Purchasing our Knaus 550
The vehicle we had rented on our first trip to Europe was a Knaus 550. We liked the layout and size of the RV, and determined we would like to purchase one. When we returned the rental to France Motor Home Hire we initiated a discussion with the owners Phill and Hannah Spurge about purchasing a like vehicle. At the time they operated the rental company, and would sell RV’s out of their rental inventory. Phill and Hannah sold the rental side of the business to Apollo in 2018 but still receive vehicles from the Apollo rental fleet to sell used. In October 2020 they sold the Eurocamping car dealership to Sandrine and Bruno Schlernitzauer. They are also authorized dealers for Knaus, and Blue Sky if you are interested in a new RV.
They have an unique way of allowing the sale to non-EU residents that I will describe below under the heading Societe Civile, and we spent some time with them to better understand the details of setting up the Societe, and the process. As part of the purchase process they also assist with the procurement of comprehensive insurance for the RV, and register the vehicle with the appropriate French agencies.
The sales process is much like you would expect to go thru for a RV in the US. We negotiated with Phill on the price by email, and once the final price was agreed to we arranged for payment. It was fairly straightforward with no real drama.
It is difficult for a non-resident of the EU to purchase a vehicle there. The folks at eurocampingcar.com have found a way that allows legal ownership thru establishing a “Societe Civile” in France. A “Societe Civile” is similar to a LLC in the US. While Ton and I cannot legally own a vehicle in France as individuals, we can form a Societe Civile in our names and the Societe can own, insure and register vehicles legally. It is an extra step, but it allows for the vehicle to be in our names, albeit with an extra cost.
Phill and Hannah set us up with a Notary that would take care of the paperwork needed to establish the Societe. It may be possible to file paperwork without using a Notary, but unless you are absolutely fluent in French, and familiar with the legal requirements I would not attempt to do it. The cost of hiring the firm is relatively minor considering the investment you are making. We did have a few issues dealing with the firm that Phill and Hannah use, and at one point I did ask Phill to step in and help us with communication.
The paperwork was supposed to take about 3 to 4 weeks to process, in our case it took longer as the famous bureaucracy in France kicked in. Everything went well initially as the only identification required by law is a copy of our passports. The first snag that we ran into is that in France the town of your birth is very important and is apparently part of the passport. Ton’s US passport only shows Thailand as her place of birth and does not list her hometown so our initial request to file was denied. Luckily Ton maintains duel citizenship and her Thai passport did list her town of birth, problem solved. Not so fast, her Thai passport ( and US actually) does not list her maiden name, apparently European ones do, so they requested a copy of her birth certificate to verify her maiden name. For various reasons this was going to take months to get, and have translated. We offered up a copy of our marriage certificate in Thai as it listed Ton’s maiden name, and we already had an English translation. To make a long story shorter after a couple of tries this was accepted, problem solved! Not so fast, this time the administrator noticed that Ron’s passport only had his state of birth, and not his town of birth so he requested a copy of Ron’s birth certificate. This we could and did obtain, and though there was some doubt about whether the administrator was going to accept the birth certificate due to the poor penmanship of the person who filled it out over 60 years ago, he did eventually decide he could confirm that Ron was indeed born at Camp LeJeune, Carolina du Nord, Etats Unis America. For Americans plan on submitting a copy of your birth certificate as well as your passport.
The Societe Civile requires that the company have an address in France. In our case we are using Eurocampingcars address in Veron. Phill and Hannah monitor the mail that comes in addressed to Corbin Voyage (the name of our Societe Civile), and contact us if anything comes in that requires our attention. They have begun charging administrative fees for some of the contacts. The list of fees is available if you end up using them for your Societe.
At the Eurocampingcars site they have a more detailed summary of the process. If you are interested in going this way I recommend that you contact them directly.
Registration and Insurance
One of the issues that helped us decide to purchase an European RV was insurance. When we looked into insuring Scout in Europe we found that liability insurance would be approximately $1200 per year. It is very difficult to find anyone to write a comprehensive insurance plan. We finally found one company that said they may provide comprehensive insurance for approximately 70% of the value of Scout for $4500 per year on top of the liability. So if we shipped Scout to Europe we were looking at $5700 per year for comprehensive insurance. This year our comprehensive insurance for François thru AXA Insurance is €800, approximately what we pay for comprehensive insurance on Scout our American RV.
The initial paperwork to insure François with AXA was completed by Eurocampingcars, and all we did was make the payment by credit card. The first year we successfully renewed the policy directly with the agency. It took a couple of emails to get things going, but once we did succeed in getting their attention the process was done smoothly. For 2020 the renewal was very easy, consisting of a single email to the agent who then provided us a security code to go on to the AXA site to pay the fee by credit card.
The registration of the vehicle was also completed by Eurocampingcars and was completed within a couple of days. The registration fees are a one time event in France, so there is no periodic renewal of license plates like we are used to in the US.
We have chosen to store François at Eurocampingcars in Veron. The cost per day is a little less than I paid when I stored my RV in the US. We make sure that our arrival and departure days are communicated as soon as we finalize our trips. Eurocampingcars is a small operation, so there are windows when they are traveling so they appreciate the advance notice.
There is no requirement to store with them, and other clients store at other sites and other countries. In the future we may consider other storage to assist with logistics of trips.
If your motorhome is more than 4 years old it requires an annual inspection called a “Control Technique”. These seem to be standard in all western European countries. They check if all of the lights are in working order, the tires have enough tread and some other things. Also, in France there is a requirement that the tires on motorhomes be no older than 5 years. We hope ours will be well used after 5 years and need replacing anyway. I will update this section once we have some experience going thru the process as François just hit his fourth birthday.