One careful lady owner from new

Written by Simon Renfrew

Or not. If you are a glutton for mental (& fiscal) punishment and a fan of challenges without reward, then invest some time in trying to find a good value second hand car in France. For reasons that entirely escape me, and despite having had to go through the tin jungle several times over the years, everything from nearly new mid price saloons to bangers are stupidly expensive. It’s not that most brand new cars cost more than in the UK (some Japanese imports excepted), nor that cars are so rare here that there’s a man in front of each with a red flag, the locals gawping in wonder.

And it’s not just a problem in France, so nipping off to some other left hand drive state isn’t an answer - if you surf through car buying websites in Germany or even Belgium (which used to be the best value European country to buy new) it’s a similar story.  Maybe it’s because people hang on their cars longer and they’re not fussed about having the most up to date model – in any event, shopping for your next jalopy ain’t much fun.

The alternative is to buy a right hand drive in Blighty & drive it over (UK registered left hand drives have become very popular with expats & thus pricey). This is fine once you get used to it, but overtaking can get interesting, especially if you don’t have a front seat passenger (or you do, but they’re shortsighted or borderline suicidal). And do be careful with Oriental 4X4’s, personally imported to the UK in the first instance – these can be very difficult to register at the Prefecture, and if you can’t get your French ‘plates, ultimately awkward to insure.

On the plus side and outside of the main towns & cities, traffic lights and jams swiftly become a memory. Diesel’s cheaper (even with an inflated euro), there’s no road fund license and the autoroutes are fantastic.

And you can always get a motorbike. Fast, cheap and fun - and the number one way to avoid speeding tickets (as most speed cameras are forward facing).  And when hordes of relatives come to see you, the perfect excuse not to drive them around. Simples.


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