From house insurance and car insurance to health insurance mutuelles—being insured in France is often a legal obligation as well as peace of mind. As a homeowner or expat in France, choosing an insurance policy and insurer is an important decision. Let’s start by taking a look at the different French Insurance companies and what they offer.
France’s insurance market is among the largest in Europe and the world, and the French Insurance Federation (Federation Francais de l’Assurance – FFA) currently represents 246 French insurance companies (99% of the market). All insurance companies operated in France are regulated by the Banque de France under the laws and regulations of theAutorite de Controle Prudentiel et de Resolution (ACPR). All of this means that there are plenty of options available when choosing an insurer.
The main options for French insurance companies include banks, high-street insurers, online insurers, and mutuelles.
Mutuelles (les mutuelles d’assurancesor les sociétés d’assurance mutuelle) are non-profit cooperative insurance bodies (i.e. insurance companies owned by their policyholders). Although typically associated with top-up health insurance (complémentaire santé), there are actually two different types of mutuelles:
Mutuelle health insurers:
Mutuelle health insurers (les mutuelles de santé) follow the ‘code de la mutualité’ and are strictly for healthcare coverage. These mutuelles are bound by a non-discriminatory code of practice meaning that they cannot refuse health coverage based on health conditions or to perceived high-risk individuals. The insurer’s ‘risk’ is shared between all members of the mutuelle.
Some examples of Mutuelle health insurers include:
Mutuelle insurance companies
Mutuelle insurance companies (les mutuelles d’assurances) follow the ‘code des assurances’ instead, although they still operate on a non-profit and cooperative basis. They offer different types of insurance products such as car and home insurance, but don’t offer unconditional coverage as with the health mutuelles.
Some examples of Mutuelle insurance companies include:
Many French banks offer their own insurance policies, either through subsidiary insurance companies or in agreement with a private insurer. Bank insurers (or bancassureurs) include all of the French high street banks, along with many international and online banks.
Bancassureurs typically offer products such as home insurance, car insurance, and life insurance, while others also offer top-up health insurance (complémentaire santé).
Choosing to take out insurance with your bank is a popular choice and as an existing client you may be able to benefit from preferential rates or be able to negotiate a deal for multiple policies. In some circumstances, you may be required to take out insurance policies with your bank, for example, taking out the required life insurance policy when receiving a mortgage loan.
French banks offering insurance include:
- Crédit Agricole(CA)
- BNP Paribas
- Société Générale
- Crédit Mutueland CIC
- La Banque Postale
- Caisse d’Epargne
- Banque Populaire
Private Insurance Companies
Private insurance companies (les sociétés d’assurances) provide a wide range of insurance products from car, home, and life insurance to top-up health insurance and business insurance.
Some private insurance companies in France include:
Online Insurance Companies
An increasing number of insurance companies now operate exclusively online, meaning that all contracts and correspondence will take place online. Many online insurers are affiliated with private insurance companies or mutuelles, and many offer competitive rates (although be sure you understand the policies and claim practices).
Some examples of online insurers include:
Choosing a French Insurer
It’spossible to take out insurance directly or through an insurance agent (agent d’assurance), who are typically mandated by a particular insurer, or an insurance broker (courtier d’assurance) who provide access to multiple insurers (although most will still favour a select number of insurers).
Using an Insurance Broker in France
Taking out insurance through an insurance broker does not necessarily guarantee the lowest rates, it does provides a number of benefits.
As a homeowner or expat in France, your needs may be different to those of many French citizens. International insurance brokers can help bridge the gap between languages and cultural differences, as well as providing access to products uniquely designed to meet the needs of international clients.
This might mean contracts and correspondence that can be carried out online without the need to be present in the country, home or car insurance tailored to second-home owners or non-residents, or private health insurance that covers retirees without access to France’s state healthcare.
Crucially, international insurance brokers will be able to explain policy details and deal with claims in English, provide English-language contracts, and point out key differences between French laws and regulations, and those in your country of origin. All of which can be invaluable, especially if your French language skills are lacking.
Some popular international insurance brokers include:
Using Insurance Comparison Websites in France
If you choose to go it alone, online price comparison websites can be a good place to start. These sites allow you to compare insurance prices (and sometimes policy details) on a range of products including health, home, and vehicle insurances. Note that you will normally need to enter personal details in order to receive your quotes, including your name, address, and details of your home, vehicle, etc.
Popular sites include:
Finding the right French Insurance Company for you
There are a number of factors to take into account when choosing an insurance company, and it’s important to consider which are the most important aspects for you and your needs.
Price is always top of the list when it comes to insurance policies, but don’t just go with the cheapest insurance – often the price is indicative of the level of coverage and the service provided, so be sure to take other factors into consideration too.
Policy options and details
Be sure you fully understand the details of the policy being offered including any exclusions, the excess amount, and optional benefits. Some insurers may be better placed to deal with the needs of international clients, for example second-home owners whose properties are empty for long periods of time or gite owners where your insurance may need to cover multiple eventualities.
Consider the insurer’s claims management process. Do you have a local branch that will deal with your claims from start to finish, or are claims redirected through call centres or online? Does your insurer have English-speaking advisors or policy details available in English? If you don’t live in France, how easy will it be to manage your insurance, claims, or changes to your policies from outside of the country?
Online reviews and testimonials provide some insight into how insurance companies operate, but nothing beats personal recommendations. Don’t be afraid to ask your French friends, neighbours, or colleagues which insurance companies they use and why. Especially in rural areas, where local insurance branches rely a lot on customer recommendations and referrals, you may find one insurer clearly stands out as being the most popular.
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