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.
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 !
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!
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!
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 about the bus-stop whereabouts. I was a lucky ‘poor old thing’
PS and the "get-you-home’ feature may depend on the level of cover offered by your policy, they do vary I expect.