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I am considering a grand tour of the EU by road. This would be in a small electric car; I don't plan on creating lots of pollution as I go. Partly because the car would have a small range and also because I want to see the places and not just speed through ticking them off a list, I would be travelling slowly and the trip would be long. Maybe 6 months, maybe a year, maybe even more. I am about to retire and I have the time.

Most of the tour would be in continental Europe and it would be easier to buy the car in the EU. So, I would like to register it there. I am a dual UK / Irish citizen but I currently live in the UK. I have friends and / or family in Ireland, Denmark, and France who I hope would be happy to lend me their address. Obviously, I have the strongest connections to Ireland but it is the least convenient as it is not physically connected to the other countries. I have the second best connections to Denmark (relatives not just friends) but it is also not in an optimal location. France would be the most convenient but I only have friends there.

Hence the question: could I reasonably easily buy a car in France and register it at a friend's address? What risk would they be taking? I won't be committing any serious crimes in the car. Apart from anything else, the car that I am considering would be a lousy getaway car. I don't plan committing even minor crimes but there is always a danger of a parking ticket or something like that.

I also need to check my driving licence, insurance, etc but one question at a time.

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  • Forget about risk and make sure it's 100% legal. You are a trustworthy character with no bad intentions, but a parking ticket isn't your worst danger. If you have an accident which is not your fault, the paperwork must be totally correct. Commented Jul 31, 2022 at 18:33
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    @WeatherVane This is the beginning of researching the project. My aim is to be fully legal and to have that documented. These topics are not here just because I am trying to stay to one question per post. Also, if i cannot realistically register the car, the other questions are moot.
    – badjohn
    Commented Jul 31, 2022 at 19:01
  • I was just saying, that your intentions about being good aren't really relevant. Also that it isn't fair to place any risk on a helpful friend or relative. Commented Jul 31, 2022 at 19:02
  • @WeatherVane I expect my friends would like to know that I don't plan to use the car in a serious crime. They are drivers themselves so they will know that there is a danger of an accident.
    – badjohn
    Commented Jul 31, 2022 at 19:05
  • These are good friends who I have known for a very long time. We have already done many large favours for each other.
    – badjohn
    Commented Jul 31, 2022 at 19:07

4 Answers 4

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You can't actually register, i.e. get a certificat d'immatriculation (more commonly known as a carte grise (grey card)), a car in France without a living in France.


Justificatif de domicile

DISCLAIMER : I am not a lawyer

You will need to have a justificatif de domicile (address certificate), written in your name at your address (can be a single other address just that it needs your name on it, and no older than 6 months (all requisites are on service-public.fr (fr)).
Which you obviously don't have in your possession.

However, you know people that may give you their address, which makes is way easier though still quite inconvenient and possibly illegal due to the fact that you are misrepresenting the fact that you're living in France.

The easiest way you would have been able to have such justificatif if is for your French friend to write you a attestation d'hébergement, in which they legally certify you live at their place, however this is purely illegal as this is lying and can entice consequences for the signatory.

You can also, this time in a grey area of legality, subscribe to a cheap mobile phone plan at that person's house (like Free's (not affiliated)), get the invoice, and then you will have a proper Justificatif de domicile, but, by using that invoice (getting a mobile plan as a non-resident, and even abroad (nothing prevent you from having only a PO box for that mobile plan) is not illegal), you might be in trouble

BUT, as I said it is a grey area, nothing is written in regulations that you have to actually live at that particular address (many people register cars to their secondary residences and live elsewhere in France), but there is still the issue of deception. Deceiving a gov. is always a bad thing, but again, it is likely no one, except for your insurer, will actually care about that.


Insurance

This is not France specific but you are required to tell the truth especially to any insurer, you don't live where you tell them you live, and they have extremely large latitudes to stop coverage altogether if you are caught lying.

I suspect some insurers may bend the rules and allow your foreign address somewhere in the registry, but police may be weirded out and willing to investigate if the carte verte (European certificate of auto insurance) has a wholly different address than the registration.


Conclusion

As the issue is legally grey, I would recommend having a French lawyer weighing the options.

If you choose to go ahead, nothing will likely ever happen on the registration side, but your insurer might not be too happy if they stumble on this.
As most policies are bendable by the agent you may be able to get them onboard, but not guaranteed and not recommended.

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  • Thanks. Disappointing but not too surprising. I want a solution that is certainly legal. I particularly don't want to involve friends in something dodgy.
    – badjohn
    Commented Jul 31, 2022 at 22:22
  • Has this changed? My personal experience is old - I owned a car in France in the mid 90s when I was there working for an American company for a couple months, and all the insurance company wanted was my international driver's license (and my California driver's license to go along with it). That's the only time in my life where an international license has actually been required. I didn't have any formal documentation for where I lived (rented a room from a family). Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 16:14
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A (perfectly legal) alternative would be buying and registering an LHD car in Britain and finding an insurance company willing to cover you abroad all year round (the limit was usually 3months/year when I checked).

An LHD car can be registered in the UK provided it meets some requirements (the spec for head and tail lamps are different from the continent, and you need a speedometer that reads both mph and Km/h). Some cars are already dual-spec so you don't need to do anything, and there are workshops that specialize in this conversion for all others.

The easiest and simplest route would be finding an already converted LHD car in the UK and buying it; buying the car in the continent and bringing it over would mean a lot of import taxes.

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  • Thanks. However, it is not that I want any LHD car but a specific one that is not easily available here.
    – badjohn
    Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 7:16
  • You could still import it in the UK and register it there, but the cost might be quite high. Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 8:43
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    As a side note, if you are not used to driving on the left, a RHD car would be much easier (talking from experience when I moved to the UK and had both LHD and RHD cars). Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 8:43
  • Thanks. I have lots of experience driving on the right in both LHD and RHD cars. For example, I have lived in the Philippines.
    – badjohn
    Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 9:00
  • Importing and registering here and taking it back would add lots of costs and complications. I had hoped to import and register it here but after the grand tour not before.
    – badjohn
    Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 9:02
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Consider getting an MT plate in Andorra for an easy car registration option. Andorra offers two types of plates: normal plates for residents and MT plates for non-residents in Europe.

MT plates are temporary and can be renewed annually without returning to Andorra. Here's why they're great:

Low taxes: With only 4.5% VAT and €500 registration fee, cars are significantly cheaper compared to other European countries with higher taxes.

Convenience: No need for a company or residency. Just prove your non-EU residency and you're good to go. Insurance is also straightforward.

Easy process: Several companies in Andorra import cars from Germany and handle MT plate registration swiftly, usually within 4 weeks. They can also manage yearly renewals and assist with selling the car later.

An example of a company like this in Andorra can be www.importocotxe.ad. They have a search form where they show all cars available to be imported to Andorra from Germany with the final price of the cars imported announced.

Hope this helps for an easy and cost-effective car registration in Europe!

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  • An interesting idea that had not occurred to me.
    – badjohn
    Commented Apr 13 at 9:04
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According to your comments, you live in the UK and intend to return to the UK with the car at the end of your grand tour.

If your desired model were available in the UK, there would be no question that buying and registering it in the UK would be infinitely simpler and would only cost you one extra channel crossing for the car.

Importing the car would most likely result in a demand for UK VAT and you might have difficulty claiming a refund of the foreign VAT seeing that you might have claimed foreign residence to licence the car and there would be a long delay between the purchase and the importation.

In the pre-Brexit past, there were companies which bought cars in Belgium (low tax) and did all the administration for you for "personal import" into the UK. If one of these companies is still in existence, you might be able to buy the car in Belgium and have it registered in the UK without physically importing it, but I suspect Brexit has made this uneconomic for them.

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  • Your first sentence is correct. However, it is a specific car that I have in mind and there is currently no date for its availability here. Also, I would rather like to have EU plates while doing my grand tour of the EU. Your last idea is interesting and is worth checking though I am not optimistic.
    – badjohn
    Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 10:09

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