Towing French Trailer with UK Vehicle

Hello all,

Hoping someone with a bit of knowledge on trailer laws can tell me if I’m right on my understanding of the rules.

I’ll be moving back to the UK from France soon with all my stuff.

My father is planning to drive out with his large UK registered motorhome to load up and then I plan to purchase a trailer to pack the rest of the stuff and tow back to the UK with the motorhome.

The trailer is 700kg unladen and has a maximum capacity of 2000kg. Therefore it has its own certificat d’immatriculation.

Now, if I buy the trailer, do I need to:
A) register the trailer in my name in France to get the Carte Gris?
B) purchase insurance for the trailer?
C) Tow the trailer with its french plate even though it is being towed by a UK vehicle?

Or, can I purchase the trailer, put the UK plate of the the motorhome and then tow using the insurance of the motorhome?

All drivers involved have trailer licenses covering towing at these weights so not an issue on that front.


Provided that you make a gift of the trailer to your father (so that the motorhome and trailer are owned by the same person), and provided that you don’t exceed either the Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) , or the permitted Gross Train Weight (GTW) of the motorhome, then yes you can.
A word of caution: Many motorhomes are pretty close to their GVW before you put any additional load inside. So be careful about how much weight you put into the motorhome, and check all tyre pressures.
If you intend to sell the trailer in France at some future time then you would need to have a Carte Gris in the vendors name.
Just to be clear, Gross Train Weight is the weight of the towing vehicle plus its load and passengers, plus the unladen weight of the trailer, plus the weight of the load on the trailer.
You should expect to be stopped and searched by both Port Security and Customs, so don’t take any dangerous or prohibited goods such as paint, gas cylinders which are not for the motorhome, or cans of fuel.
You may also wish to plan your route to avoid the Autoroutes, as the tolls will be substantial for such a vehicle combination.

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While deferring to the superior knowledge of @Robert_Hodge I do know that this came up before on another forum and it was said with some authority that pulling a trailer with a registration foreign to that of the towing unit was illegal.

I countered this assertion by the examples of HGV tractor units frequently pulling trailers of various other countries which was common practice and was told that there is a separate law allowing this for commercial vehicles. Were it not so the frequent ferry services for unaccompanied trailers would be redundant.

Furthermore, the suggestion to gift the trailer to your father may also come upon the rocks. There is other legislation prohibiting such practices depending on the nationality of the driving licence held. This is demonstrated by the fact that there are special rules allowing foreigners to hire French registered cars from legitimate car hire firms.

I can’t back any of this up with reference to law, but I do know that it has been discussed many times with my above assertions.

To be honest, I think that the likelihood of encountering a Gendarme with an intricate knowledge of trailer law whilst en-route to the port of departure is pretty remote.
Provided weight limits are adhered to, and tyre pressures set appropriately, then the journey should be safe and without incident.
The main thing is one of insurance, and provided the UK insurer of the motor home permits the towing of a trailer of such a size and weight capability that is proposed in this particular scenario then all will be well. Insurance companies are often happier about this if the trailer is owned by the insured person.

There is however, another aspect of this scenario which has not been touched on yet, and that is the issue of the importation into the UK of the trailer itself.
@Polodingalong has told us that it is intended to buy a trailer, but has not mentioned whether this will be a new or used trailer. Either way, a trailer which ways 700kg unladen, and has a maximum gross weight of 2tonnes, is going to be quite costly, and it’s value may well exceed an individual’s personal allowance for imported goods. If the trailer is brand spanking new, then one glance at the tyres, taken together with the absence of the usual scrapes and knocks that trailers aquire with usage, is going to signal to the Customs Officer that this is a new purchase being imported. Such a large Motorhome, with such a large trailer, is an unusual vehicle combination which IS going to draw attention to itself.
Obviously the goods comprising the load on the trailer are also being imported to the UK in this scenario. As they are presumably personal belongings which have been owned for some time, there shouldn’t be too much of a problem with UK import duty.
However, it may be economically advisable to have different owners present for the importation of 1. The trailer, and 2. The goods thereupon, so that there are 2 personal allowances to be set against the import duty rather than just 1.

Alternatively, if your father were to bring a trailer with him from the UK, load up, and return, it may well save a lot of grief and awkward questions.

Thanks to both of you for taking the time to put together such detailed responses.

I’ll try answer some of the points you’ve both raised to see if it helps clarifies things.

The trailer is second hand, appears suitably well used and is cheap making it easy to buy and pack before the trip. It also saves buying then driving a trailer from UK to here.

GTW should be suitably under but yes, will keep an eye on it with the camper.

On the import allowance point, I hadn’t considered that. I’ll travel with mine and partner’s personal belongings so guess she’ll be better tagging along on the drive than flying separately to cover her belongings and then my father owning the trailer. I’ll have a further read into this side.

When you suggest gifting the trailer Robert, if I have purchased the trailer then do I automatically have to apply for the carte gris in my name?

I’ll try do some digging to find the legalisation you refer to David for foreign trailer and tractors but so far no success, not sure if commercial size HGV units are a different situation again.

Again, thanks for the replies.

My experience of towing wirh a motorhome is that as already mentioned the gross weight of trailer and its contents has to closely monitored.
We have a 6 metre motorhome with which we tow a trailer with Smart car on board. The trailer and car gross at 1250 kg, maximum allowed is 1800 kg.
Our towing equipment which I fitted is fixed directly to the end of the chassis which runs to the rear of the motorhome but if a motorhome is longer then the towing equipment has extensions to project it beyond the chassis to the rear of the motorhome which drastically reduces both weight that can be towed and vehicle stability.
Double and triple check the configuration of the entire ensemble as even though it might look ok it might be different at 100 kph.

The short answer to your question is YES (and that could cause a problem with having it covered by your Dad’s motorhome insurance).
Under French law your intended trailer is classified as a véhicule non automoteur, and as such must have its own insurance policy, even if it is kept other than on a road.
It is only small trailers with a gross weight of 500kg or less that are considered to be extensions of the towing vehicle and thus have need for neither a Carte Grise nor separate trailer insurance.

However, you may wish to consult this official website which gives all the requirements regarding the Carte Grise for a trailer, paying particular attention to the timescale within which things should be done. Doit-on faire la carte grise d'une remorque et comment ?
You may wish to scroll down to item 2 where it states that the new owner has 1 month in which to apply for the new Carte Grise in their name, or else face a fine of 135 € for failing to do so. The authorities will know the start date of the 1 month period as they will have received a dated notification of sale from the vendor.
If you are stopped by the Gendarmerie, they are entitled to ask to see the Carte Grise for both the towing vehicle AND the trailer if they have reason to believe that it is a French trailer. Failing to display the correct number plate on the back of the trailer entitles the forces of law and order to immobilise the trailer !
Don’t forget that because your intended trailer has a max permitted total weight of more than 750kg, it must be fitted with at least a system of over-run braking.
You may therefore wish to make a careful risk assessment of what you intend to do as you leave the EU and French jurisdiction (presumably permanently), and when you wish to do it.

BTW> If you do decide to go with your current plan, then you should make sure that you obtain an appropriate bill of sale that shows the price you paid for the trailer, as you will still be importing it into the UK and may be required to pay import tax which will be based on its value.

Have you considered renting a trailer from someone like U-haul in the UK. Might be cheaper overall, particularly during the winter months. Certainly this would be far less complicated.

Having your partner with you will indeed provide an additional import allowance, and will smooth the way for those things which are clearly ladies possessions.

Reading this thread through and the possible complications would it not be easier (and cheaper) just to put everything on a van - part load maybe? Or just find a man with a van going backwards and forwards?

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A trailer, once connected to a UK registered tow vehicle and displaying the same registration plate, is covered by the tow vehicle insurance for third party risks. The insurer may need notifying

Proof of ownership of the trailer may to be shown so appropriate paperwork of the purchase is essential. If the trailer is French registered then appropriate action is needed to “deregister” and declare it exported.

If the GTW (PTRA) of the tow vehicle or the combined GVWs (PTAC) exceeds 3500kg then the speed limit is reduced to 90 on autoroutes

Edit: correct abbreviations.

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I agree entirely, with the caveat that said paperwork should be additional to, and entirely separate from, the cancelled Carte Grise that will have been given to the purchaser by the vendor.