registration Certificate. You should apply well before your journey, as there could be delays of up to 14 days in issuing the Certificate if you are not already recorded as the vehicle keeper. There is a fee for this service.

You should make sure that you meet any international and national conditions for licensing and taxation.

Vehicle On-Hire Certificate (VE103)

If you are in possession of a leased, hired or rented vehicle the registration certificate will normally be held securely by the company that supplied the vehicle. When travelling abroad it is important that drivers are able to produce documentation to show they are authorised to be in possession of the vehicle. The VE 103 Vehicle On-hire Certificate has been developed to satisfy this requirement. The certificate, which is subject to a small administrative fee, may be obtained from the following organisations:

AA – Automobile Association;

RAC – Royal Automobile Association;

Green Flag;

RHA – Road Haulage Association;

BVRLA – British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association;

FTA – Fleet Transport Association.

More details about how to obtain the VE 103 and its benefits may be found on the websites of the above issuing authorities.

If you want to find out any further information about exporting your vehicle or you wish to download the relevant forms, you might want to visit:
directgov or

Licences, Paperwork and Legalities

Your English licence will be perfectly valid for driving in France and unless you have your licence revoked, (Heaven forbid!) you won’t need to apply for a French one. (Although we have friends who have been told by gendarmes that they should change their UK licence for a French one after living here for 6 months - if you want to argue with a man with a gun, it's up to you!! But the gendarmes were wrong.)

You should carry all of your vehicle documentation and your licence with you when you are out on the road, in case of on-the-spot checks. If you fail to produce them, you have five days in which to present them to your nearest Gendarmerie.

Drink-driving is a serious offence, which can carry a prison sentence, as well as an on-the-spot revocation of your licence. For more information about legal alcohol levels, visit simu- alcool


From 1st July 2012, the French government brought in a law supposedly to bring down the amount of drink-related accidents in the country.

As is often the case with new legislation, it has been immediately surrounded in confusion - how many should you have?, how much will you get fined?, etc.

The legal requirement is that you carry a French NF-Approved Digital Breathalyser or Breathalyser Kit.

A Disposable Breathalyser Kit is the cheapest solution. The French Police are suggesting vehicles carry at least two, so that when one is used to check the driver, there is a second available for inspection. But the law requires either an NF Approved Digital Breathalyser or one unused Breathalyser Kit.

After a quick search of the Internet, the cheapest we've seen is at FeuVert (1.25€ for a single use kit).

Although the law was enacted on 1st July 2012, it was not due to become effective until 1st November 2012. After that date, if you were stopped and checked and you didn't have a breathalyser you were liable for a fine of 11€.

As there had been such a lot of misinformation on the subject, we thought an English translation of the relevant parts of the Decree might be useful:

Decree No. 2012-284 of 28 February 2012 relating to the possession of a compulsory breathalyser by the driver of a motorized land vehicle

NOR: IOCS1130720D

Public concerned: drivers of motorized land vehicle.

Subject: obligation to hold a breath test for all drivers of motorized land vehicles.

Entry into force: the text comes into force on 1 July 2012. Failure to hold a breathalyser will be sanctioned from 1 November 2012.

Notice: the decree requires every driver of a vehicle to have an unused breathalyser available immediately. The breath test must meet the conditions of validity, including its expiration date, provided by the manufacturer...

...It shall have a certification mark or marking of the manufacturer stating its compliance to a model receiving a certificate of compliance with standards whose references are published in the Official Journal of the French Republic...

So there you have it.

However in January 2013 the Ministry of Transport decided to delay implementing the bill indefinitely...(for their next trick they will be attempting to organise a raucous party in a beer-making establishment!)

Speed limits are generally displayed at regular intervals along the road, but be prepared for the limit to change within a few hundred metres!

Unless otherwise stated, the general rules regarding speed limits, are:

50 kph in built-up areas

90 kph or 110 kph outside built up areas or on dual carriageways

130 kph on motorways

If you are caught exceeding the speed limit by 25 kph, you may well have your licence confiscated on the spot and incur a hefty fine.

For more information about driving in France, you might find the following website helpful: