On this page;
Advice and tips on driving and breakdown insurance in France – needing information on breakdown insurance.
The AA alone rescues nearly 30,000 motorists stranded abroad a year. With an estimated 1 in 12 cars breaking down even before they get to the port, the best advice is simply to have your car serviced before going. If you break down however, here is some advice and the names, telephone numbers and links for some companies we have found.
Be prepared – breaking down is unpleasant at the best of times, and even more frustrating in a foreign country.
Please check the extent or scope of European Cover. Does it for example limit the number of journeys or days allowed abroad? Is the cover offered in the United Kingdom the same if you breakdown in Europe? Does it cover daytrips? More tips and things to watch out for
January 2010 – Coming back down from a ski resort by coach, it was clear from the cars brioken down at the side of the road, that many people either do not have their cars properly serviced before they leave on a long journey, or have been beaten by the weather (check that your fluids can cope with very low temperatures). Breakdown insurance is a must if undertaking a long journey. Unlike comparison sites, we list all the companies individually that offer breakdown insurance. It really is worth checking out each company separately.
Correct at January 2010
Most European breakdown policies provide roadside assistance in over 40 European countries. IC Breakdown covers 19, please check that the country you are visiting is included.
Repatriation of you AND your passengers is usually included but not always (Tesco breakdown insurance does not include this for example)
Long distance recovery. Your car may need to be brought back to the United Kingdom – this is not usually included in cheaper policies.
If you are taking a caravan or trailer, be sure these are included in the cover. Green Flag and More Th>n do not provide cover for example.
Emergency accommodation is usually provided but again Tesco do not cover this aspect of any breakdown.
Car hire / onward travel costs. This can usually be taken for granted, but do check if it is important to you.
Message service. Some policies include a message service so that your family or friends can be told what has happened to you.
Payment of travel costs to collect your car. This is not always included but sometimes allows for a single train ticket to be bought.
Cover yourself or the vehicle? If you are the only driver it may be cheaper to insure yourself rather than the vehicle. Not all companies offer this but it is worth asking.
Is the cover door to door or does it start when you leave the United Kingdom?
Add ons. Some companies allow you to add on travel and ski insurance, and cover for pets.
Call out limits. Although few people are likely to avail themselves of a recovery or breakdown service more than once or twice a year, most companies limit you to about five call outs.
Priority. If you are a single women or pregnant most companies will prioritise your call. If this concerns you check before buying.
Older cars. Most companies do not provide cover if your car is over 10 years old. You may have to ring around to find a company that provides cover, if you have an older vehicle.
Use the orange SOS phones which are situated every 2km on motorways and every 4km on dual carriageways and other major roads. Each one has a number. Charges for breakdown assistance on autoroutes is fixed, but will cost more if between 6.00pm and 8.00am.
Click on the link to get break down insurance for Europe
– Automobile Association. Breakdown cover for France and Europe. Tel: 0800 085 7253 / 0161 495 8945. www.theaa.com
– Breakdown Direct. Tel: 0800 389 5424. www.breakdowndirect.co.uk
– Britannia Rescue. Tel: 0800 59156. www.britanniarescue.com
– Direct Line. Tel: 0845 246 8702. www.directline.com
– ETA Breakdown Insurance (Environmental Transport Association). www.eta.co.uk
– Europe Assistance. Tel: 01444 442 211. www.europ-assistance.com
– First Call Rescue. www.firstcallmotorbreakdown.co.uk
– GEM Motoring Assistance. www.motoringassist.com
"Following our recent success of being voted No. 1 breakdown provider in the Auto Express Driver Power survey June 2010, we are delighted to announce that we are also on the Which? Best Buy list for 2010.
Add a drive for FREE – Joint cover (two people living at the same address) is the same price as single cover.
"Green Flag is one of the U.K.'s largest roadside rescue and recovery services, with almost 5 million customers and responding to over a million calls for help each year. We provide breakdown cover for your vehicle, rather than the individual, so everyone driving your car can benefit from a fast, professional breakdown service."
– IC Breakdown Insurance. www.icbreakdown.co.uk
– Kwik Fit Breakdown Insurance. www.kwik-fitinsurance.com
– More Th>n. www.morethan.com
– Rescue my Car breakdown Insurance. www.rescuemycar.com
– Start Rescue. www.startrescue.co.uk
– Vehicle Rescue. Tel: 01603 464 123. www.vehicle-rescue.com
If you need an ambulance use the orange SOS phones, or dial 15 at a normal phone (SAMU (Service d'aide médicale d'urgence) /EMS – Emergency medical services). You must also call the police (17).
If a vehicle is damaged you should fill out "European Accident Statement" form, which comes with your green card. Get it signed by the other driver. If you do not have a form swap personal and insurance details with the other party.
Breakdown costs in France (depannage) are fixed and regulated by the French Government. www.sanef.com
Depannage – Breakdown
Remorquage – Towing
Fire Department 18, Operator 13. Directory Enquiries 12.
Main reasons for breakdowns – Flat battery, tyres, lights, mechanical failure (alternator, clutch, starter motor, engine), keys locked in car, children and pets locked in car, brakes, fuel pump. Cold weather causes many problems – avoid issues with regular services. The busiest day of the week is Monday, Thursday is the quietest.
– Advice from Green Flag. www.greenflag.com
"It's natural that shoppers want to make the most of the opportunity to buy cheap booze abroad, but overloading can make vehicles susceptible to breakdown and dangerous to drive."
"The amount of goods Customs allow before they start asking questions is now quite high – 120 litres of wines and spirits and 110 litres of beer but it is also very heavy. This allowance for one person would weigh around 360 kilograms, so if two average weight adults each brought this amount they could overload a typical family saloon by over 70 per cent."
Green Flag offer the following advice:
* Don't overload your vehicle
* Drive slower and allow more stopping distance between you and the car in front, as the extra weight makes it harder to brake quickly
* Check your headlight adjustment. A fully laden boot will make the beam point too high
* Do not pile boxes behind people's heads. They will cause an obstruction and could be dangerous if you have to brake suddenly
* Do not stack too many boxes over the rear axle. It will add a disproportionate weight to the back of the vehicle and could damage the suspension.
– Advice from Autonational Rescue. www.autonational.co.uk
Think about carrying the top 16 most useful items in your car this winter. Namely:
– Working torch
– Folding shovel
– Suitable gloves
– A bag of sand or grip mat
– Warning triangle
– A fluorescent jacket (now a legal requirement)
– Map (or sat nav!)
– Tow and battery-jumping cables and
– First aid kit
– Mobile phone with your car breakdown insurance number in your contacts list.
– An emergaency HELP sign to put in the back window.
– A blanket for when its cold
– A plastic raincoat or windbreaker
– Plan a route beforehand so that you know where you are when you breakdown.
Avoid breakdowns in the first place – Many of these types of breakdowns, in particular running out of fuel and battery problems, are easily avoidable with a little thought and care beforehand. Some basic safety checks on your car's tyres, lights, battery, indicators, water or oil levels will prevent many of the most common causes of a breakdown.
– Look after your car's battery and it will look after your car (most breakdown's are battery related).
– Don't run out of fuel, one of the most avoidable but also the most common causes of breakdown. Check your fuel gauge at the start of each winter journey, just in case you get stuck in traffic and need longer to get home than normal.
– Check your car's radiator for any visible signs of damage or leaks, as well as low water levels, which can and do lead to overheating and breakdown.
– Get into the habit of making a monthly check of your car, especially in the Autumn (Flat batteries in winter are a common problem).
– Check the windscreen water levels, and in winter use an appropriate product with anti freeze in it. Very dirty windscreens which you cannot clean may force you to stop.
– Look out for other mechanical or electrical faults, such as damaged exhausts, loose or corroded wires.
– Check your lights, brake lights, indicators (you can reverse up to a wall or garage door to check your own lights). In bad driving conditions you may be mistaken for a motorbike if you are not clearly visible.
– Check oil levels, especially before and after long journeys. Carry a can of oil just in case.
– Check tyre tread and pressures (and adjust pressures when you're carrying extra luggage).
– Ensure you have adequate car breakdown cover and the emergency number with you.
– RAC. Advice from the RAC. www.rac.co.uk
There are two levels of cover available with RAC European Breakdown Cover
Essential cover for anyone taking their vehicle to Europe for trips of up to five days.
More extensive cover from the time you leave your United Kingdom address until you return.
Cover is available at a standard premium for vehicles aged less than six years old, carrying up to five people (including the driver) in Zone 1 countries. Older vehicles, additional passengers, vehicles towing caravans or trailers and vehicles travelling to Zone 2 countries will also be covered subject to the payment of appropriate supplements.
If you are delayed for whatever reason ring the company you are travelling with and let them know.
If in France;
Eurotunnel. Tel: 0321 00 61 00,
LD Lines Ferries. Tel: 0033 232 14 52 09.
DFDS Ferries: Tel: (UK) 0044 208 127 8303.
P and O Ferries. Tel: 0321 46 04 40
British Consulate (Lille) Tel: 0320 12 82 72.