Anglophone expats might find the following information and tips useful when it comes to selling their car in France.
1. First of all you must decide whether to sell your car privately or to a garage or second-hand car dealer. If selling privately you’ll have to calculate the price you’d like to sell it at. This can be done by using the Internet site of specialized car dealers or by consulting the tables and formulas supplied by car magazines. Prices are based on the average sales price for your make of car along with its age, number of kilometres, options and sometimes the region you live in. Don’t be too greedy. What you should be aiming at is a price which suits both you and the buyer. It might, however, be a good idea to increase your selling price by, say, 2% to give yourself room for manoeuvre when it comes to the inevitable haggling. Be aware that your potential buyer will certainly have done his sums, too.
2. If you decide to sell to a professional the selling price will be some 10% lower as it takes into account his working expenses and margins. You can calculate the official value by consulting the publication L’Argus which is on sale at newsagent’s and in supermarkets.
3. If you sell privately you’ll certainly have to advertise your vehicle. You can do this regionally or nationally through specialized advertising newspapers, magazines and internet companies. Usually they provide special forms you can use to describe your vehicle (colour, extras, kilometrage, age and, of course, the selling price). You’ll also have to provide a suitable photo. Make sure it’s a flattering one.
4. It might sound elementary but when selling privately it’s important to carry out all necessary repairs on both mechanics and bodywork before putting your vehicle up for sale. It’s also important to give a good impression – so give it a thorough wash and clean inside and out. Use polish on the bodywork and a plastic and/or leather renovator inside. Make sure all the floormats have been cleaned. Your aim is to make it look as near to new as possible. It could make all that difference. In addition, normally a buyer will want to see the service manual along with details of all scheduled services and repair bills.
5. There are plenty of rogues about, so ask a potential buyer to supply official identification – ideally his identity card complete with photo.
6. As the seller you’ll need to fill in a certificat de cession. This informs the authorities of the sale of the vehicle along with the name and address of the new owner. It’s in three parts: one is for you, one for the buyer and one must be sent to your local préfecture within two weeks of concluding the transaction. This form can be obtained from your préfecture or sous-préfecture or downloaded from www.interieur.gouv.fr.
7. You must also let the buyer have a certificat de non-gage. This is an official document proving that the vehicle hasn’t been stolen and that you’re its 100% owner (i.e. you’re not still paying credit instalments on it). This is also free and can be obtained from the same sources as the certificat de cession. Though not mandatory it might also be a good idea to establish a contrat de vente giving details of the vehicle and the sales transaction (registration number, make, date first registered, kilometrage, sales price) which can then be signed by both parties. Contract models can be found on Internet.
8. If your car is more than four years old and you’re selling privately you must supply the buyer with a procès-verbal de contrôle technique (see ‘The French MOT – le contrôle technique). This must be less than six months old (or less than two months if the MOT revealed defects which entailed a contre-visite).
9. Give the buyer the car’s certificat d’immatriculation, its registration certificate. If your vehicle is relatively old it will be the carte grise (it’s a bit confusing as the new certificat d’immatriculation is still frequently referred to as the carte grise). If it’s the carte grise draw two parallel lines across it and write legibly between the lines ‘Vendu le …’ or ‘Cédé le …’ followed by the date and time it was sold. It’s important to indicate the time in case the new owner commits a driving offense after taking possession. Sign below and cut off the top right-hand corner along the dotted lines.
10. If it’s a certificat d’immatriculation write on the top part ‘Vendu le …’ or ‘Cédé le …’ the date and time it was sold, followed by your signature. Then fill in the detachable coupon with the name and address of the buyer along with the date and your signature in the box. Then give the complete certificate to the buyer. Do the same if you’re selling to a professional but don’t fill in the detachable coupon. This enables the buyer to drive his new acquisition for a maximum of one month while waiting for a new certificat d’immatriculation to be issued in his name.
11. If you’re selling the car to a dealer simply give him the certificat d’immatriculation. Usually he will supply all the documents and look after the formalities. Make sure he respects the official procedure. Mention the sale on your carte grise or certificat d’immatriculation. It might be a good idea if you personally send the certificat de cession to the préfecture as proof that the vehicle has been sold.
12. For obvious reasons a potential buyer will want a test drive. Give him the keys only when you’re both inside the car. When it’s over get him to switch off the ignition and hand you the keys before you get out. I know this sounds needless but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Some so-called testers have been known to drive off.
13. When it comes to settlement tell him you want to be paid by banker’s cheque. Normally this guarantees payment but forgeries do exist. Don’t hesitate to ask for the name of his bank so you can telephone to make sure they issued the cheque. This is imperative if you accept payment by personal cheque. Consequently, the transaction must be concluded during bank opening hours and not during the weekend when it will be closed. Please note that many French banks are open on Saturday mornings only.
14. Just to be on the safe side make sure you’re actually holding the cheque before handing over the keys and the crossed, dated and signed carte grise or the detachabe certificat d’immatriculation coupon.
15. Be aware that as the seller you’re responsible for any hidden defects existing before the transaction. If the buyer proves their existence he can ask you to refund part of the price he paid if he decides to keep the vehicle, or to cancel the sale with a total refund of the price paid. However, providing the buyer agrees, you can include a written let-out clause with regard to the hidden defects guarantee in the sales contract. French judges are usually more clement with the seller when the buyer is a professional as they consider he is better qualified to judge the state of a vehicle than a private buyer.