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French Vehicle Registration Document (Certificat d'immatriculation)

The details on the vehicle registration documents and paperwork needed to buy, sell or scrap a car, move house or replace a lost or stolen Carte Grise...

The immatriculation is a vehicle (truck, car, camper, motorbike etc.) registration. The details of a vehicle's registration are carried in the Certificat d'immatriculation (certificate of registration, previously known as the carte grise, grey card).

The certificat d'immatriculation (carte grise) or registration document identifies:

  • the vehicle registration number
  • the owner of the vehicle
  • details of the vehicle (make, model, year of manufacture, horsepower, engine and chassis numbers)
  • its compliance with European technical standards

The certificat d'immatriculation is specific to the vehicle and its owner. When a car is bought or sold, the new ownership must be registered within one month of the transfer and a new certificat d'immatriculation will be issued to the new owner. Paperwork is handled by the Prefecture or Sous-Prefecture and in some cases, by the local mairie.

The certificat d'immatriculation should be carried in the car at all times. It can be asked during a police check or at a customs border control.

A foreign registered car imported to France will need to go through a conforming process before being eligible for registration and a certificat d'immatriculation.

  • See: Importing a Car to France
  • The French government website Service Public provides comprehensive information on the certificat d'immatriculation (in French only): Click here
Vehicle Registration System (SIV)

France adopted a new, nationwide vehicle registration system in 2009. This is the Système d'Immatriculation des Véhicules (SIV). The term "Carte Grise" no longer applies; the registration document is now called the certificat d'immatriculation.

How it works

  • The vehicle is issued with a registration number at the first point of registration. This remains with the car until it is destroyed or exported, regardless of its location of registration in France
  • An owner need not change the registration of a vehicle bought in a different département
  • An owner need not change the registration if they move département, although they are required to report a change of address. A sticker will be sent by post which must be placed in the registration document (there is no charge)

A vehicle owner who does not change address nor sell/buy a car need not change the vehicle registration plates of their vehicles during 2009. In fact, at this stage no time limit has been set for the new registration system to be implemented on all vehicles.

Regional vehicle taxes remain unchanged.


50cc motorbikes are included in the system and new mopeds are issued with the SIV number.

Classic and collectors' cars

In order to protect the integrity of a classic car, the white on black number plate may be used, but must (if changing hands) display the new SIV number. Further changes are coming into effect regarding registration and ownership of classic cars, including requirements for obligatory roadworthy checks (contrôle technique).

  • Further information from the Fédération Française des Véhicules d'Époques, FFVE : Click here (in French)

The registration plates

The plates have seven identifying letters and numbers in black on a white background. The format is: two letters - three numbers - two letters.

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