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Summaries of EU Legislation

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Motor vehicles and trailers: vehicle registration documents

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Motor vehicles and trailers: vehicle registration documents

The Directive harmonises the form and content of vehicle registration certificates.


Council Directive 1999/37/EC of 29 April 1999 on the registration documents for vehicles.


The Directive applies to the documents issued by the EU countries. It has 3 aims:

  • to make it easier to use vehicles registered in one EU country on the roads of the other EU countries. It makes it simpler for the relevant national authorities to check registration certificates;
  • to enable the implementation of Directive 2006/126/EC on driving licences to be verified by means of roadside checks;
  • to improve the functioning of the internal market by making it easier to understand documents, and check rightful ownership, where a vehicle has been registered in another EU country.

The registration certificate issued by EU countries must conform to a model described in the Annex to the Directive. This makes it easier, where a vehicle is registered in another Member State, to check rightful ownership, particularly where the applicant is not the holder of the registration certificate. The first part of the registration certificate is for driving on the road, while the second is reserved for information on the ownership.

EU countries may issue a registration certificate consisting solely of Part I of the model. This applies in cases where vehicles are used only within their territory and they have at their disposal a system to access the vehicle register, in the event of roadside checks.

A registration certificate issued by an EU country must be recognised by the other EU countries. Directive 2014/46/EU further requires EU countries to keep an electronic record of data on all vehicles registered on their territory.

An EU country's authorities are notified if a roadworthiness test carried out in accordance with Directive 2014/45/EU shows the authorisation to use a particular vehicle has been suspended. This suspension must be recorded electronically and an additional roadworthiness test carried out. The suspension is effective until a new roadworthiness test has been passed successfully.

Where a motor vehicle or a trailer previously registered in one EU country is re-registered in another EU country, the competent authorities in that EU country must return the registration certificate to the authorities in the EU country in which it was issued, if so requested.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 1999/37/EC



OJ L 138 of 1.6.1999

Amending acts

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2003/127/EC



OJ L 10 of 16.1.2004

Act of Accession



OJ L 236 of 23.9.2003

Directive 2006/103/EC



OJ L 363 of 20.12.2006

Directive 2013/22/EU



OJ L 158 of 10.6.2013

Directive 2014/46/EU



OJ L 127 of 29.4.2014


Directive 2014/45/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 3 April 2014 on periodic roadworthiness tests for motor vehicles and their trailers and repealing Directive 2009/40/EC (Official Journal L 127 of 29.4.2014).

Directive 2014/47/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 3 April 2014 on the technical roadside inspection of the roadworthiness of commercial vehicles circulating in the Union and repealing Directive 2000/30/EC (Official Journal L 127 of 29.4.2014).

Last updated: 04.08.2014