Car insurance in France is a legal requirement for all vehicles, but with a wide range of insurers and policies available, how do you know which one best suits your needs. From No Claims Bonuses to breakdown cover, insuring a car in France as a non-resident, and what to do if you have an accident—here’s everything you need to know about French car insurance.
Do I Need French Car Insurance?
In France, all land motor vehicles must be insured, including cars, motorcycles, scooters, and other vehicles, including tractors, ridden mowers, and quad bikes. Insurance is required for all vehicles, even if they are not in use.
There is a fine of €3,750 for driving an uninsured vehicle, and additional fines and penalties may also apply.
Insuring a trailer or caravan
In France, all caravans and trailers that are in circulation must also have a minimum of third party insurance. Caravans and trailers up to 750kg can be covered under your car insurance policy, without a need for a separate contract (although you must inform your car insurer that you intend to tow and ensure that this is covered in your policy). All caravans, trailers, or other towed vehicles (horseboxes, for example) that weigh over 750kg must be insured with a separate insurance contract.
Caravans that are permanently installed on private land do not need vehicle insurance, however they will still be subject to minimum requirements of Civil Liability Insurance (assurance responsabilité civile). See our article on French Home Insurance for more details.
Vehicle insurance for non-residents
Second-home owners looking to purchase a second-hand car or import a car to France often question whether or not they can take out car insurance in France. Firstly, if you own a car in France, it must be registered in France and have a Carte Grise (vehicle registration form) – you cannot legally keep a car permanently in France that is registered in a foreign country. Secondly, as with all other French vehicles, this car must be insured.
In order to register a car in France and take out a car insurance policy, you must have a permanent French address and proof of residence (for example, a recent electricity bill in your name) will be required. However, while it is assumed that if you have a permanent address that you are resident in France, proof of residence (such as a tax declaration or Carte de Séjour residency card) is not required to register a car or take out car insurance in France. Therefore, it is quite possible for second-home owners to take out car insurance on a second vehicle that is kept in France.
Driving a UK or EU-registered car in France
If you do not live in France full-time, but use your UK or EU-registered car to drive in France during your visits, there is no need to take out French insurance. However, your vehicle must be legally insured in your country of residence and you should keep your insurance details with you whenever driving in France.
However, it’s crucial to check that your insurance covers your car when overseas. Some insurers will only cover third party while your foreign-registered car is in France, and it’s advisable to extend this cover to fully comprehensive.
Also look into breakdown insurance as many UK and EU insurers will offer packages with English-speaking assistance. As well as road-side assistance, other issues to consider include replacement parts and whether the costs of getting your car back home is covered should it be required.
Another option is a Green Card insurance, which is a legal document issued by car insurance companies and recognised within the EU. However, this is not a requirement and, despite initial fears, it is not a legal requirement for British cars post-Brexit, either.
Car Insurance in France: Insurers and Policies
There are dozens of car insurers to choose from in France and various different policy options available — here’s what you need to know to help you find the best one for you.
Choosing a French Insurance Company
There are almost 100 insurance companies in France that offer car insurance policies, including mutuelle insurance companies (les mutuelles d’assurances) such as MACIF and MMA, Bank insurers (or bancassureurs) such as La Banque Postale and Crédit Agricole (CA), and private insurers such as Axa and Groupama.
Deciding which insurance company to go with will depend on a combination of the policies available and the rates. If you already have a French bank account and other insurance policies, it can be a good idea to ask your existing insurer or bank—existing clients can often negotiate preferential rates on multiple policies.
Alternatively, if speaking French is a challenge or you have more complicated needs (owning multiple cars between different countries, for example), using an international insurance broker such as Asttral or Fab. French Insurance could be exactly what you’re looking for. These companies have English-speaking helplines and can even help handle claims on your behalf.
Read our article French Insurance Companies: Which One is Best for Your Needs?, which includes links to many popular insurers.
Car Insurance Policies in France
There are three types of vehicle insurance policies available in France:
Third-party (au tiers or la garantie responsabilité civile):
This is the legal minimum insurance required for all vehicles in circulation in France and essentially serves as a Civil Liability insurance. This means you will be covered in the event that your vehicle is responsible for injuring another person, or damage to another car or building. Your own car is not covered.
Third-party, Fire and Theft (au tiers illimité,formule Médianeor tiers complet):
Your vehicle is covered for damage or injury to a third party, as well as for theft, fire, and sometimes other occurrences. These policies might also include elective breakdown coverage or vehicle replacement services.
Fully Comprehensive Cover (tous risques)
You are covered both for damage and injury to yourself, a third party, and your vehicle, including fire and theft. Comprehensive cover varies between policies, so be sure to check the small print, and especially note any exclusions or elective inclusions.
It should go without saying that each insurer’s policy will be slightly different, so be sure you fully understand what is and, more importantly, what isn’t included. Additional things to note include the excess amount (the amount you pay before your insurance kicks in), whether or not your No Claims Bonus will be taken into account (more about that in a moment), whether or not breakdown assistance is available, and what the claims process is.
Be sure to also check whether your insurance and breakdown cover applies within the EU and UK. Most French insurance policies do, but there are sometimes restrictions or limitations so check the small print.
Cost of Car Insurance in France
As in most countries, the costs of car insurance can vary greatly depending upon your individual circumstances. As a very rough estimate, expect to pay a minimum of €400 a year for a third party insurance policy up to around €800 a year for a fully comprehensive insurance policy. This could climb upwards of €1,000 for young or high-risk drivers.
Of course, premiums will depend on a number of factors, most notably:
- Your age, driving experience, and driving record
- Your no-claims bonus (see below)
- The vehicle to be insured and its value
- Use of the vehicle (cars used for business purposes often attract higher premiums)
- Location (average premiums vary throughout the country)
- Perceived risks: a car in a low-risk region with secure off-street parking might attract a lower premium than street parked vehicles in central Paris for example.
- The intended annual kilometres (some policies are priced according to annual usage, e.g. a policy with a maximum of 10,000km/year would have the lowest premium).
Is your No Claims Bonus valid in France?
As in many other countries, France has a No Claims Bonus (bonus-malus) system, allowing reductions of 5% a year. A full No Claims Bonus of 50% takes 13 years to accumulate.
The No Claims protection policies that are widespread in other countries are not generally available in France (although there are some companies that will offer this, so it’s worth discussing with your insurer). However, the good news is that a single claim in France will not reset your No Claims benefits to zero — generally, you will lose a portion of your No Claims, but it will be dependent upon the nature of the accident and whether or not you are at fault. These policies can vary slightly between insurers, so be sure you understand the rules when you take out the policy.
Typically, French car insurance companies will accept proof of a No Claims Bonus accumulated in a foreign country, however it may not be calculated the same. For example, in the UK, it only takes four years to reach the maximum No Claims Bonus and therefore insurance certificates will only list four years of No Claims even if the actual number of years is much longer than this.
To ensure the best chance of maintaining your No Claims:
- Request a certificate of your No Claims from your insurer in your country of origin before moving to France and if possible, ask them to list the full amount of No Claims years you have amassed.
- If you are struggling to find an insurer that will accept your international No Claims or feel it’s being unfairly calculated, consider using an international insurance broker such as Asttral or Fab (linked above)—often these brokers have deals in place with insurers to protect against these issues.
Taking Out French Car Insurance
French insurers will each have their own application process, but these days, it is often possible to set up car insurance online and some companies even provide digital contracts to sign. However, the required documents and details are likely to be the same.
Expect to asked to fill in a questionnaire with your personal details, details of the vehicle, where it is parked, and it’s intended use. You will also need to provide the following:
- Your ID or passport
- Vehicle Registration Document (Carte Grise)
- Valid French or EU driving licence (for UK licences see our article on Changing your licence after Brexit to check its validity)
- Proof of address (e.g. a utility bill less than three months old)
- Details of your driver history/insurance history/No Claims (note that expats unable to provide these details will be treated as a new driver, with the associated premium)
Your Car Insurance Policy
Once you have successfully completed your car insurance application you will receive a copy of your insurance policy (attestation d’assurance) and your insurance certificate (certificat d’assurance). Proof of insurance is a little green tear-off section that comes with your proof of coverage – carte verte – that must be clearly fixed to the windscreen of your vehicle.
You are legally required to always carry the documentation proving that your vehicle is insured. So, along with your vehicle registration papers, you need to have your attestation d’assurance. You must also legally carry the accident report sheet (constat amiable d’accident) that you fill out in the event of an accident – your insurer can provide these.
Be sure to keep copies of all documents at home too, to ensure you have everything you need in the event that your vehicle was stolen. Most insurers now provide copies of your contract and insurance online too.
Who can drive your car?
Insurance in France tends to cover the vehicle – unlike in some countries like the UK, for example, where it covers the driver only – so make sure regular drivers are named in the insurance policy. Some policies contain restrictions as to whom may borrow the car, even temporarily. Even if it allows for third party drivers, there will be some restrictions according to age and frequency of use by other drivers. These are likely to be contained through ‘excesses’ that apply to other persons’ damages if the driver is under 25 years old or has less than three years driving experience.
If you are using your vehicle for work, you will need to declare this – especially important if this includes driving people around. As the risk is considered to be greater, your premium will be higher.
Motorbikes are treated similarly to cars, although there isn’t a no-claim bonus for mopeds.
Car Insurance Claims in France
Car insurance claims in France are generally straightforward but there is a strict procedure that you must follow. It’s also advisable to check the claims process in advance with your insurer to ensure you are prepared in the event of an accident.
What to do if you have a car accident in France
If you have an accident, the first thing you need to do is fill out – in English, if your French is not up to it – the accident report form. You must give your insurance details and details of the accident – this does not apportion blame, just the facts.
The constat amiable d’accident must then be signed by both yourself and the other party involved. It is a carbon copy sheet, and both parties send their copy back to their respective insurer to establish responsibility. If you do not understand what has been written by the other party, do not sign the form as anything signed is taken as evidence.
The constat amiable is also available in electronic format, through the ‘e-constat’ app that you can download on your mobile device.
If two cars are involved, use either your constat amiable d’accident or that of the other party – only one form needs to be filled out. If more than two cars are involved, a separate form should be completed with each party.
If a driver refuses to sign the form, make a note of the vehicle registration number and take the details of any witnesses or police officers.
Once the form has been filled in, you have five days to return it to your insurer. If neither you or the other driver has a constat available then the report can be done by letter and sent to the respective insurance companies within five days. They will then analyse the evidence to assign responsibility.
Cancelling or Changing Your French Car Insurance
In France the process of cancelling an insurance policy is quite formal, although it has relaxed a little compared to previous years. To cancel your insurance you must send the company a formal letter of cancellation (résiliation) by registered post. After the first year has elapsed, however, you can cancel at any time by mail, telephone, or email, and the new insurance company can even act on your behalf on the formalities of cancelling the existing policy.
You can also cancel an insurance policy at any time if you sell the vehicle in question – providing that you provide proof of sale (Certificat de cession d’une vehicle d’occasion).
Driving in France
Whether you’re looking to buy a used car in France, need to revise the rules for driving in France, or want to everything about your annual Controle Technique—head over to our Cars & Driving zone for the latest news and essential guides.
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