1 March 2023


In 2021 we traded in our old Mazda for a new one.  At the time we bought the car my dad was still hale and hearty so we thought the opportunity to spend more time in France was a long way off and having a decent, modern car that would last us a few years seemed like a good plan!  Now that we are seeking to become residents in France we would like to take it with us.  Unfortunately it turns out that registering this particular Mazda there would be rather tricky.  

Generally speaking, the process would begin with obtaining something called a "certificate of conformance" from the dealer/manufacturer, then to change the headlights to ones for a left hand drive version, take the car to a garage in France to have the equivalent of an MOT, present all the paperwork to the appropriate Préfecture, pay the fee and come away with a new registration number.  We have done this before with cars and motorcycles and know how it works.

Our trusted UK garage person told us that the replacement headlights would be expensive and he could not get hold of them.  We would have to get them in France and a French garage would have to fit them.  When we looked into it further it seems that changing them is no easy task and, according to Mazda, the French garage would have to get in touch with Mazda technical support and be "talked through" the process as it would involve reprogramming the car's electrics.

Alarm bells started ringing when we discovered this!  You can see how it could all go wrong, that it could cost a fortune and we could end up being without a car at all for weeks if it didn't go right first time.  Not to mention that messing with a modern car's electrics is rarely a good idea!  Just to be sure, I emailed the Mazda main dealership that's nearest to us in France and they said they could not do the work.

We have decided that a good solution is to sell the Mazda in the UK and buy a French car instead, using the ancient and rattly old Peugeot to get us to France in the short term.  As I write this we have the car up for sale in one of those online auctions you see advertised on TV so we are on tenterhooks to hear if it sells.  We're not prepared to let it go too cheap but........what to do if it doesn't sell?

We could leave it in the UK for use when one or other of us returns and take the old and rattly Peugeot to France instead - that one would migrate more easily (and cheaply).  That's not an ideal solution; having your best car stood doing nothing for most of the year while we rattle round in a scruffy old jalopy does not make sense.

We could trade it in for a different good car that would migrate more easily - one with headlights that switch to left hand drive!  Time is running out to get that organised. **

We could take it to France and use it there for a few months, returning to the UK with it sooner than we thought we would, and stay here until we've changed it.  Although are we allowed to do this - to turn up at the border with a visa that leads to French residency and a car that we are not importing?

Questions, questions, and the answers can be hard to find!

Well, one way or another we will find a solution and I expect this is only the first of many "challenges" that will crop up as we go through the migration process!


**This option is not really an option.  Further research tells us that if we import a car that we have owned for less than six months we will have a hefty bill for the VAT and duty.  The only viable option therefore is to use the proceeds from the Mazda to buy a French car.


  1. I think you're wise to accept that "Frenchifying" the Mazda is too risky, too complex and economically unwise. But as you say, there are so many questions to be answered. But I think you are on the right road (trying to find a good pun about driving on the right)

    1. We have been offered a sensible price online for the Mazda so it looks like we will be taking the Peugeot to France instead.

  2. Jean.... rent a new Ami.... they seem to be becoming rather popular... there are charging points all over the place... GP has one outside the Comptoir.... Loches, Chatellerault... well within reach!!
    Use the rattling Puggy as a non-bike weather chuggabout until you find a replacement zippabout.
    I say rent the Ami because it only costs 22€ a month for the posh one with all the trim and someone else has the worry of the battery and a replacement vehicle if it breaks down.
    Alright, you are restricted to its top speed of 45kph.... but you'll see more of France!!
    If you feel the need for speed.... you've got Harley and his cousin Davidson.....
    But, don't even bother importing the Puggy.... once you've got a new French car, return the Puggy back to the UK... I would wreckommend Lorriou in Loches for a new, zippy machine.... they've done fine by us for our Podgy Pardner Poshvan!! And they are now the GP garage of course. And there is nothing stopping you from turning up at the "Border" in a rattlin' old Puggy.... your choice of car has nought to do with residency.
    And how's Colin!?

    1. We're not entirely sure how the process works at the border, ie whether having turned up with the Peugeot we have to declare that we are importing it along with the other possessions we bring over. In which case would we be able to bring it back to the UK? It's hard to find these things out.
      Whatever we do, we need a car that will get us reliably to the UK in one go, a total of 600 miles.

    2. You are not required to register your car as French for 18 months.... by which time I would hope, you'll have sorted yourselves out with a decent car that only needs an MOT [CT] every two years and you can take the Puggy back to the UK

  3. i tried to take car from the UK but in the end bought in France. I was lucky enough to get an ex demonstrator that had been registered during the covid lockdown but done hardly any miles and yet they needed to move it on - a rare french car bargain.

  4. I wonder if people who want to import a French car into the UK have the same difficulties to overcome. I know French cars imported into the US have to be modified to meet qualification standards, and US cars brought into France have to be modified too. Why not just buy a French car in France? If France is going to be your primary residence, that would make sense, it seems to me.

    1. I dare say the rules are just as complicated for people importing cars to the UK. We have now reverted to plan A - anything for an easy life - see next post!