Europe has taken a big step towards harmonising roadworthiness tests among its Member States. Indeed, the 2014 EU directive (2014/45/EU) provides for common rules for all states and mutual recognition of roadworthiness tests in Europe. This directive has been transposed into national law, so that in principle a roadworthiness test less than 6 months old is valid for registration throughout Europe. It must not contain any critical defects and must be translated into the local language.
If you are importing a car from Germany to France, for example, you do not have to repeat the technical inspection on the spot (if it is less than 6 months old and does not include a counter-inspection). However, the devil is always in the detail and the reality is more complex, especially for oldertimers.
Mutual recognition of roadworthiness tests is still imperfect for classic cars
It should be pointed out that Community transposition is recent and that local authorities are sometimes reluctant to validate a foreign technical inspection. The exchange of information between Member States is still imperfect and Europe is working on the creation of a common information base which will facilitate the mutual recognition of inspections. Sometimes a registration is blocked when the local authorities fail to validate a technical inspection with the administration of the country of origin.
The legal uncertainty of classic cars status in Europe
Secondly, the European Commission has deliberately left flexibility to the Member States with regard to classic cars. As roadworthiness tests cannot be applied in their entirety to cars that do not meet the requirements of our time, it is up to each government to set its own standards. For example, the requirements for braking and road holding are generally lower, and certain equipment that was not compulsory when the vehicle was first marketed (such as warnings or exterior mirrors) is not always necessary.
Some countries have therefore maintained specific derogation statuses for cars over 30 years old (the “collection” registration card in France or the H veteran plates in Germany). For these special statuses, technical inspection is not, in principle, recognised at European level. However, there is some legal uncertainty as to the recognition of roadworthiness tests for these derogatory statuses. There is one exception, however: vehicles put into circulation before 1 January 1960. They are exempt from technical inspection requirements throughout Europe.
The need for further integration of the European classic car market
The European Commission has greatly advanced the integration of the used car market in Europe through its 2014 directive on the harmonisation of roadworthiness tests. Its efforts are continuing through the establishment of a unified information system that is particularly useful for car trade. These are also useful for imports of classic cars into the EU market, allowing :
- to obtain mutual recognition for classic cars not subject to a derogatory status (with a “normal” vehicle inspection)
- to offer buyers better guarantees as to the condition of an imported classic car. Even if there are differences in the interpretation of the inspection rules for these cars, certain principles are identical throughout Europe (absence of corrosion, safety of brakes, reliability of the ground connection, etc.). The concept of major or critical failure is common to all member countries and gives European buyers an objective criterion for assessing the condition of a classic car.
However, there are still steps to be taken to facilitate the creation of a genuine “European classic car market”. Europe must have vehicle inspection procedures that are adapted to these cars and mutually recognised by all Member States. Adapting the standards of vehicle inspection implies explicitly recognising the specificities of vintage cars and framing the technical requirements by production period. On the basis of the original average performance, it is desirable to define appropriate standards for classic cars.
Mutual recognition of vehicle inspections for vintage cars requires the harmonisation of derogatory status granted to cars over 30 years old in the various Member States. The regulatory cacophony that reigns in this area is really damaging to the European classic car market, which remains fragmented. This market is today a source of job creation and value addition, as well as an element of Europe’s cultural heritage. There is a need to facilitate the integration of the European classic car market.