Can you trace a car in France by its number plate after accident?

Beware of websites which state they can provide this information

There are obvious reasons why you might want to track down a car owner

Reader Question: Is it possible to find the owner of a car via the number plate?

The most likely scenario for wanting to find the owner of a vehicle through their number plate is after a hit-and-run or other type of vehicle accident, when the other party refuses to comply with your request to talk.

If you have been in an accident and the other driver has left the scene – but you noted their number plate – it is best to fill out a constat amiable (accident report) form for the incident and send it to your insurance company.

It will then contact the insurer of the other driver, who will ask them to complete their own version of the form.

Read more: Is the French ‘vehicle accident form’ available in English?

Can you find this information out yourself?

Some sites on the internet may claim to show the owner of a vehicle if you type in its number plate, but these sites are probably either scams or do not provide correct information.

The only way to find the owner of a vehicle online is through the Système d'immatriculation des véhicules (SIV), a database which contains information about to whom vehicles are registered. 

However the database can only be accessed by ‘authorised personnel’ such as police officers, gendarmerie, insurance companies, credit companies, etc. 

Certain workers in the automotive industry also have access to the SIV. 

You can ask the following to search for a vehicle owner for you, although there is no guarantee they will agree: 

The police or gendarmes: If you have been involved in an accident or incident, you can ask the local station, and they may search for the owner to help with an investigation.

A notaire: Notaires can provide information about a vehicle owner, usually for situations of inheritance. 

A lawyer: Lawyers may also be able to access the database if the information is needed as part of a dispute.

ANTS: France’s agency involved in issuing car/driving documents manages the SIV, and may be able to help you look for a vehicle owner, if you have been involved in an incident or accident. You can make the request online.

Read more: What is new ‘memo’ document all drivers in France will receive?

Note that the person named on a vehicle’s registration document will not always have been the person who was driving the vehicle at the time any accident occurred.

Under French law the named person may not always be the legal ‘owner’ if someone else is the habitual user. The Civil Code article 2276 states that ‘possession is equal to ownership’. 

However, in the vast majority of cases, the titulaire of the carte grise and the owner are one and the same.

Read more: New cars in France must soon have camera to see if driver distracted