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Crit’Air stickers:the complete guide to clean air stickers in France

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**Includes official updates to low-emission zones in September 2022**

Do I need a Crit’Air sticker to drive in France? This is one of the questions frequently asked online and in social media forums. It is also the main question that generates significant discussion about the process. At best, the information can be partially correct or outdated; at worst, it can be completely incorrect.

Our detailed guide covers all of the important questions that you need to ask before deciding if you need to get a Crit’Air sticker for your vehicle. It also gives accurate information about where, when and why you might need a sticker and why you might not. Recent updates to the low-emission zones in France are also noted.

Despite what some may tell you, it is still possible to travel in France without a sticker. Read on to find out more so that you can make the best decision for your situation based on the facts and not the opinions or interpretations so often found online.

What is it?

Crit’Air is the simplified version of its official French name, Certificat qualité de l’air. It refers to a sticker affixed to a vehicle to enable it to be driven in certain zones in France at certain times. More on this later. They are also referred to as clean air stickers and even anti-pollution stickers. I’ve even seen them referred to as Crit Air vignettes, but this is incorrect and shouldn’t be confused with other vignettes that are required for tolls and travel in Europe.

It is one of the levers used by the government to support its environmental policy and links directly to the European emissions standard. The current standard is Euro 6, updated in January 2021. Euro 7 is being worked on but is unlikely to become official until at least 2025.

As time goes on, the requirements for cleaner cars will continue to escalate, and the ability to drive an older, polluting car in these areas will be impacted in these zones only. Car manufacturers in Europe must now comply with Euro 6.

The system, designed to reduce emissions, grades vehicles according to their emissions output after assessing such things as the vehicle’s age and engine type. Passenger vehicles, commercial vehicles, buses, motorbikes, scooters etc., are all included in this assessment.

Crit Air sticker classifications

Six coloured stickers align with the grading of the vehicle. Each sticker corresponds with a specific vehicle category, defined according to atmospheric pollution emissions.

Newer vehicles with lower emissions have a low-numbered sticker, while older vehicles, usually with higher emissions have a high number. The green sticker, unsurprisingly, is reserved for vehicles that have zero or very low emissions, like electric and hybrid vehicles.

Newer, cleaner vehicles are sometimes afforded greater flexibility for parking and may be allowed to enter areas even when emergency zones are implemented.

To date, over 22 million stickers have been issued.

GreenUnnumberedElectric and hydrogen vehicles
Purple1Petrol and rechargeable vehicles registered after December 2010. Euro 5, 6 petrol vehicles,
Euro 6 petrol HGVs, Euro 6 Biodiesel HGVs, Euro 4 two-wheels.
Yellow2Petrol (registered January 2006 – December 2010) and diesel (registered after January 2011). Euro 4 petrol vehicles, Euro 5 petrol HGVs, Euro 5, 6 diesel vehicles, Euro 6 diesel HGVs, Euro 3 two-wheels.
Orange3Petrol (registered 1997-2005) and diesel (registered January 2006-2010). Euro 2, 3 petrol vehicles, Euro 3, 4 petrol HGVs, Euro 4 diesel vehicles, Euro 5 diesel HGVs, Euro 5 Biodiesel HGVs, Euro 2 two-wheels.
Brown4Diesel (registered January 2001 – December 2005). Euro 3 diesel vehicles, Euro 4 diesel HGVs,
Euro 4 Biodiesel HGVs, two-wheels without standard from June 2000 to June 2004.
Grey5Diesel (registered January 1997-2000). Euro 2 diesel vehicles, Euro 3 diesel HGVs, Euro 3 Biodiesel HGVs.
Note – these details are valid at the time of writing but may be subject to change

Thinking of buying a motorhome in France? Read our comprehensive guide to buying a motorhome legally in France when you are a non-Eu resident.

What are low-emission zones?

There are two types of low-emission zones in France; permanent and temporary. This is what causes the most confusion among prospective travellers to France.

While a Crit’Air sticker is needed if travelling within these 11 zones during the relevant restriction times, the remainder of France remains free to travel in without a sticker under usual circumstances. (refer below for information about temporary zones)

Permanent zone (m-ZFE)

There are only 11 permanent low-emission zones in France. These are known as m-ZFE or ZFE-m. The ZFE stands for Zone à Faibles Émissions. A ZFE (formerly known as ZCR) can apply to the type of vehicle allowed to be driven into the zone, on what day, and at what time. The zone conditions can also cover parking.

Paris, for example, is a permanent low-emission zone, but within that zone, it has sub-zones with different rules that apply to the city of Paris. Even in Paris itself, the rules apply only to certain days of the week and certain times.

Refer: The up-to-date list of current m-ZFE areas can be found below.

Temporary zone (ZPA)

Legislation was passed to enable ZPA (Zone de la Protection de l’Air) to be implemented under emergency conditions (e.g. significantly high pollution) and are always temporary.

For example, during extreme conditions, a zone may be implemented that only allows up to category three vehicles to enter the area, or vehicles may be restricted to a particular speed limit. It is understood that emergency restrictions can only be implemented with 24 hours notice.

This is where the confusion usually comes from. If you look at a generic map of France showing all low-emission zones, they cover most of the country. So, while this is correct if you are looking to find out where all zones are, it is not correct when being considered in the discussion on whether you need to buy a Crit’Air sticker to travel in France.

I can only find one instance where an emergency zone was introduced in Paris in 2017. They are not common, they are not frequent, and they are not invoked on a whim. Therefore, you can travel throughout France in any car, without a sticker, on any day of the week, without (current) restriction.

How do I know if I need one?

This is the million-dollar question asked in forums across the internet. It’s a question that gets many different answers and sometimes even gets people hot under the collar. But, it is a question that is often answered incorrectly, albeit with good intentions.

The fact is that it is entirely possible to travel in France without a Crit’Air sticker. It is not mandatory and depending on where and when you travel, it may not even be necessary.

To decide if you need to buy a Crit’Air sticker or not, there are a few basic questions to ask yourself. Whether or not you get one depends on your values, personality and thoughts, and of course, where you will be travelling.

  1. Where are you planning on driving in France? Is it likely you will need to travel through permanent zones (m-ZFE) and can’t be restricted in any way?
  2. Is your travel flexible, and can you change where you drive and when?
  3. Are you risk-averse or fancy-free? Are you more of a rule-follower than a rule-breaker, personality-wise?
  4. Do you hate spending money if you don’t need it? Or does a few pounds or euros here or there not worry you?
  5. Do you like being prepared for anything?

Let’s have a look at some possible scenarios based on these questions.

If you are planning on travelling through France quite broadly but don’t plan on going into any of the 11 permanent zones at the times of restriction, then you don’t need a sticker.

However, if your travel means travelling into these zones during restricted times, and where types of vehicles are restricted, then you should consider having a sticker so that your travel won’t be impacted.

If you are risk-averse, love following rules, like being prepared and don’t mind spending a small amount of money, then you’ll probably decide to get one, just to ‘be on the safe side’. There’s no harm in doing so.

If you don’t care about rules, hate spending money unnecessarily and don’t think you’ll drive in any of the permanent zones because your travel is flexible, you will most likely decide you won’t bother getting the sticker.

The rules apply to any vehicle driven or parked in the relevant areas in France, not only those that are French-owned and registered. So, for example, if you are bringing your vehicle across from the United Kingdom, your vehicle still may need a Crit’Air sticker.

Note: There are some sites on the internet that say you can only drive in France if you have a sticker, At this stage, this is incorrect. While you need a sticker to drive in low-emission zones, it is still possible to drive in areas of France that have not been zoned this way.

If you are hiring a vehicle, the hiring company will have already applied for the sticker. Just double-check and make sure you can find it on the windscreen.

Zones: the facts

This may change, and more permanent m-ZFEs will likely be introduced in the coming years, but this is the bottom line for now.

  • YES – you need a Crit’Air sticker to travel only in the current 11 m-ZFE permanent zones and only during times of restriction. Note this will be different for each of the 11 zones, and some zones might have different restrictions in different parts of the overall zone e.g. Paris and Greater Paris.
  • NO – you do not need a Crit’Air sticker to travel in the current 11 m-ZFE permanent zones when restrictions are not in force.
  • NO – you do not need a Crit’Air sticker to travel in ZPAs unless they are “active“, which to date, has been rare.

Where are the low-emission zones?

Following three further zone additions in September 2022, there are now 11 permanent low-emission zones. These are the only permanent zones active in France, and they do not operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

  • Paris; including an extended area covering 40 municipalities
  • Grenoble; including 27 municipalities
  • Lyon
  • Aix-Marseille
  • Rouen
  • Reims
  • Nice
  • Toulouse
  • Saint Etienne
  • Strasbourg
  • Montpellier

Reference: Ministry of Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion, Ministry of Energy Transition – French Government.

map of low emission zones France September 2022
Note the yellow are future possibilities only; they are not actual zones now.
© Ministry of Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion, Ministry of Energy Transition press kit. September 2022

Individual local government areas are responsible for determining their zones and what categories of vehicles are allowed to enter them, and when. Road signs noting that you are about to enter a restricted zone are placed at city limits or the edge of the restricted zone. The signs will state the applicable times and vehicle types.

How to apply for a Crit’Air sticker

It doesn’t matter where you live; applying online is the simplest way to apply for your Crit’Air sticker. It ensures that you have it ready on your vehicle before you arrive in France.

Note: When applying for a sticker online, note there are two tabs; one for a vehicle registered in France and one for a vehicle registered outside of France.

how to apply for a crit air sticker online

Pro tip: Like many online application services – e.g. visas – the process is a target for scammers. To ensure you don’t get scammed, lose money or receive a fraudulent sticker, only apply online via the official government website. It can be viewed in French, German and English. There are some legitimate third-party providers online, however, they charge more. Some sites have been known to charge €40! It’s best to stick to the official website to be sure.

Things to know before applying

The application process online will ask you for the following information. The process will run more simply for you if you have all of this at your fingertips.

I will repeat this; use the official website. Not only does this save you from paying more or worse, getting scammed, but it is the most straightforward online application form.

  • Country of registration – this one is easy. It’s the country you registered your vehicle in.
  • Registration number – this is the number found on your number plate.
  • Date of registration – the date your vehicle was officially registered.
  • Vehicle category**
  • Type of fuel – note there is an extensive list. The basics like petrol, diesel, hydrogen, LPG and electric are covered, but there is an enormous range of other possibilities. This should be a simple assessment, however, for the owner of the vehicle. A dropdown box is provided on the application page for quick selection.
  • Serial number (also known as VIN – vehicle identification number). This can be found on your registration certificate and is also stamped into your vehicle. The VIN is unique to each vehicle.
  • Make – the vehicle brand found on your registration certificate.
  • Commercial/business description – additional information on your vehicle’s model. *Optional information only
  • Euro standard – choose from no standard to Euro 6. If you do not know this for sure, don’t enter any detail. Entering a standard that is inconsistent with your date of registration will cause an error. *Optional information only
  • CO2 emission# – *Optional information only
  • Name and email address – your e-mail address is used to send you your invoice and a temporary certificate until you receive the physical sticker. It is also used for tracking your order. Keep an eye on the following screen where it repeats your name. It kept spelling mine incorrectly event though I hadn’t written my name incorrectly anywhere.
  • Delivery and billing address – you can have two different addresses here but make sure the delivery address is where you will be to receive the sticker. The address should be the address of the person ordering the sticker for their vehicle, or the lessee of a vehicle.
  • Credit card for payment

**Vehicle categories:

  • Passenger cars – M1
  • Light utility vehicles – N1
  • Motorbikes – L3e, L4e, L7e
  • Mopeds – L1e, L2e, L6e
  • HGV, buses, coaches – M2, M3, N2, N3

# Note – Some of the information is optional – for example, CO2 emissions – so if your registration certificate doesn’t have it, don’t stress. Upload the document anyway, and the French authorities will work it out from your registration certificate.

Ordinary motorhomes and campervans are classified as passenger vehicles. Again, if in doubt, upload your registration details and the people assessing your application will give you the correct sticker.

You must also upload a current vehicle registration certificate/logbook (V5C). Several vehicles can be added at once, with a maximum of ten, if you register international vehicles.

Pro tip: Compress your images before uploading them and ensure the form is uploaded in the correct format. Only jpg, png and pdf are acceptable. Sometimes if you upload the wrong file size or format, it can send the online form into a meltdown. All files must be less than 2MB. There are many image compressors available so it’s easy enough for anyone to do. Try this one to reduce the size of your jpg and png files. It’s free, and you don’t need to create an account. To compress pdf files, try this. Also, make sure that they are legible. If you can’t read the file after you have scanned it, the French authorities won’t be able to either. If you need to add additional documents, click the button to ‘add more proof’ again. It will only allow two documents to be uploaded.

Vehicles with retro-fitted devices

It is possible to apply for a Crit’Air sticker for vehicles that have been retrofitted to comply with more recent standards. Such vehicles may receive a sticker graded more positively than one for a vehicle without adaptation.

To ensure the process runs smoothly and to ensure that you get an “improved” grading for your retrofitted vehicle, the applicant must have declared the retrofitted devices to the relevant authority and have correspondence confirming that the vehicle has been upgraded before applying for the certificate.

Note: Failure to do this in this order will mean your application will be assessed on the vehicle’s attributes before the retrofit, and will subsequently be issued a lower-grade sticker.

Tips for UK registered vehicles applying for Crit Air

Here’s where you can find the information on your V5C logbook.

  • Registration number – Label A
  • Date of first registration – Label B
  • Vehicle category – Label J Passenger vehicles
  • Type of fuel – Label P.3
  • Certificate issuing country – UK
  • Serial number – Vehicle information number (VIN) – Label E – Vin/Chassis/Frame number
  • Make – Label D.1 (e.g. BNW, Mercedes, Renault, Vauxhall, Ford)
  • Business Information (Model) – Label D.3 Body type e.g 5-door hatchback. *Optional information only
  • CO2 emissions – if on the V5, it will be at Label V.7. *Optional information only
  • Standard Euro – environmental information sometimes found at Label V.9. *Optional information only

Tip: This question always bothers potential applicants. If you don’t have emissions details for your vehicle, don’t worry, this is an optional field. Upload the V5, and the French authorities will get the information they need to assess. Alternatively, some people have uploaded a Certificate of Conformity for additional evidence.

How long does it take to receive?

While online ordering may be efficient, the sticker is required to be sent using physical mail. Therefore, knowing that mail can be inefficient sometimes and certainly impacted by seasonal events, it is recommended to apply for your sticker well before you need it. The sticker doesn’t have a use-by date, so ordering it earlier than you need it should not be of concern.

The official advice from the issuing department is that they have twenty workdays from the date of confirmation of the bank transaction (payment) to issue the certificate to the address provided by the applicant.

If your sticker hasn’t arrived after this time, check that you gave the correct delivery address – if it’s wrong, they will make you apply for a new one – and then contact the issuing department. All calls and emails are in English.

Email: contact@certificat-air.gouv.fr

Phone: 0800 970 033 (toll free)

How much does it cost?

The sticker costs €3.11 plus postage. The current price for postage to the UK is €3.11 + €1.40 postage. Postage within France is €0.59.

How long does it last?

Nothing lasts forever, but the Crit’Air sticker should last for the vehicle’s lifetime, which is another reason why it’s not a huge hassle to apply for one. The sticker’s details must remain visible, legible and accurate for it to be considered valid.

Where do I put the sticker on the vehicle?

It’s mandatory to display the sticker on the windscreen on the lower right-hand side, facing outwards. The sticker must remain visible and legible and able to be read by law enforcement, and cameras, at all times through the window. Don’t ever put them on a side window.

Pro tip: Because the stickers have in-built security, ripping them off to relocate them won’t work. Find the best spot for them, affix the sticker, and leave it there.

What happens if I don’t have one?

The areas that require a Crit’Air sticker keep being updated, so it’s important to ensure you understand where they are, especially if you do not have one.

If you own a very old vehicle registered before January 1997 or a motorbike or scooter registered before 2000, you will be unable to receive a Crit’Air. This is the French government’s way of preventing older cars that have high emissions from adding to the pollution levels in critical areas. However, as noted above, this does not mean you can’t drive an older vehicle in France. It only means you can’t drive in the zones with restrictions.

Otherwise, generally speaking, if you don’t have one, it just means you shouldn’t drive in restricted areas if you don’t want to run the risk of a fine. Again, it doesn’t mean you can’t drive in France.

The current fines for not having and displaying the correct Crit’Air sticker when driving or parking in areas that are restricted range from €68 and €135, depending on the type of vehicle.

FAQs

If I change the registration on my vehicle once I have a sticker, does it matter?

Yes, it does. While the sticker can technically stay on the vehicle for its lifetime, the registration is also unique to that vehicle, and a change will render it invalid. If you change registration, you’ll need to apply for a new sticker.

Can’t I avoid the areas that require a permit?

Sure you can. If you know exactly where they are or the times/days they are in force, and your travels in France don’t intersect with the low-emission zones, you don’t need a sticker. It depends entirely on where you travel and how you like to travel.

Can I set my GPS to avoid the areas that need a sticker?

Technically, you can. Most GPS these days have settings to avoid tolls and areas like this. However, the areas are constantly being added to, and the GPS software updates may not occur simultaneously. They might also not be agile enough to know when an emergency zone has been created. It’s a risk to rely solely on your GPS to keep you away from the zones.

Can I get a replacement sticker?

Yes. If something happens to your sticker or you need to have your windscreen replaced, for example, a replacement may be ordered online.

Is it ok to put my sticker on another vehicle I own?

No. Stickers are issued for a specific vehicle only. The type of vehicle determines the sticker category, and they are not transferrable. Once a sticker is on, it shouldn’t be removed, and in many cases, if this is attempted, it will void the sticker.

What happens if I sell my vehicle?

If you sell your vehicle, the sticker remains on the vehicle and the rights for it are transferred automatically with the transfer of ownership rights for the vehicle.

Can I buy a sticker in France?

No. Stickers should be bought online (either for a French-registered or foreign-registered) vehicle via the official government website.

Travel planning in France

Phew! All of these zones can make your head spin. It’s too hard to keep on top of them all, new zones will continue to be added, and when emergency zones are included in the mix, it’s difficult to know what is going on if you are a visitor to France.

We recommend downloading the incredibly useful ‘Green zones’ app. It is available on the Apple app store and Google Play.

The app takes you step-by-step through various screens, allowing you to choose your vehicle type, fuel and Crit’Air sticker type. Then you can select the country, the area and the municipality. Ultimately, you will get advice on what the conditions are for that area when using the app and whether your vehicle is permitted to drive there.

Your vehicle information is saved in the app, making it a quick process whenever you want to check out the latest information.

This website is also a useful resource.

green zone app

What if I am hiring a vehicle?

If you hire a car or a motorhome from within France, then it should have a Crit’Air sticker attached. However, it’s always best to check, just in case. If you can’t see one, ask the hiring company. If you are hiring from outside France, definitely don’t assume that a sticker is attached. Be sure to ask them when you book your vehicle and do a physical check when you pick it up.

Thinking of hiring a motorhome in France? Read our comprehensive guide to all the questions you should ask before you hire or if you are looking for a one-way hire, check this guide out for the best company to use for your one-way motorhome hire in Europe.

What if I am leasing a vehicle?

Leasing a vehicle is akin to owning your own vehicle. You own the car for the period of your lease, and as such, you are technically required to have a Crit’Air sticker affixed. If you are not planning on going to any of the low-emission zones, then you may make a personal decision not to apply for one. That’s entirely your choice.

If you do, there are a few important things to know. Firstly, you need the registration certificate from the leasing company. In discussion with the leasing companies, they have advised that they can only do this two weeks before the lease is due to commence. Depending on where you reside and when you are travelling, this might make it difficult to receive the physical sticker in time.

There is a workaround. Apply online using the “French registered” section once you have the registration details from the leasing company. Apply for your sticker, noting a French address if possible. Once the application has been processed and approved, you will get a copy of an email as verification. Keep this, it might be useful to show the authorities.

In the emailed invoice, you will receive an image of the Crit’Air sticker. Print this out in colour, and if the sticker doesn’t arrive in time, affix this to your vehicle, just as you would if you had the real sticker.

Travelling to France? You might also like to read our road trip itineraries

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Motorhome touring in France | 20 day itinerary through South-West France

Lot Valley France: Exploring one of France’s lesser-known regions in a motorhome

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