If you’re used to driving and insuring your car in the UK, you might be surprised to find that not everything is quite the same when you make the move across the channel. Not only do you have to get used to driving on the right, reading speed limit signs in kilometres, and the notorious ‘priorité à droite‘ rule – but there are also some key differences when it comes to your French car insurance policy. Here are four things you might not know.
1. French Insurance Policies Don’t ‘Expire’
Unlike UK car insurance contracts, French insurance policies don’t have an expiry date. In France, vehicle insurance will automatically renew unless you have been given notice by your insurer. The reason for this is that since 1958 the owner of a vehicle must legally insure a vehicle with at least a minimum of third-party liability insurance.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that the policy will lapse or expire at the end of the year if you don’t ask the company to continue the insurance!
However, while your policy will automatically renew, that doesn’t mean you are locked into your contract. Once the minimum engagement period (typically 12 months) has passed, you are able to change insurers or cancel your insurance (read our article on cancelling French insurance policies for more on this) after giving 30 days’ notice.
2. France’s No Claims System Is Calculated Differently
In the UK, the maximum no claims bonus is generally ‘9 years or more’ and, depending on your insurer, you might benefit from discounts of up to 80% with full no claims. In France, drivers receive a percentage deduction for each year they make no claim on their insurance – typically up to 5% a year. It takes 13 years for a driver to reach their full no-claims allowance of 50%.
Three years after this, you will receive a ‘good driver’ bonus, which means your no-claims is protected if you make a single accident claim. After 19 years, you get what’s called a ‘longue durée’ bonus. This is different for each insurer but often takes the form of an additional discount.
The good news is that in France, you do not lose your entire no claims bonus if you do have an accident, even if it is your fault. Instead, you just lose a percentage – how much depends on whether the accident was your fault or 50/50 with the other driver. Because of this, ‘protected no claims’ doesn’t really exist in France – either you made a claim or not.
What about transferring your UK no claims bonus onto your French policy? It’s often possible – as long as you choose an insurer that understands the UK system and will offer a relative discount.
3. Breakdown Service is Included
Another difference is that in France, breakdown assistance is traditionally included with a car insurance policy rather than being a separate policy. In the UK, you would likely have to take out a second policy with a specialist breakdown company like AA or RAC.
Breakdown insurance isn’t compulsory in France, but most policies include it. The breakdown assistance will carry out some quick checks to see if they can get your vehicle running, but the main aim of the assistance is to recover your vehicle to a garage. Depending on the level of assistance with your insurer, the cover might start at 0km (which means if your car breaks down at home, you can still call assistance and have your car taken to a garage) or at 30km (which means that it won’t cover you if your car breaks down on a trip to a local supermarket, for example). Some assistance will provide a replacement hire car, train, or taxi for you to get home or continue your journey for you and any passengers.
4. Insuring Additional Drivers
Who is insured to drive your car may also be different to what you are used to. Traditionally, vehicle insurance in France covers the car, and then anyone with a valid licence is insured to drive the car.
However, in recent years, many insurers have started offering a policy similar to the UK, where only the main driver or main driver and partner can use the car. It isn’t as common to find a policy that insures anyone to drive, although it is still an option available on an AXA France policy. The details of who can drive are generally in the small print, so if your French isn’t great, you need to be careful that you fully understand the terms of your policy.
Taking Out Car Insurance in France
Car insurance in France is a legal requirement for all vehicles in France (including cars, motorbikes, caravans, and trailers), whether or not they are in use. Agence AXA International offers a range of policies to suit your needs and has English speaking representatives to ensure you understand all the details of your policy.
Remember that your car must be registered in France in order to be insured using a French insurance policy.
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