When driving in France European Breakdown Cover really is important. French driving laws state there are some things you MUST have in the car (see our checklist) and certain criteria your car must meet. Such as the vehicle MUST be road legal and have tax and valid insurance.
European Breakdown Cover is not compulsory but when it comes to optional extras it should be top of your list.
Some people tell me they "can't afford it" and I then have to question if they should be going on holiday at all! My question is, can you afford not to have it, especially when single trip cover starts at the price of a coffee in Paris?
Just imagine for a moment you are driving through France. What would you do if your car broke down? Remember even new cars can breakdown and any car can get a puncture so you would be wise to consider this type of cover.
Picture yourself standing at the roadside (in the rain*) with your family wondering who you could call to help you, knowing you are hundreds of miles from home.
It is VERY expensive to get towed off the motorway in the UK and it is no less expensive in France and it’s even more expensive to get towed to a garage to get the car repaired.
The costs of getting emergency help abroad can quickly become eye watering, so even though European breakdown cover may seem an expensive extra for your trip to France I would strongly recommend you get yourself covered.
I would go as far as to say that if can’t afford the cost of this type of insurance then you should question whether you can afford the trip to France at all?
Remember even if you have a very new and well maintained car it can still have problems and these things rarely happen when you are at the end of your street. Murphy’s Law says that it will happen in the Alps or somewhere just outside Nice or Marseille.
Even new cars can breakdown
*It’s amazing but it seems every time I have car trouble it’s raining.
Single or Multi Trip Cover for France
If your life involves several visits per year to France maybe to a second home** then an annual policy which allows unlimited trips would be the most cost effective option but it’s possible to take out a “single trip” policy if you are planning a one off visit.
Getting this type of cover, even if you are just “popping” over to Disneyland, will certainly give you a sense of security and peace of mind in case things do not go well with the car.
Compare European Breakdown Cover
A good way to find cheap European cover that fits best with your individual circumstances is to do an online search, but I would suggest extreme caution if buying a “cheap” option through a comparison website.
As with Car Hire Comparison websites you have to be very wary of the headline grabbing price that comes out top of the list. Remember if it seems too good to be true it almost certainly is.
Often cheaper policies are cheap because they have so many exclusions they cover you for almost nothing. You don’t want to find out when it’s too late that you are not be covered for what you actually want help with.
So let’s assume you've compared prices and you think you've found the best price for European breakdown cover, what next?
This is where the real detective work should start. It is necessary to pay attention to the details of the policy being offered BEFORE you buy it, don’t assume all policies are the same because they aren't.
It is important to read some reviews from real customers on how their claim was handled as this will show you how you are likely to be looked after if the worst happens and you need help. Like all insurances, you never really find out what the cover and customer service is like until you need to make a claim.
Policy Questions you should ask;
Is the country you wish to drive in covered, as not all policies cover every European country?
How many passengers are allowed in your vehicle? If you have a people carrier with you plus 5 family members it’s going to be tough to find out that your policy only covers 2 of you to be transported for your onward journey.
** Does it cover you for trips to a second home as some policies specifically exclude this?
Does it offer misfuelling cover, i.e. putting petrol in a diesel or vice versa. That's easier than you think in a foreign country, especially if you don't know the French word for Unleaded. (See Petrol Prices article here)
If your car can’t be fixed at the roadside does it offer onward travel cover?
Is it the car or the driver that’s covered, important if you drive more than one car?
Do they have English speaking phone operators?
Does it offer car hire while yours is being repaired?
Hotel accommodation paid for if you need an overnight stay while your car is being fixed?
Are you covered if the vehicle is vandalised?
Does it have caravan or trailer cover?
What, if any, are the limits they impose as to the number of days abroad you are covered for and the total value of repairs/garage bills they set as an upper limit?
How much are they willing to spend to get you and your passengers to your destination?
If the car has real problems that can’t be solved easily will they transport you and the car back to the UK? This type of clause could save you well over a thousand pounds if you needed this type of help.
This list of questions doesn't come close to covering every eventuality, so think to yourself what would be important to you in the event of a breakdown and check it out.
UK Breakdown Cover Not Valid
Your UK roadside assistance will not under normal circumstance cover you abroad so if you are driving in France you should get specific European car breakdown cover. You may be able to get this added to your UK policy so it's worth checking.
Cost of European Breakdown Cover
The costs of running a car these days is very expensive what with tax, insurance, garage bills etc and having an extra policy for European breakdown cover can seem like yet another additional cost you can do without.
However if things go wrong with your car on a driving trip to France then it could prove to be the best money you've ever spent. Also remember Murphy’s law, your car may never breakdown in France if you have a policy to cover that eventuality but it almost certainly will if you don’t!
8 Top Tips
1) Are you already covered
We suggest prior to buying you just check if you are already covered via your car insurance policy, UK breakdown cover or under a manufacturers warranty if you have a new car. Though often these additional "FREE" extras to policies like this offer only very basic cover and can be invalidated if you haven't had the car serviced at a registered main dealer.
2) The main requirements
The things you should ideally have in the policy are;
Onward Travel for you and your passengers
Repatriation (Getting you and the vehicle back to the UK in the worst case scenario)
If you have a basic plan that just tows the car to the nearest garage then you could still be looking at some hefty costs.
3) Get a plan that pays the money automatically as the cheaper plans normally make you pay the bills then claim the expenses back later. This can often lead to trouble down the line.
4) Parts and labour are they covered? Get this option if possible as it can save you a lot of money if big garage bills are likely.
5) Don't go with a very small company that has 50 breakdown trucks to cover the whole of France. Their policy might be cheap but if you are waiting for 24 hours for someone to turn up it's not funny.
6) Please note that the Autoroutes in France are privately owned (hence all the tolls) and therefore when you use the SOS phones the police send a recovery truck. Your breakdown company cannot get you off the Autoroute. You will have to pay for this and if you have a good policy you will be able to claim the money back. It's worth checking the plan details to make sure you can.
7) If you opt for an annual policy still shop around each year when your plan is up for renewal.
8) Cheaper isn't better!
We’d Like to Hear your Views
If you’d like to tell us your thoughts on European breakdown cover then please do so via our Facebook page here, and we will add them to this page.
Do you have the cover? Have you ever had to use the plan and if so what was your experience with the company?
David Vickers writes:
“European Breakdown Cover” (EBC) – it’s one of those things – a bit like holiday insurance – you think you should do it, and probably do, but like all insurance you hope it’s never needed – Fortunately we've never broken down in France – so I can’t tell if it’s good, bad or ugly.
I do have cover, and wouldn't be without it. The thought of being stranded on a French motorway with kids in the pouring rain scares the life out of me!
I pay a ridiculous amount a year for annual European cover which I pay interest-free per month. To be fair, I've never actually had to use their services. However, I did breakdown (conveniently at a camp site) in 2007 and had similar cover with another company and it was fine. I called the UK number and a French mechanic duly appeared.
Terry Marsh writes (Via our Facebook Page)
European Breakdown Cover - just bear in mind that it doesn't apply if you break down on an autoroute, or any part of the autoroute system. If something goes wrong, and it's possible to do so safely, then drive off the autoroute before calling the service. Otherwise, you have to use the emergency telephone network.