DRIVING IN FRANCE
All citizens of a country from outside the EU must exchange their driving licence for a French one within 1 year of becoming resident in France. After this date your permit is not considered as valid.
The paperwork required changes regularly, so please get in touch for the latest information on what is required to change your driving licence.
Required by law
Every person in the vehicle must be restrained by a seat belt suitable for the purpose. Not wearing a seatbelt can result in a fine of 135€ and if the driver is not attached: the loss of 3 points (In France, your licence starts with 12 points and they are then deducted for any driving offences). If you receive points, don’t forget that it obligatory for you to change your licence.
Your car must also be equipped with the following:
A fluorescent gilet conforming to EU standards. The gilet must be kept in a place which is easily accessible without getting out of the car.
** BREATHALYSER UPDATE MARCH 2013 **
In July 2012 a new law came into effect stating that it was obligatory to have at least 1 (2 advised) breathalysers in your car at all times. A fine of 11€ would be applied if you were not found to comply. Since the introduction of this law there have been many discussions about the feasibility of this law: there were not enough breathalysers on the market to equip France, the breathalysers were going up in price due to the difficulties of supply, the breathalysers were not found to work if the car was too hot or too cold... the final outcome has rendered the breathalysers 'recommended' and not obligatory as previously. The fine for not owning one has also been dropped.
In short, you are now 'advised' to have a breathalyser in your car, but you will not be fined if you do not comply.
A warning triangle which must be situated inside the car. This must be placed at a distance of approx 30m from your vehicle in case of breakdown/accident. Please note that if your life is in danger, you can be exempt from placing the warning triangle.
In case of breakdown at the side of the road or on the hard shoulder, your hazard lights must also be used.
Any contravention of the above rules can result in a fine of 135€.
You must carry at all times, a change of lightbulbs for your headlights, stop lights and indicators. You can receive a fine and your car impounded if they are found not to be working at night.
Items which must be carried at all times
V5 log book
Your motor insurance
If your driving licence doesn’t carry a photograph, ensure that you have your passport with you.
A reflective jacket must be kept in an easily accessible spot. Accessible without leaving the car.
A breath test kit (there is a period of grace, which has been extended due to supply problems, of until 1st March 2013 before you will be fined 11€ for not complying).
A change of lightbulbs.
The police in France often do spot checks and you can be fined for not having these items on you.
2 wheeled vehicles
You must wear a helmet at all times.
You must carry with you a change a lightbulbs. You can receive a fine and your bike impounded if they are found to be not working.
From May 2011 all number plates must be: 275mm x 200mm.
A reflective jacket is also obligatory for all motor bikes and carries a 68€ fine and 2 points if you're found not to comply.
Be aware that on a bicycle you must follow the highway code or you could find yourself losing points on your driving licence! The exception to the rule is a recent change in the law, which states that you can now cycle the wrong way down a one way street (doing this in a car carries a 90€ fine and 3 points!).
When cycling at night, or in bad weather conditions, outside of an urbanized area, you must wear a fluorescent gilet conforming to EU standards.
Your bike must be equipped with lights.
If you are found not to comply with these rules you can expect to receive a fine of 35€.
If you are involved in a serious road accident, especially if someone is killed, you will automatically be tested for drugs. This will be done in a medical facility with a urine test. If the test is positive, you will then have to undergo a blood test. Refusal to have the blood test can result in your fine being increased dramatically and a prison sentence.
You will be automatically given an alcohol test for any accident or driving offence, whether your fault or not. This is done using the simple breathalyzer. If positive, you will have a blood sample taken to determine the exact amount you are over the limit.
If you refuse the breathalyzer test, you will be given a blood test. If you refuse the blood test then you will be treated as though you are 0.8g per litre over the limit, ie. A 4.500€ fine and/or imprisonment and your licence suspended.
As of July 1st 2012 a breath testing kit must be carried in your vehicle. This applies to all vehicles on the road, other than bikes of 55cc and those that are not capable of attaining 45km/h. This includes tractors and motorbikes.
Driving under the influence
The alcohol limit for driving is 0.5g per litre, or 0.25mg per litre of air breathed out. If you are caught having between 0.5g and 0.8g you will receive a fine of 135€ and 6 points taken off your licence. Even if you show no outward sign of being drunk.
If you are over 0.8g per litre or 0.4mg of air or look positively drunk, the gendarmes can take your licence from you for 72 hours. If there is no-one to take over from you, your car will be immobilized.
The resulting fine/imprisonment will be determined by the results of the blood test which will determine the exact state of drunkenness. The fine can reach 4.500€ and your licence can be taken off you for more than 3 years, you can also be imprisoned for up to 2 years. No mitigating circumstances will be given if you require your licence for work.
Speeding & General Driving
Be aware that driving at 25km/h over the speed limit can result in your licence being taken off you.
The 50km/h limit in urban areas starts at the town or city sign, a white rectangular sign with a red border. NOT where the first 50km/h sign is.
In the Haute Savoie there are very few fixed speed cameras compared with in the UK, however there are quite a lot of mobile cameras which are moved from place to place quite regularly. Unfortunately, due to a decision on May 11th 2011, all speed camera warning signs have been, or are in the process of being, removed. A map showing the position of all speed cameras used to be available online but that has also been closed down. Drive carefully.
On the spot fines are issued by gendarmes. An official receipt should always be issued.
Radar detectors are illegal in France even when they are not in use. If you are caught with a radar detector in your vehicle, you could be fined, have the detector confiscated, or even face confiscation of the vehicle. So make sure you remove any such device before taking your car to France. This does not apply to SatNav or GPS because these devices do not detect radar speed cameras, they simply tell you where they are, information which is freely available.
Unlike in the UK, you can be stopped by the gendarmes/police for driving too fast, without them using a speed camera. You cannot have points deducted, however you must pay the fine. In order to contest the fine you must provide proof from witnesses on the scene.
Don’t forget the old rule of ‘priorité à droite’. Any vehicle coming from the right, where there is no stop or give way sign, has right of way.
UK Plates bearing the EU circle of stars are no longer required to have a GB sticker.
Dipped headlights must be used in poor daytime visibility. Motorcycles over 125cc must use dipped headlights during the day at all times.
Mobile phones: it is against the law to use your mobile phone in your hands whilst driving. You can receive a fine of 150€ and 2 points. A hands free kit is allowed, however, it is worth noting that if the authorities feel that you have been driving dangerously they can still prosecute you for driving whilst on the phone.
Contrôle Technique. Any French registered car must pass a CT every 2 years. If you want a UK registered car to undergo a CT, you must provide a ‘Certificat de Conformité’ from the manufacturer.
Any vehicle which stays in France more than 6 months in a 12 month period, must be registered in France. The same applies within any country in the EU.
All vehicles with an engine must be declared/registered at the Préfecture. As from June 2009, this includes mini-quads which can reach speeds in excess of 25km/h
All vehicles originating from within the EU can be registered in France. Please get in touch if you would like to register your vehicle.
Most vehicles from outside the EU can also be registered, however, the paperwork is far more complicated and there will be more charges involved. If you have any queries then please don’t hesitate to ask.
Caravans and trailers over a certain size must also be registered.
The cost of registering your vehicle is based on the power of the engine. Recent changes mean that depending on the age of the car and the engine, you may also have to pay an ‘eco’ fee. Please get in touch for further information.
If you want to scrap your vehicle, you need to take the vehicle to an agreed scrap yard. On either selling or giving the vehicle to the scrap yard, you will mark this clearly on the carte grise. For a foreign car, you will have to show proof of ownership. You will be given various paperwork from the scrap yard as proof that it will be scrapped. The paperwork changes quite regularly so please get in touch for further information.
CO² emissions - Ecotaxe
From January 2008 an écotaxe is due on any car with CO² emissions over 156g/km. It is a one off payment and applies to any new vehicle registered in France from January 1st 2008 and any private vehicle (whether used or new) imported and registered in France from January 1st 2008. The amount of tax you pay depends on the emissions and varies from 200€ to 2.600€!
If you buy a new vehicle with very high emissions you could be charged an additional annual tax. This applies vehicles registered, or first registered in France, after 2009. The level of emissions is reduced almost annually to encompass more vehicles.
UK Registered vehicles
There are many different stories about what you can do with a UK registered car in France. There are also various different companies which will insure a UK registered car over here. The real fact is that if your car stays overseas for more than 6 months or your main residence is overseas, you are obliged to register your car in your chosen country.
Fact or fiction?
You can declare your car SORN and still insure it in France
If you have made a SORN declaration your car is declared off the road. Off the road means off ANY roads, whether they are in France or the UK. If you have an accident you will be liable to all kinds of fines.
A Contrôle Technique can be used in place of an MOT
An MOT is the only vehicle test which is valid for UK vehicle tax. Although a Contrôle Technique is the French equivalent it is not the same. For example: an MOT means that the headlights must point in the right direction for driving on the left hand side of the road. A Contrôle Technique can only be passed having headlights which point in the right direction for driving on the right hand side of the road.
If you have a Contrôle Technique and you have made a SORN declaration you are in contravention of UK law.
Insuring a UK registered car in France.
There is at least 1 UK insurance company which will insure your vehicle for long periods of time in Europe, however, in accordance with UK law, the vehicle must be taxed and MOT'd and you must also have a UK address.
There are plenty more which will happily insure your car overseas, telling you that everything is OK, without your vehicle being taxed or MOT'd. How confident would you be in them paying out, if you were involved in an accident where someone was seriously injured?
The DVLA has had requests from the police in Paris, checking that UK registered cars are correctly taxed, tested and insured.
From the end of June 2011 a new law will come into effect meaning that all UK registered vehicles must be insured (by a UK based company) at all times. If your vehicle is on the UK Motor Insurance Database you will be chased up for insurance. In the first instance a £100 fine could be applied.
How I can help
The paperwork for importing and registering your car in France, need not be difficult or time consuming. Most people would be surprised at how little it costs to register a car in France. Once registered there's no more annual road tax (except for the rare exception) and your Contrôle Technique (the equivalent of a UK MOT) is only every two years. You can drive it all over Europe and your insurance will be valid.
Having a husband who likes cars and insists on buying them from across Europe, I am perfectly placed to help you with the formalities of registering and insuring your car. Let me take the hassle of the paperwork. I can even compare various insurance policies for you, leaving you more time to relax and do the important things in life such as: skiing, climbing, mountain biking or hiking - or even nothing at all!
Want to register your car or motorbike?
Looking at importing your car from overseas?
Want to book a Contrôle Technique?
Have a problem with a Contrôle Technique?
Want to scrap a french registered car?
Selling your car and not sure what documents are required
Do you need (or want) to change your driving licence?
Do you have the best policy for your needs?
Is your insurance the cheapest on the market?
Do you want to compare quotes?
Get in touch for more details.
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Communiquer 74: Sarah Barnes Tel: 00 33 (0)22.214.171.124.95 email: email@example.com
Disclaimer: The information contained in this website should be regarded as a guideline only. I try and update the information as often as possible but it is possible that certain information has been missed. I would love to be the font of all knowledge but unfortunately I am not! All situations are different and the information contained here may not be applicable to all cases. Please get in touch if you would like me to check any information in relation to your personal situation. My role is to be your voice, to ask the questions you would like asking and those that I know you should be asking. During the course of my work I have gained knowledge of lots of different aspects of French administration and can generally advise you on what is important and what isn't. Dealing with the French system on a daily basis means that I can help you do things far faster and can assist you through the minefield.
The factsheets may be printed for personal reference, but may not be published,copied or re-used for any other purpose without permission.