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DRIVING

Reader question: How can I import a car from the UK to France?

Brexit has made it incredibly difficult to import cars from the UK into France. We take a look at why.

A man waves a Union Jack from the window of a European-made car.
A man waves a Union Jack from the window of a European-made car. Importing vehicles from the UK to France is now practically impossible unless you are a professional trader. (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP)

I want to import a car from the UK to France but it seems like the process is quite complicated ever since Brexit. What steps do I need to take? 

Importing a car from the UK to France has never been straightforward, but Brexit has certainly made things harder. 

Multiple dedicated car trading websites insist that only third-party professional exporters or people working in customs are capable of doing so successfully. 

We will do our best to explain why.

What is the process? 

The main difficulty is reaching the relevant customs officials to get the necessary authorisation to import a car in the first place. 

On the British side, you will need to declare that you are exporting via National Export System. To do this, you must get an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number – but you can only obtain such a number if you are only moving goods for personal use (i.e. if you are simply bringing a car for yourself).

You will also need access to the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) platform – again this is only possible for traders. If you fail to declare your export officially, border officials may block you from entering France with the vehicle. 

On the French side, you will ultimately need a 846A certificate to be able to drive your imported car legally – or to eventually sell it in France. Obtaining such a certificate is no easy feat. You will need to present the following documents to French customs officials after entering France:

  • A UK car registration certificate;
  • A receipt for the car, if you purchased it in the UK;
  • A certificate of conformity from the original seller attesting whether or not the car was mostly designed or manufactured in Europe (this can reduce the amount of payable customs fees).

To obtain the 846A certificate, you will need also to pay VAT and customs charges unless you meet the following criteria:

  • You have been living outside of the EU for more than one year and are moving to live in France;
  • You own the vehicle and have used it for at least six months;
  • You have listed the vehicle in the inventaire de vos biens (you have an insurance document proving that the vehicle belongs to you);
  • It is a personal vehicle rather than commercial utility one;
  • You have paid the required tax on the vehicle in the UK. 

If you don’t meet the above conditions, then you will have to pay the the tax and charges. 

You will generally have to pay 10 percent of the value of the car as a customs charge, although this can vary. You will also need to pay a flat 20 percent VAT charge on the imported vehicle. In other words, unless you can get an exemption, it is very expensive to import a vehicle from the UK into France. 

Our advice?

Don’t import a car from the UK to France. Not only is it expensive, but unless you are running an import/export business, it is also pretty much impossible. 

You are best off selling your vehicle in the UK and using public transport in France – or using the funds from the sale to buy a car on this side of the channel. 

Member comments

  1. These two paragraphs, when read together, don’t make sense (see the “again” in para 2). Do you mean that an EORI number is for traders? Or is CHIEF for private individuals? Which is it? The reader will assume that both systems should cater for the same group of people.
    The Local is a very useful source of information but too often the proofreading/subediting – call it what you will – is very poor, to the point of confusing the reader. It is getting very annoying and you risk misleading readers. If you don’t have a dedicated sub-editor, then please ask your journalists to proofread their articles properly.
    “On the British side, you will need to declare that you are exporting via National Export System. To do this, you must get an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number – but you can only obtain such a number if you are only moving goods for personal use (i.e. if you are simply bringing a car for yourself).
    You will also need access to the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) platform – again this is only possible for traders.”

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DRIVING

8 things to know about driving in France this summer

Taking a roadtrip through France is always a popular holiday option, but make sure that you're ready to take to the French roads.

8 things to know about driving in France this summer

Black weekends – as with all countries, France has certain weekends when the roads are likely to be especially busy. These generally coincide with school holidays, public holidays and opportunities to ‘faire le pont‘ – as well as the traditional ‘crossover’ weekend when the July travellers return and the August travellers set out.

There is a helpful traffic forecasting website called Bison futéfind it here – which publishes a calendar of days that are likely to be especially busy on the roads. Avoid red and black days if possible.

Fuel prices

It seems likely that fuel prices will remain high around Europe this summer, and France is no exception despite the government fuel rebate of 18 cents per litre.

The government publishes an interactive map of fuel stations and the prices they charge, so if possible you can plan your journey to fill up in the cheapest area.

MAP Where to find the cheapest fuel in France

Crit’Air stickers – if you plan on driving into or through a city, check whether a Crit’Air sticker is required for your vehicle. Initially the province of the big cities, more and more towns now require these. 

The sticker gives your vehicle a rating based on the emissions is produces, vehicles that get the highest ratings of 3, 4 or 5 are banned outright from some cities, while other cities limit their movement in days when air pollution is particularly bad.

The sticker costs less than €5 but must be ordered online in advance of your trip – here’s how.

Yellow vest – yellow vests in France are not just for demonstrators, they form part of the kit that you are legally obliged to have in your car. A red warning triangle and a high-vis yellow jacket must be carried with you at all times, although it is no longer compulsory to carry a breathalyser.

If you’re coming from the UK your UK driving licence is enough – there is no need for an International Driver’s Permit – but check that your insurance covers trips to France. Insurance ‘green cards’ are not required. 

Péages – if you’re driving on autoroutes you will likely need to pay, as most sections of the French highway are covered by tolls. When driving you will see warning signs that the péage (toll booth) is coming up and that is your signal to get your money ready.

The cost varies depending on which road you are on and how far you drive.

Usually you take a ticket at the first toll booth and then when you exit that section of road you drive through another station where you pay. The pay stations take either cash or debit cards – some but not all allow contactless card payments – and as you approach the pay station you will see signs with either a coin or a card on them, to ensure you’re in the right lane for your payment type.

Naturally the pay stations are on the left of the vehicle. If you’re driving a right-hand drive car and don’t have a passenger this can be a little awkward, so there is an option to buy a pre-paid radar device – known as télépéage – that allows you to drive straight through the péage.

Speed limits and alcohol – obviously you will need to keep an eye out for speed limits (which are of course in km/h not mimes per hour) but if you’re on the autoroute there are two different limits – 130km/h for fine weather and 110 km/h for bad weather.

As well as police officers doing speed checks, also keep an eye out for radars (speed cameras) which sit at the side of the road and are usually grey.

If you’re in certain parts of rural France you might think that drink-driving laws don’t apply in France, since unfortunately there is still a culture of drinking and driving in some areas.

In fact, however, France has strict limits on drinking and driving and they may be lower than you are used to. If you are stopped and breathalysed you face losing your licence and saying ‘well everyone else in the café had two glasses of wine and then drove’ is not a legal defence.

READ ALSO Which countries in Europe have the strictest drink-drive laws?  

Fake police – Speaking of police, it is an unfortunate fact that every summer, some tourists fall victim to scammers who pretend to be police offices and demand cash for ‘fines’.

Real French police officers do stop drivers – either if they have been speeding or committed another driving offence or simply for a random check – but if you incur a fine you will be given a ticket that you pay later. Genuine police officers will not demand that you hand over money in cash at the roadside.

Priorité à droite – France’s most notorious road law is still in place in certain areas, but not everywhere. The priorité à droite rule (priority to the right) essentially means that you give way to the vehicle that is approaching from the right unless there are road signs or marking in place telling you to do otherwise.

In practice this means that on most major routes and in towns you simply obey the street signs, road markings and traffic lights to determine who has the priority.

It’s really more on smaller, country roads where there are no markings that priorité à droite applies, although it’s also in place on smaller roads in residential areas of cities and on Paris’ famously confusing Arc de Triomphe roundabout (although there are plans afoot to pedestrianise the area around the Arc).

You can read a full explanation of the priorité à droite rule HERE.

. . . and French drivers.

It pains us to peddle a cliché, but a lot of French drivers do live up to their international stereotype of being terrible drivers. Not all, of course, but certainly don’t assume that your fellow drivers will give way or let you join a queue of traffic. Also just because a vehicle isn’t indicating, that does not mean that it’s not just about to turn. Also, for the American readers out there – though automatic cars do exist in France, they are typically more expensive to rent and stick shifts tend to be the norm in France. 

Bonne route!

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