Buying a motorhome in France is a huge financial and operational undertaking. It is also a subject where it’s difficult to find accurate, comprehensive, relevant and updated information online. Even more important is to find a trust-worthy business that will look after your best interests including your hard-earned sacings. It’s so important to have the correct information.
Failing to understand the legal process, in particular, could leave you facing a number of issues that are not inconsequential, with the most serious being a loss of funds. With motorhome travel growing significantly each year, and buoyed even more during the past two-and-a-half years of the global pandemic, buying a motorhome in France has seen incredible market growth. With market growth comes new opportunities for people to make a quick buck, and they don’t always have the interests of the buyer in mind.
In 2020 and beyond, the demand for motorhomes also saw a rise in seller fraud and scams. This article is yet another reason for making sure that when buying a motorhome, you do so in a legal way to protect yourself and you only ever buy from a reputable, authorised seller or dealer.
Grab a cup of coffee (this is going to take a while) and keep reading to ensure that your dream of buying and owning a motorhome in France is done safely and securely.
More and more people are discovering the lure of the open road and are wanting to spend more than a few weeks in France or in wider Europe. I don’t blame them. We’ve been hiring motorhomes in France for many years now, and we love it. We’ve just bought a motorhome in Australia, and eventually, we will buy one in France too.
With COVID affecting our ability to travel, many people switched their attention to owning a motorhome so that they could travel more easily (notwithstanding lockdowns and border closures). This love affair with road trips shows no signs of abating in 2022. In fact, it’s increasing. Now that the world has started to travel again, people are still interested in motorhome ownership more than ever.
Buying a motorhome
Buying a motorhome in France, or anywhere, is a long-term decision that is not without the need for significant financial consideration. It is, therefore, important to ensure you have the most accurate and up to date information possible to assist you with buying a motorhome legally.
In this article, we will give you all the steps of the entire process for buying a motorhome in France or Europe, if you are not a resident of the EU, and registering it legally.
- How to buy a motorhome in France legally
- Hiring vs buying a motorhome in France
- Time required to buy a motorhome: from idea through to delivery
- Buying new vs used motorhomes in France
- How to store a motorhome overseas
- How to sell a motorhome overseas
- Why we recommend France Motorhome Sales
How do non-EU residents buy a motorhome in France legally?
Motorhome travellers in the United Kingdom know this travel world well already. As residents of the UK, they are able to buy their vehicles easily in their home country and cross the channel into France.
For would-be motorhome travellers much further afield, the dream of spending months or even years overseas can be rather daunting. A huge outlay of funds required to purchase, unknown or difficult local rules, and having to deal with people you don’t know, can often stop that dream not long after it comes to life.
Australian, New Zealand, Canadian and American citizens top the list of travellers who are looking for a simple, streamlined and safe way of purchasing motorhomes overseas. Some set off for a few months, while others have been known to spend three or four years traversing the world. For many, it’s a trip of a lifetime.
With such a lot at stake, including money, relocation and lifestyle the decision to buy a motorhome must not be underestimated.
DID YOU KNOW? Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, Americans and South Africans buy more motorhomes in France than in any other country
A comprehensive guide for non-EU residents buying a motorhome in France
If you are a non-EU resident looking to buy a motorhome in France, or in Europe, this is the most comprehensive, independent guide you will find on the internet. This guide gives you accurate information on how to buy a motorhome and register it legally so that when you outlay large sums of money, you can be assured that you are protecting your investment.
Buying legally means you own the title of the vehicle, which allows you to register and insure the motorhome and sell it when the time comes.
We have spent a lot of time researching what is available online and talking to people who have also done their own research. The internet is littered with misinformation. Most of the articles suggest upfront, that you should try and find someone in France (or the UK) who can buy the vehicle on your behalf, or do other things like re-direct mail to an international address.
While these solutions might appear simple enough, when it comes time to register, insure or sell, most people find they had major issues on their hands. Other regular information found online suggests buying under a “buy-back” scheme with a broker or rental company. These schemes are always designed to commercially profit the hiring company or broker, not the purchaser.
Beware of motorhome scams
Buying a motorhome usually involves large sums of money. Often, the buyer is not in a position to meet face to face in the initial part of the relationship e.g. may live overseas. This is often the case for many of our readers. This increases the opportunity for unscrupulous dealings.
Here is an example of a recent issue experienced by one of our readers. The buyers, located outside France, were involved in ongoing conversations and emails about purchasing a motorhome. All of the necessary paperwork (eg carte grise, proof of address) was provided to the buyers. All of it looked completely legitimate, but it was in fact not. The sellers had done their homework!
As the transaction continued, the sellers became more demanding. They spoke of family issues on their end designed to create urgency with the sale and to hopefully touch a personal spot with the buyers. The sellers were asking for full payment before the buyers had actually seen the vehicle. Fortunately, the undue pressure created enough concern at the buyer’s end and they pulled out, losing their €2,000 deposit. A lot to lose but at least it wasn’t the full value of the motorhome. Still, we would love nothing better than to never hear of our readers losing any kind of money. My understanding of this situation is that there would have been no real way of knowing the original documentation was fake before putting down the deposit, such was the quality of the counterfeit paperwork.
We use this as a strong reminder to anyone considering buying a motorhome in France, to only do so through known, reputable and proven sellers. Beer and Croissants only recommend John Mottram at France Motorhome Sales. You can contact John via this link. We’d appreciate you using our referral code FMS1022.
Benefits of buying a motorhome when you don’t live in Europe
- More cost-effective than hiring for long periods of time
- Huge range of new and second-hand motorhomes to choose from
- Freedom to choose the configuration and features you prefer
- Can be customised to suit your own requirements
- Can be stocked permanently with all the items you require
- Not bound to a hiring timeline. Motorhomes can be stored in Europe and picked up whenever you want.
- Choose your own insurance and roadside assistance company
- The freedom to go wherever you like for as long as you like
- Don’t have to be constrained by hiring company rules
- Sell whenever you want on your own terms
- Saves plenty of “travel” money too. You can travel as luxuriously or as frugally as you wish.
Looking to buy a motorhome in France now? Click here to get more information from our recommended service provider. Don’t forget to use our referral code FMS1022.
Challenges of buying a motorhome when you don’t live in Europe
- Sourcing the motorhome. If you aren’t based in France, this process is done over the phone or via the internet. Pre-purchase inspections are difficult.
- Identifying a reputable dealer
- Avoiding online scams. See our example above.
- Purchasing the motorhome in Europe legally
- Making the purchase
- Handling large amounts of money for the sale
- Getting appropriate legal coverage of the purchase
- Sale process and paperwork
We recommend having a chat with John Mottram if you are looking to buy. We’d appreciate you letting him know you found him via our article and site. Please use our referral code FMS1022 if you do. Click here to go straight to the website.
How to buy a motorhome in France as a non-EU resident
For non-European Union residents, the purchase and subsequent insuring of a vehicle by an individual in Europe is impossible. It’s one of the first risks that a buyer will face. With the significant outlays required, purchasing legally from a reputable company is paramount. We know from our contacts in the European motorhome industry that “many companies were asking buyers to falsify residency records”. They were also “offering to keep the vehicle registration and ownership details in their own name i.e the business providing the supposed service, not the buyers”.
This obviously poses a significant risk to the buyer. Falsifying records is a major legal risk but paying large sums of money for a vehicle that you don’t have the title for is pure madness. You just wouldn’t hand over large sums of money and have no official paperwork or title that places the asset into your own name.
Possible issues when you buy from less than reputable dealers
- Falsifying records can carry significant legal outcomes
- Inability to insure the vehicle as it was improperly purchased
- Forced to insure with seller’s provider at excessive premiums
- Inability to register vehicle due to incorrect process or ownership
- Inability to sell the vehicle due to incorrect process or ownership
- Finance risk – large sums of money are transferred prior to ever seeing the vehicle
- Driving a vehicle that is not legally acquired could render any insurance invalid
- Your ability to prove ownership may be at risk
Setting up a French company
France Motorhome Sales has established a unique, legally robust process for registering a motorhome in France, after years of research and working with their legal and financial advisors. Initially, a small French company, called a Societe Civile, is established for the new owners to enable them to purchase. Owners of the company can be residents from any other country. Note this process does not require you to become a resident of France, thus you are not going to be in contravention of French rules.
Purchasing a vehicle via the French company gives the buyer full ownership (legal title) and a registration certificate. When the buyer is ready to do so, they communicate directly with France Motorhome Sales’ French accounting firm.
The company can be established with as few as two shareholders for a minimum investment of €1. France Motorhome Sales’ English-speaking chartered accountant takes all the hard work out of setting up the company by doing it for you. The fee for this work plus the associated French authority’s charges comes to €1,900.
A domicile address is required as part of the company structure. France Motorhome Sales can assist you with getting this setup. As it has nothing to do with French residency, they can do this legally. It is simply a location for official correspondence to be received. This costs an additional 60€ per year from the second year.
Once the company setup has been finalised, paperwork is issued noting the owner and allowing for registration to occur. The final registration certificate is proof of ownership. The vehicle will be registered in the company name, with the individual purchasers (the company owners) having the right to the title.
Time to establish a French company
The set-up of a French Societe Civile takes approximately four-five weeks but is dependent on individual circumstances.
Documents you will need before you start
To expedite your process and avoid delays, the following paperwork should be on hand if you proceed.
- Driver’s licence appropriate for your vehicle. Be sure to check that your country’s licence covers the weight of your vehicle. Some countries require a truck licence when it gets over a certain weight.
- International driver’s licence. Most drivers don’t use these anymore, even if they are outside the EU, but it is still required for this process.
- Proof of residential address in your home country
- Current passport
- Current vehicle insurance papers
Should I buy or hire a motorhome?
So when does it make sense to buy a motorhome vs hiring a motorhome? There are so many different factors that can impact such a decision. Some of them are tangible, whilst others might be more qualitative and feelings based. We know from our knowledge of hiring in Europe that it’s usually around the four-month mark where it tips in the favour of buying. The season/time of the year will greatly influence this. Hiring in the peak summer months is infinitely more expensive than doing so after October.
Sometimes people just aren’t cut out to be owners of a motorhome either. While we all agree that taking a motorhome to the roads of France and beyond is pure freedom, sometimes it’s just easier to have someone else own and maintain the motorhome. Sometimes, even though the financial analysis might stack up to support a purchase, the thought of owning an expensive asset that isn’t within your sight doesn’t suit some people’s risk profile.
The great thing is that they are usually able to gauge this when talking with potential buyers and can guide and provide advice to ensure that ultimately, the buyer is as comfortable as possible with their decision. Even if that is not to buy in the end.
If a potential buyer is a little unsure about buying a motorhome because they haven’t driven one before, they’ll suggest they head over to a rental company like France Motorhome Hire (Apollo) [Use our code APDEBEERCROI for €50 off your hire] or Anywhere Campers and hire one for a few weeks. It’s the perfect way of road-testing your future asset.
Tip: If you are planning on driving the motorhome mostly in Europe we strongly recommend buying a left-hand drive vehicle. It will make for an easier driving experience, especially if you are not familiar with driving on the right-hand side of the road. Buying a left-hand drive vehicle also means that the entry door for the rear of the motorhome is on the correct side. This means you don’t have to open the door into traffic every time you pull up.
Buying a new motorhome in France
If you don’t like the thought of buying a used motorhome and you have a budget that will withstand a new vehicle cost, buying a new motorhome in France might be the perfect solution for you.
When you are buying new, the options are far broader than buying second-hand, and you can make all the key buying decisions yourself. There are so many brands and models of motorhomes. From the most basic to the super fancy, there is a vehicle to suit most people’s needs. If not, there’s always the ability to add accessories to it. If this will be your home for quite some time, it is important to ensure you get everything you want. Deciding on an automatic transmission or a manual is also a key decision.
New vehicles offer manufacturer’s warranties, and of course, you get all the benefits of no one else ever having owned it. There’s no wear and tear. For an OCD person like me, this is something that I would consider. Being able to take ownership of something new appeals to me greatly. Being new, you also don’t have to make do with the previous owner’s additions.
The purchase of a new vehicle can take a lot longer than buying a used vehicle. The preliminary research process will take a while, given the plethora of options to choose from. The cost of purchasing a new vehicle and new accessories will also be far greater.
France Motorhome Sales is an accredited supplier of Hymer, Rapido, Dreamer, Weinsberg, ETRVSCO and Knaus motorhomes. These are some of the examples of a range of motorhomes for sale in France. With so many options available talking to John and ultimately providing a brief is the best way forward.
Tip: Know your budget. There are so many bells and whistles that your budget can easily get out of control. Of course, if budget isn’t an issue, go for it!
Buying a second-hand motorhome in France
Sourcing the motorhome
Buying a second-hand motorhome in France won’t set your budget back as much. You might also benefit from the addition of some cool accessories by previous owners. Like any used item, it will possibly show some signs of the previous owners enjoying their own time on the road. Depending on the age of the vehicle there may be little or no manufacturer’s warranty.
From a lead time perspective, buying a secondhand motorhome allows for delivery to happen more quickly, but your choice of configuration will also be more limited. Many options are available to someone who wants to buy a used motorhome. France Motorhome Sales often have used motorhomes available at their depot.
Explore this range of used motorhomes for sale in France.
Tip: Buying a used motorhome with no warranty could increase your chance of mechanical issues or add pressure on your budget for maintenance and repairs. Be sure to factor this into your decision. If you are handy with the tools, this could decrease the risk; otherwise, time and money spent at the mechanics could add up.
Costs to buy a motorhome in France
Unlike hiring a motorhome, the budget involved in buying a motorhome in France is considerable. As such, understanding all of the potential costs, and the quantum is extremely important. No one wants hidden surprises at the time of pickup, or at the time of disposal. Understanding ongoing running costs is also important for budgeting.
There is full transparency around pricing when you work with France Motorhome Sales. They know every possible cost you are likely to encounter as it relates to vehicle ownership. It’s not just all about the purchase price. Insurance, registration, maintenance, running costs, depreciation and even selling costs are just some of the indicative costs you will face.
With a strong understanding of a range of motorhome manufacturers and models, they can guide potential owners in a more specific, less generic manner. There is obviously a cost with the set up of the company structure as well, but all of this, plus any other costs are explained in full detail, ensuring there are no surprises to a new owner.
Storage of motorhome in France
France Motorhome Sales work with providers who are able to store your motorhome when you are not using it. There are sometimes options to store undercover or externally, without cover. Rates for storage depends on the option taken. Here they take good care of your investment, which also includes “winterising” in preparation for the colder months.
Selling a motorhome in France
The internet is full of sell and buy back lease and buy arrangements. While we have explored these options in the past for normal vehicles, we have always opted away from such a scheme simply because they always felt like we would be ripped off. Or, at least commercially disadvantaged.
France Motorhome Sales do not offer such a buy and sell scheme. Many motorhome owners choose to sell their vehicles themselves, through whatever means they feel appropriate. If owners have the time, inclination and skill to do this, it’s a perfect option for them. For those who would prefer to keep the amazing memories of their trip in a motorhome at the forefront of their mind, and not get potentially bogged down in the sale process, you can advertise your vehicle with France Motorhome Sales. This process is commission-based.
Note: Motorhomes attract a much lower depreciation rate than general vehicles
Why buy a motorhome from France Motorhome Sales?
John Mottram is a business person, has excellent knowledge of the motorhome market and has been involved in this business for many years. John is a hands-on owner and operator. This business is a legitimate one, not a faceless, online portal or a dodgy dealership.
John speaks English which means he is able to provide the comfort that many potential buyers need. People who might be anxious about communicating in French, or another language, are put at ease immediately. John is also an excellent communicator, responding quickly to emails, and providing all the necessary information to help you with your questions.
He also understands that making the decision to buy a motorhome in France is a big one, therefore he is able to provide any potential buyer with references to give them added security and peace of mind.
So you’ve heard from us about how to buy a motorhome in France, or in Europe. You also know the process for doing so, legally. But nothing supports information better than to hear it directly from those who have been there, done that.
Geoff and Carolyn – New Zealand: Used motorhome purchase
Geoff and Carolyn from New Zealand know this process well. We spoke to these keen motorhome travellers to understand more about how, as two New Zealanders, they were able to safely purchase a motorhome in France.
Why did you decide to buy a motorhome?
“We have been to Europe a few times hiring a car, travelling around and staying at hotels and I was always keen on the idea of retiring early, buying a motorhome and travelling around Europe. In 2015 we had the opportunity to spend three months in Europe so we hired a motorhome for two of the months and had a great time. This trip really cemented the idea of owning a motorhome in Europe and spending two or three months every year in Europe.
In 2018 both Carolyn and I set up our own business which would allow us to take two to three months off each year, so the first step could be ticked off. We did originally plan to buy new but not do it until 2021 when I would be 55 years old. As I am not the most patient person, I thought about bringing that forward to 2020 as “you only live once”.
What were your key critical decision-making processes?
“We wanted to be sure that we had insurance as we had an incident when we hired the motorhome in 2015. You need full insurance. Also, I wanted them to be able to store it for me undercover for the first few years. We are looking at using this motorhome each year for the next ten years at least so keeping it in good condition is important.”
What did you think about the whole process?
“Excellent. We completed all of ours in 5 weeks. You do need to follow the instructions and complete your forms correctly and in a timely fashion to achieve a 5-week turnaround.”
Would you recommend this process to others?
“Absolutely. If you want to own a motorhome in Europe and either travel for a year or do what we are doing, I believe it is the only way to go. We have ours all set up with E-bikes on the back ready for us for our next adventure in 2020 for 6 weeks. We have the joy now of mapping out our 2020 adventure knowing that it’s sitting there ready to go.”
Denise and Peter – New Zealand: New motorhome purchase
“Paying in full for a motorhome that is sight unseen relies on complete trust in the company you are dealing with.”
Why did you decide to buy a motorhome?
“We’ve rented a motorhome from either Germany or Spain annually for 4-6 weeks for the past 6 years, so had a reasonable amount of experience with motorhoming in Europe, and have also motorhomed in Australia, South America, Canada and the USA.
We decided to explore the possibilities of owning our own to give us more flexibility (ie start and finish dates that suited us) as we wanted to increase the travel time to 9 weeks this year and longer in the future. We found it increasingly difficult to have a decent choice of motorhomes for our preferred rental period (eg trying to rent in Germany for this year’s holiday yielded a choice of 2 motorhomes for our dates from our preferred rental company).
Coming to Europe from NZ is a bit tricky in terms of lining up air travel with a rental period to avoid costly hotels and disruption at either end. The cost of renting has increased significantly over the past 2-3 years also. When Peter suggested buying a couple of years ago, I was the resistant party and needed a lot of convincing (cost/risk/storage etc).
Why did you buy a new motorhome?
“There were three main reasons.”
1. Buying new means having a two-year mechanical warranty. Several years ago we rented a near-new motorhome which developed a steering rack failure in Italy. Although this caused disruption to our holiday, the part was replaced by Fiat under the warranty. Our feeling is that rental motorhomes can get a bit of a rough life. If it was ours we would know there would be no pre-existing damage.
2. The price differential between new and used motorhomes wasn’t enough to encourage us to go down the used route. Motorhomes seem to hold their value quite well.
3. Buying new allowed us to own a motorhome that met our needs – a decent bathroom layout, a garage large enough for a scooter and a wardrobe for storage.
We were a little wary of doing business transactions in France, being aware of the crazy bureaucracy and other difficulties from our daughter who lived in Paris recently.
Bonuses with ownership
“Motorhome ownership has allowed us to feel more secure when travelling as we were able to increase the security of our motorhome with an alarm and extra locks installed on the side entry door and both garage doors. After being broken into twice in Southern Italy a couple of years ago this was important to us.
Also, we felt a change in attitude towards slower travel. Perhaps not having a daily rental charge has encouraged us to not try to cover larger distances.
Ownership has also allowed us to enjoy some extras: better lightweight bikes (previously we sold them for next to nothing at the end of each holiday so only ever brought basic bikes), a scooter, a solar panel and inverter (great for charging devices), inflatable kayak, better bathroom facilities and decent pillows.”
Points to note
“Don’t underestimate the time (and cost) it takes to set up a brand new motorhome that has nothing inside. We spent 2-3 days fitting our scooter ramp and outfitting the motorhome. Doing this in a non-English speaking environment can be challenging at times.
Access to a French speaker to deal with any glitches that occur with the company’s formation and negotiating with the insurance company was invaluable.
Allow plenty of time to complete the process, it’s very difficult to rush the French system and they move pretty slowly at times.
When negotiating insurance rates, a letter from our NZ insurance company stating our no-claim status of 9 years helped to lower the premium by 50%. We had to shop around a little for scooter insurance after an astronomical quote from one company.
Making payments: We paid the deposit by credit card (we needed to do this quickly to secure the motorhome), but subsequent payments were made using Wise.com
This is an online bank that offers much better exchange rates than those offered by the main banks. It’s free to join and secure. Due to money laundering rules, the time for payments to be transferred can vary. Our first two payments were transferred overnight, but the final payment took one week. Motorhome payments need to be completed before pickup, so allow enough time for this to be processed.”
We use Transferwise borderless accounts here at Beer and Croissants too. Read more about it here.
To streamline your process and give you a solid e-introduction, we can put you in touch directly with France Motorhome Sales if you would like. Just send us an email found here. Alternatively, you can contact them through their website. Please tell them we sent you and use our code FMS1022.
As soon as you are able! There is a lead time in setting up the French company and sourcing the motorhome, depending on your requirements. Manufacturer lead times, availability of stock, time of year and many other factors all influence the timing. The sooner you can make your decision and get the ball rolling, the better. At the moment, the halting of manufacturing and other COVID-related issues has impacted the production and delivery times of new motorhomes.
The France Motorhome Sales depot is located in Persac in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of France. It is approximately four-and-a-half hours south-south-west of Paris, and three hours from Bordeaux. Cities closeby include Poitiers and Limoges. he location outside of Paris allows for all the essential parts of inspection, meetings, pickup and drop off much easier. There are no major (and very busy) roads to navigate out of one of the world’s largest cities. Instead, you’ll find a regional area, where there’s no need to rush and plenty of space to get your bearings.
Theoretically, yes. It will obviously depend on several factors, but give France Motorhome Sales (FMS) a call and talk through your specific circumstances. Just like if you were buying a motorhome from FMS and getting them to do the whole process, you can just have them manage the registration. Via their accountant, they take you through the process of creating a société civile in your name with a French-domiciled address. At the end of the process, you are provided with documentation (KBIS – identity card) that you can use to complete the carte grise registration, receive your registration card and then know that you are the registered, legal owner of the motorhome.
This is the most comprehensive guide to buying a motorhome in France that you will find on the internet. If you are not an EU resident, it’s the perfect place to start your research. Don’t get caught with operators who aren’t reputable and who don’t place you and your financial situation first. Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, Americans and South Africans are leading the charge when it comes to foreign ownership of motorhomes and are jumping headfirst into the slow travel movement in Europe.
If you are planning on outlaying huge sums of money, and you want the vehicle of your choice, look no further than France Motorhome Sales – and tell them we sent you!
Need some inspiration for your next motorhome road trip?
These are some of our favourite road trip itineraries.
Plus plenty more motorhome content here.
This is not a sponsored post. I am not being paid to write it. The owners of France Motorhome Sales did not ask me to write this article. We have a long-standing relationship with many people in the European motorhome industry. We recommend them because they are experts at what they do, are professional and honest, and treat their customers well. It also means that you can work with them in good faith and with a level of comfort. That’s enough in our books to support a small business.