"I am tempted to buy my next car abroad. It’s risky ?"

Lhe temptation to go to market abroad is great. In some European countries, prices for new vehicles and premium used models are sometimes much more interesting than in France. You can also dream of more exotic cars, rare among us, but very numerous on advertising sites on the other side of the Atlantic or in the Emirates. But do not rush, otherwise you will leave feathers there. Many buyers, who were not aware or aware of the complexity of tax and administrative procedures (which differ from country to country), quickly found themselves in the galley. To avoid any problems and enjoy your purchase with confidence, here is everything you need to know until the arrival of the coveted car in France …

Cars from the EU

Purchase formalities

Buying a car in a member state of the European Union is quite easy. The single currency makes things easier (price comparison, no exchange rate to be taken into account …). And it is not necessary to master the language of the country in question, the majority of our neighbors speaking English (or French) fluently.

Our advicesPrefer payment by bank-to-bank transfer. Do not be surprised if your banker asks you to justify a transfer of funds of 10,000 € or more. French law requires banks to report these transactions. Avoid paying in cash. It is risky and, in addition, you must notify customs of any outflow of cash exceeding € 10,000, under penalty of a heavy fine (50% of the amount seized).

Taxes to be paid

Back in France, the good news is that there are no customs fees. On the other hand, you will have to go to your tax office within 15 days to make a purchase declaration (fiscal discharge). Indeed, without this document, registration at ANTS (1) is not possible. If it is a second-hand vehicle (over 6 months and over 6,000 km), you will not have to pay VAT in France. Only the possible penalty calculated according to the French grid remains in force at the time of the first registration (with 10% reduction per year of seniority). Conversely, for a new car, acquired tax free, the VAT will be 20%. In addition, the penalty (if any) is due in all cases.

Our advicesIf you buy a used vehicle (used vehicle) through an agent, make sure that the latter has paid the VAT of the country of origin. Otherwise, the tax authorities could proceed to an adjustment against you.

Registration in France

If the foreign registration certificate contains all the essential information, in particular in fields D2 and K, no need to provide a European certificate of conformity (COC) to the ANTS. Otherwise, this request must be made to the manufacturer (from 120 to 200 €). Please note, CE registration does not guarantee that the car is approved in all states. This is the case, for example, with American vehicles, which must be the subject of an isolated acceptance. (see box “Purchases outside the EU”).

Our advicesIf possible, buy the car from a brand dealer. In general, the COC is given at the same time as the documents of the sale, which facilitates the procedures. This professional can also take care of the provisional registration in your name, thus allowing the exit of the territory. Another option is to apply for a provisional WW series registration in France, then pick up your car with your plates under your arm.

Non-EU cars

Purchase formalities

The vast majority of purchases outside the European Union are made remotely, via an importer. Therefore, the Swift transfer is the most used. You must plan and pay immediately for the cost of container transport (from € 1,200 to € 2,000 depending on the country), in addition to the purchase price, and any research and shipping costs.

Our advicesPrefer an importer installed in our country or having an official branch there, which allows a transfer to a bank based in France and not abroad. You will thus limit the risks and have a remedy if the vehicle does not comply with the order. (see box below).

Taxes to be paid

With rare exceptions, customs duties equivalent to 10% of the sale price plus the cost of transport apply to private vehicles from a country outside the European Union (22% for commercial vehicles). Added to this is French VAT, which is 20% on the cost of the vehicle (in other words, purchase price + transport cost + customs fees), but also the ecological penalty if applicable. Good to know: any car over 30 years of age benefits from an exemption from customs duties and 5.5% VAT, on condition of presenting an expert report attesting to the historical interest of the vehicle, of its production and the absence of modifications.

Our advicesCorrectly estimate the total cost price of the vehicle, transport and customs included, costs that are too often forgotten. Regularly, buyers abandon their car when it arrives at the port, for lack of being able to pay the taxes. In addition, even if this represents a cost, you can entrust customs clearance procedures to a commission agent (RDE) (2), authorized to represent you in front of the administration (approximately € 500).


Vehicles coming from countries outside the European Union rarely have a European certificate of conformity and must therefore be the subject of an isolated type approval (RTI).

In concrete terms, the vehicle must first be presented to Utac (3) in order to carry out, for around € 2,000, a battery of tests. You can then go to the local Dreal (4). This will ask you for a series of documents, including a detailed descriptive notice. During the inspection appointment (from 85 to 175 €), the car will be examined with a magnifying glass in order to verify its compliance with European legislation. Changes may be requested. In short, a very complicated and full of pitfalls journey, which will often require those who are not litigants to go, for a fee, through an importer to simplify the procedures. (seeAuto Plus n° 1669).

Our advicesMake sure that the car you have chosen can be homologated in France. Approval professionals can take care of the procedure for you (count from € 4,000 to € 6,000 depending on the model). If you opt for a vehicle that is at least 30 years old, you can avoid these procedures and obtain a certificate from the French Federation of Vintage Vehicles (FFVE) (5) allowing its collection registration (60 €).

1. National Agency for Secured Titles, https://ants.gouv.fr/.

2. RDE: registered customs representative.

3. Central technical body, https://www.utacceram.com/fr/rti.

4. Regional Directorate for the Environment, Planning and Housing, https://www.ecologie.gouv.fr/homologation-des-vehicules.

5. www.ffve.org.

> Remedies in the event of a problem

  • Purchase in the European Union : any new car sold benefits, in member countries, from the legal guarantee of conformity for 2 years. After the end of the contractual guarantee, recourse against the manufacturer or the foreign seller is, however, uncertain. If the car was ordered and paid for in France to an agent or an importer, an action against the latter is however possible within 5 years maximum after the sale.
  • Purchase outside the European Union : recourse almost impossible. If you have imported and paid for the car yourself, it is better to have everything checked beforehand, for example by carrying out a background search on the Carfax site in the United States. Indeed, an appeal would have little chance of success and would be extremely costly, because that would require the application of a lawyer in the country of purchase. As the legislation in force in the latter applies, the notion of “hidden defect” present in French law could, moreover, not be recognized.

> Documents to provide for registration in France

Purchase in the EU
Purchase outside the EU
Foreign registration certificate (CI)
Foreign registration certificate (CI)
If CI incomplete, European certificate of conformity (COC)
European certificate of conformity (COC) or individual acceptance report (RTI)
Certificate of acquisition of a vehicle abroad (tax discharge)
846 A customs clearance certificate
Application for registration certificate (Cerfa 13750 * 05)
Application for registration certificate (Cerfa 13750 * 05)
Certificate of assignment or purchase invoice
Certificate of assignment or purchase invoice
Proof of address
Proof of address
Identity document / Driver’s license
Technical inspection (car over 4 years old)
Driver’s license
Insurance certificate
Insurance certificate
For any purchase outside the European Union, do not forget to allow for the – high – transport costs. © STREET GARAGE – GLEN / FLICKR
“Buying my next car abroad tempts me. Is it risky?” © BJOEM WYLEZICH / ADOBE STOCK
Paying cash for your car is risky, but possible without a ceiling, especially in Germany. © Daimler AG

Source: Auto Plus by www.autoplus.fr.

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