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Car Insurance in France: What It Is and How to Subscribe

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Whether you brought your car over to France, bought one upon arrival or are considering renting a French car, getting the appropriate insurance for it should be a top priority. Here we go through the process of subscribing to a French car insurance scheme, from the options you have to how to get a quote.

Do I need French car insurance?

Yes! From the moment you own a motorised vehicle you wish to use on the French roads, you are legally required to sign up for car insurance in order to cover you if you ever caused damage to another person of their vehicle. The French 1958 Insurance Code Law states that:

Any person, natural or legal person other than the State, and whose civil liability may be incurred for damages suffered by third parties, resulting from harm to persons or property in which a vehicle is involved, must, to use it, be covered by an insurance guaranteeing responsibility, in line with the conditions fixed by the Council of State decree.

This applies even for vehicles that are kept parked or aren't used a lot.

Driving in France without French insurance is punishable by law and can be fined €3,750. Depending on the situation, other penalties can be added to the fine, such as:

  1. Getting your driving license suspended for up to 3 years
  2. Getting your license cancelled with the prohibition of retaking the exam in the next 3 following years
  3. The prohibition of driving a vehicle, motorised or not
  4. The confiscation of the vehicle involved
  5. Mandatory road safety training
  6. Mandatory community service

In order to be covered, you can choose between what is known as third-party insurance which will only cover the damage caused to others and all-encompassing insurance known as all-risk insurance.

What types of car insurance exist in France?

There are 3 main options to choose from:

  1. Third-party car insurance
  2. The third party+ car insurance
  3. The all-risks car insurance

The one you opt for is going to depend on the type of car you have, its value, how much you use it, etc. Quite obviously, the more expensive the car and the more you use it, the more of insurance coverage you need.

The third-party insurance, the minimal and basic coverage

This is the minimum type of coverage you can opt for in France. It will only cover you for any bodily, material and immaterial damage caused by your vehicle to others, including any pedestrians, passengers, and drivers involved.

It will not, however, cover the damages you suffer as a driver responsible for the accident. Passengers in your vehicle will be covered, though.

Third-party auto insurance will work well for you if:

  • Your car is 5 years old or over or isn't the expensive type
  • You only drive occasionally
  • You are a young driver and have a second-hand car: expect to always pay more for insurance as a young driver, simply because the risk of an accident is considered higher in your situation - but third-party insurance is often enough with a used car.

The third-party+ insurance, and in-between scheme

Third-party+ insurance also called an intermediate or improved third party, covers additional car damages such as theft, fire or glass breakage. This is a well-fitting option for you if:

  • Your vehicle is of average age and value
  • You want to be covered against typical car damage but without it being too costly
  • You only drive occasionally.

The all-risks insurance, a complete coverage

All-risk car insurance, aka multi-risk insurance, will encompass any damages you suffer in a car accident even if you caused it. It will also cover damage to your car caused by natural disasters or attacks. You will get refunds for any repair or medical costs incurred.

This is the best option for you if:

  • Your car is new or of high value (over €4,000)
  • You want peace of mind and get covered completely
  • You drive very frequently.

The per-km insurance, a good option for occasional drivers

Do you travel less than 8,000km/year? If so, per-km insurance packages are a great and cheap option for you, especially if you are retired or a young driver. You can purchase it as a third party or all-risks insurance.

There are two types of contracts:

  1. The kilometric package, where the contract fixes in advance an annual number of kilometers to travel. If you drive fewer kilometers than stated in the contract, either your premium will go down, or the extra mileage will be carried over to the next year. This package will work for you if you have a good idea of how many km you travel per year.
  2. The "Pay As You Drive" Package, where your premium depends on the exact number of km traveled per year. You will have to install a small SatNav device in your car in this case - some insurers may even pay for it. This contract could suit you if your mileage varies a lot from one year to another.

What do I need to provide in order to sign up?

Prepare to provide the following documents to sign up to a French insurance scheme:

  • Your car's registration certificate (or carte grise), which contains the info your insurer needs (the type of car, car power, date of registration...) to establish your premium
  • Your driver's license
  • Your information report, which contains all your history as an insured driver (accidents, damage caused, your former car insurance contract...)

How can I get a French car insurance quote?

With so many offers and providers out there, finding the contract right for you can be tricky. It is thus recommended to compare car insurance deals and their fine print, and the best way to do so is to get quotes from different providers.

A car insurance quote is a document featuring a contract's essential details: the premium, contract duration, incidents covered / not covered, what happens in the case of a complaint, etc.

The easiest wat to get a quote is online, via different means:

  • Directly on the providers' websites: click on the "réaliser un devis en ligne" tab. IYou'll be required to fill out a questionnaire on your driving history, professional activity and the car you wish to insure.
  • On car insurance comparison websites thanks to which you can get several quotes at once via partner insurers. Again, you'll just need to fill out a questionnaire to get your quotes.

What if I want to amend my contract?

No worries, you can amend your car insurance policy even after you signed up during the subscription year - and your provider can decide to put a term to your contract, too! Here are the conditions under which changes to a contract can happen.

You wish to change the terms of your contract

Whether you get married, change jobs, retire...when your situation changes, so does your so-called "insured risk". You'll need to notify your provider of the change by registered post, no later than 15 days after you become aware of it. Your provider is then allowed to end your contract if they don't want to cover the new insured risk, but they can also accept to cover the change and increase your premium.

In this second case, if you accept the new rates then you will receive a brand new contract. If you refuse the premium increase or just don't respond within 30 days of getting the new contract offer, your provider will then terminate your contract.

If your change in situation incurs a decrease in insured risk, you have up to 3 months to notify your provider of it. You can then ask for a premium discount, and if your provider refuses you can end your contract there and then (it will take up to 1 month to take effect).

Your insurer wishes to change your contract

Your car insurance provider can also offer to amend your contract - they could, for instance, propose to delete or add guarantees to your scheme.

You then either consent to the changes or refuse, and in the second case, your insurer must keep the original contract conditions.

What if I move and need to terminate my contract?

You may for whatever reason wish to put an end to your contract - and in some cases, your insurer may wish to end your contract too. Find out how this works right below.

You want to end your car insurance contract

Three situations allow you to cancel your car insurance

1) Ending a car insurance contract upon its expiration

You can terminate a contract that is going to expire, but you have to notify your insurer at least 2 months before its end date. To do so, you'll just need to send a cancellation letter termination to your provider (by registered mail or email).

The French Châtel law obliges insurers to remind their customers of their right to end their car insurance contract upon its expiry. They can do so at the earliest 2 months, or at the latest 15 days before the expiry of the contract. If however, you receive this reminder after this deadline, you will be able to cancel your contract within the following 20 days. If you don't get any reminder, you are allowed to end your contract whenever you want after the expiry date.

2) Ending a contract after a change of situation

You can also put an end to your contract if your personal or professional situation evolves.

  • You no longer own the insured car: if you sell, give away or transfer your car to a third party, the said car's insurance contract will be ended that same day at midnight.
  • Your insurer has increased your premium: in this case, you can request your contract to end
  • Your risk has increased: this can lead your insurer to amend your contract and raise your premium, but again you are allowed to refuse the new terms and terminate the contract.

3) Ending a contract after the first year

You can request for your provider to end your contract at any time after the initial first year of the contract, thanks to the so-called French Hamon law, a law that also applies to home insurance. The contract will be terminated 1 month after the insurer has received the cancellation request, for no extra cost.

If you'd already paid the year of insurance in full, you'll be refunded the remaining months. If you were paying monthly installments, you'll just have to pay for the days during which you were still covered, if a new month had started.

Your insurer wishes to terminate your contract

This can also happen! Your provider can do so without justifying their decision but has to send you a notice by registered post, at least 2 months before the expiry of the contract.

Why is this allowed, may you ask? It's legal in France, but conditions apply:

  • Following a natural disaster: unless stated otherwise in the contract, your insurer can end your agreement following a disaster, at the end of the contract. They will do so by registered letter;
  • After an increase in risk: your provider can refuse to cover this new risk and thus terminate your contract within 10 days of receiving your change notice. The termination will then take effect after 10 days.
  • Following the withdrawal or cancellation of your driving license
  • Following a false declaration or omission: never lie or omit information when you sign up to a contract! If you are found out, your insurer will send you a termination letter and your contract will end within the next 10 days
  • Failing to pay your car insurance premium: if 10 days after the due date you haven't paid, your insurer will send you a reminder and allow you 30 extra days to do so. If you still fail to pay, your provider can terminate the contract 10 days later.