Vehicle registration plates of France

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French vehicle registration plate with local reference to département 00 (from 2009): There is a regional logo at the top right and the number of the department below it.

Vehicle registration plates of France are issued using the XX-NNN-ZZ format, composed of a series of 7 alphanumeric characters: 2 letters, 3 numbers, and then 2 letters (e.g. AB-126-FD).

Current scheme[edit]

This format was adopted in France on 14 April 2009, and is similar to the one successfully introduced in Italy in 1994.

There is no longer a local département code as in the previous system, but only a sequential number. This number is allocated to a vehicle for its life and does not change if the car is sold or the owner moves. Plates include a blue strip on the right, showing the Département Number of the owner's choice, plus the region logo of the chosen département.[1] The département may be changed at all times without any change in the registration documents.

Regular license plates are black-on-white, front and rear. Temporary license plates are colored silver-on-red, both front and rear.[2]

Due to the current economic climate, the introduction of the new plates was postponed from 1 January 2009 until 15 April 2009 for all new cars.[3] It was again postponed until 15 October 2009 for all other vehicles due to computer bugs in the SIV system.[4] Effective 15 October 2009, all vehicles obtain license numbers according to the new format (provided, for the vehicles that already have a license number, their registration certificate is to be changed, e.g., the owner moves or the vehicle is sold).

The vehicle categories having special license plate numbers prior to the reform (police, administration, or the armed forces) are now in the general scheme.[5]

Former scheme[edit]

French registration plates (until 2009)

Until 2009, the plate format bore a "number" of the following formats: either nnnn LL dd, or nnn LLL dd.

  • nnn (or nnnn) is a 2-, 3- or 4-digit number.
  • LL (or LLL) is a 2- or 3-letter group.
  • dd is a 2-digit number indicating the département in which the car is registered.

Exceptions to this scheme are:

  • in Corsica, the département identifier was either 2A (Corse-du-Sud) or 2B (Haute-Corse) since 1975. Prior to that date, all of Corsica was a single département with the identifier 20.
  • in the overseas départments, the département identifier consisted of 3 digits (in the series 971 to 978), the first two digits often being stacked to save space.

Vehicle owners had to re-register their vehicle if they relocated permanently to another département. There used to be a once-per year tax on cars, called the vignette, whose rate depended on the department. This tax now exists only for corporate-owned vehicles (and there exist exemptions for small numbers of vehicles); it is thus no longer important to know the department of a car on sight. Furthermore, computerized files allow large national databases to be maintained without the need for them to be split at local level.

A side effect of the vehicle tax system was that many corporations registered their vehicles in departments, such as Oise (60), with lower rates. Regulations aimed at preventing such schemes were passed in 1999.

Military plates[edit]

French license plate on a vehicle of the French Gendarmerie.

Military plates bore an 8-digit number, as well as, generally, the insignia of the branch of the military forces to which they belong:

Civilian state administrative plates[edit]

These concerned civilian vehicles owned by the national government; it did not include local governments.

They were of the form dddL nnnnM.

  • ddd was a 2- or 3-digit department number.
  • L was either D, R, N, or E, meaning that the normal circulation zone of the vehicle is the registration department and neighboring ones, the registration region and neighboring ones, the full national territory, or the full national territory and foreign countries. Local service vehicles were generally coded D. French National Police vehicles with police insignia were coded N.
  • nnnn was a 4-digit number and M was a letter.

National police forces were registered using this scheme while municipal police forces were registered using the standard scheme.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]