When bringing in a UK registered vehicle to France, you have a duty to register it with your local French authorities, either prefecture or mairie. This involves getting a “carte grise “ (the equivalent to the log book) and new French number plates. Normally, French insurance companies cannot insure vehicles registered in foreign countries because they cannot insure risks located outside France, and a vehicle is supposed to be located in the country where it is registered. However we will consider insuring you for a short while on your UK license plate, to give you time to re-register your vehicle in France.
This registration will involve lots of paper work, which will depend on the age and type of the vehicle you are bringing in.
Your first step is to inform the British authorities (DVLA) that you are exporting your vehicle, even though it might not be strictly necessary as the French authorities will have to inform them too when you obtain your French registration documents, that one of their vehicles is officially exported to France.
The second step is to get a certificate of conformity from the manufacturer of the vehicle, which most manufacturers will ask you to pay for. This certificate is the proof that the vehicle conforms to the current legislation. The French authorities will ask for the original document. Problems arise when you try to register an older model, a classic car or an import to Britain that either has no certificate of conformity or just a partial one. It might be worth thinking about whether it is financially worth exporting your vehicle as you will need a lot of patience and money to go through the process of appointment and tests for such vehicles with DREAL or DRIRE (Direction Regionale de l’Industrie, Recheche et de l’Environnement). DRIRE will initially send you a large file to fill in and will ask to test the car. They will establish what needs to be done to it so that it conforms with the legislation, which could be costly.
The third step is to get a French MOT, only if your vehicle is over 4 years old. This will imply changing your headlights to right hand driving position; this is another costly experience, even though newer vehicles are often fitted with a switch. You can try and get second hand lights from your local scrap yard or on the internet. Always ask the garage to give you back your old ones as they will automatically dispose of it.
The fourth step is to head to your “centre des impots”, local tax office to obtain a quittance fiscale, or quittance de TVA that will show there is no tax duty payable on the vehicle. This certificate is delivered for free and you will need to take with you your log book, an I.D and a utility bill in your name.
Finally you have reached the stage of the “carte grise”. In order to be issued with one, you will have to fill in a last form “ demande de certificat d’immatriculation” that you can obtain from the prefecture. Hand these documents out, together with all the above! You will be given a temporary certificate after paying your fee which will vary according to the horse power and CO2 emission of the vehicle. At last you can buy your new French plates from any garage, and consider yourself as French! You are now legal on the road.