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  1. Car plate number in France: how does it work?

Car plate number in France: how does it work?

Equipe Eplaque

Publié par Eplaque

Posté le 22 août 2022 - Mis à jour le 27 janvier 2023 - 6 min de lecture ⏳

France car plate number

You’ve been traveling on the French roads, and you have noticed quite some different car plates and you wonder how the system works? Or maybe you are about to move to France, and you want to know how to get French plates? Eplaque, a leading company in French car plates online selling and car registration service in English, tells you everything you want to know about car plate numbers in France.

How does the French car registration system work?

After registering a car in France, 2 things might happen regarding the plate:

  • If the vehicle was already registered in the country, you will keep the plates (unless it’s an old registration number, see below). The “carte grise” will be crossed so it is invalid, and a new title of ownership will be issued at your name
  • If the vehicle was not already registered (new or imported), a number following the structure AA-111-AA will be assigned to the car, and remain attached to it until it is destroyed

Plate numbers are attributed sequentially. In France there is no possibility to choose a custom number, as in the UK, the States or other countries.

Only 2 plate sizes are legal for cars: 520×110 mm or 275×200 mm. For bikes and other light vehicles, 210×130 mm are the mandatory dimensions.

Standard French car plates have a white background and black printing. They can be bought online, in car shops, etc. All you have to do is to hand over the carte grise to request copies. Make sure the plate is approved, you should see “TPPR” on its right side, for example (see above).

You have probably noticed, when driving in France, that there is a regional logo and a department number on the right-hand side of the plate. Please note that it does not indicate from where the owner of the car is. This part of the license plate is purely cosmetic. You can choose any department number, irrespective of where you actually live. However you cannot replace this logo with something that is not official. It is also forbidden to cover that area with a sticker, even if it displays an official design. Last but not least, if you have a car you cannot choose different logos for the front and the rear plate, they must match.

Vehicle registration plates of France

The car plate described above is the most common in France. However you have probably noticed that other plate numbers are visible. Here is why. In 2009, the old vehicle registration plates system of France (called FNI) has been replaced with a new one, called SIV. Both systems still coexist. Cars that are not subject to a car registration procedure (change of address, lost title, change of ownership, etc.) can keep their old plate number. Those follow the structure 1111-AA-11, the last two numbers being the department code of the place of registration.

Some of those cars still have a yellow plate at the rear, and the white plate at the front without a regional logo. Until the authorities don’t depreciate the FNI system (it was planned for 2021, then abandoned), we will keep seeing those plate numbers in France.

France car plate number: special ones

Here are other special French plates you might see:

Can I change my French plate number?

As said before, car plates in France are attached to a car during its whole lifetime. There is only one reason that can lead to a new plate number request: in case of car plate number theft. Since plates can be made a bit everywhere, it’s not very hard to make some even if you are not the legitimate owner. In theory, the manufacturer must request to see the car title. But in practice, too many don’t. This is a real issue in France, there are many cars using random car plates. How will you find out that someone is using your number? When you suddenly get a ticket that does not concern you.

If this happens more than once, you can request a new plate number. You’ll have to attach to your request a copy of the complaint you filed with the police, and a copy of the ticket you got. If someone steals your plates, you cannot request a new number, you must have received a ticket first.

French license plate check

In France, there is no online tool allowing to get information about a certain French license plate based solely on the number. At best, you can find out about the make and model on certain website selling parts.

However, if you have the car registration certificate (carte grise), you can get the full history of the car (MOT check included) since it has been registered in France. This is called the HistoVec report. You can request it online via the official HistoVec website. Mileage, number of owners, modifications, stolen car… Every operation registered is mentioned.

French number plates explained

Right now, you can see 2 types of French numbers on plates:

  • Plate ending with 2 numbers (e.g. 1234 AB 75)
  • Plate ending with 2 letters (e.g. AB 123 AB)

The former is a FNI number, the system used until 2009. Those FNI French plates are still legal. If the owner does not move or lose his certificate, he can keep his old number. If any change is made, a new number is assigned.

How do you read a French number plate?

On an FNI plate, the last 2 digits correspond to the department of registration. For example, the plate 12 ABCD 75 has been registered in Paris. 83 corresponds to the Var, etc.

SIV numbers, on the other hand, do not provide any information. Plates are handed sequentially, therefore you can just know more or less when the car was first registered. The regional logo and department number can be chosen freely, it therefore does not provide reliable information about the car origin.

Department codes on FNI plates numbers

01 – Ain32 – Gers64 – Pyrénées-Atlantiques
02 – Aisne33 – Gironde65 – Hautes-Pyrénées
03 – Allier34 – Hérault66 – Pyrénées-Orientales
04 – Alpes-de-Haute-35 – Ille-et-Vilaine67 – Bas-Rhin
Provence36 – Indre68 – Haut-Rhin
05 – Hautes-Alpes37 – Indre-et-Loire69 – Rhône
06 – Alpes-Maritimes38 – Isère70 – Haute-Saône
07 – Ardèche39 – Jura71 – Saône-et-Loire
08 – Ardennes40 – Landes72 – Sarthe
09 – Ariège41 – Loir-et-Cher73 – Savoie
10 – Aube42 – Loire74 – Haute-Savoie
11 – Aude43 – Haute-Loire75 – Paris
12 – Aveyron44 – Loire-Atlantique76 – Seine-Maritime
13 – Bouches-du-Rhône45 – Loiret77 – Seine-et-Marne
14 – Calvados46 – Lot78 – Yvelines
15 – Cantal47 – Lot-et-Garonne79 – Deux-Sèvres
16 – Charente48 – Lozère80 – Somme
17 – Charente-Maritime49 – Maine-et-Loire81 – Tarn
18 – Cher50 – Manche82 – Tarn-et-Garonne
19 – Corrèze51 – Marne83 – Var
2A – Corse-du-Sud52 – Haute-Marne84 – Vaucluse
2B – Haute-Corse53 – Mayenne85 – Vendée
21 – Côte-d’Or54 – Meurthe-et-Moselle86 – Vienne
22 – Côtes-d’Armor55 – Meuse87 – Haute-Vienne
23 – Creuse56 – Morbihan88 – Vosges
24 – Dordogne57 – Moselle89 – Yonne
25 – Doubs58 – Nièvre90 – Territoire de Belfort
26 – Drôme59 – Nord91 – Essonne
27 – Eure60 – Oise92 – Hauts-de-Seine
28 – Eure-et-Loir61 – Orne93 – Seine-Saint-Denis
29 – Finistère62 – Pas-de-Calais94 – Val-de-Marne
30 – Gard63 – Puy-de-Dôme95 – Val-d’Oise
31 – Haute-Garonne  

FAQ

What do the numbers on French number plates mean?

Nothing, unless the plates ends with 2 digits. In that case, that 2 digit number is the registration department.

French number plate and region codes?

There are no region codes on French number plates. On old one, you can however see the registration department by checking out the 2 last digits.

Where to get number plates made in France?

In France, private companies make the plates, for example Eplaque. You can buy them online with us, or in certain shops. Just make sure they sell homologated products like we do!

Do you need European number plate to travel to France?

No, people having their permanent address abroad can drive temporarily in France with their vehicle. Similarly, you don’t need a French driving license as a tourist.

What do the last two digits of a French license plate indicate?

They indicate where the owner registered his car (see region codes above).

Are GB number plates legal in France?

If your main residence is not in France, you can drive with GB or UK plates in France.

Can you drive in France on EU number plates?

Yes, if you are a tourist, for a short professional mission in France. If you come to live in France, you’ll have to switch to French plates within a month.

Do they have personalised car number plates in France?

No, French personnalised car number plates do not exist. The actual SIV system was not designed to accommodate such thing, therefore it is highly unlikely that it will be the case in a near future.

Une question ? Nous vous répondrons dans les meilleurs délais.

  • Will Sinclair dit

    Hi. I want to purchase 2x square plates for collectors vehicle (Land Rover Series 2). I cannot see a square option on your website. Are you able to offer this in pressed silver on black? If not please could you confirm the minimum lettering size for a vehicle 60 years old and do they need to be in a specific font? thank you

    • Joachim dit

      It's not part of out regular offering. However, we have a custom plates service that might cater your needs. Please email us at contact@eplaque.fr with your requirements and they will let you know what is possible or not.

  • David dit

    Est-ce que illégal d’obtenir l’adresse d’un chauffeur français en utilisant son plaque d’immatriculation. Une entreprise privée anglaise a fait cela après je me suis garé sur un terrain privé et j’ai reçu un amende de £150

    • Joachim dit

      Nous l'ignorons, désolé.

  • Carl Lance dit

    I brought my car over from America. What are my license plate options given the approved plate size doesn't match my mounts?

    • Joachim dit

      There are only 2 sizes that are valid for cars : 520x110 or 275x200 mm, you must fit one or another, by changing mounts if needed.

  • Edward Petre-Mears dit

    hi have bought a bike rack need a one plate for it...can i order just one plate?

    • Joachim dit

      Yes, by default quantity is set to 2 for car plates as most customers order a set, but it can be decreased to 1 (Field 7 of the order form) or increased.

  • Kris dit

    Hello, I am in the process of buying a vehicle with red license plates (from the Pays de Gex). The seller lives in Gex and I also live in Gex. Is Eplaque able to perform the registration for me? I am Canadian citizen with Ontario driver's license, Canadian passport, apartment and utilities in my name.

    • Eplaque dit

      Unfortunately we cannot handle requests related to Gex registrations.

  • Bruce dit

    I will be receiving my carte grise this week, and am curious how long does it take for you to issue a number plate once ordered? Thank you

    • Eplaque dit

      In France plates are made by private companies, so it's instant. We sell them online, you can get them the day after if your order in the morning. To see our products, click here.

  • Police Copenhagen dit

    We have in Copenhagen observed a french registrated car with Yellow number plates registration number xxxxx Citroen Xsara Picasso. We are wondering if these plates are legal. The car have been here for a long time. We do not know the owner. We would also know if pax have been paied and if the car have been inspected. Can you help?

    • Eplaque dit

      If you use a French car parts website allowing to find parts per registration number such as https://www.mister-auto.com/, you will see that this registration belongs to a CITROËN C3 Picasso. This suggests that this car has fake plates. Moreover, yellow plates are outdated, they would only be valid for the old plate format, eg 11-AAAA-11.