Guide to Driving in France

  1. Driving Offences and Penalties
  2. Importing and Registering a Vehicle
  3. Vehicle Registration Process/Transfer of Ownership
  4. Vehicle Registration Taxes
  5. MOT Vehicle Tests
  6. Obtaining a French Driving Licence
  7. Use of Vehicle Accident Forms in France
  8. Crit'Air Emissions Sticker

3. Vehicle Registration Process/Transfer of Vehicle Ownership

3.1. Documentation

In order to accomplish the formalities for the sale and purchase of a second-hand car or other vehicle in France the documentation required is as follows:

i. Transfer Certificate - This form is the transfer document, confirming that the former owner transfers the vehicle to the new owner.

In the past it has it has been know as the Déclaration de cession d'un véhicule but it is now more recently called the Certificat de cession d'un véhicule d'occasion

The form can be downloaded at Certificat de cession d'un véhicule d'occasion.

It needs to be completed by the former owner, signed by them and the buyer. If there is more than one owner of the vehicle then all parties must sign the certificate.

Three copies of the form need to be completed: one is kept by the seller, the second given to the buyer, and the third copy is sent to the (local) préfecture by the buyer within 15 days of the sale. The process can also be done on-line (see below), although the paper documentation must be completed.

Other than personal details, all of the information to be completed is contained on the vehicle registration certificate, known in the vernacular as the carte grise, but officially as the certificat d'immatriculation.

It is merely important that you ensure the information is correctly transferred and that there are no corrections made on the form, which might complicate processing of the transfer.

ii. Confirmation of No Lien - The seller is also required to provide the buyer with a certificat de situation administrative (previously called a certificat de non-gage) dated less than 15 days, confirming they have unencumbered ownership of the vehicle and that they can freely dispose of it.

The certificate can be obtained by the buyer or on-line and free of charge from the Ministère de l'Intérieur.

iii. Registration Document - At the conclusion of the sale the certificat d'immatriculation should be handed to the new owner, annotated 'vendu le (date)' and signed by the seller.

If the car was registered since 2004 then the new certificat d'immatriculation in operation since this date have on it a detachable portion on which the name of the new owner can be entered, and signed by the seller, which the new owner can use pending the formalities of new registration.

iv. MOT Certificate - If the vehicle is more than 4 years old, the new owner must also be provided with a current MOT certificate (Contrôle Technique - CT), which must have a validity of at least eighteen months. A CT is valid for two years, so it must have been undertaken within six months of the sale.

In the case of a vehicle being scrapped, the declaration must be accomplished in collaboration with the salvage professional.

v. Certificate of Conformity - There are additional requirements for the importation of a vehicle into France, primarily concerning the provision of a certificate of conformity (attestation d'identification), not covered in these notes. You can read more at Importing a Vehicle to France.

3.2. Process

In the past a new owner was obliged to send their registration certificate to their préfecture, within one month and to make application for their own registration certificate.

This was done by completing a Demande de certificat d'immatriculation.

Since Nov 2017 this process can only be undertaken on-line at Agence nationale des titres sécurisés or via France Connect, although as we indicate below, it is also undertaken by accredited professional providers.

You will need to supply:

  • the existing registration certificate,
  • proof of identity,
  • proof of address.
  • payment of the registration taxes.

The charge for the new certificate depends on a number of factors, notably engine size and emission rating.

Each region applies their own charge, although they are broadly similar for each vehicle type, ranging from around €75 for the smallest, greenest cars to potentially several thousand euros for the largest and most polluting vehicles.

You can read about the taxes in our section on Vehicle Registration Taxes.

The registration number of the vehicle will remain the same, except for pre-2009 vehicles that may be running on a now abandoned numbering system.

The new government on-line registration system has suffered a series of technical failures, with many tens of thousands of vehicle owners either unable to access the system or finding that their application cannot be processed.

As a result many vehicle owners have resorted to using an one of several on-line private companies accredited by the government to process their application. There are also accredited local offices around the country.

These companies have access to a separate but linked registration system that is only available to professionals. They are responsible for calculating the taxes payable, using on-line calculators.

However, in tests we carried out with these calculators the results were not always consistent. In several calculators we used the taxes payable were assessed to be higher than the figure provided by the official simulator, which we used to compare results.

Neither was it always clear whether the figures provided included the administration charge. In some cases the charge seemed to be a percentage of the taxes payable.

As a result of our experiences and the problems readers are facing we approached a reputable and leading professional registration company to provide an English language registration service to our readers.

You can use the service at Demande Carte-Grise.

When you arrive on the page click the 'Select Language' button at the top-left, or use in the French language original. The translation is not 100%, but should be sufficient to complete the process.

Thus, some peculiarities in the translated version are:

  • The term 'carte grise' is translated as 'Card Gray'.
  • 'Mark' is the brand name of the vehicle, obtained from the drop-down box.
  • 'Release' is the date of first registration expressed as eg, 09/05/2010
  • 'Kind' refers to private car, utility vehicle, scooter etc
  • Be careful with 'hp', which is not the horsepower of the car but the chevaux fiscaux.
  • There is no need to enter the country code of your telephone number.

You will need to produce all of the documents necessary for registration, as set out above; the company are not able to obtain these documents for you.

The company offer some English language support after completion of the preliminary stages.

There is also a telephone number you can ring during working hours - 0892882300 - but it is at a premium rate. To ensure you get English language speaking support state you are ringing as a referral.

The service is only available to those who have an address in France, to take receipt of delivery of the registration document.

The company have now done scores of these registrations, and although some people have been confused and anxious about the process, we have yet to receive a single complaint. On the contrary. Do continue to let us have your feedback. You can contact us at

3.3 Vehicle History Checks

There is a French government website where you can do a vehicle history check, which we wrote about in an article in our Newsletter.

You can find the article at Second-Hand Vehicle History Check.

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