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Car registrations: How France and Canada Differ

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In Canada, each province has its own license plate. They all include the name of the province or territory, a series of numbers and letters and occasionally a special design. Unlike in Canada, where motorists must pay for their license plates once a year, the French pay only once for their car registration, which is valid for life. But there are other differences between the two countries.

The cost and particularities of French car registration cards

Our European cousins may not have such a large territory, but that does not prevent them from using their vehicles for any occasion. France has about 40 million vehicles for 67 million inhabitants. As in Canada, French vehicles have a registration certificate, or a "carte grise". However, their cost and how to obtain them are very different in the two countries. Here are the factors that must be taken into account in the calculation of a French car registration document.

Why obtain a French car registration document?

The registration certificate allows the state to make sure that a vehicle is in good condition and to formally identify its owner. In France, it will not be possible to drive and own a vehicle registered abroad, even in a European Union country, for a period exceeding one month. It is not necessary to be a French citizen to be issued a car registration document. All that is required is a valid residence permit and proof of address. Thus, if you reside in France and you buy your next vehicle there, you will have to have it in order.

How do I apply for a car registration document?

Unlike in Canada, registration procedures in France are carried out entirely online. Motorists can submit their documents on the government platform of the Agence Nationale des Titres Sécurisés (ANTS). Alternatively, you can apply for a car registration online via private platforms approved by the French government. The Ministry of the Interior issues certifications to companies, allowing them to validate registration application files, thus relieving the State administrative services of the task.

What is the cost of a French car registration document?

The cost of a French car registration document is very simple to calculate. The French system takes into account the following elements:

- The type of registration: First registration, registration of a used vehicle, registration of a vehicle purchased outside France.
- The type of vehicle: passenger car, motorcycle...
- The type of energy used: gasoline, diesel, electric, LPG.
- The department tax on “chevaux fiscaux”: each French department has a different rate.
- Filing fees, about 4€.
- Mailing of the car registration document in a secure postal envelope, at a cost of 2,76€.
- The agent's management fees, if you use this simplified and faster method of processing.

Large and luxury vehicles also have an additional tax in France. Any vehicle with more than 36 fiscal HP will have to comply with this tax. In Canada, there is a surtax that will be directly related to the cylinder capacity of the vehicle. However, French motorists do not contribute to public transportation when they order their vehicle registration card.

Calculating the cost of a French vehicle registration card

Calculating the cost of your French car registration can be somewhat complicated. Each element taken into account during the calculation can influence the final price of the registration certificate. If you wish to simplify your task, many calculators are available online. The French public services have them, but you can also find them on State-approved platforms. All you have to do is provide some information, and in just a few clicks the cost of your vehicle registration document will be calculated automatically.


The validity period of a car registration document

French car registration cards are valid "for life", as long as:

- You do not change your address
- You do not change your name (during a marriage or divorce)
- You keep the same car registration holder
- You do not modify the vehicle
- You are not selling your vehicle

If you need to make changes to your vehicle registration in your own household, you will only pay the fees for the file and mailing of the updated vehicle registration. For a vehicle modification, the vehicle will have to be assigned a new vehicle registration reflecting these new features. In case of sale of the vehicle, it will be up to the new owner to take the steps and pay the fees, and you will only have to fill out a certificate of transfer.

The specifics of the French car registration documents

The registration of a vehicle in France includes a few elements that differ from our customs and that will have to be taken into account.

The time it takes to receive a vehicle registration card

The validation of the registration application immediately generates a Provisional Certificate of Registration (CPI). This is valid for one month. The final vehicle registration document arrives by post, usually within two weeks. The use of a state-certified company can greatly speed up this process to just a few days.

Vehicles for seasonal use

As the French car registration document is a document that follows you from one year to the next, the use you wish to make of your vehicle is not taken into account. You will therefore not be able to ask for a reduction on the cost of your registration certificate. However, you will be able to make a request to your insurance company.

Personalized license plates

French plates are not customizable. License plates are randomly generated and cannot be modified. The procedure is standardized throughout the country, replacing the old system which contained the number of the registration department. The only customization possible is an insert that allows you to display your department emblem and number only if you wish. These plates will have to be purchased from authorized resellers.

Collection cars

Vehicles that were first registered more than 30 years ago are eligible for a collector's registration card. This is less expensive and offers advantages:

- Technical inspection every 5 years instead of 2 years.
- Cheaper insurance
- Traffic not subject to pollution restricted zones
- Personalized license plate format

However, a collector's vehicle will no longer be able to have a normal vehicle registration once the process has been completed.