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I am visiting my aunt in France. She has a car that she would like me to drive. She says I will be covered by her insurance.

I am covered in the UK for driving my car, but they will not cover me to drive a French registered car in France.

What can I do to check that I am in fact covered? Perhaps there are some legal phrases common to policies that I could look out for.

  • What country are you travelling from, and are you insured to drive in that country? – Moo Jul 30 '17 at 9:48
  • @Moo From the UK, and yes I am covered here, but my insurers won't cover me in France for a French registered car – David Sykes Jul 30 '17 at 13:53
  • If French customs are similar to the US, you need to contact Aunt's carrier to see how they cover non-regular drivers. For clarity, you need to contact them directly, this question cannot be answered by anyone else. – Johns-305 Jul 30 '17 at 18:09
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Your aunt has to look up her insurance contract. Not every insurance covers occasional drivers. There are basically 3 categories of drivers insurance wise :

  • Conducteur principal

The usual driver of the car and insurance holder.

  • Conducteur secondaire

Someone who is registered in the contract as a regular driver of the car (partner, family member, etc.) but not the main one. Not your case.

  • Conducteur occasionnel

This is you - anyone not specifically mentioned in the contract who happens to drive the car. Oftentimes in case of accident, the excess will be higher if they were driving. In France, I never had an insurance that doesn't allow them, but I know some cheap contracts have a driver restriction to only principal and secondary drivers or charge prohibitive excesses in case of accident caused by an occasional driver.

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  • 1
    Am I correct that "excess" is what we call "deductible" in American English? – Andrew Lazarus Aug 1 '17 at 21:55
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    @AndrewLazarus Yes. And it's “franchise” in French. – Relaxed Aug 2 '17 at 7:14
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French law provides that damages to others created while using the vehicle have to be covered by compulsory third-party/liability vehicle insurance, no matter who is the driver. This is provided for by article L211-1 of the Code des assurances:

Les contrats d'assurance couvrant la responsabilité mentionnée au premier alinéa du présent article doivent également couvrir la responsabilité civile de toute personne ayant la garde ou la conduite, même non autorisée, du véhicule, à l'exception des professionnels de la réparation, de la vente et du contrôle de l'automobile, ainsi que la responsabilité civile des passagers du véhicule objet de l'assurance.

Note that it even covers non-authorised use of the vehicle (say joyriding). But it does not cover damages to the vehicle itself (only mandatory liability insurance) or to unauthorised drivers (not relevant here). This also assumes that you do not drive the vehicle so often as to effectively be the main driver, for the contract could then be void and you could be found guilty of fraud.

As explained by guillaume31, the contract can also include a special excess clause for other drivers so an accident could become expensive but you can be confident that you are not driving illegally without insurance or on the hook for large liability payments (bodily injury, etc.) So if you find a green sticker on the windshield (with the right dates on it), you can be confident that the vehicle is insured and that this insurance technically covers any driver.

As far as I know, clauses limiting coverage to named drivers are very uncommon in run-of-the-mill insurance contracts, unless your aunt explicitly sought a cheaper “conduite exclusive” insurance contract. In that case, having an accident could also impact your aunt's no-claim benefit.

Also, here are few French phrases that might useful when looking for additional information:

  • Assurance au tiers: Informal name for insurance covering damages to third parties (“tiers”)
  • Responsabilité civile: Liability, the formal name for the same thing
  • Assurance tous risques: Insurance covering other risks than compulsory third-party/liability insurance, like damages to the vehicle itself in a collision, fire, theft, etc.
  • Conducteur principal: Main driver
  • Conducteur secondaire: Another regular driver who should not drive as frequently as the main driver
  • Conducteur occasionnel: Anybody else driving the vehicle (including thieves!)
  • Conduite exclusive: A cheaper insurance contract with full coverage limited to named drivers (since denying coverage entirely is not legally possible, this is done through additional excess)
  • Franchise: Excess
  • Franchise prêt de volant: Special excess if you lend the car to a driver without informing the insurer
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  • There are also cases when the insurer may terminate the contract. Not 100% sure, but an accident caused by an occasional driver on a conduite exclusive contract might be one of these, right? – guillaume31 Aug 2 '17 at 7:45
  • @guillaume31 I don't think so. If an accident could in itself void an insurance contract that would empty the word insurance of any meaning. And if a contract did not cover other drivers (as opposed to covering them with a high excess), it would break article L211-1. The main thing that can void a car insurance contract is the one I mentioned already: If a secondary driver (named or not) is actually the person using the car the most. Another case is someone driving without a driving license. – Relaxed Aug 2 '17 at 18:12
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Note that most European countries insure the car, not the driver (as in the US). That implies that anyone driving it is insured (if he has a valid license).

You can verify that for France by googling, but if she has the car insured (which you see by 'does it have a sticker on the plate/window'), any legal driver is insured with it.

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  • Google tells me that France 'tends to cover the vehicle' and that 'some policies contain restrictions as to whom may borrow the car, even temporarily'. It would be handy if somebody knew what words I could look for in the policy that would make it clear – David Sykes Jul 30 '17 at 14:00
  • The only one who knows if there are restrictions for a specific policy is the policy owner. In this case it's his aunt, who said it's OK. – ugoren Jul 30 '17 at 20:37
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    Just to clarify, in the US there is insurance both for the car and the driver (separately) however in other countries, where the car is insured, any licensed driver is insured - however the exact liability is what really matters. – Burhan Khalid Jul 31 '17 at 4:44
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    Isn't the insurance sticker placed on the front windshield rather than the plate, in France? – JoErNanO Jul 31 '17 at 15:31
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    @Aganju "if she has the car insured" - insuring your car is mandatory in France. Also, secondary drivers will not automatically be insured (see my answer). – guillaume31 Aug 1 '17 at 14:56

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