Chamonix – Seasonal life series

Chamonix is a great place to spend your winter season. The town is beautiful and has an incredible atmosphere. It is also quite different from some of the other resorts in the alps. The town was established long before the ski resort, and feels more like a real town with all the necessary amenities. 

Chamonix’s prime location is definitely one of the biggest selling points for doing your season here, especially if you have a car. The MBU lift pass offers skiing in many of the neighbouring resorts, which can generally all be accessed in about an hour and a half. So you can plan plenty of mountain adventures. However, you need to start by getting a car and insuring it before you can go gallivanting across the alps.

Buying or bringing a car?

The perks of buying a car in France are threefold; it’s easier to insure, the driver’s seat is on the right side of the car (ie. the left side) making it easier to drive, and you don’t need to re-register the vehicle in France as it will already be registered. However, there is one big downside. Secondhand french vehicles tend to be quite expensive. 

So the next option would be to bring your english car with you. There are a few things to consider before doing this. To get french insurance you have to re-register your car as french. English insurance for using your car abroad can be really expensive. This might not be possible with Brexit, so you will be taking a bit of a gamble by bringing your UK car with you.

Different types of car insurance

The policies start at third party (au tiers), which is the legal minimum requirement. Then you have third parties, fire and theft (au tiers illimité/au tiers complet). Finally, you have comprehensive cover (tous risques). Your policy usually includes roadside recovery, however I recommend reading it in detail to double check this. I had a bit of a nasty surprise when I burst a tyre on the A40/autoroute du mont blanc. After ringing everyone in my contacts and my insurance to figure out what to do, I found out I only had roadside recovery after the 50km radius from my place of residence. As I was only about 5km, this really threw a spanner into the works. Several minutes into my dramatic breakdown (pun intended), a wonderful french man turned up to save me on his white steed or white tow vehicle. Call it what you like. 

Cost and no claims

The cost of your policy will be dependent on a few things, ie. type of cover, type of car, the age and experience of the named driver and… your no claims bonus.

The system is different in France in comparison to the UK. You have a bonus level of 1.0 immediately, and with each year that passes without making a claim this is multiplied by 0.95. It takes a lot longer to reach the maximum no claims bonus rate of 50% in comparison to the UK. However, if you have a responsible accident and need to make a claim, you won’t completely lose your bonus rate. If you are 100% at fault, the rate you gained will be multiplied with a coefficient of 1.25 or 1.125 if you are only 50% at fault. 

Transferring your no claims from the UK to France is possible, but you need to double check this at the quotation stage and provide proof from your UK insurance. If the insurer in France will accept the no claims bonus from your UK insurer, they will multiply 1.0 by 0.95 and repeat this for the number of years no claims you have. For example, if you have 5 years no claims bonus it will be worked out by repeating this five times. So the no claims will work out to a 22.63% reduction.

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