Buying a used car in France

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If you’re looking to travel around France but don’t want to take a train or a plane, you may consider buying a car in France instead.

But if your bank account is crying out and you don’t want to buy something brand new, why not buy used? Not only will you fit in with your own French car model, but it’ll save you some money for other things (like pastries! Or, more realistically, rent).

Here’s what you need to know when buying a used car in France.

Finding a secondhand car in France

Whereabouts do you find used cars in France? First, check your local paper. There are often classifieds (les petites annonces) that advertise used local cars for you to test out and purchase.

You can also check on L’Argus, an online used car database. If you’re browsing through it, expect to pay within 10% of the price offered for each car. French car insurance companies also use this site when processing insurance claims or premiums.

Other websites you can check include:

Buying a car from a private seller

You’ll find cars for sale from private sellers by the “À Vendre” sign they stick to the front windshield. By calling the number provided on the sign, you’ll reach the seller and be able to negotiate a price and pick-up date.

Buying a car from a French car dealer

It may feel intimidating buying from a French car dealer at first. You should be aware that you will likely be charged a premium for buying from them. But if the dealer provides you with the correct documentation and information, the rest of your buying process should be a breeze.

Documents you’ll need when buying a used French car

Before signing anything, make sure your vehicle has all of the proper documentation (listed below).

Certificat de Cession

The seller must provide you with a certificat de cession, or a certificate of transfer and document of sale of the vehicle. You must receive three copies of this and be signed by the person whose name is on the vehicle registration certificate (called a carte grise or certificat d’immatriculation).

Carte Grise

This certificate must be kept in your vehicle at all times. The carte grise includes your vehicle’s registration number, the vehicle’s details (make and model, year of manufacturing, etc.), your name and address, and how it complies with European pollution standards.

Once the certificate is signed, the seller must forward a copy to the local prefecture within 15 days of selling you the car. They’ll also give you a certificat de situation administrative, or certificat de non-gage, which confirms that no one is opposed to the sale of the car and that the car is not being held as security for a loan.

Contrôle Technique

A contrôle technique, or government safety test, must have been performed on the vehicle within the last six months for cars that are over four years old. Sometimes sellers are able to sell a car without one, but it must be declared on the paperwork. If your car has not had a contrôle technique, you cannot re-register it in your name until it passes a new road test.

Carnet d’Entretien

You should also receive a carnet d’entretien, a document that lays out the repairs and maintenance done on the car in the past.

Other important documents

Make sure your new car hasn’t been involved in a major accident in the past by requesting a déclaration sans accident/non-accidenté from the seller.

You should also request a certificat de non-opposition, that confirms the seller is agreeing to sell you the car and that you aren’t stealing it.

Do I need to register my vehicle, and how do I do that?

Yes, French car registration is important. You’ll need to re-register the vehicle within one month of the date you bought it and obtain a new carte grise. If your car seller has not provided you with a new one, you can take it upon yourself to register by going to Agence Nationale Des Titres Sécurisés.

To register yourself, you’ll need to head on over to the local Mairie (town hall) with the following documents:

  • Certificate of vehicle sale and the original transfer of ownership from the seller
  • The original carte grise that came with the car/seller
  • Proof of ID
  • Proof of French residency
  • Driver’s licence
  • Proof of a valid contrôle technique

The price of getting a new carte grise will depend on the horsepower of your car.

What about car insurance?

Take out your own car insurance as soon as you buy your vehicle. The seller’s insurance expires by midnight on the date of vehicle purchase.

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