CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to France Magazines today CLICK HERE

How to buy and register a car in France

PUBLISHED: 17:36 05 May 2017 | UPDATED: 15:59 03 January 2018

Buying and registering a car in France © istockphoto

Buying and registering a car in France © istockphoto


If you are planning to own a car in France then make sure you understand the registration documents you need and how car insursance, MOTs and breakdown cover differs from the UK first

Buying a car in France

The decision and search process for buying a car in France is much the same as in the UK. Work out your budget, see what is available in your price range, and start looking for your desired vehicle on the market through the usual channels – dealerships, garages, websites and small ads. You will find little difference in the price of new cars in France as compared with the UK, but there are inevitably many more dealerships selling French cars, notably Renault, Peugeot and Citroën. However, when it comes to second-hand cars (voitures d’occasion), be ready to take a big gulp as the second-hand market is decidedly more expensive in France. On the upside, at least the car will keep its value better if you come to sell it at a future point.

Getting a loan

Should you require a loan to make the purchase, you can arrange this either through the dealership or with your own bank. The dealership will require certain documents such as proof of residence and earnings, but will generally process the loan relatively quickly to ensure a smooth sale. Your bank, on the other hand, will already hold all the necessary information, but it can be a slightly lengthier process to gain head office approval for a loan. Be sure however to check out both options to compare the relative merits of each.


Related articles

12 tips for driving in France

The vehicle stickers you will need to buy before driving in Paris


French car documents © Unclesam / FotoliaFrench car documents © Unclesam / Fotolia

Documents you will need for your car

Whether you buy from a professional or a private individual, there are several documents that the seller is required to provide, including:

Certificat de situation administrative (previously called the certificat de non-gage)

This is the most important document that you must have in your possession before handing over any money as it basically proves that the owner is indeed the owner and that there are no outstanding fines, claims or loan payments associated with the vehicle.

Contrôle technique

An MOT certificate issued within the last six months is required in sales transactions for all cars in circulation for four or more years.

The cancelled certificat d’immatriculation (still commonly called by its former title carte grise)

This is the vehicle’s registration document and must be clearly cancelled (i.e. lines across the page) with the seller’s signature and date confirming release of the vehicle.

Carnet d’entretien

The car’s maintenance log book as well as invoices for any repairs it has undergone.

Certificat de cession

This certificate testifies that the owner has signed over his or her ownership of the vehicle as a result of the sale. It is needed in triplicate; one copy for the seller, one for the buyer, and one to pass on to the préfecture on completion of sale.

Registering your new car

When you buy through a registered dealership, the sales department will usually organise all the necessary registration papers for you, so that when you take possession of the car you already have the carte grise (or certificat d’immatriculation) in your name. All that remains is to inform your insurance company of your change of car.

With a private sale, it’s your responsibility to organise the papers. You used to have to visit the préfecture in order to appy for your carte grise but since November 2017 you now have to do this online via

You have one month to register and obtain your carte grise or you risk a fine if stopped by the police.

To apply for a carte grise online you will need photos or scanned copies of the following:

• Proof of identity for each registered owner

• Proof of residence

• Proof of contrôle technique (MOT) if the car is more than 4 years old

• A copy of the carte grise marked with the date of sale and the previous owner’s signature

• The code de cession provided by the seller

• You may also need proof of insurance

And don’t forget your credit or debit card as the little carte grise doesn’t come cheap – the fee varies from around €200-€300 depending on the vehicle’s engine size and the regional tax levy. You can get an estimate of costs on this website


Related articles

50 French words and phrases you need to learn if you are driving in France

Guide to healthcare for expats in France


Car insurance in France

When it comes to insuring your car, all vehicles on the road must be insured (and there is no relief for cars spending part of the year off the road). The key difference is that you insure the car as opposed to the driver, so anyone with a valid driving licence can get behind the wheel of your car which can sometimes come in handy, especially if you have visitors from home. That said, the insurer will still issue the insurance in the car owner’s name and usually list the principal drivers.

As in the UK, there are several organisations offering car insurance, including dedicated insurance companies and banks, and it is always advisable to seek expert advice and shop around for the better deals. Once your car insurance is in place, it is automatically renewed each year unless you choose to terminate (this must be done in writing by recorded post within the stated deadline).

Every year upon renewal, the insurer sends through the updated policy (attenstation d’assurance) as well as a small green square coupon (certificat d’assurance) indicating the expiry date which must be clearly displayed in the bottom right-hand corner of the windscreen to render the insurance valid. The policy, including an accident form, should be kept somewhere in the vehicle.


In France, all private cars that have been on the road for more than four years must undergo an MOT test (contrôle technique) every two years at a licensed MOT centre. These centres are dedicated to carrying out MOT tests and are equipped with computerised equipment for the relevant checks, which means you can be in and out in less than half an hour if you’re lucky. The cost of a contrôle technique is €70 on average.

If your car passes the MOT, the garage will add a sticker of validation in the relevant part of the carte grise indicating the car is roadworthy and will provide a written diagnostic of the findings, including any potential problems that may require attention. Should your car fail any part of the test the garage provides a written report listing the failings and you have two moths in which to get the car repaired before returning to the MOT centre. Some centres offer this return visit check for free.


Related articles

Things you need to know about banking in France

You need to drive these beautiful routes in France


Always put a warning triangle out if you break down in France © gemenacom / FotoliaAlways put a warning triangle out if you break down in France © gemenacom / Fotolia

Breakdown cover in France

In France, it is the car insurers that offer breakdown assistance (assistance dépannage) as part of the insurance package – there is no equivalent of the AA or RAC. Check exactly what this assistance entails when applying for the insurance, especially what they reimburse should you break down on the privately owned toll motorways on which they are unable to send out their own contractor.

Always keep the insurer’s emergency call-out number to hand in case of a breakdown or accident. They are quick to respond and will provide clear instructions of what you need to do.

Before calling, however, remember to put on the high visibility yellow jacket (especially if on a busy road or motorway) and set up the warning triangle as soon as possible a few metres behind your car.

Documents you must have in your car

There are certain documents that you are legally required to keep in your car in France, or at least be able to hand over to police if required:

• A valid certificat d’immatriculation with proof of an up-to-date contrôle technique

• Valid car insurance papers with the green expiry date clearly visible from outside

• Your driving licence

• A luminous red warning triangle and high visibility jacket

Failure to produce any of these if requested at a routine check or if you are stopped by the police can result in an on-the-spot fine and a more severe penalty if they are not submitted within a stated time period. These fines range from around €10-€150 (the higher sanctions usually imposed after certain deadline periods).

Article by Living France Living France

More from Living in France

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

How does a jewellery designer, filmmaker and restaurateur who was born in Israel and grew up in New York come to turn a French château into an artists’ retreat? Ziggy Attias shares his life in Champagne-Ardenne

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

When Lin France and her husband Geoff moved to La Suisse Normande in Calvados they took on a major renovation project, turning a derelict building into a lovely home and a holiday accommodation business

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

France has helped launch a satellite to study the effects of global warming; but how do French attitudes towards climate change compare to those of other Europeans?

Read more
Thursday, November 15, 2018

France has historically been on the leading edge of eco-friendly projects and regulations. While many argue that much more needs to be done to meet environmental goals in France and globally, here are 11 ways that French government, companies and people are striving to be green.

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Seen a French property that would make fabulous food business but unsure of the paperwork and process? Read Tracy Leonetti’s at-a-glance guide to opening a restaurant or cafe in France

Read more
Running a business
Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Thinking of setting up a campsite in France? Here’s what you’ll need to consider when it comes to planning permission.

Read more
Tuesday, June 26, 2018

With its unbeatable wine and cheese and laissez-faire attitude, there’s nowhere better to retire than France. But which cities are best for growing old in? Here’s the top 10

Read more
Pays de la Loire
Thursday, January 25, 2018

If you are buying in or moving to France you will need a French bank account but before you open one make sure you read these 11 things you need to know to avoid making a costly mistake

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

France might be experiencing a shortage of general practitioners but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find a GP willing to take on new patients. Here’s what you need to know about finding and registering with a doctor when you move to France

Read more
Expats in France
Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The French pharmacy is so much more tham a place to pick up your prescriptions. Here are 11 things you might not know about pharmacies in France.

Read more
Healthcare in France
Subscribe for

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

France Forum

Questions about France? Visit our free France forum to get help and advice from thousands of other Francophiles and expats. Topics include: property, tax, law, travelling, pets, education, healthcare and much more.

Join the forum

Most Read

Join us on social media

France magazine
Living France magazine
French Property News magazine

Enter our competitions

Win books, DVDs, travel and even holidays in France in our great competitions! Take a look at our latest competitions…

Enter now