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UK drivers in France warned over emissions sticker fine

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Holidaymakers driving in France have been warned to display the correct emissions sticker or risk being hit with an up to £154 fine.

Drivers taking their own cars across the Channel need to be aware of the local air quality regulations as anyone falling foul of the rules could be hit with a hefty fine of up to €180, the RAC has warned.

In France, a total of 12 areas restrict where cars can go, based on how polluting the vehicles are. However, some stricter locations only permit ‘cleaner’ cars on their roads.

As such, drivers need to display a sticker called a ‘Crit’Air air quality certificate’ on their windscreen but there are six different categories to contend with.

Electric and hydrogen vehicles require a green Crit’Air ‘0’ sticker while travellers who use diesels will need to select a dark grey Crit’Air ‘5’ label to signify a more polluting vehicle is on the road. The RAC said drivers can check what category their vehicle falls into using its Euro emissions standard checker.

It’s essential UK drivers buy these vignettes ahead of their trip to France via the official French Government website as they can’t be bought locally.

But drivers need to watch out for unofficial third-party sites which charge up to six times as much for the same €4.61 (£4) sticker.

On the plus side, once you’ve bought the official permit, it’s valid for the life of the car.

Air polluting cars banned from some French cities

Paris is the strictest when it comes to what vehicles can be driven around.

The capital’s regulations only permit vehicles that are in the cleanest 0, 1 or 2 emission categories to be driven on certain roads at various times.

Aix-Marseille-Provence region, Toulouse and Reims also only permit vehicles with Crit’Air ‘0’, ‘1’, ‘2’ or ‘3’ vignettes.

In July, the cities of Bordeaux in the south-west and Clermont-Ferrand in central France also joined the windscreen sticker scheme.

Fines on the rise

Motorists either travelling without the correct sticker or driving a vehicle that’s deemed too polluting for the area will face a fine of €68 (£58). This rises to €180 (£154) if the penalty is not paid within 45 days.

But, fines will increase to up to €750 (£640) in 2024 when camera-based enforcement of the air pollution levels begin.

RAC Europe spokesperson, Rod Dennis, said: “Many UK drivers will be familiar with clean air zones such as the London Ultra Low Emission Zone, but they should also be ready to encounter them abroad this summer.

“It’s vital anyone travelling to Europe does their homework to see whether an emissions-based windscreen sticker is needed – and give themselves enough time to order one before their trip.”

He added: “In France, six years after Crit’Air emissions stickers were first introduced in a bid to improve air quality, there are now 12 locations where British drivers’ movements can be restricted based on how much their cars emit.

“Anyone without the right sticker or driving a non-compliant car into a low-emissions zone, risks an on-the-spot fine. These €68 penalties are issued by local police officers in France but as early as next year camera-based enforcement will begin meaning maximum fines will rise to a holiday budget-busting €750 (about £640).

“Drivers visiting cities in other European countries, including Spain, Italy and Switzerland, also need to check whether they’re affected by any low emission zones before embarking on their trips.”