French car insurance - your responsibilities

I know that I will be as popular as a fart in a spacesuit but after reading yet more misleading posts concerning UK registered cars being used here & being asked by some customers about importing I thought I would do some more research. This was my original post on another site:-

I have had a couple of enquiries recently from people who either have or have been offered a UK registered car. The former seem to be new arrivals & the latter want to confirm what the seller has told them.

With regard to the latter a couple of people had been offered a UK reg car with the seller's assurance that if the purchaser gets a French CT & French insurance, both of which are denoted by a sticker in the windscreen for all to see, they may continue to use the car on its UK plate quite legally. This is COMPLETE BULL!!! It is also very irresponsible & dishonest of the seller to mislead buyers in this way. The problem is that there are many Brits who actually do this but due to the lack of ANPR cameras in rural France some have been getting away with it for years (but check out the new gantries on the motorways leading into Bordeaux!). Although I do not condone the practice my only real concern is the validity of the insurance.

My local Axa agent is able to provide cover for up to 6 months on a UK car which is generous as French law states that a French resident (i.e. those of us who live here) has ONE MONTH to re-register an imported car. 6 months is the maximum time allowed by Axa Group.

Now someone will tell me that if I go to a certain Axa agent ( a good 150 km drive from me) they will give me cover for as long as I need it on a UK reg car. My trip will involve passing 25 other Axa agents who cannot do this, prompting the question of how this ONE agent IS allowed to?

There is, of course, a fundamental flaw in any argument regarding French insurance companies insuring UK cars and that is the matter of UK reg cars can only be insured by a UK based "authorised insurer" - “authorised insurer” means a person or body of persons carrying on insurance business within Group 2 in Part II of Schedule 2 to the [1982 c. 50.] Insurance Companies Act 1982 and being a member of the Motor Insurers' Bureau (a company limited by guarantee and incorporated under the [1929 c. 23.] Companies Act 1929 on 14th June 1946). Axa France, a different company from Axa PLC, is NOT a member, so, apart from the EU allowance to provide temporary cover to allow importation, Axa France cannot legally insure a UK registered vehicle.

If you have such "cover" at the moment, the time to find out that it is invalid is not when you have just been involved in a serious accident!

Importing your car is no real problem provided you get the correct advice - The French Government give you a step-by-step guide (in French) online. The only extra expenses are the need in most cases to change the headlights & get a Certificate of European Conformity, the cost of which can be as much as 170 euros which, despite the wailing & wringing of hands displayed by some tightwad Brits, most of us were paying EVERY YEAR for a little round piece of coloured paper to put in our windscreens in the Old Country! At least here it is a one-off payment & makes the rest of the process sooo much easier.

So, to sum up, if you are still driving a UK reg car despite being a French resident, man up & be responsible, make sure that your car is PROPERLY insured because the next accident you have could cost you dear & you owe it to every other road user to be correct.

Happy motoring!

Somebody else then posted that, under EEC Directive 2009/103/EC, it is possible for an EU insurer to insure a car from anywhere in the EU. I have not found anything to that effect so I added this:-

I cannot find any reference in the directive about foreign insurance companies being allowed to provide unlimited cover to UK reg cars, just the paragraph about temporary insurance for the purposes of import,

(27) Steps should be taken to make it easier to obtain
insurance cover for vehicles imported from one
Member State into another, even though the vehicle is
not yet registered in the Member State of destination. A
temporary derogation from the general rule determining
the Member State where the risk is situated should be
made available. For a period of 30 days from the date
when the vehicle is delivered, made available or
dispatched to the purchaser, the Member State of destination
should be considered to be the Member State
where the risk is situated.

The Motor Insurers Bureau also says
"A vehicle with UK plates must have insurance according to UK Law, which means it must be insured with an authorised insurer who is a member of the MIB."
(it must also be taxed & have a UK mot!)

The important thing is that a UK car cannot be owned by a French resident who therefore cannot legally use that car after a month here.

The times are slightly flexible but I cannot see how an insurance agent here can claim tobe able to cover UK reg cars here permanently, as an Axa agent in South East France claims. An email to them elicited this reply - "Thanks for your email regarding French car insurance for UK registered cars. Our office has a special mandate from AXA Head Office that allows us to insure cars on UK plates in France for an unspecified period of time."I thought that under EU rules a French company can only insure on a temporary basis for the purposes of importation?

"We are perfectly authorized to insure Uk plates as we previously told you

and have been doing so for the last 22 years. It is true that we are one of the only

offices able to do this."

I have to admit that I cannot get to grips with this double standard! Axa Head office, when asked, replied "A notre connaissance, aucun accord dans ce sens n'existe."

Enquiries are still ongoing...

1 Like

You might need to advise the insurance company that they are RHD Catharine because it does change the risk. We've LHDs for everyday use but a couple of RHD classics. Out insurers noted they were RHD but there was no increase in premium.

Yes but the name (Merde2) is a bit hard to live with isn't it? It was a classic naming mistake at the time.

I believe the UK is considering it. There will be a three month pilot next year when cars will drive on the right and if that goes OK then trucks and buses will also switch over.

I have found that driving our RHD car in France tends to make ME a more considerate and safer driver.

*how would you stand with insurance if for example you had an accident whilst overtaking in a RHD drive car, albeit one registered and insured correctly here?*

Exactly as you would in a LHD! The last I heard France was still part of the EU - free trade and all that.

Trust me I am speaking from experience as the happy owner of 2 RHD's, complete with 'clackers' for the motorway and a willingness to get out on the very rare occasion when I park in a multi storey car park AND am on my own.

Hi Doug, Apology accepted!

There is an over supply of used cars in the UK & combined with the ease in which credit can be obtained people will always want the latest car. This mentality is less prevelent in France & I think that the French are less attached to status symbols. There is also a little more common sense used here.

A 2002 Ford Fiesta petrol with aircon can be bought in the UK for £285 with t & t. A set of tyres & a battery for it, should you need them in the future - £285! This car already has those, plus an engine, seats, doors etc. The French add up the value of the parts to come to a more realistic price so the same car (but fit for purpose in a country which drives on the right) would cost in the region of 2000 euros. How much would you pay for a second hand engine? We have been spoiled in the UK for years. We have been programmed to think that a car will only last about ten years when in reality, with new alloys & lubricants, the mechanical parts last longer than ever. I run older cars because they are cheap, have less technology to go wrong & have proved their reliability by covering thousands of kms without blowing up! Most breakdowns today can be attributed to the failure of an electronic component rather than a mechanical one.

Personally I would not have a RHD car here unless it was special but I can accept that some actually prefer one. Which is fine provided it is registered here if it should be.

Interesting comments about the differences! Apart from the overtaking issue (I once followed a car trying to overtake a tractor & thought the driver was drunk but it was a lone mother with un belted 3 year old pulling out to try & see then having to swerve back violently, throwing small child all over the rear seat) it is a pain paying at peages or at filling stations. I can understand that there is a price difference between lhd & rhd cars but it more significant on older ones. When people move here I would assume it is because they can afford better houses than the same money would buy in the UK so I cannot understand why people then skimp on the second most important item they need, preferring instead to spend the money on pools or so. Some even bring almost new cars with them although the price differential between left & right is very small. But having saved the money some want to save even more by not buying a pair of headlights & a certificate of conformity so that the cars can be registered here. My feeling is that if they are that hard up then they have really messed up their budget & will never make it work in France.

A few years ago I read in a magazine a letter from an american accusing the UK of protecting its car industry by making the rest of the world make special versions of their cars just for the UK market. He obviously was not aware of the other 73 countrues! Unfortunately, none of them is France.

I apologise to the originator of the thread - I seem to have jumped down a rabbit hole and others are following!

I totally accept the arguments wrt cheaper purchase costs, resale values etc but as pointed out by Keith, how would you stand with insurance if for example you had an accident whilst overtaking in a rhd drive car, albeit one registered and insured correctly here? The french insurance companies are notorious for wheedling their way out of paying for any claims, so I imagine the situation must have occurred already!

I don't wish to suggest draconian banning of all rhd drive cars in Europe, it was more of a question that I guess has been answered with the single word, cost. Perhaps someone can explain the huge difference in price of second-hand cars between UK and France?

Thank goodness the pedals do stay in the same place - that would be too confusing!

Have lived permanently and legally in France for over 15 years and have one right hand drive car and one left hand drive (a new one for business) - simply a matter of price. We buy from UK auctions at minimal cost, then re-register the car here. For a competent driver there is no issue which side the steering wheel is on, who's in enough of a hurry to overtake? In a hurry, take the autoroute and then it's no problem anyway.

The only time I ever found it a little confusing was when getting out of the French coach I drove in the Alpes and climbing into my little UK car to drive further up the mountain at 3am in the morning but that was more a question of size!

With regards to integration, I can drive as bad as any Frenchman but despite being fluent give the game away as soon as I open my mouth - 'vous avez un petit accent madame?' :-)

Simple answer, I had a Toyota MR2 when I left the UK 5 years ago I was offered £2.5 K for it, we drive it every week summer and winter. I could sell it over here for at least 7 thousand euros, I get asked to sell it all the time. Ok I does take a bit more care and attention driving a right hand drive but banning them, that's a bit harsh

Question of finance sometimes...And to be fair, in the spirit if the European Union, freedom of movement.

One could argue the UK should change to driving on the right...Sweden did it.

I really cannot understand why so many people insist on bringing their car over from the UK and then continue to drive it here when "resident". Having the steering wheel on the wrong side is a real disadvantage, particularly when faced with the lethal french habit of overtaking from ten cars back regardless of other cars that have been stuck behind a slow vehicle for the previous 5km! Okay, so you try and change gear with the window winder for the first couple of weeks, and peer over the wrong shoulder when reversing, but once used to it it really is so much easier, particularly if driving without a passenger to look past a line of traffic.

Personally, I think that is should be illegal to drive a right-hooker on french roads unless on holiday, or perhaps if the car is a classic with only limited usage.

I realise that this is not the same debate as re-visited in this thread, but it actually negates the need for the discussion in the first place! I would also not want to stand out as being a "brit" because of the car having the steering wheel on the wrong side, whether on french plates or not - integration is the key word here!

Our Honda CRV has the fog light on the "wrong side" but it was just an advisory and not a failure point.

Melissa ,

Well done .

Interesting about the rear fog light .

I suspect the examiner said it was on the UK offside and not on the french offside .

I had a similar comment when re-registering a LR Defender .

It apparently just depends on who looks at it on the day .

C'est La France !!!


Well spotted .It is a 1960 Messerschmitt called ' Helga ' Classed as a scooter. In english a cabin scooter , in german a ' kabinenroller '

So no CT required .Good job really .I tell all that there is absolutely no brake fade when hard braking .

Draw your own conclusions ! 3 no. 5" drum brakes .

Makes one drive with lots of foresight .


I fail to understand why so many drive english reg vehicles way past the time limit, without re-registering .It is neither difficult nor expensive .

Just putting their heads in the sand . I think the mentality is that if Joe Soap down the road does it ,and gets away with it , it must be alright for me to do it as well.


We imported a Graham Edwards tipper trailer over 750Kg. We had to get as much information as we could about the tow bar and brakes. As Graham Edwards just told us to go through a Dutch company (£300) I approached the part manufacturers myself. With photographs, part numbers, diagrams etc., we had it inspected and it passed except for fog light - we changed it and sent a photo to prove this. The trailer now conforms and has its own numberplate! My husband ran over a rock recently and buckled both axles - local garage has done the job, returned the trailer to our house and insurance is paying for the work!

It is also worth noting that to get a CT for a UK registered car you need a Certificate of conformity.So why don't people just do the last bit (pay for a carte grise)and re register the car?

Leslie, what about the thing ,(messserschmitt I think), you are sat in? Do they & their ilk( 3 wheelers) require a CT or are they classed as motorbikes which don't?

A trailer or caravan does not need a CT.

If it is over 750Kgs it needs a carte grise .

If anyone imports a trailer or caravan over 750 kgs .A certificate of conformite needs to be obtained from the manufacturer, or possibly the importer of the marque ? , before it can be re-registered in France .

As an aside ,any driver over the age of 60 who tows a trailer or caravan in excess 0f 750 kgs ( and almost all caravans are ) needs to have a medical every two years .

This must be carried out by an independant doctor , not your usual medecin traitant (GP )