Car breakdown? Here’s what not to do!

Our tame insurance expert @fabien has been chatting to me and would like to point out the following…

Unlike in the UK, when you breakdown in France you don’t call the AA / RAC / Green Flag or the like. You call your insurers. You’ll find the breakdown number on one of those handy little plastic insurance holders that are sent out with every policy (and if you are really lucky, you will have been sent some stickers too!).

Unfortunately Fabien has seen an increasing number of British drivers calling the local garage / tow truck first. Whilst this may seem like the quickest and simplest way to get you moving again, don’t! Doing this means that there are ABSOLUTELY NO GUARANTEES that any costs you incur will be refunded, even if you have ‘breakdown’ cover.

Until now, Fabien has somehow (the man is a miracle worker!) managed to get people’s costs refunded but he’s noticed an increasing reluctance on the part of insurers to accept the ‘make a commercial gesture’ line and refund people. But today he saw his first denial of refund. The French insurance community is a small one and once one refund has been refused, others will follow.

So, phone your insurers first - all of them will have an English speaking helpline if you ask (insist?!) so you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Happy motoring!


Love Fabien!


I never knew that, thank you for posting about it


Ann… you may well have the telephone numbers on your vehicle insurance certificate, the one which is meant to be kept with the Carte Grise …

Mine, gives the Breakdown number… and also who to phone if the windscreen takes a hit…

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Yes that too, but the point of the post is about not phoning the local garage / tow truck, not where the phone numbers are listed.
But thanks anyway!!

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Absolutely Cat…

I just thought I would mention where the numbers might be found if someone (like me) does NOT have the plastic insurance holders giving the info… etc…


Stella I have my insurance phone number on both my mobiles and luckily they speak English


When my old Volvo conked out terminally 50 km from home I somehow remembered the insurance sticker on the window, but doubted it would work for me.

Within 15 minutes of calling the Pacifica free-phone number the dépannage vehicle had arrived and winched the old jalopy on to the back. At the garage I was given a cup of coffee and I asked where I could get a bus home.

Within 45 minutes of the breakdown I was in a taxi being driven to my front door, all “for free” . Vive la France, Vive L’Assurance Pacifica ! :fr::unlock:


(it’s all I can do to cope with one mobile… and you have two ?? you are very modern)…:hugs:

Acutally, calling the assistance number is probably way easier than having to find a garage / tow truck in the yellow pages or whatever service you use… you just dial in the number on the green slip and you’ll probably see a tow truck within 15 to 30 min without paying anything!

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We were totally abandoned by Pacifica when we broke down! Recovery driver refused to take us to our home village just 10 minutes away. He took the car many miles to his garage and left us with the advice to “phone a friend” to get home!
When we needed a taxi to take us to the garage Pacifica refused. It cost us 70 euro!
You might have got lucky but that is not always the case!

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Could be you’re right, Pelamid. But I understood that the arrangement with Pacifica is that the breakdown driver takes the car to his garage with a view to fixing it, and getting you back en route.

The taxi was arranged by Pacifica, but the garage involved was a big one attached to a car showroom and dealer, and I think the office staff got through to Pacifica on my behalf when I enquired plaintively :cry: about the bus-stop whereabouts. I was a lucky ‘poor old thing’ :flushed:

PS and the "get-you-home’ feature may depend on the level of cover offered by your policy, they do vary I expect.

Does sound techy, but I still have my old UK Nokia because I have a hands free system fitted in my car and I signed up for a French mobile so I could cancel my landline which I hardly ever used :slightly_smiling_face:

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I kept the landline because:

  1. When it rings I always know where to find it.
  2. It seems a weightier ‘proof of residence’ than a mobile bill or an electricity bill, neither of which shows definitively where you live permanently.
  3. It always speaks to me of “home”. (Old fashioned twit :house_with_garden::roll_eyes::thinking:)
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