All roadworthy cars in France must be insured, whether or not they are used.
If you drive without insurance, you can be fined up to €3,750 (for a first offence there is usually a flat rate €600 fine).
There are three main kinds of cover:
- Au tiers – third-party. This is the minimum obligatory insurance, which covers any damage caused by the insurer’s car to a third party;
- Au tiers vol-incendie – third-party, with additional cover for fire and theft;
- Tous risques – fully comprehensive. The car is covered for the damage it causes, plus damage to the car and driver, whoever is at fault.
Depending on your needs, the policy can include additional guarantees, for example, bris de glace (windscreen cover), a replacement car in the case of your car being unusable due to an accident, or cheaper rates for a fixed low number of kilometres.
Proof of insurance is a green document made up of the attestation d’assurance (also known as the carte verte) and the detachable certificat d’assurance, or “papillon vert”, which must be displayed on the windscreen, with a €35 fine for non-compliance.
If drivers are stopped by the police, they must also be able to show the attestation d’assurance. If they cannot do so, they face a fine of €35 and will have to take the attestation to a police station within five days, or face a further €135 fine.
You can keep the attestation in the car at all times, or remember to take it with you when you drive.
Who is covered?
The car is insured through the named person on the contract. The price takes into account the type of policy, the model and age of the car, the address, how it is garaged and the owner’s level of no-claims bonus.
The price for a jeune conducteur – someone who has just passed their test – is usually subject to an increase due to a perceived extra risk because of inexperience. This goes down annually and cannot be applied from the fourth year of cover.
The owner’s partner is usually included as someone who can drive the car. Before you let anyone else drive your car, you should ensure your contract allows you to lend your car to other unnamed drivers for “occasional use”.
Contrary to common belief, not all French car insurance policies allow this.
To drive someone else’s car, you should ask the owner to make sure you are covered.
This works on a number system, with drivers having one point for no bonus, reducing in small fractions to reach .50 for 13 years of no claims.
The price of the premium is multiplied by this number, meaning a reduction of half price (as .50) for full no claims.
Predictably, claims are more likely to affect your bonus in the case of accidents where you were deemed responsible. Loss of part of your bonus will normally result in a higher premium level at the next renewal.
Some insurers agree to carry over a UK bonus and so far there are no reports of this changing since full Brexit.
What to do in an accident
You have to fill in a European Accident Statement – Constat Européen d’Accident, or as it is known, a constat amiable.
Make sure you always have one in your car (you can ask your insurance company to give you one).
On it, you will be asked to give details of the accident, with times, dates, place, people involved, description of incident and a sketch to show what happened. If both parties are in agreement about the nature of the accident, both should sign the same document with a carbon copy. Each party takes a copy and sends it to their insurer within the allowed time limit of five working days.
If, however, there is disagreement, each party signs their own version of events and sends it to their insurance company, including insurance details, address and car registration of the other driver.
If the accident is in France, with two French-registered cars and no injuries, drivers can fill in a form via a free downloadable phone app, e-constat auto.
If anyone is injured in the accident, you have to notify the police or gendarmes.
If you break down
The first step is to ring the breakdown service number you will be given by the insurance company. The help you receive will depend on your contract.
Insurance companies offer a variety of levels, which can include towing the car to a garage and providing a replacement car.
Some policies include cover if you break down at your home (assistance 0km). For others, you have to be a certain number of kilometres away.
Changing your insurance
If you wish to cancel an insurance policy that you have not yet held for a year, you can send a registered letter (find a model letter here) to the insurer two months before the policy’s annual renewal date.
Alternatively, according to the Hamon law, after you have held the policy for one year, you can just take out a new policy. The new selected company will notify the current insurance company, giving it a month’s notice. There are other possibilities, for example after sale of the vehicle.
Driving abroad Your insurance will cover you in exactly the same terms as in France in the countries listed on your attestation d’assurance.
The UK is still among those listed on standard French insurance policies. Since full Brexit, UK residents driving in France have to ask their insurer for a Green Card, which acts as proof that you have vehicle insurance when driving abroad.
All UK vehicle insurance provides the minimum third-party cover to drive in the EU.