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 Préfecture or Sous-Préfecture and in some cases, by the local mairie.
Some car dealers are authorised to handle the registration of the car, provide a registration number, and temporary registration certificate (certificat provisoire d'immatriculation, CPI), as well as transfer the registration order directly to the authorities. The certificat d'immatriculation is sent by registered mail directly to the vehicle owner. The service is not free of charge.
- Learn more about letting a car dealer take care of the registration (in French)
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)
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.
Regional vehicle taxes remain unchanged.
- For full details on the vehicle registration system (in French)
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 (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.
- More information on the registration plates
Statutory Off Road Notification
It is possible to file a SORN (Statutory off Road Notification) when a vehicle is being modified or restored. During this time the car may not be driven, nor towed, on public roads. If a Déclaration de retrait de la circulation d'un véhicule is made for a just-bought car, it is not necessary to register it.
The declaration is simple and free of charge: the form Cerfa n°13756*02 and registration documents (if applicable) should be provided to the préfecture or the sous-préfecture.
- Learn more about how to proceed
- Download the form Cerfa n°13756*02, Déclaration de retrait de la circulation d'un véhicule
Scrapping a Vehicle
To scrap a vehicle it is necessary to take it to an approved VHU. The local préfecture can provide a list of these. The following documents will need to be presented:
- The Certificat d'immatriculation with the text "vendu le (jour/mois/année) pour destruction" (sold to be scrapped) or "cédé le (jour/mois/année) pour destruction" (left to be scrapped)
- A Certificat de situation administrative less than 15 days
- The first page of the form cerfa n°13754*02. One copy is for the vehicle owner, the other copy should be sent to the prefecture
The VHU will provide a certificat de destruction and send a copy to the préfecture.
This is free of charge, provided the car is left at the VHU.
Inform the préfecture within 15 days, by providing:
- A déclaration de cession indicating that the car has been scrapped ("vendu le (jour/mois/année) pour destruction")
- If the Certificat d'immatriculation has a detachable coupon this should be included
Deliver in person or by mail to the préfecture or sous-préfecture responsible for vehicle scrapping in the region.
- Detailed information on how to scrap a car (in French)
The insurance company should also be informed, and the insurance cancelled.
- Learn how to cancel a car insurance (in French)