Mandatory Car Insurance in France: What You Need to Know

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Mandatory car insurance guideline
A short guideline on what is French car insurance and how to find the one that will fit your needs

Driving a car is one of the most common things we do in our day-to-day routine. Whether to get to work, go shopping, escape and set off on vacations, or just to drive back home - cars are everywhere. And as with all insurances, they represent a substantial and significant budget for a family - especially if they own several cars! Hence the idea of trying to avoid such expenses can emerge.

Nevertheless, and besides the fact that car insurance has a useful goal, French law is very strict on this point. We will here give you a guideline on why it is so important to find insurance for your car, how to find it, what are the guarantees from which you may choose and what are the risks of driving without insurance.

Is it mandatory to have car insurance?

Car insurance

French law is very strict on this point: it is mandatory to subscribe to specific insurance if you have a car.

Since a 1958 law, all car owners must subscribe to insurance for their car(s).

And the articles of the law are very clearly written:

Any natural or legal person other than the State, which can be held liable in case of damages caused to third persons’ goods or body by a vehicle, shall subscribe to insurance for this vehicle and that insurance will cover the said liability under the conditions set out by the French Conseil d’Etat”.

Under this rule of law, each car owner should, at least, subscribe to an insurance that covers its civil liability in case of damage caused to third parties. That civil liability guarantee would cover the damages and injuries caused directly to the people but also to their goods while the insured party drives or parks its car or motor vehicle.

It is mandatory to insure your vehicle even if you do not use it every day or if it is parked in front of your home and you use it only for your holidays.

What do you need in order to subscribe to car insurance?

car insurance mandatory

As with all French insurances, in order to subscribe to car insurance, you need to have some documents and information to provide to your future insurer.

Here is a guideline to help you gather the documents to file that will be required by the insurance providers.

Required information for the insurer

All insurers will need some information in order to provide you with an offer that will fit your specific situation and car:

  • The type of vehicle you want to insure: mark, model, year;
  • The type of guarantees you want to have (we will describe them hereunder);
  • The use that you will have of the vehicle (professional, personal);
  • The people who are susceptible to drive the vehicle regularly;
  • The previous accidents you may have caused while driving or suffered because of another motorised vehicle;
  • And any penalties you recieved such as a license cancellation or suspension.

Be careful to be completely honest in your declaration. Indeed, in you lie or omit information, the sanction can be a fine up to 375,000 euros and imprisonment for a period up to 5 years. So, even if not all the required information may have an impact on the premium that you will have to pay to your insurer, be sure to provide only true indications.

Required documents in order to subscribe to a car insurance

In addition to the previous list of information that all insurance providers require, they will also ask for the following documents:

  • The Insurance statement that is given by your previous insurer with all the information regarding your profile as a driver: accident history, damages and your bonus and malus rate and also the information regarding your previous insurer.
  • A copy of the registration certificate (called “grey card” in France, as it is a grey paper): it is a mandatory document in order to be able to drive your car. It is the paper that will identify your vehicle as long as the owner keeps it.
  • A copy of your valid car license.

All these documents are required by any car insurer before he or she provides you with valid insurance for your vehicle.

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Car Insurance: offers, mandatory guarantees and optional guarantees

paper insurance

Third-party insurance

Third-party insurance is the minimum insurance that you can have when you are looking for car insurance. In France, it is mandatory for each car owner to insure its car with, at least, basic third-party insurance which is civil liability insurance.

This insurance covers the risk of personal injury, material and immaterial damages caused by a vehicle to third parties such as pedestrians, passengers or other drivers.

Third-party insurance does not cover the risk of injury of the driver of the responsible car. For example, if you insure your car with third-party insurance and cause an accident hurting a pedestrian and yourself and also damaging your car, your third-party insurance will only cover the injury caused to the pedestrian. Your injury and the damage to your car will not be covered by the third-party insurance.

The third-party insurance should be chosen if you have an old car with low value as this specific insurance is the cheapest car insurance but also the less protective one.

Third-party insurance +

Third-party insurance + is a higher option with wider coverage. It is called intermediary insurance as it will also cover the risks of theft, fire or glass breakage.

This option might be the right insurance to choose if you are not a daily driver if your car is not brand new and if you are not a young driver.

Moreover, you can always add options to your basic offer of third-party insurance + in order to adapt it to your needs.

All-risk insurance

The all-risk insurance provides the widest coverage and it is also called multirisk insurance. It guarantees the driver in case of injury or damage to third persons but also in case of personal injury, personal damage even if the driver is held responsible.

Furthermore, this type of insurance will include natural risk coverage.

If the car has a value higher than 4,000 or 5,000 euros, the best would be to choose all-risk insurance in order to prevent any damage or injury to the driver, passenger, third parties or material.

Pay attention to the general and particular conditions as some insurances may apply specific exclusions to their coverage. Make sure the insurance you choose fits your needs!

Mileage-based insurance

Some insurers can offer insurance called mileage-based insurance that will cover the risk of damage if the car is not used more than a certain number of kilometres per year.

That is a good choice for occasional drivers and can be combined with all third-party insurance, third party insurance + or all-risk insurance.

Usually, insurance providers offer two different types of options:

  • Annual fee kilometres package: the driver and the insurer will agree on a kilometre per year basis. If the owner drives less, the price can decrease or the remaining kilometres can be postponed to the next year.
  • Pay as you drive package: the premium of the car insurance is based on the exact number of kilometres driven during the year.

Not all insurers can offer such package, if you are an occasional driver do not hesitate to ask for this option while you are looking for the best quotes and offers.

Optional guarantees

Besides the general offers above-mentioned, different options exist to meet your needs. Here are the principal examples of options you can choose from:

  • The collision guarantee: covers the risk of damage caused to the insured party vehicle by another vehicle, pedestrian or animal;
  • The theft guarantee: covers the insured party in case of proved theft;
  • The fire and explosion guarantee: covers the insured party if the damage is not caused by poor maintenance of the vehicle;
  • The glass breakage guarantee: covers the risk of glass breakage of lateral windows, windscreen or back window;
  • The roadside guarantee: covers the risk of breakdown and includes the breakdown service, the towing service, the lodging of the driver and the car loan.
  • The “all accidents” guarantee: covers the risk of damage caused by or on the insured party vehicle;
  • The legal protection: allow the insured party to be supported in case of legal procedures;

There are other different options that can exist depending on the insurer. Do not hesitate to ask for a specific coverage if you have a particular need.

How to find your car insurance provider?

find the car insurer

As with all insurances, you can find many different insurers and many different offers. How to choose? Our best advice would be to ask for quotes and compare!

Ask for quotes

You can first ask for quotes online. You would easily find many different car insurance providers on the web and on each website, it is very easy to ask for a quote.

You will have to fill some information regarding your personal situation and the car you want to insure and enter your email. The insurer will send you an offer with all the details from the coverage to the options and, of course, the premium. The offers will also include the agreement for the subscription if you want to choose this specific insurance.

You can easily ask different insurers and have several quotes to compare online.

Online, you can also use insurance comparators that will provide you with a large vision of car insurance quotes from their insurance’s partners. The only thing that you would have to do is fill out the required information and, usually, your email address.

Nevertheless, if you do not feel comfortable with the internet option, you can call different insurers and ask for quotes by giving all the required information. You will be directly speaking with an expert who can answer all your questions.

Finally, there is still the option of a quote directly in the insurer agency. If your home insurer can also provide you with car insurance, you can ask for an appointment in order to be provided with a quote and maybe even negotiate an offer for all your insurance contracts.

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Compare the quotes

Once you have asked for quotes, look carefully at the following criteria:

  • The included guarantees;
  • The options and the price for the options you would like to subscribe to;
  • The premium.

In all cases, choosing the best insurance is not always choosing the cheapest one. On the opposite, a high price does not mean good coverage. Be sure to compare all the options and guarantees and consider online insurers if you want to make big savings!

What makes the insurance premium vary?

what makes your premium vary

The insurance premium varies depending on several elements:

  • The type of insurance chosen: the more guarantees you want, the more expensive the insurance is (as the coverage is wider).
  • The type of vehicle you want to insure. The mark, model, age has an influence on the premium as the cost of the repair will depend on this information;
  • The profile of the driver: young drivers, with or without any accident history;
  • The bonus and malus rate of the principal driver as it is an element of the driving history;
  • The place where the car is kept as a street parking may be higher the risk of damage on a vehicle.

What are the bonus and malus rates?

The bonus and malus rate is also called the “rebate/surcharge coefficient” and shall be applied to the premium initially offered by the insurer. That will make the premium increase or reduce depending on the bonus or malus rate.

If a driver has a bonus, that means that he or she will have a discount on the initial premium the following year. On the opposite, in the case of malus, the premium will increase.

In the beginning, the rate is 1.

  • The bonus rate: if a driver has no accident or any other damage for 1 year, he or she will be granted with a bonus rate of 5%. It means that the initial rate will lower by 5% and then, the bonus rate will be: 0,95.
  • The malus rate: if a driver has a responsible accident, he or she will have a malus rate of 25%. It means that the initial rate will increase by 25% from 1 to 1,25.

After the termination of a car insurance contract, the bonus and malus rate are kept for 3 years before coming back to 1.

Green car insurance card and car insurance certificate

Once you have subscribed to car insurance, your insurer will provide you with two different documents that shall be kept at all times:

  • The green car insurance card
  • The car insurance certificate

The green car insurance card

The green car insurance card is a document that includes the following information:

  • The name of the insurer;
  • The address of the insurer;
  • The details of the insured party: name, address;
  • The insured contract number of the insured party;
  • The start and end date of insurance coverage of the insured party.

In case of control by a police officer, they might ask the driver to show the green car insurance card (“attestation d’assurance”). It is an obligation for the driver to have it and be able to show it. In case of default or failure to show the document, the driver can be fined 150 euros with the obligation to show its green car insurance card within 5 days to the authorities. Failure to present the required documents is punished with 750 euros fine.

The car insurance certificate

The car insurance certificate is a small document that includes the following information:

  • The name of the insurer;
  • The plate number of the vehicle;
  • The insured contract number of the insured party;
  • The start and end date of insurance coverage of the insured party.

The car insurance certificate has to be visible at all time from the outside of the vehicle and shall be placed on the lower right corner of the windscreen. If the car insurance certificate is not visible from outside, the driver may be fined 150 euros in case of police control.

What if I drive without car insurance?

car detail

Driving a car that has not been insured may lead to a fine up to 3.750 euros but it is not the only risk you would take. Depending on your situation, you can also have the following penalties:

  • Seizure of the vehicle;
  • Suspension of your driving license for a period up to 3 years;
  • Obligation to follow a sensitization training to road safety;
  • Cancellation of your driving license;
  • Interdiction to drive any type of motor vehicle during a period up to 5 years;
  • Obligation to pay a day-fine;
  • Obligation follows a community service.

Moreover, since January 1st 2019, the law has become stricter and police officers (who may control you while driving) are able to check the file of insured vehicles and can give you directly a fine in case of lack of insurance.

Therefore, in order to protect your car, but also to prevent any risk of fine or huge amount to pay in case of damages to other goods, it is far better to find the insurance that would fit your needs!

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