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If you are thinking of moving to France, are a second home owner or already live here, insurance can be a complex subject.  We asked Fabien Pelissier of Fab French Insurance, an English-speaking insurance broker, to shine a light on some of the less obvious aspects.

Fabien Pelissier

What is a PHI and how does it differ to a Mutuelle top-up insurance?

Private Health Insurance is like travel insurance except that travel insurance is limited to emergency cover.  PHI can cover routine medicine, tests and treatments and, sometimes, existing conditions.  A PHI will be required for a residency application and/or a visa.  It is somewhat identical to the combined cover provided by both the French social security and a Mutuelle but, for the top-up health insurance, you have to have a French social security number. Another massive difference is that, here in France, the Mutuelle health insurance does not require a medical questionnaire, which means no possible exclusions.

What is covered in home insurance?

In France we don’t really separate the building and its contents so every policy will cover both. Valuables are also distinct from the general content as they are always covered “new for old” but you can choose a discounted value on your general content.  Outbuildings can be covered but their content is often limited (it depends on the insurance company but €800 per claim is a ballpark maximum most of the time).

Car insurance– are there any surprises?

In France we insure the vehicle, not the person.  This means that any driver would be covered, as opposed to just the named driver.  The only downside in case of a claim would be an increased excess (usually +€150).  Another nice point is that most French insurers don’t differentiate between the kinds of assistance so, whether you need help for a breakdown or following an accident, you’ll be covered in the same way. The main exceptions are dealerships which tend to provide assistance for free for the first year following a new purchase, but it’s often limited to roadside assistance not breakdown cover.  For this reason it’s usually best to opt for the assistance offered by your insurance company, avoiding unpleasant surprises and, most importantly, eliminating the cover gap at the end of the free “one year” from the dealership.

What about foreign registered vehicles?

Some French insurers will cover foreign registered vehicles whilst waiting for them to be officially imported under French plates. The second part of that sentence is of paramount importance as importation is not optional and failure to actually import the vehicle may result in severe penalties.  The alternative is costly French temporary insurance which is often €250 per month if not more.

The small print – what should we look out for?

It’s not really the small print, it’s more like some big cultural differences!  For example, you cannot cancel a policy at the renewal date as easily as you can in the UK or the US and you should cancel at least a couple of months prior to the renewal date. That might seem like bad news but, once a policy is more than one year old, you can change it pretty much whenever you want within 31 days (the new insurer arranges that, not the client), and any premium already paid in excess will be refunded without penalty.

Why choose a broker?

Brokers are neutral and work with multiple insurance companies to achieve the best possible deal/plan and cover for your needs.  Also, you won’t be dealing with a call centre/hotline and will be able to email or speak with someone pretty much whenever you want. The broker is your “ally” and is there to offer unbiased advice and, critically, is not incentivised by the insurance company to keep the claim-to-premium ratio as low as possible.


First published in the May/June issue of The Local Buzz

Images: Shutterstock and Fab French Insurance