So you want to import a UK car?

Following a recent discussion on this subject & the semantics involved with advice, I have taken Stella’s & started a new thread on the subject.
All comments & views are welcome but I would ask that these should be pertinent & above all, polite.

Most of us will be familiar with the documentary requirements of the french government in order to undertake an import so I will not reproduce the full list here. Sometimes, however, there can be differences between the web site & reality. There is a clear need for the V5c or, the web site says, if that has been retained by the authorities, an official document issued by those authorities stating this fact. One such document is form V561, a certificate of permanent export.
One of the other documents required is a quitus fiscal, issued by larger tresor public offices in your area. In order to obtain one (to be able to proceed with the process), you must submit the following documents (original and photocopies)

the purchase invoice or transfer certificate,
**the registration document obtained in the foreign country**,
identification, in the name of the person who purchased the vehicle,
proof of residence in France.

The above is also from the government web site. Line 2 is of concern here - there is no mention of an official document if you do not have a V5c! You are dealing with the tax office now, not the french equivalent of DVLA.
You are now one to one with a tax person who might not be familiar with UK forms or even the language so although they will recognise a V5c a CPE could be something entirely new. In my experience this document has always been rejected at this point which stops the whole process though experiences in other departments will differ. In Riberac & Barbezieux it is no quitus, no registration (I confirmed this on Friday).

The fun actually begins when you travel back to the UK with the aim of buying a car to use here. The seller is required to put the buyer’s details on the logbook & return it to DVLA. If, however, the new keeper has a non UK address they are unable to provide a new one. The buyer will be sent a CPE to his french address. Road tax is not transferable to a new keeper & UK insurance is only valid on a UK reg car. You are now in posession of an unregistered car but on now invalid UK plates, no road tax & no insurance. Your only option is to transport the car to France on a transporter or trailer.
“Can I use my car here while I am getting it registered?” Good question & you will get different answers depending on the bar room lawyer you are talking to. Personally I prefer to use common sense as information on this can be very contradictory. For instance one source states that for a UK reg car to be legally used in other countries it must be UK taxed, UK insured, UK MOT’d & owned by a UK resident. All true, but EU rules also state that it is acceptable for a car from one member state to be insured by a company in another member state for a period of 30 days in order that the car can be used while the registration process is going through. I think the contradiction is there for all to see.

The french authorities, although sticklers for correct paperwork, are generally sensible too & can be very helpful.

SORN. This is the Statutory Off Road Notification. UK car owners who lay up their cars for any length of time & do not want to fall foul of the continuous tax & insurance trap can notify DVLA of this & a SORN will be issued. The car cannot be used or parked on a public road whilst sorned.
Is it legal to SORN a car after purchase & bring it over here? The DVLA web site says that your vehicle must stay in the UK for your SORN to be valid. It does NOT say that it is illegal or an offence to take a SORNed vehicle abroad, though. The wording is important! An out-of-date credit card is not “valid” but it is not illegal to have one. Semantics.

We have all seen quite a few UK reg cars which have been used for a long time over here & I certainly do not approve. Many of these cars may not have insurance or even have had a CT or MOT for years. Most should certainly not be on the road. Some have actually been exported or put on a sorn. You can check the vehicle’s status by using this (The site has a link to the Motor Insurance Database to check insurance but this is only for your own car. You can check other cars but only by committing an offence under section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998).
We have every right to be angry at these chancers as we use the same roads - the uninsured accident they might have could be with us!

So how can we drive our imported but untaxed UK reg cars legally on french roads while organising to register it here? I will leave that to you to tell me. I will be playing devil’s advocate though - nothing personal!

A bit of homework for you all -

A man on holiday in his fully legal UK reg car has a little accident. The car, though quite old, is a very tidy low mileage example but is still not worth a huge amount. The car is towed to a garage & in due course a quote is sent to the UK insurers & as the car is a prestige brand the few replacement parts are very expensive to the point that the cost of repair is greater than its insured value. The insurance company write it off without sending an assessor to look at it as it is in a foreign country. They do not want to transport the car back either. The owner is paid out & the logbook surrendered. The car is logged as a category A or B which means that the car must be destroyed. This is automatic & it shields the insurance company from any future liability. It is not based on their assessor’s report.
The owner is told that he can keep the car & do what he likes with it but he is shocked at the thought of destroying an almost perfect car & returns to the UK without the car but still owning it. Here it sits, ignored, in a garage compound for 3 years. After much correspondence the insurance company agree to reclassify the write-off category to a class C - uneconomical to commercially repair - which now means that it CAN be repaired if someone wants to pay for it & be put back on the road. The vehicle is duly sold & properly repaired.
The new owner wishes to keep it in France but needs either a V5c or similar document in order to register it. There are no papers with the car & DVLA records show the car as a vehicle which should be scrapped.

How does the new owner proceed in order to register it here?


Thanks again Mark. I can feel some interesting discussions coming.

Although I have been told it is impossible, I have successfully SORNed a car in france (solely to avoid paying unneccesary UK road tax), keeping it fully insured and with valid MoT whilst going through the rigmarole of getting the car re-registered in France.

Excellent! Looking forward to seeing who turns up for this one.

To obtain the ‘quitus fiscal’ you only need proof that you have a residence here not that you are resident.

Are you saying that permanent UK reg’d cars here are technically uninsured even if they have valid insurance?

No idea what the answer to Mark’s "hypothetical " question is, use it as a chicken house?

Hi Tim,
This is from the web site "Wherever you live in the EU, you must register your car in the country where you have your permanent residence.

You are not usually allowed to register your car in a country where you have a secondary residence or holiday house."

Europa is the official Web portal of the European Union.

France allows the residents of other countries who have holiday homes here to register and keep vehicles in France. Therefore, here, you need evidence of a residence not of being a resident to get a Q.V.

It does indeed, the UK couple who bought our first house here as a holiday home brought over and re-registered a crappy old Peugeot 206 which now sits in the garage leaking oil.

There is a difference between adhering to the letter of the law & inaction by the gendarmes. Just because some people own cars registered to their holiday homes & have never been caught does not necessarily mean that it is fully legal. It may be that gendarmes have more pressing things to deal with.
Does France allow it? This again from Europa -
"Can I keep my car registered in France even though I now live in Belgium?

NO — You can’t, unless you plan to leave Belgium within 6 months of arriving. You are generally obliged to register in the country where you live."

If the EU have got this wrong perhaps someone will be able to quote the official french law?

@Mark_Rimmer surely the Impots wouldn’t give you a Quitas if you weren’t a resident and the law was as you have said?

I would start by questioning this.
Taking “duly” to mean as per correct procedures, is a vehicle “duly” sold if it doesn’t come with the correct paperwork?

In France there are plenty of precedents for the sale of a vehicle being annulled because the paperwork wasn’t in order, on the basis that if you sell somebody a car that they can’t use because they can’t get it registered, you’ve sold them something that’s not fit for purpose.

I would say it’s the seller’s responsibility to ensure that the car is road legal before he sells it, not just in terms of all its parts are in working order but also in terms of documentation. I presume once it’s been written off it would need a full inspection before it can be put back on the road, and that surely is the seller’s responsibility.

Re the holiday home question, I haven’t had anything to do with the ANTS set up and am wondering if anyone can confirm one way or another if this is still possible? I think I’ve read that if you’re not “in the system” ANTS won’t recognise you.

Your example does not answer the question. It is perfectly legal to register your car using the address of your holiday home. Obviously it is different in Belgium but we are not talking about Belgium.
ANTS is geared to working for people in the system but there are ways around that, you can use an approved third party to go through the registration process for you and pay for the privilege or any user can complete an application for another person after signing into their own account, it is an option.

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Substitute “Belgium” for “UK” & re-read. It is not the Belgium bit but the “registered in France” bit which applies.

@Anna. A good point. We are looking at a UK reg car being sold by a UK resident. Under UK laws it is perfectly legal to sell a written off car to whoever wishes to buy it. One can assume that the buyer was fully aware of its status & history & that the seller made sure of this. Beyond this it is a case of “buyer beware”. It would not be reasonable for a UK seller to know the import requirements of the buyer’s home country, or even know where the buyer intended to do with it. The insurance company agreed to downgrade its write-off category to one where it is possible to re register the car. The buyer just has to find a way.
French law is quite different. You cannot sell a non running car to a private individual.

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It’s a bit like a tennis match isn’t it. When you miss a ball at tennis, your error isn’t usually with the stroke you missed, it’s usually with the previous stroke, because you didn’t recover quickly enough and you ended up off balance or in the wrong position. The error here seems to be several moves back, in buying a written-off car without checking first how you’re going to get it back on the road.

I’m obviously looking in the wrong places as I cannot find anywhere on the net where it says that you are forbidden to register a car in a country which is not your main residential home. I also find odd that if that were to be the case the authorities still allow you do it, it makes no sense.

Anna, neither party have done anything wrong. The seller correctly informed the buyer of the situation & the buyer was fully aware of the situation. The buyer happens to be a french resident & wishes to import the car after repairs have been made.
If a car is written off the owner must surrender the logbook to the insurance company. If the owner retains the vehicle (they can buy it back from the insurance company) he will not have the V5C.
There IS a way to sort out the conundrum, but does anyone out there know how?

No I didn’t say anyone had done anything wrong. Getting tied in knots doesn’t have to be a result of doing anything wrong, it often just means you didn’t plan ahead properly. As you say I’m sure there is a way, I just hope the car is worth all the head-scratching and probably form-filling!

Tim, I think people usually quote this as the source
but I don’t think France fusses about it. IMHO it’s a silly directive in any case because I think there’s another directive limiting how long you can keep a foreign reg vehicle in a single other EU state during the year, so in effect a Brit holiday home owner wouldn’t be able to keep either a UK or a French reg car here permanently. You could probably sue for infringement of human rights or something, because surely it’s a human right to be allowed to keep a car at your holiday home :grin:

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Sorry Anna, perhaps I have not made myself clear. The question was posed to see if anyone knows how it can be done. The new owner would have to know his way round both the UK & french system. We can assume that he does, but does anyone else?