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Registering A Car Or Motorcycle in France

Registering A Car Or Motorcycle in France

The Guide2 registering your car explains who needs to register their car, why they should and the steps required.  The process below applies to a "standard" registration.  If the car is more than 30 years old or has been modified, then different regulations apply, although the basic process will be the same.  Please consult the Prefecture for further clarification in this case.  The process also applies to motorcycles but they do not currently need a road worthiness certificate, which cars do

The Guide2 registering your car explains who needs to register their car, why they should and the steps required.  The process below applies to a "standard" registration.  If the car is more than 30 years old or has been modified, then different regulations apply, although the basic process will be the same.  Please consult the Prefecture for further clarification in this case.  The process also applies to motorcycles but they do not currently need a road worthiness certificate, which cars do.

Why should you register?

First of all, why should you register your car in France?  Well, the law as it stands is that if you are resident in France, then your car must be registered here.  A resident is someone who spends more than six months (183 days) each year in France.  

If you are non resident, then you are allowed to use your car on UK plates for up to 6 months as long as it has a tax disc, current MOT, if required, and is insured.  

If you move to France with the intention of staying more than 183 days, then you only have one month to register your vehicle and the six month rule does not apply.

Obtaining French insurance for a UK plated car is getting more difficult and the car will generally only be insured for third party cover until it is registered.
Registering your vehicle in France is not as difficult as you first think.  There are a few documents you need to collect and you may need to get the car through a Controle Technique (French MOT).  After that, it is down to the Prefecture with your cheque book to get the Carte Grise (French car registration document).  One point to bear in mind; if at all possible, always give the office you are in a photocopy of the document you are handing over and not the original.  Losing the original V5 for the car for example would seriously delay the registration process.

I have listed the documents that required for each step and also some additional documents that may or may not be asked for.  The bottom line is, take all the paperwork you have, with a photocopy of each item.  Better to go prepared then have to return another day with the one piece of information you did not have.

Here are the steps you need to follow;


Obtain a Certificate of Conformity

If the vehicle is fairly modern and the V5 has a European Type Approval Number, then the certificate of conformity may not be required.  Contact your Prefecture for guidance.
If you need a certificate, then contact the car manufacturer direct or go to your franchised dealer and ask for one.  This may be cheaper if you do it in the UK and you will also receive a full certificate, whereas a certificate issued by a French company may only be a partial certificate, involving further testing to obtain the full certificate.  The cost of a certificate varies and some manufacturers provide them for free.

Adjust or change your headlights

The headlights of your car will need to be changed to dip to the right.  Some vehicles, Mercedes is one example, have switches on the back of the headlights to change the direction of the headlight for driving on the right.  Be careful with some dealers that would rather charge you for changing the complete unit rather than simply moving a switch!

Get a tax exemption certificate

Find your local Hotel des Impots.  You do not normally need an appointment.  Explain that you are importing a vehicle from another EU country and that you would like a "quitus fiscal".  As long as the car is more than six months old and covered more than 6000 miles, there will be no tax to pay.  For new cars bought in an EU country, you will need the original receipt showing that VAT has been paid and proof of registration in a foreign country.  Without these you may be required to pay French TVA.  You will also need to know the mileage of the vehicle in kilometres to enter on to the form.  Remember to take the following:
“¢    UK registration document (V5)
“¢    Proof of identity such as passport
“¢    Receipt for purchase of the vehicle if you have one
“¢    Certificate of conformity – may not be asked for but take it along just in case

In some offices they will fill out the form for you, in others they will help you to fill it in.  The form is not complicated and once completed you will be given the quitus fiscal.

{mosbanner right}Put the vehicle through a controle technique (CT).

This step does not currently apply to motorcycles as they do not require a CT, although the government is looking at possibly changing the rules in the future.
If the vehicle is more than 4 years old, then it must pass a CT.  It will cost you around 65€ at a local garage or test centre and just like an MOT you will receive either a pass or fail and possibly a list of recommended repairs that are not compulsory.  Remember to take the following:
“¢    Certificate of conformity
“¢    UK registration document (V5)
“¢    Proof of address (utility bill – just in case)
“¢    Proof of identity (passport – just in case)
The CT must be less than six months old when you register the car.

Next stop, the Prefecture

Find the Prefecture for your department and take the following paperwork with you:
“¢    Certificate of conformity
“¢    Tax exemption certificate (quitus fiscal)
“¢    Controle technique certificate, less than six months old
“¢    Proof of identity – passport
“¢    Proof of address – utility bill
“¢    Payment
You will need to fill out a "demande de certificate d'immatriculation".  Download one here before you go and fill in as much as possible.

The cost of a certificate d'immatriculation (Carte Grise) is based on the CV number for your car.  This is worked out based on the power and the emissions.
So long as all you documents are in order, the car will be registered and you will leave with a temporary carte grise which will enable you to obtain you number plates.  The full carte grise will be posted to you within a few days.

The Prefecture will retain your UK V5, but should hand you the vehicle export section, which you need to return to the DVLA to avoid receiving tax and SORN reminders.

Number plates

The number plates must be riveted in place by law and screw fitted plates are illegal.  Any garage will fit them for you and as in the UK, there are now large chain stores for vehicle spares that will make the plates and fit them for a quite reasonable price.  Shop around while waiting for the certificate of conformity to arrive.  Garages will ask for the carte grise (or temporary version) before carrying out any work on your vehicle.

Final tidying up!

Contact your insurer and give them a copy of the carte grise.  One thing to remember with your insurance is that there may be a signature box on the certificate.  The named driver must sign the certificate in the box if it is there.  I know of several people that have been questioned over this by the Gendarmerie and one person receiving a ninety Euro fine because the certificate was not signed.  Even if there is no box, it would be advisable to sign somewhere on the certificate just in case.
Remember to send the export certificate to the DVLA (the part of the V5 handed back by the Prefecture).

And finally.

You will need to display your insurance in the cars windscreen and ensure that when out in the car that you have your documents with you;

“¢    Insurance
“¢    Carte grise
“¢    Controle technique

Happy motoring!

Guide2MidiPyrenees is a site for anyone living in or visiting the Midi-Pyrenees region of south west France, with news, events, local information, accommodation, property and much more.


  • Max Leonard

    Thanks for this article, it’s very clear and helpful. I had a question – a friend of mine has asked me to help him register his English car in France. It’s already in France; he doesn’t speak French very well and is not there very often. However, from what you’ve written it doesn’t look like I will get very far. He, as the vehicle’s registered owner and the French property owner, will have to be there for the crucial stages personally.

    Is that a correct reading in your view?

    With thanks, Max

    • Larry Palmer

      He will have to be there, but someone who speaks French, can go as well. Most of the offices you deal with, are very helpful, i have found

  • Fonzie Baines

    I have a problem that seems to be outside this process. I have a Honda CBR1100XX. because the bike was manufactured in 1999 there is no COC for it and Honda UK will not issue one to me. How do I go about getting it registered in France without one.

    It is also over the 100hp limit that was in force in France up until 1st Jan 2016. So at least that hurdle is jumped.

    Cheers Pete.

    • Keef

      Hi Pete,
      Just doing some research re re-plating my bikes and found your message.
      I’ve got a 1991 yam 1000 FZR exup so similar issue re power and bike pre CoC.
      Have you made any progress with the process?
      And have I understood your ref re 100hp correct, the restriction has been lifted?

      • Fonzie Baines

        Nothing so far. from what I understand from my French moto friends there may also be a restriction on having ABS fitted. I am not clear if this is a retro fit requirement or just new bikes. I cannot confirm the 100HP restriction is lifted because, typically as is the case with the French, they have not made any formal announcement that I am aware of. As for the process of non CoC bikes it seems that no one actually can say for sure how this is done.

        I am living in hope that this gets resolved before I am too old and knackerd to ride my bike any more 🙂

        Cheers Pete.

    • Larry Palmer

      Try asking Honda France, you may only get a partial CoC, then you make an appointment with what used to be D.R.I.R.E, not sure what they are called now, but your local maire will know, they inspect the bike, and it either conforms to French norms or not, if not they will tell you what to do to make it conform. When i changed an old land rover, they just checked all the glass to make sure it had C.E. on it

    • Simon Ferrier

      Hello Pete, I have the same bike and same year of manufacture and have been living in France for 5 years. I have had really negative comments from Honda France trying to get it registered. If you have any success please let me know. Simon

      • Fonzie Baines

        Hi Simon,
        No Unfortunately I failed miserably. I consoled myself however by buying a BMW R1300S. It is as fast as the old bird was but with its ABS braking and adaptive suspension a lot safer with all these nutter French drivers about 🙂

        • Simon Ferrier

          Hi Pete, thanks for such a quick reply. Not what I wanted to hear though! The bird is a brilliant machine and it’s such an injustice compared to the standard of the average French driver and safety, talk about bureaucracy….

          • Fonzie Baines

            Well if you do ever get it sorted . I am parting mine out for spares.

  • George

    Thanks for a useful article. In the introduction above, it talks about a “road worthiness certificate”, going on to mention one is not required for motorcycles. In the section on steps to follow, it mentions a “certificate of conformity”. Are these one in the same? I ask because Fonzie Baines is asking about a CoC, which if RWC = CoC would not be needed. Could you shed some light on this please. Thanks.

  • Glenn Cooney

    I have a triumph rocket 111 2.3ltr 140hp
    Just been to triumph and there is now no requirement on the hp to be reduced to 100 as the bike has ABS. However the price for the conformity cert has just gone up to €400 and they delay issuing it for 3 months. They suggest that this is to discourage you bringing you bike across so you buy one here in France.
    I brought a car and a Bonneville as well as the Rocket and have already registered the other two but if I had to do it again, I would probably have sold them in the uk and bought something here.
    Having said that, the bikes don’t need tax or mot here and the car doesn’t need tax here and a control technique only every 2 years so some savings there.

    Hope this helps


  • Derek Birch

    I live in Toronto Ontario Canada. My business occasionally takes me
    to France. I have decided to purchase a motorcycle to keep in Lyon to
    use when I am there. The motorcycle I am buying is one I found on a
    website called Auto Scout 24. it is currently registered in Germany. It
    seems reasonable that there will be hoops that I have to jump through in
    order to register a German (registered) motorcycle in France, and more
    hoops yet for me to get it insured. I have many questions.

    1. How hard/expensive is it to register this bike in France?

    2. Does it have to be insured first?

    3. There is something called “The International Motor Insurance Card,
    known as the green card, because it is green in colour. It seems simple
    enough to get if I am bringing a motorcycle from Canada, however it does
    not seem to apply for a motorcycle purchased in the E.U. Is this true?

    4. Can I drive it with my Ontario “M” Class (motorcycle) drivers license? or

    5. Will I have to get a French Motorcycle License?

    6. Any other information you can possibly offer would be helpful as I don’t even know what I need to be asking.

    Thank you in advance for the help.
    Derek Birch.

  • Steve Arnold

    November 1st 2017 has brought changes. Can anyone explain the procedure since the
    Prefecture part of the process may (or not!) now be online?

    • Paul Dowson

      Hi Steve, it has changed no more visits to the Prefecture. For those living in France needing to have a Certicate of Immatriculation (old Carte Grise), you need to get signed on to the site ANTS, just google that, you will not get the insects. Then click on France Connect logo and you will see logos for Impots Ameli, La Poste. Using you identifiant and passwords for any of these sites logs you into the system. You will now see window for:

      Mon espace véhicule

      click on the bottom bit.
      That will give you Effectuer une nouvelle demande. To the left you will see Type de demande. in the dropdown choose what you want and if it is not there choose “je souhaite faire une autre demande and from there just follow.I have just done this for a carte grise for an imported vehicle. you attach all the paerwork you have scanned they send an accuse de reption and yo just wait aand wait and you have guessed waitthey received it last wednesday so went to prefecture to see if they could check and they said it is OK just WAIT. Hope this helps.

      Effectuer une nouvellemandeEffectuer une nouvelle demande