My finances, my projects, my life
July 6, 2020

Buying a second-hand car in Luxembourg as a cross-border worker

For cross-border workers, the thought of buying a second-hand car in Luxembourg can be tempting. There are so many to choose from, and you can find great value for money in vehicles that have all the accessories, are well taken care of and don’t have too many miles on the clock. The only catch: the paperwork, which is just as onerous as when registering a foreign vehicle in Luxembourg. myLIFE tells you everything you need to know before getting started.

Meet Alex, 28 years old and a promising employee at a tech company in Luxembourg. Alex lives 10 km outside of Metz, and drives to work every morning. Unfortunately for him, his car is on its last legs. It’s high time he bought another one, but as his means are limited, he decides to buy second hand. And why not go for a car that’s already registered in Luxembourg? The country’s second-hand auto market is brimming with quality models, some in excellent shape. After browsing websites like www.luxauto.lu or www.autoscout24.lu, he finally finds just what he’s looking for.

The current owner of the car that he wants to buy lives in Dommeldange. After taking it for an obligatory test drive, Alex and the seller close the deal. But he can’t drive back to France with his new find just yet. Beyond the financial transaction, there are a few administrative steps that must be taken, for buyer and seller alike.

For the seller

If you’re going to sell your car privately to a buyer from abroad, you’ll have to deregister it. Specifically, you must file a declaration with the National Society of Automotive Traffic (Société nationale de circulation automobile – SNCA) that you are deregistering your vehicle in order to export it. This must be done within five business days of the sale. You might think this obligation for sellers doesn’t concern our friend Alex… but you’d be wrong! He will have to wait for this deregistration to go through before he can begin his own pile of paperwork.

You have to wait for the vehicle deregistration to go through before you can begin your own administrative process.

For the buyer

Alex will have to start by filing a request with the French government to obtain a “grey card” (carte grise) for a second-hand vehicle purchased abroad. Then he will be issued a registration number. We won’t go into much detail on this procedure, as it varies from country to country. Our advice is that you contact the proper authorities in your country of residence to find out more. Still, no matter where you live, there are a few documents you’re definitely going to need. These include:

  • the old registration certificate (from the previous owner)
  • the contract of sale (provided by the seller and signed by both parties)
  • your driver’s licence
  • your ID
  • a certificate of road-worthiness (provided by the seller)
  • a European certificate of conformity (provided by the seller)
  • a certificate confirming payment of VAT in your country (for Alex, this is the quitus fiscal provided by the French tax authorities)
  • proof of your address (e.g. a utility bill or rent receipt).

To learn more about this, Alex will need to consult the French website for vehicle registration run by the National Agency for Secure Documents (ANTS). Thorough information can also be found on other websites intended for residents of Belgium or Germany. Armed with this knowledge, Alex can take all the right steps to get the process rolling. Halfway there!

Waiting to receive the registration certificate

For Alex in France, it could be a while before he receives his grey card (the French version of a registration certificate). The card is requested online, which is practical enough. Unfortunately though, issuing it still takes a long time, as every item in an applicant’s file has to be reviewed. In all, the process can take more than eight weeks! And it’s no use explaining that Alex already needs the car he bought to get to work in the morning. Because it has been deregistered, there’s no way he can drive it now. That would be illegal!

To bring the car into your country of residence, you have to apply for temporary registration allowing you to drive it.

Exporting a vehicle

Fortunately, there is one quick way to get the car registered in France: the registration for export process, for temporary registration (three months) allowing you to drive the vehicle. To do this, however, you’ll need a special type of insurance. But there are plenty of other steps, too, so first things first.

To obtain this temporary registration, Alex started by making an appointment at the SNCA in Sandweiler. This can be done online. At the appointment, he needed the following documents:

  • the contract of sale (provided by the seller and signed by both parties)
  • the old registration certificate (from the previous owner)
  • his ID.

And while he was there, he had to fill out and sign a registration certificate application form.

Getting export plates

After paying a €50 stamp duty at the SNCA, Alex contacted an authorised license plate manufacturer to have plates made to match the temporary registration certificate. He had to pay a deposit for this process of around €100, but he’ll be able to get it back by returning these export plates when his permanent French plates are ready.

Taking out special temporary insurance

The next step is to contact an insurance company in Luxembourg to take out a special insurance policy – one especially for vehicles crossing the country border with temporary license plates. Alex stopped by the insurance company in person, armed with documents showing he’d bought the car in Luxembourg and with the temporary registration number the SNCA gave him.

With this errand complete, it was back to the SNCA (having made yet another appointment), where the agent was then able to hand over his registration certificate for export. Finally, Alex returned to the seller, put the export plates on, and drove his new car back home.

Back home in France

The car may be safely in the garage, but Alex isn’t quite finished yet. The special insurance policy required to obtain the export plates in Luxembourg was only temporary (around 15 days), so he will also have to insure the vehicle under those plates with a French company, too. The best thing to do is to talk with the desired insurance company in advance to find out the necessary steps, so that everything is ready when it’s time to act. Once Alex finally has his grey card with the vehicle registration number, he will be able to have his permanent license plates made. When they’re ready to put on the car, he will still have to contact his insurance company to tell them the permanent plate number. But when all is said and done, Alex will have earned a bit of rest on the sofa before getting back behind the wheel!

Now you know everything you’ll need to do if you ever choose to buy second-hand car in Luxembourg. As you can see, there are a number of administrative steps to get through. But for the right bargain, it just might be worth the effort. You simply have to be well organised, especially if you want to use your new car right away, like our friend Alex.