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How France's compulsory vehicle check is getting stricter and more expensive

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How France's compulsory vehicle check is getting stricter and more expensive
The test is going to become longer and more expensive. Photo: AFP
13:23 CEST+02:00
Drivers in France are now facing bigger bills and stricter standards for their Contrôle technique - the compulsory check that ensures a vehicle is safe to be on the road.

The Contrôle technique - similar to the MOT in the UK - must be done every two years in France on vehicles that are more than four years old.

First introduced in 1992, the test has now undergone a radical overhaul meaning that more things will be checked by the mechanic performing the test and there are more things that a vehicle can fail on.

From this week onwards, mechanics will now check a list of 132 points on a vehicle, up from 123. And the bad news is that the increased checks needed - and increased time it takes to complete the test - has also driven prices up.

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The rating is stamped in your vehicle registration documents. Photo: AFP

The old test took about 30 minutes, the new one takes nearer 50 minutes and that has driven prices up from an average of €65 to €80.

However, there is no set fee for the test and the prices vary significantly in different areas. Research done by BFMTV found that prices varied from €67 in Moselle in the Grand Est to €97.94 in Haute-Savoie in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.

There are now three possible outcomes of the test.

If the vehicle has no faults at all, or only minor faults, the garage will give you a favourable rating, and the letter A will be stamped in your carte grise (vehicle registration documents).

If you have major faults you will get a letter S - this means that your vehicle is legal to drive on the road - but only for two months. This gives you time to get the problems fixed, then you will have to have it retested.

The new category is the letter R which covers critical faults. If you receive the letter R you must make an appointment at a garage to get them repaired by midnight on the day of your test and you are only legal to drive it to a garage to get the repairs done.

If you are pulled over by the police, you must be able to demonstrate that you have an appointment booked.

The new R category covers les épaves roulantes (rolling wrecks) or very poorly maintained cars that can be seen on the roads in France.

There are 144 things that will earn your vehicle an R category and they include the absence of a vehicle floor, an unattached steering wheel or driver's seat, the absence of any stop lights or smoke and exhaust gases entering the passenger compartment.

Mechanics will also check the emissions level of your vehicle, and you will need to take all your vehicle registration documentation with you, as this will also be checked.

The Contrôle technique applies only to vehicles registered in France - people bringing their car over for a holiday do not need to get it done.

It is for vehicles in private use - commercial vehicles take a different test - and the first test should be done in the 6 months leading up to the car being on the road for four years. After that it should be done every two years. You can find more details of the rules on the French government's updated Contrôle technique page here.

You must choose a mechanic registered with the French government to carry out the test, you can search for an approved centre in your area here.

French vocab

Vehicle registration documents - Certificat d'immatriculation (informally known as a carte grise)

Registration number - Numero d'immatriculation

Brakes - les freins

Gearbox/transmission - la boite de vitesse

Windscreen/windshield - le pare-brise

My car has broken down - ma voiture est en panne

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