The fun of importing UK 2nd Hand Car to France post Brexit

BEWARE - This is a long post but the detail may be useful for someone, if interested pour a drink and sit back:

I thought that it may help someone if I detail my recent experiences of buying a 2nd hand car in UK then importing it to France since Brexit. A couple of years ago we imported our Honda CRV, which at the time seemed straightforward.

About 3 months ago I was watching a video on Youtube (Ferrari Classic Car Auction Preview Hobbs Parker Ashford - YouTube ), the video was a walkthrough of a Classic Vehicle Auction Preview at Hobbs Parker in Ashford, Kent. A particular car caught my eye, this was a 2005 MX5 Launch Edition with just 48,000 miles, I have previously owned an MX-5 back from 2008-12 and have regretted selling it ever since – they are a great fun car to own.

Now bearing in mind I had absolutely no intention of buying another car, and no need for another car as we already had 2 - but I remember when we test drove an MX-5 back in 2008 at the Mazda dealership they had one of these Launch Edition variants and we ooohhhed and ahhhed at that one.

I kept scanning the photos on my phone from here in France, but I did not view the car in person.

As the auction day came close I could see that nobody had bid on the car, but we decided not to bid on the car as the import fees etc would make it not particularly viable. Then with 30 minutes to go before the auction and still no bids, and it was very cheap……….well you know what was coming, yes we bought it.

I already had a trip planned to UK about a month later – which was already fully arranged return flights, car hire etc.

The Preparation
I arranged with the auction house and a local well recommended (on Google) garage for them to collect the car, give it a service and an MOT so it would be ready for journey down through France to near Bordeaux.

The MOT was duly FAILED! – work was required on the suspension, brakes and some welding – there were also some advisories of rust on the suspension, shocks and springs. This work was then done, and an MOT certificate issued. I was keen to get an MOT, firstly to ensure that the car was safe, and secondly so that I could use it during the ANTS registration process (but this is no longer possible!)

Only now whilst the work was being carried out I took a very close look on my PC of the photos of the car the Auction House had shown – of the 30 photos that were listed I spotted damage on photo 29! to the front bumper that had been repaired quite badly. Also speaking the Auction House they commented that the paint could do with a good polish as it was a little rough.

During this period I had received a scan of the V5 from the Auction House so I proceeded to register the car with DVLA to the house in UK that my original UK driving licence is registered to (this was possibly not needed and even wrong to have done). I had checked DVLA website of how to export a car by completing Section 5 of V5 – as I was due to drive the car on UK roads even for just a short distance (10 miles) from Ashford to Folkestone, I was keen to put road tax on the car and the claim a refund later as it was suggested on DVLA website that it was required. I paid for road tax and also completed the Exporting section of the V5 and posted it back to DVLA – my thinking was that would limit the amount of road tax to pay by increasing the refund.

@Fabian had sorted the insurance for me with a French Company – I was obviously keen to have Breakdown Insurance for journey through France!

Time was getting tight before my return to France but I arranged for a local well recommended (on Google) bodyshop to collect the car from the garage whereby they repaired and resprayed the front bumper and whilst the bumper was removed they replaced the headlights with Left Hand Drive version (sourced from I received a call from the bodyshop to say the work was complete – but that the paint was in a very poor condition and ideally the whole car needed to be fully rubbed back and resprayed – this would costs £££££££.

The day had come to collect the car and drive back to France – this was complicated a little due to the remnants of original intended journey – I had to drop the hire car at Stanstead then catch a train to Ashford, then a taxi to the bodyshop. This was the first time I actually got to see the car – the condition of the car was not great, the repair by the bodyshop was excellent , the interior was a bit scruffy and both of the keys were in pieces!. I loaded up with car with a huge amount of luggage.

The Journey
I jumped in the car to start the 850km drive home – this would be some first test drive!, popped to Tesco to collect supplies for the journey (and those items always missed in France) – then drove down to Eurotunnel. Passed through passports – then got the car swiped for drugs at customs – thankfully it passed but as I did not know too much of the recent history it could have been fun – I was relieved to be released without hearing the snapping of rubber gloves!

Photo in the tunnel:

I was also relieved at the first autoroute toll that the bleeper worked - I had ordered and bought it from France as travelling alone I didn’t fancy having to climb out of this cramped little 2 seater at every toll to pay – this was a good move.

Stayed the night at Hotel-BB in Rouen (truly luxurious) – the following morning had to clear frost from the windscreen – horror as the roads would be icy for the bulk of the journey in a rear wheel drive, light, jittery car!

The journey through France was OK, just boring as I was by myself and old car radio could not play MP3s, podcasts, audiobooks etc. Frustratingly as the whether was cold and threatening to rain I decided not to drop the roof which would have made the journey more fun.

Now to start the import/registration process:
Arriving home I had time to check though the extensive documents that came with the car, it had just 1 previous owner, I had every copies of every service invoice since new and every MOT. Unfortunately there was no Certificate of Conformity, as needed by ANTS, so I had to request one for Mazda which cost £85, whereas with Honda for our CRV it was free.

Previously (pre-Brexit) when we imported the Honda I had help from @anon90504988 – who was of great help so I went back to Mark to see about importing the MX-5. He let me know of the forms that I would need to obtain/complete. I did consider doing the vehicle registration process myself – but having logged on to the ANTS website and starting the process I quickly reverted to Mark.

A recent UK MOT can no longer be used so a Controle Technique (CT) was required, guess what, despite having a recent MOT it failed the CT as I had mismatched tyres on the rear axle – I wasn’t aware of this rule – not a big issue as I was intending replacing the tyres imminently anyway. Even with a failed CT you can apply to register a vehicle.

I next had to pay import duties (new since Brexit) – to do this I had to visit the Douane (Customs). Having checked Google I could see our nearest office was in LIbourne and I could see on Google Maps exactly where it was and the times it was open – I really struggled to find the office – I knocked on the door of the address which turned out to not be the Douanes at all and never had been and I would have to go to Bordeaux Merignac Airport – I exchanged emails with the office there to ensure that they did actually exist and what would be needed. They were very helpful, the following documents were needed:

  1. Sales invoice for the car
  2. DVLA V5
  3. Passport
  4. Justificatif de domicile (recent Utility Bill)

The duty was calculated as the price I had paid for the car (from invoice/receipt), they converted the £ to euros as of the day of the sale – this value was multiplied by 10% (import duty) and added to the sale value in euros, then this total value was multiplied by 20% (TVA =VAT) . In total the duty was 33% of the sale price when converted to Euros. The Douanes insisted that this was paid by bank card and not cheque (I think it is possible for smaller amounts <1000 Euros). I was issued with form 846A to show all duties had been paid. (no longer need a Quitus Fiscale from local tax office).

I then prepared documents for the vehicle registration via ANTS:

  1. Passport
  2. Recent Utility Bill
  3. Justificatif de domicile
  4. Sales Invoice
  5. DVLA V5
  6. Certificate of Conformity (CoC)
  7. 846A from Douanes
  8. CT
  9. Driving Licence
  10. Insurance Certificate

These forms were handed to Mark so he could make the ANTS registration. After a couple of days Mark was informed that the registration had been REJECTED!

ANTS requested that a DREAL inspection be undertaken – Mark had feared that this may happen as it has been happening increasingly of late. The issue was that the Certificate of Conformity issued by Mazda UK stated that the car was built for Right Hand Drive.

A DREAL inspection is apparently similar to a UK VOSA inspection to ensure that the car complies with all local requirements, headlights and fog lights on the correct side etc. I emailed the DREAL office in Bordeaux, the required process is that you must complete a very comprehensive detailed form and submit with a number of forms (that were previously submitted to ANTS) and the DREAL office will confirm a date for an inspection about a month later– I spent a couple of hours completing the forms and submitted by post (email not allowed!) to the Bordeaux DREAL office.

I couple of days later I received an email from DREAL saying that my submission was incomplete and that I must submit a Declaration from Mazda France (not UK).

This point was a particular low, I had spent a fortune bring a car from UK that still needed money to be spent on it – I considered taking the car back to UK and just selling it there via the same Auction House, unfortunately this would not be possible without re-importing the car to UK £££ as it had been exported (should not have told DVLA already!)– but at the same time it had not been registered in France so very shortly could not legitimately be used, and could not be sold in France for anything other than scrap!

It was frustrating that the Certificate of Conformity was rejected by ANTS and DREAL as it had cost £85, I then spoke to the chap at Mazda UK who had issued the CoC and he could not have been more helpful. It was the first time that he was aware of a CoC being rejected. I directed him to the Mazda France website where they offer a CoC, but if you are importing from UK you have to submit evidence that you have changed the headlights. the Mazda UK chap spoke to his colleague to Mazda France (and also Mazda Germany) – they promised to assist quickly. Mazda UK refunded the £85,

I spoke to Mazda France who streamlined their application process for me by accepting emails and electronic payment (as opposed to post and cheque which was their normal, plus a 15 day delay) – they supplied the required document in 3 days. Mazda UK have suggested they will no longer issue CoC for use in France.

Mazda France had stated that the form they supplied which is similar to a CoC but instead it is an Attestation to use when registering a car - they stated that it is sufficient and that a DREAL inspection should not be required.

Going on the Mazda France advice I requested that Mark reapply to ANTS with the new attestation from Mazda France – to my delight it was ACCEPTED and a registration has been issued. I now no longer need to have the DREAL inspection.

I am very grateful again for the help of @anon90504988 in the ANTS application – this was money very well spent.

I am awaiting for the full Carte Grise to arrive in the post, when it does I will get the number plates made up (this could probably be done with the document I have received), I will notify the insurance company and the autoroute toll company.

Would I import another car from UK?
I think if it were a car that I knew or already owned – I would think long and hard about it, I would NOT advise the continual list of mistakes that I have made – such as buying an unknown, unseen car for emotional reasons!

Once I have paid for the car, the repairs, the duties etc I could have bought a French version which would have been Left Hand Drive.

I have also just received the refund of car tax from DVLA - from £180 paid, I received £130 back and drove for 10 miles in UK!

I have now just had the rusty alloy wheels refurbished and new tyres fitted, I will also shortly be having new shock absorbers and springs fitted as are required.

Here are the lessons I have learned:

  1. Don’t watch videos on YouTube of Auction Previews!
  2. Don’t buy an older car without seeing it
  3. Look very closely at ALL of the for sale photos
  4. Consider whether to register car in UK, (I wouldn’t bother again)
  5. Consider whether to pay road tax in UK, (I wouldn’t bother again)
  6. Wait to inform DVLA that car has been exported until import process in France is complete
  7. UK MOT can no longer be used to register car with ANTS
  8. Import duty is approx. 33%
  9. Obtain Certificate of Conformity from French version of your car manufacturer.

Now time to look forward to the summer and some top down motoring…


Thanks @Mat_Davies , managed to read it all with only one bottle of beer :beer:. Its something I might be considering (again) in the future ( already know about road tax, french CoC, DVLA) and I’d never buy a car unseen, but with all the additional expenses (my last Land rover CoC was €240!) and duties its probably not worth it anymore. Trouble is, there are so few decent second hand cars available in france, and within a reasonable distance.


A great summary, and very helpful to spell out the ‘new’ post Brexit process - thanks for sharing. With the relatively high cost of secondhand cars in France, it was certainly quite attractive to import a car from the UK pre Brexit, but think the 33% premium will now be somewhat of a leveller! It does however, lead me to wonder if there are other EU locations where it would still be advantageous to import from versus purchase directly in France :thinking: maybe Germany??? maybe Belgium??? maybe Spain???

Enjoy all that wind rushing through your hair :partying_face: :partying_face: :partying_face:

Very interesting and thanks for taking the time to produce that salutary tale Mat. I guess I had a narrow escape, having regretted selling a rally prepared mini some years ago I was considering bidding on this earlier this month…

I checked Fabian could insure it for me and I was good to go, and then forgot on the auction date :roll_eyes: Blessing in disguise.

Enjoy your new toy :slightly_smiling_face:

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Thanks Mat, this is really useful as I am about to the same experience myself. Two questions - you can register with CT failure? - did you get an Attestation from Mazda France because there was no CoC? My little 1996 Fiat never had a CoC - this has been confirmed by Fiat UK who have suggested I contact Fiat France. However, they just want 350 euro for a CoC. If I am daft enough to pay this what might I get? Any suggestions will be gratefully received. Good that you got it sorted in the end.

Yes a failed CT is fine for ANTS.

I had a full CoC from Mazda UK, then received an Attestation from Mazda France which seemed to be a cut down version of a CoC - interestingly it contained the same info DREAL were requesting.

Certainly go to Fiat France, on Mazda France website there was a link to a page of the process with them - hopefully there is something similar with Fiat.

Thanks for dissuading me from ever importing a seemingly inexpensive car from the UK.

But also even if getting through all the bureaucracy, I’m sure I’d find it endlessly frustrating driving a RHD sports car on my local roads, or indeed any RHD vehicle in a LHD country (and vice versa).

I’ve previously posted on another thread about my very satisfactory experience of sourcing a BMW Xdrive through Reezocar. They source cars from across W Europe and for about 300 €, you can get a very highly detailed local engineer’s report on the car’s condition prior to committing. They also handle al the importation admin and if you want it, delivery to your door too.

On the basis of my experience I’d assumed their particular strength would be German cars with a higher spec than you’d normally find on their French equivalents. I don’t know a great deal about MX5s, or other classics, but below is the link to a Reezocar search for MX5s (under 10,000 €)

Thanks Mat.

Don’t you have to be a registered hairdresser to own an MX5?


Not if you buy the 2.0 !- it is a great car to drive , mighty scary when the slightest but slippery.

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Cheers for the info Matt.

How does the process stand if I were to import a vehicle that I had owned and used in the UK for over 5 years? Would I still have to pay import duty?

I know there is an exemption if it is part of moving to France and you have owned the car for more than 6 months.

If you are near Bordeaux the chap at the Douane was very helpful by email - otherwise you can find your local Douane office online.

When I imported my uk Skoda and was putting it through its first CT I was looking at some rally pics on his wall and said I’d a historic Amazon rally car in Scotland
There are problems with cars with roll cages here so if you do bring it over make sure you see me, was his response

What are the issues? His phone rang and he got called away so I never discovered what - and continually going back to the uk to compete is a pain

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Lovely car. We chatted about her a few years ago, didn’t we? All these new userids have done my head in :roll_eyes:

We did but living in France and keeping it in the uk (there seems to be a lack of targa / regularly style events here ) is a pain
We are/were planning on doing next year’s Monte Carlo Historique but at the moment my comp licence is a UK one as is my driving licence
I have to change to a French driving licence in February which means starting the process some months earlier - and it looks like I won’t be able to apply for a french competition licence until it’s through
So very likely no Monte - like this year when England and Scotland covid restrictions put an end to a ‘22 entry

George Topp.

what a process! - thanks for sharing. You make no mention of VAT and from what i have read, this is also payable?

It is 10% import duty then 20% VAT on the vehicle value (in Euros) + import duty.

A car of value £3000
Exchange rate of 1.15 €/£ on the day of sale.
Car value in euros is €3450
Import Duty is €345 (≠10% x €3450)
VAT is €759 (≠20%x €3450+€345)

Total to pay at Douanes is €1104 (=€345+€759)

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that’s clear Mat. Thanks.
I talked to a Uk dealer to ask if they can sell me a used car for export vat free and he told me that of course not because there is no vat on a used car

This may be of interest, as think you can purchase a ‘VAT qualifying’ used vehicle

I have done this for many years, without frustration. Touring Europe for hols, driving a GB 16-seater Sprinter mini-coach on battlefield tours for 5 years, my present Renault Master 3.5 tonne [the camper van that never was] on many removals round trips Valencia-UK/FR - 7 years on the continent now - and my Peugeot 307.

I was recounting to @KarenLot how taking the UK bus driver’s test has made me a far better driver all round. It’s a toughie - only 40% pass 1st time. I did. One of the aspects of driving a largish vehicle is learning to be patient. This applies to driving a RHD vehicle.

One trick I have learned is that as it is useless driving up the chuff of the bumbler ahead, dodging out to the left to see if there’s anything coming, hang back to get a view down the nearside. A bit of a right-hander, followed by the usual long straight and nothing coming - the FR car hard up behind the bumbler gets a surprise when RHD car whizzes past.

Yes. LHD would be more convenient but the car I have, £999 with 10 month’s MoT - not to be found in FR. I saw the ad on EBay on 31/10/2021, put down £200 non-return deposit, went to collect it 01/11/2021, arrived in FR 02/11-2021 - been here ever since.

Some years ago I bought a Mitsubishi Carisma Mirage [I hadn’t heard of it, either and it none.] - a sort of Passat/Accord equivalent, a trade-in sold on eBay. I bought it unseen, purely on the sales pitch, 'Much used rather than much loved but drives straight and true’ Mine for £352.

And what a brilliant car! Bomb-proof Japanese engineering and the a/c was better than in my Jeep Cherokee! The Isuzu dealership was just steam-cleaning the evidence of dogs and small children off the back seats when I arrived to collect it. .I’d have that car again, like shot.

Very good, very cheap trade-ins can be had from UK dealers. My 307 was a trade-in. Remember Clarkson’s £1 Volvo Estate? He got fewest points in the timed lap challenge but as he already had 999 points for every £1 under £1k budget allocation, he still won.

Not just cars and vans so much cheaper in UK than in FR but m/cycles too, on much lower mileages and no L/RHD issues. A Danish pal was so amazed at what he could buy for the GBP prices, he bought 22 BMWs, 1 M/Guzzi and rather dilapidated Ducati! Then he bought a Renault Master LWB. Hi Roof and an Ivor Williams two-horse trailer to cart them back to DK. A bit bonkers.

As a civil engineer specialising in wind generator tower foundations, he turned out to be a hopeless m/cyle dealer. His garden had BMW bikes in it for some years …

Using Matt’s formula, my all-bells-and-whistles Peugeot 307 SW would have cost €1569.23 on the FR road.

Headlights - My RHD passed the CT with the h/lights no issue. I have read that xenon bulbs do not dip to the left like non-xenon bulbs do, so there’s no dazzle factor. Whatever - no problem - no expense.

Rear lights - the fog and reversing lights being reversed positions to LHD cars - no issue there either. Maybe it’s the way with this particular CT station. For sure I’ll be back there for the next one!

If you get to the point where costs are getting excessive or, in my case, registration is impossible [of a self-built camper] and you decide to return the vehicle to UK, as long as you haven’t reg’d in the EU country but still have the V5 with only the ‘Exported’ slip missing, re-importing to UK is very simple and straight forward. I am doing this with my van for the 2nd time [1st time Spain, same problem] on Monday.

Form C179B [HMRC] to establish no duty/VAT to pay. GB V5 and Bill of Sale . Submit via email - done.

Form 55/5 [DVLA “fill in as many boxes as you can - leave the rest blank”] GB V5, Bill of Sale, proof of name and address, a cheque for tax, submit by post - done.