Reader question: We have been told we cannot get insurance for a new car in France because we have foreign driving licences. Is this true?
Although frustrating, all insurers do have the right to refuse to give a person a policy.
One reason they may be reluctant to offer coverage is if they are unsure about the person’s driving history.
They may be concerned that drivers with a foreign licence will be unaware of French driving rules and more likely to have an accident because of this.
They may also have reservations if they do not have access to a report of the person’s driving history. Some, but not all, French insurers, however, will take into account information from a foreign insurer as to your claims history (in French called a relevé d’information).
However, that is probably not the case with you. In your original email to The Connexion, you mentioned you are a longstanding client of this insurer and that the issue has only risen regarding the purchase of a new car.
Note that while insurers have the right to refuse you a policy, they should not charge extra for your coverage just because you have a non-French licence.
They may, however, make a surcharge similar to that applying to a young driver (increasing your insurance) if you cannot prove your driving history.
Switching to a new insurer
If your insurer is unwilling to provide you with a renewal, you can look for a new insurer.
Your previous insurer should provide you with a record of your driving history (relevé d’information) which you can show to any new insurers to prove you have a good driving record in France on your old vehicle.
Specific companies and policies for insuring non-French licenced drivers are available but these are usually aimed at those who need temporary insurance and will only be driving in the country for a few months.
Taking out provisional cover
Alternatively, if you are still struggling to get full-time cover, insurers can offer you a une garantie provisoire (provisional cover) temporarily.
This can be taken out even without a relevé d’information – instead, you can use a sworn statement (attestation sur l’honneur).
The downside however is that provisional cover will cost more than standard insurance.
What to do after multiple refusals
If you cannot find a company that will insure you, you can contact the Bureau Central de la Tarification (BCT).
The BCT is a free, independent service that can oblige an insurer to provide you with third-party cover (the legal minimum) as well as set the policy’s cost.
In the first instance you should choose the firm you would like to be insured by, preferably by comparing tariffs with several to find the one that offers the best value.
You should then request from it two copies of a document called ‘proposition d’assurance’, which it is required to provide. If you cannot obtain these you can use a template version provided on the link above, and fill this in.
Send one copy to the headquarters (siège social) of the insurance company by registered post letter with reception slip (lettre recommandée avec avis de réception), along with photocopies of your claims history, vehicle registration document and driving licence.
At the same time request from the firm an insurance quote for the BCT: un devis hors taxes pour le BCT, relatif au calcul de la prime exigible en cas d’assurance.
If you receive a refusal letter or you get no reply within 15 days of receiving your reception slip delivery confirmation (seen as a tacit refusal) then you can apply to the BCT, also by registered post with reception slip. You should do so within 15 days of the refusal.
See the link above for further details of the process.
One issue that may concern insurers is if they think your licence is going to become invalid shortly.
As a reminder, UK licences first obtained before January 1, 2021, do not need to be exchanged for a French licence, unless, notably, you commit a driving offence that would normally involve a points penalty. It should also be exchanged if the licence is around six months from its expiry date.
The date of first issue of a UK licence can be found from the start date of the driving entitlement, shown on the back.
Non-EU licences, or UK licences first issued after January 1, 2021, must be switched to a French licence within one year of moving to France if the licence holder plans to stay in France longer than one year. That is assuming that the issuing country has a swap agreement with France; if it does not then you will have to take a French test.
As a result do make sure that in the case of a UK licence, there is no misunderstanding on the insurer’s part as to its ongoing validity in France.