There are numerous differences between France and the UK and one of them is the way that breakdown cover works. Having recently hit a wild boar (ouch for both the boar and my wallet), I thought it might be useful to highlight the way breakdown cover works.
Unlike the UK where you can shop around, here in France breakdown cover is usually included in your car insurance policy. Depending on your policy the cover may be good, adequate or not really worth the paper it is written on. One of our worst experiences to date was breaking down up a mountain (during the day and not in the winter) and being told by the breakdown company that no one would be prepared to get us until the next day as there was a car rally going on and the road up was jam packed. We did eventually get two bottles of wine and an apology from the insurers but quite what we were meant to do for 24 hours with a five year old in tow beats me. Had a friend not given us a lift home we would probably still be there.
Recently I’ve heard of several people calling the tow truck themselves, paying them directly and then attempting to get a refund. You should normally always contact the roadside assistance number provided on your policy first, as otherwise there is no guarantee that the insurers will pay out. We found this out to our cost a couple of years ago in Italy when, after a breakdown, we were recovered directly from the motorway and ended up a couple of hundred euros out of pocket.
So check the small print! And decide what kind of cover you need. If you have a friendly local garage who will come out, then maybe you can remove the home start option and save yourself some money. Perhaps you have a travel insurance policy which covers hire vehicles when on holiday? But in any case, as everyone’s circumstances are different, it is essential to read the policy carefully and ideally go through a knowledgeable broker who can help you get exactly the cover you need and explain what it does and doesn’t include.
I’ve just contacted Fabien (our resident approved Survive France insurance broker) and as a result, have changed the insurance policies for our two vehicles. Despite having had a good policy which provided relatively good value for money, I’ve been able to get slightly better cover for around 150€ less per year. Fabien also sorted out all the paperwork for me and I had nothing more to do than email him. Simples!
So unless you are absolutely certain that you’ve got exactly the cover you need at the best possible price, I recommend you phone @fabien and let him get you a better deal.