What drives people to bring their car to France?

Richard Hammond, founder of French Connections HCB, inherited his love of cars from his father who used to restore them for a living. No wonder Richard is sympathetic when people don’t want to leave their own vehicle behind when they move.

I’m really passionate about classic cars, which comes from hanging out in my Dad’s workshop when I was growing up in the Gers. I have several at the moment, including a Sunbeam Rapier called Katie and a Sunbeam Alpine Series 3 called Anie who is as British as they come.

It turns out that more than half of our team at French Connections HCB admits to having a nickname for their car, and the same is true of many of the clients who ask for our help with registration and importation. The truth is that a car is a fundamental part of family life and we definitely grow attached… but there are also some very solid financial reasons for bringing your car with you when you move.

For a start, foreign cars are considerably more expensive to buy over here than in the UK, US or Dubai. As an example, a 3 Series BMW worth £30,000 in the UK could cost as much as 65,000 euros in Europe. It’s also true that the UK/US spec is usually higher, with more sporty options.

There are other considerations too. Here in France, there’s a government-led push towards French-made vehicles, so Peugeot and Renault prices are extremely competitive compared to foreign makes. People also tend to hang onto their cars for longer, which means the second hand car market is often overstocked with early models and high mileage. As a very general rule, cars work harder here, perhaps because there’s much less public transport in rural areas, so a car is seen as a functional necessity rather than luxury item.

With cars, there’s a lot to be said for familiarity. If you’re happy with your car and you wouldn’t be able to buy it again for the same price once you’ve moved, it makes sense to consider bringing it with you. However, European administration doesn’t make it easy and that can put a lot of people off. French Connections HCB operates in France, Italy and Portugal and the situation is different in all of them. They each have their own laws and requirements for importing and registering a foreign vehicle, with a significant amount of bureaucracy and a very long list of documents that you have to provide at each step of the process. It is often said that what you need most is patience!

Let’s use France as an example. Firstly, you need to be officially registered online as a taxpayer to be able to complete the formalities. If you’re only just moving to Europe,

you are very unlikely to already be paying tax here. Fortunately, it’s legal for somebody else to register for you, and that’s one of the services we offer at French Connections HCB.

Secondly, the online platform for registering your foreign car is not particularly user-friendly. Only certain sized PDFs are acceptable, for example, and the ‘quitus fiscal’ (which is the certificate confirming VAT tax clearance for your vehicle) is often very slow to arrive.

A quitus fiscal can only be obtained if your UK-registered car arrived in France before December 31 2020. If it arrived after that date, you need to go through customs to get a ‘certificat de dédouanement’ to allow you to register your car here.

Thirdly, most Prefectures insist on a conformity certificate that can only be issued by the manufacturer of the vehicle (and some Prefectures insist on it being done in French). If for whatever reason that can’t be done, the DREAL (Direction Régionale Environnement Aménagement Logement) is the only organisation in the whole of France that’s authorised to carry out the inspection. Fortunately, there is an office in every region of France.

Classic cars add another layer of complication because the manufacturer which needs to issue the conformity certificate often no longer exists! In those cases, as long as your car is more than 30 years old, we work with the FFVE (Fédération Française des Véhicules d’Époque) which can issue a French document in lieu of the usual Certificate of Conformity. They also deal with classic motorbikes, another passion of mine. I have a 1952 Triumph Tiger which I ride more than anything else – I love it. I’m also having a Bonneville restored in the UK which I’m hoping to bring over here in time for this year’s Wheels & Waves in Biarritz.

If it’s your first time and you aren’t familiar with the process, it’s a good idea to talk to us. We handle enquiries about car imports, transportation and registration on a daily basis so we can offer support and guidance every step of the way, or even handle the entire process for you. It takes roughly three months from start to finish, so we are happy to divide the cost over those three months interest free. We also offer a money back guarantee.

If you don’t want to drive your car through France initially, we can organise transport with one of our International Shipping partners, Ship My Car and CFR Rinkens, to transport it door to door. We also work with a trusted insurance partner, Fab French Insurance, which offers extremely competitive premiums for people bring cars in from abroad. We will happily put you in touch.

A good place to start is a free 15 minute consultation with us to talk about your own situation and find out how we can help simplify the process. Simply click here if you’d like to book.

People often ask if we look after motorbikes too. Basically, if it’s got wheels and you want to bring it to France, Italy or Portugal, French Connections HCB can make it happen!

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