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Importing from the United States Car Auction into France Used or Salvage Vehicles

By Mike Richards Updated: 05/23/2019 Posted: 11/23/2016

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in importing used vehicles from the United States into France. This interest has grown especially in light of the explosion of online car auctions, which provide users with the opportunity to save extraordinary amounts of money when purchasing both used and salvage vehicles.

Of course, importing used vehicles into France car auction is much easier said than done. There are a number of restrictions that you’ll need to be aware of, as well as a number of taxes and duties that must be paid. Below, we’re going to cover the entire process from beginning to end. We’ll also discuss the French used car market and what opportunities exist for someone looking to earn money by importing used U.S. cars into France.

Purchasing Used Vehicles at U.S. Online Car Auctions

When you’re looking to save as much money as possible when purchasing a used car in the United States, there’s only one place to search: online car auctions. Through websites that provide this service, you can stand to save up to 80% on the total cost of a used or salvage vehicle.

As if the savings weren’t good enough, the convenience is even better. To get started, you merely need to create an account and make a deposit. This deposit will establish your bidding power with the online car auction website, with its size typically corresponding to one-tenth of your potential maximum bid.

Once your account is successfully created, you can login (keep your data privacy) and browse an extensive database of used car auctions taking place across the United States. You will also be given access to an auction agent or broker who can hold your hand through the process, assisting with everything from finding the right car to setting a bidding strategy. He or she can even connect you with used car auctions that cannot be displayed publically through the online car auction website’s database.

In the end, this is simply the best way to find a used car in the United States. The savings are incredible, and the convenience simply cannot be beaten.

Shipping a Used or Salvage U.S. Car to France

As a major trading partner of the United States, it should be relatively easy to find a port that offers shipping service to France, Belgium, Germany and other countries of Europe. The only real decision that you will need to make pertains to your preferred shipping method. You can, of course, ship your used vehicle to France via a container, but there is another option.

This option is known as RORO shipping, which stands for “roll-on roll-off”. Via this shipping method, your used vehicle will be rolled onto the ship at departure and then rolled off once it arrives in France. Because this shipping method is much less labor intensive, it is also much cheaper. Of course, because your used vehicle will not be protected by a container and will be moved by the ship’s crew, there is a greater possibility that damage could occur during transit. That said, this possibility is quite minimal, and the savings that you stand to reap are almost always worth it.

There is no shortage of ports in France to which you can ship your used U.S. vehicle. In fact, France is home to some of the busiest ports in all of Europe. The Port of Marseille is the country’s largest container port, and one of the busiest in all of Europe. In addition, there is also the Port of Le Havre, which is the 10th busiest port in Europe. Finally, you might also consider the Port of Dunkirk, which keeps quite busy year to year.

For more information about the above three container ports, you can consult their respective port authorities:

In addition to the above three major ports, there are also a number of other smaller ports that you might make use of, particularly if you’ll be shipping via the RORO method.

Clearing Your Used Vehicle Shipped to France Through U.S. Customs

The process for clearing a used vehicle through U.S. customs is incredibly straightforward. First, you will need to gather the relevant documentation for your vehicle. Most importantly, you will want to make sure you have the vehicle’s Original Certificate of Title. In addition to this, you will also need either two complete copies of that title or one certified copy.

These documents, along with the vehicle itself, must be presented to U.S. customs at your chosen port of departure at least 72 hours in advance of your selected ship date. To find out precisely where you will need to present your vehicle and its documentation, simply contact the Port Director for the port that you have selected.

Once U.S. customs has taken possession of your vehicle and documentation, they will do a number of things. Most importantly, they will ensure that your documents accurately correspond to the vehicle by cross-referencing the Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs). Also, they will conduct an inspection of the vehicle, verifying that you have not left anything inside intentionally or otherwise.

Provided your documentation checks out and your vehicle passes inspection, it will be cleared for loading. Should you have any additional questions about this process, please consult U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Getting Your Used or Salvage Car Through French Customs

When importing a used vehicle into France, there are a few things you’ll need to make sure of. First, do note that France requires that all vehicles imported into the country meet a minimum standard of roadworthiness. Therefore, purely salvage vehicles are not permissible for importation. Second, used vehicles must pass an inspection that ensures they meet France’s environmental and safety standards. In the following sections, we’ll review how this inspection is handled.

Provided that your used vehicle meets that above requirements, clearing your used vehicle through customs once it arrives in France should be a straightforward affair. In addition to paying the import duty to French customs and your VAT to the French Internal Revenue Service, you will also need to furnish the following documentation:

  • The Original Bill of Landing
  • The Vehicle’s Original Certificate of Title
  • The Vehicle’s Original U.S. Registration
  • Your Original U.S. Plates
  • Proof of Insurance

After receiving payment of duties and taxes and reviewing your documentation, French customs will clear your car and issue you an 864A document. This document allows you to operate the vehicle in France under your foreign registration for a limited time, thus giving you’re the opportunity to seek and acquire a French registration. We will cover the process for registering your vehicle in France in a section below.

For more information about clearing a used U.S. vehicle being imported to France through French customs, please consult the official website for the French customs authority here.

Import Duties and Taxes for U.S. Vehicles Imported into France

As elsewhere in the European Union (EU), the import duty for used vehicles (even Peugeot, Audi and Renault almost without mileage)  from the United States and other non-EU countries is standardized. Currently, the duty is set to 10% of the vehicle’s CIF. CIF stands for “Cost, Insurance, Freight” and reflects the total value of the vehicle plus the cost of shipping and shipping insurance. Note that if you are importing a used motorcycle from the United States, this import duty is slightly lower; it’s currently set to 9%.

Aside from the import duty, there are a number of taxes that will need to be paid once the vehicle is imported into France. The first is a Value Added Tax (VAT), which is currently set to 19.6% and is again assessed on the vehicle’s CIF. Note, however, that this VAT is not paid directly to French customs. Instead, this VAT is paid to the French Internal Revenue Service.

Outside of the VAT, there are taxes assess on both new and used vehicles that pertain to the vehicle’s carbon emissions:

  • 160 or Fewer Grams of CO2 per Kilometer: No Emissions Tax
  • 161 to 165 Grams of CO2 per Kilometer: 200 Euros
  • 166 to 200 Grams of CO2 per Kilometer: 750 Euros
  • 201 to 250 Grams of CO2 per Kilometer: 1,600 Euros
  • More than 250 Grams of CO2 per Kilometer: 2,600 Euros

Note that this emissions tax is paid upon import and then paid annually thereafter. For each subsequent year, though, the emissions tax is lowered by 10%, provided that the vehicle has continued to be registered.

For more information about import duties and taxes paid on used vehicles in France, please consult the official website for French customs here. Note, though, that this website is only offered in the French language.

How to Register an Imported Used Car in France

Following the importation of your used vehicle from the United States, you will have a three-month grace period during which to register the vehicle. The first step in getting your vehicle registered will involve having the vehicle inspected to ensure that it complies with French safety and environmental standards.

To do this, you will need to contact the local branch for the Direction Régionale de l’Industrie, de la Recherche et de l’Environnement (DRIRE) where the vehicle will be registered. They will provide you with a checklist for all the documentation that will be required to register your vehicle in France. Once you’ve gathered all of the documentation on the checklist, you will then present the documents and the vehicle to a local DRIRE branch.

Provided your documents pass inspection with the DRIRE, you will be issued a Certificat de Conformité. Your work is not done yet, though. You will then take these documents to a local branch of Hôtel des Impôts, where you will request and receive a Déclaration d’Impôt. At this point, you will need to take the vehicle to a local garage for emissions inspection if the vehicle is over four years old. Otherwise, you can proceed to the next step.

With all the documents on the DRIRE checklist, as well as those obtained through the steps above, you will go to your local prefecture. There, you can request a registration form to fill out. Once that form is completed, you will hand it and all of your accumulated documents into the prefecture. After they’ve approved and stamped these documents, you can then take the completed form to an insurance company or a local garage, where your license plates and registration document will be issued.

All told, the above process can be completed in a day’s time, but you should expect things to take longer than that. To get a more detailed overview of the vehicle registration process for imported used vehicles in France, you can consult this handy guide. Likewise, you may also wish to contact the DRIRE directly, which you can do through this website.

The Used Car Market in France

As the majority of French families have had to tighten their belts in the recent years, the average age of cars on French motorways has been increasing. Likewise, there has been some development in the used auto market, which is starting to make up ground that it had lost to the sale of new automobiles in the country.

The majority of car imports, whether are new or used, come from other European Union member nations. Still, the United States does export a not insignificant number of vehicles to France every year. According to statistics compiled by the International Trade Administration, the total value of car imports from the United States totaled $662 million as recently as 2013. That’s still small when compared to the number of imports originating from European Union member nations, but it’s still significant.

In the coming months and years, do keep abreast of news regarding trade between the United States and Europe. In particular look to see if the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) comes to fruition. If so, you can expect to see a marked increase in the number of both new and used vehicles that are exported from the United States to France, as well as to other European Union member nations.

Broadly speaking, France is following the automotive trends present in the rest of Europe. As stricter environmental standards begin to take hold, the market for both hybrid and fully electric vehicles continues to grow in the country. In fact, France has become one of the largest purchasers of electric vehicles in the world. These vehicles are used by private individuals as well as car-sharing services, which are increasing in popularity in the country. Needless to say, this presents something of a business opportunity for someone exporting used hybrid and electric vehicles from the United States into France…

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