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MAKE SENSE OF The carte grise

EVERY vehicle in France has its own certificat d'immatriculation. We explain more about this important document.

EVERY vehicle (whether a car, motorbike, moped, campervan etc...) in France has its own registration document: the certificat d'immatriculation, which is informally known as the carte grise. We explain more about this important document.

The carte grise must always be available when using the vehicle and may be asked for if, for example, you are subject to a police check (even so, it is not recommended you keep it permanently in the car, but rather in your pocket/hand bag etc, in case the car is stolen).

When you buy a car from a member of the public, they should give you the card; if you buy a new car, it is up to you to register for one with the prefecture, although the dealer will normally help with this.

The format of the carte grise changed in 2009 when a new number plate system came in. 8Plates now stay with the car for life instead of changing if you move department.

The card must be renewed if you move home or change your name. Driving with an out-of-date card (or without one at all) can result in a €135 fine. If you did not already have one of the new numbers, a renewed card will have a new registration number on it and you will need to have the vehicle’s plates changed. When buying a new car, or needing to change to the new numbering system, you receive a provisional carte grise which is valid for a month, while waiting for the definitive one. The document is also needed for trailers and caravans with a maximum laden weight (PTAC) of more than half a ton.

The card is dense with information - some useful, some more technical.

New cards have a code on the front of 11 numbers and letters called the numéro de formule: a number for the card itself which you may need if, for example, writing to the prefecture.

Most of the factual information is on the back (see image right) listed by categories with letter codes, while most of the front is taken up by a key to this. The list of codes is to an EU standard, with some required and some optional.

The front also has a section to be stamped when the car has a contrôle technique (French MOT) - with the date and the letter “A” if it passed without faults needing obligatory repairs, or otherwise “S”.

There is also a detachable coupon to be filled in should you move home or sell.

If selling to a member of the public (not a professional) fill this in before giving the document to them. Write the buyer’s name and address and the date of sale, and sign. You then have 15 days to send the prefecture a declaration of change of ownership on the following form:

If you move house, you apply for a new card within a month, by detaching the coupon and filling in your own details on it (alternatively apply in person at the prefecture). You then send the rest of the carte, with the following form: The coupon allows one month’s driving.

On the other side, the coupon is stamped with a hologram, overlapping onto the main part of the form, guaranteeing its authenticity.

With the new-format cards it is also possible to report a change of address online at You will receive at home a sticker to place over the old address, a process which can be repeated up to three times before you must replace the whole card.

Information on the back is letter-coded and starts with the registration number (as on your plates), which now stays with the car for life. It also lists the date the car was first registered.

Other key elements include: C.1. Name of the card holder (titulaire) - the person to whom the car is registered (usually the owner, but not always, eg. where it is a company car on long-term hire). Where the titulaire is the owner this is stated at C.4a C.3 The titulaire’s address C.4.1 This lists any people who are co-holders of the card and the total number of holders. Listing a partner or other regular user in this way is optional but may, for example, help them prove legitimate use during a police check if their surname is different.

The next section is for technical characteristics, starting with section D. for the car’s make and model, plus numeric codes identifying its type.
E. The vehicle identification number, a unique code assigned to it.
Section F relates to laden weights, notably F.2. the maximum allowed by law (the PTAC) and F.3, maximum for vehicle plus a trailer/caravan.
G.1 Empty weight.
I. Date of registration
J. Vehicle category (eg. this is “M1” for an ordinary car).
P.1 Engine size (cubic centimetres), P.2 Power (in kW - about 1.24bhp),
P.3 Fuel type (eg. ES: essence - petrol - or GO - gasoil, diesel). P.4 “Administrative power” - a figure used to work out the price of the card
S.1 Number of people seated
V.7 CO2 emissions, in grams/kilometre - used in the eco bonus/penalty scheme
X.1 Date of next obligatory contrôle technique
Y. Different fees making up the cost of the card.

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