On 15 April 2009 a new vehicle registration system came into force in France for people buying new vehicles with, from 15 June 2009, the new rules also applying to those purchasing second-hand vehicles, moving home, and in other cases where there are changes to the registration documents (carte grise).
The new number plates will have letters, followed by numbers, and then more letters, with the black characters on a white background arranged in the European “AA-123-AA” format.
On the left of the number, on a blue background, will be "F" for France under the EU logo, and owners can choose whether to have their department’s two-digit number and regional badge in a space to the right of the registration number. As in the UK, the vehicle will keep the same registration number throughout its life.
Owners will be able to register their vehicles anywhere in France, regardless of their domicile, through authorized automotive professionals (e.g. garages, dealers, etc.) or prefectures. A provisional “registration certificate” containing the new registration number will be issued on payment of the relevant tax. Valid for a month, it will allow the driver to drive immediately. Within one week, the carte grise will be sent by registered post to the owner’s home address.
If the owner moves to another department or buys a second-hand car registered under the new system, he/she will no longer have, or indeed be able, to change the vehicle’s registration number.
Why the new system?
Over 150 million vehicles are currently registered, while studies show that only around 40 million are actually in use. The discrepancy is due to owners failing to remember to declare the scrapping of their vehicles, increasingly the case over the past 15 or so years.
The present numbering system, dating back to 1950, will run out of numbers by about 2016 for Paris.
The new system will be more economical and efficient.