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 the 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, 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. The seller has 15 days to register the transaction on the website of the Agence nationale des Titres Sécurisées – ANTS. This agency is responsible for issuing and updating French car registration documents. 

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.

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.

  • The French government website Service Public provides comprehensive information on vehicle registration documents - 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.

The Service Public website (Système d’Immatriculculation des Véhicules  has comprehensive details on the vehicle registration system in France (in French) An application form for vehicle registration certificate (Cerfa n ° 13750 * 07) can be downloaded via the Service Public websiteMopeds and 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. A vehicle can be considered a collectors' car if it is more than 30 years old.

Further changes are coming into effect regarding registration and ownership of classic cars, including requirements for obligatory roadworthy checks (contrôle technique).

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.

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 updated on the ANTS website.

Scrapping a Vehicle

To scrap a vehicle it is necessary to take it to an approved VHU centre (centre Véhicule Hors d'Usage), who can generally take care of all the paperwork involved on your behalf. The local préfecture can provide a list of these or a list is usually available on their website. 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°15776*02. One copy is for the vehicle owner, the other is given to the VHU centre
The VHU will provide a certificate of destruction (certificat de destruction) .This is free of charge, provided the car is left at the VHU. In most cases the VHU can carry out the administrative formalities on your behalf, or the owner must declare online on the ANTS website.

The insurance company should also be informed, and the insurance cancelled.