The French government, in common with many countries, does not want tourists to buy & own cars that are left here after use. Owning property does not bestow extra rights on an individual over & above those who rent, stay in a hotel or live in a tent as all of the above can indeed be the “domicile” (principal residence) of a bona fide french resident.
In the past there has been discussion about what “domicile” actually means, usually from holiday home owners who really want it to refer simply to a house that they stay in occasionally & they usually then quote from all sorts of legal dictionaries to justify their interpretation.
It is simpler to look at the EU documents on the subject as they are quite clear -
1, Anyone registering a car in France needs to provide proof of “domicile”. If your address was required the request would be for proof of “addresse”.
2, The ANTS system does not permit those not on a government database (income tax, health service or social security) to complete a vehicle registration.
3, The french system states “The document [carte grise] must indicate the address of the principal residence of the holder. This means that you cannot register your vehicle in the département [or country] where you have a secondary residence”.
4, EU regulations state " Every individual must register his vehicle in the Member State in which he is normally resident"
5, Also from the EU’s Q & A section on the subject -
I am Italian [British works as well] and every year I take a 3-month holiday in my second home in the French Alps, travelling by car. Can I register my car in France?
NO — You can only register your car in the country where you are permanently resident.
3, 4 & 5 are direct quotes from the government/EU websites.
My personal opinion is that if the sources state that you must register your car in the country where you are permanently resident then that is where you must register your car.
This is made a lot easier now as the online system checks the INSEE database (like the UK Electorial Role) to confirm domicile & will not allow an application if the details are not there.
In this instance (new arrivals) a third party can apply for you but they in turn have to make a declaration that the details are correct -
“Rimmer Mark certifies on his or her honour that he or she has ensured that [the named applicant] is domiciled at the new address and undertakes to make available, on request from the services of the Ministry of the Interior, any document proving this”
“I am aware that “false declarations and the use of false declarations are punishable by 3 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 45,000 euros”, Article 441-1 of the Criminal Code. I certify in particular that the information provided concerning the ownership of the vehicle is accurate.”
It might never happen, but it might!