If you do decide to buy a car, you can go directly to a French dealer for new or previously-owned (occasion) models or search for individuals privately selling their used cars. Keep in mind that at a dealer, the prices for new or used cars are generally open for negotiation.
Foreign residents are eligible for car loans. Most of the time, these loans are procured through a bank. Contact your bank representative for information on loan rates as well as a couple of others to comparision shop and have a bit of negotiation power.
Buying a New Car
New cars may be bought at any authorized dealership; to find a shop near you check the website of the brand in which you are interested. (You may be surprised to learn that the Champs-Elysees, for example, has quite a few automobile showrooms on it!) Popular French car brands include the national makers Peugeot (http://www.peugeot.fr), Renault (http://www.renault.fr) and Citroen (http://www.citroen.fr), although foreign cars are widely available and also very popular, though a bit more expensive.
When buying from a dealer, you will receive a temporary ownership title. The dealer will contact the Préfecture for the permanent registration. You must then present your carte de séjour and proof of residence to the Préfecture, in addition, to obtain your ‘certificat immatriculation’. See the Préfecture de Police’ website (in French) for more information: http://www.prefecturedepolice.interieur.gouv.fr/Demarches/Particulier/Permis-de-conduire-et-papiers-du-vehicule/Certificat-immatriculation.
Buying a Used Car
It is always smart to do your homework when buying a used car. The following French websites will help you determine a fair price, or « book value » of a used car and are also the main sources for finding listings of cars for sale:
Additional resources are the English language magazine/website FUSAC (http://www.FUSAC.fr), Message, the anglophone support group (http://www.messageparis.org) and Craigslit http://www.craigslist.com where many expatriates sell their cars before returning to their home countries.
If you buy a previously-owned car from a dealer, they will follow the same procedure of registration as with a new car.
Buying a Used Car from a Private Seller
When you buy a used car from an individual, the seller must give you:
- A bill of sale (certificat de cession)
- A title clearance (certificat de non-gage) issued to the seller by the Préfecture.
- A certificat de non-gage (only necessary if your local Préfecture is different from the seller’s)
- If the car is more than four years old, the seller must also provide a certificat de contrôle technique less than 6 months old. This is a diagnostic certificate that informs the buyer of the mechanical condition of the vehicle.
- The seller must also give you the certificat immatriculation with the seller’s name crossed out as owner and the car marked as sold.
You are then responsible to appear at the Préfecture within one month of purchase to have the title put in your name.
Before agreeing to buy a used car make sure that:
- The series number stamped on the car matches that in the registration documents of the seller.
- The seller is the legally registered owner of the car by checking on the carte grise.
- The seller provides a certificat de situation, which includes a certificate of non-security (valid for one month) and a certificate of non-opposition (valid for two months) proving that the car may be sold.