Is your UK car in France insured?

A new and startling insurance quirk has been brought to our attention, relating to UK registered cars that are kept and run in France.

People living in France but driving UK registered cars are supposed to get them re-registered in France – but many don’t bother. There are certainly plenty of expats living around here that have been driving UK cars for a long time, presumably to avoid the hassle of re-registration.

The number has increased recently since quite a few expats have also been returning to the UK this year just to buy a car and bring it out to France, since apparently second-hand cars are much cheaper in the UK at the moment.

The story I heard was that somebody had an accident in such a car – UK registered, based in France, but no UK road tax or MOT, although it had been having the French equivalent of the MOT: the Controle Technique.

The insurance company have now said the car was being driven illegally, since a UK car must also have UK road tax and MOT certificate – hence they have declined to replace either of the two damaged vehicles!

Can this be true? It’s not my car or my accident so I’m not sure…but I do know that if I was driving around France in a UK-regsitered car I would get it re-registered pretty darn soon, and meanwhile check that my insurance was really going to payout if I had an accident…

Reminds me a bit of another story where a father and son drove into each other, writing off both cars – which were both listed as owned by the father, and on the same insurance policy. The insurance company refused to payout, on the basis they didn’t know whose fault it was, but it was certainly either the fathers or the sons. Another one to think about if you have two cars!



  1. Keith Eckstein September 9, 2009 at 5:37 am |

    I have long wondered when the day would come when this “loophole” of Brits driving uninsured cars would come.

    A couple of years ago I heard rumours that the Gendarmes were being trained to be better able to deal with U.K. driving details so that they could target the U.K registered cars that come over and don’t get re-registered or re-tested (MOT or CT.)

    In a strangely sadistic way, I almost look forward to a purge against the Brits who “forget” to comply with their host country’s driving regulations – It would make for interesting reading and exciting eavesdropping in some of the bars and on the forums frequented by the Brits.

    All the best


  2. Johnny Norfolk September 9, 2009 at 8:08 am |

    In my opinion its far easier to purchase your car in your new country. The EU has done nothing to help people in these areas at all.

  3. Chris September 19, 2009 at 2:15 pm |

    I saw a Renault Clio the other day with Portuguese export plates. The particularity with this kind of plates is that they have the expiry date on them. These had 04 01, meaning January 2004! I’m sure no insurance company insures a car with plates like that. It surprises me that this car has not been stopped by police long time ago.

  4. Tony September 20, 2009 at 11:08 am |

    Yep, this is a reality but a totally fair and necessary one – we have 2 French cars for business and personal use but we recently also bought a small UK car that we kept on British plates and our insurers have happily insured since we bought 1 year ago – I have already received written notice from my insurers saying they will refuse to renew unless the car is re-matriculated in France and we have already started the process, which is fairly starightforward providing your car is a standard, common make and model

  5. Boris September 20, 2009 at 11:15 am |

    Hi Tony,
    Thanks for the guide, should be quite useful to a few people I think, given the number of UK registered cars we see around here.

  6. Una November 2, 2009 at 10:57 pm |

    Wonder if anyone can help me. I am returning to Uk after 6 months in France. My car is running out of MOT before my return. Is it possible to get MOT on my UK car here in France. All documents are with me including car insurance. I am in Brittany. YOur advice would be greatly appreciated.

  7. Sue March 18, 2010 at 9:34 am |

    Some advice please I have a car which was registered in the uk but has been on private property for 2 years, I now wish to drive it in France. What is required?

  8. Robert Monk October 5, 2012 at 6:16 pm |

    Iwish to return my french registerd english car to england buy a replacement.Dealers require the car to be re-registerd in england before they will take it in part exchange.Dvla require a english insurance cert. No english insurance co. will insure me because i am not a english resedent.Dose any one now aco. that will or any other solution

  9. Michael Jones October 10, 2012 at 4:03 pm |

    I was at my wits end as I had bought a van in England and needed insurance as I was to be keeping it in France and using it for commercial trips to the UK.
    I spoke to 10 brokers in France and the UK (all recommeneded through various websites for expats). All declared that it was impossible to get insurance.
    Finally I got through to Polly Drew at SRL Philippe Schreinemachers. She sorted my insurance in 24 hours. I don’t normally contribute to sites like these but was so relieved and grateful that i’m determined to highy recoomend this company.

  10. Boris October 10, 2012 at 4:06 pm |

    Thanks for the suggestion Michael (although I’m not quite sure what you mean by ‘I don’t normally contribute to sites like these‘?!

  11. Andrew January 15, 2013 at 12:48 pm |

    Thanks for the great site Boris, I do enjoy your interaction with Mrs B.

    For those who are interested I have two UK based insurance companies that I use for my 3 cars which I run on UK plates as I am only temporarily in France, though these temporary periods can extend to more than one year and have been doing so off and on for a while now.
    One company is expensive if your car value rises much above 5000 and is sort of proportionate to the value, the other vice versa – a flat rate which works out expensive for low value cars.
    Both allow you to insure out of a Fr address a car left on UK plates. In fact they require the UK plates.
    They do not expect the car to have UK road tax 9ie it is SORNed) but do require it to be road legal technically, so either a current MoT or, after two years, a Controle Technique (CT) is required.

    I am writing to ask advice as my first car old enough now requires a CT. It failed the first test on lights despite having ‘beam benders’. But the examiner was happy with the UK Registration Document.
    I then approached a second test centre and discussed the specification of the car with them in advance. They were unworried about the lights, saying they just need to be adjusted down, but now the surprise; in n apparently well informed way they told me without being asked that in addition to the Reg Doc a ‘Certificate of Conformity’ would be required.
    Is this correct today – or is this an old out of date rule with the latest format UK Regn Docmt?
    If it is right where would I get this certificate from?

    Any advice from the community appreciated!

  12. simon January 15, 2013 at 3:25 pm |

    A point which has been much discussed on many a forum.
    However one basic fact remains that a vehicle must be legal in the country which it is registered. So if you have a UK registered car it must have a current MOT Road tax, and must be insured by a UK registered insurance company. Insurance on UK registered cars is a legal requirement irrespective of whether it is off the road or in a foreign country, unless you complete the V5C/4 section on the UK log book which is the “notification of permanent export”.
    There are many French insurance companies who will insure a UK registered vehicle, however most state in the small print that the vehicle must be French registered within a certain period, normally about 6 months, but most people deal with a broker here in France and the broker is happy to take your business and bank your money, only when an incident arises does the sting come and the insurance company look for a reason not to pay out.
    The other downside that if your car is not UK legal you will not be able to use it in the Uk as nearly all the UK ports now use the reg reconcilable cameras and you will stopped before you even get in, as it will ping up NOT INSURED, NOT TAXED, NO MOT etc..
    The only way to 100% legal is to register your car in the country you mainly use it and meet with the legal requirements in that country.
    2nd hand car prices are much cheaper in the UK and buying one there is a good idea, and it is not too difficult to re register in France, but even if you do register it in France it will have a lower value than you think, because it is right hand drive. I found this out when my nice BM was written off. When i was offered a settlement figure it looked very low, the French “book ” price was 8k but they only offered me 5K. Reason, it is based on the value of the car in France and a Right hand drive car is worth considerably less than the Left hand drive equivalent, so you get what the book price says.
    So in answer to the above posts:
    Una, you will not get a UK MOT in France, make an appontment at a UK MOT garage for the day you return to the UK and take it straight there. With the confirmed appointment and proof that you are on your way you should be ok. Hopefully you have TAX on it!!
    Left hand drive head lights are completely different to Right hand drive, unless you have xenons. You will need to change them to pass a Control Tech. By the way the control Tech has no legal standing on a UK registered car. UK Cars must have UK MOT simples.
    No doubt the debate will continue, as will the one about speeding fines, but sure enough when the problem gets big enough the Gendarmes will on the case.

  13. Boris January 15, 2013 at 3:30 pm |

    Excellent detailed explanation, thanks Simon (of buggs car hire Bergerac)

  14. Victor March 26, 2013 at 7:57 pm |

    I’m a little late coming in on this discussion but hope that Andrew is still available to let me know the UK insurance companies that allow you to insure with a valid MOT and no UK tax while driving in france as that is exactly what I wish to do.