No question of getting behind the wheel of a car (or any other motor vehicle) without having insurance! Mandatory since 1930 for certain vehicles, it was extended to all motor vehicles in 1958.
Failure to comply with this obligation exposes to immense dangers: the author of an accident will be responsible out of his own money for damage caused to others. The damage from a road accident can amount to millions of euros (or even tens of millions of euros if a young person is disabled for life, for example), it is a risk literally unbearable, reason for which the law obliges to guard against it.
“The insurance obligation is however limited. It only concerns civil liability, which covers damage caused to others”, explains Jean-Pierre Daniel, consultant and author of the book “Insurance and its secrets, everything what your insurer never told you “.
With this legal cover, also called “third party”, it is the insurer who compensates the damages of all victims, but he does not pay anything to the driver responsible for the accident, who must face the repairs of his car alone and its possible bodily injury. It is therefore a minimum cover, which it is preferable to supplement by other guarantees.
A stable load … but heavy
But be careful not to overload your budget, because auto insurance is heavy. “In a household with two cars, the insurance post reaches the equivalent of one month's minimum wage each year, or between € 1,000 and € 1,200,” recalls Jean-Pierre Daniel.
It has been a stable charge for several years (its price increases less than inflation), but nevertheless significant.
Rates according to the type of car
In fact, insurance rates depend on a learned alchemy in which the guarantees appear secondary. The most important thing is the car itself. The more nervous it is, the higher its “DIN power”, the more the third party liability insurance rate rises, since it is considered potentially more dangerous.
In the same series of cars, the estate version with little horsepower will therefore cost less than the “sixteen-valve sports coupe” version. For the part that covers damage insurance, it is the price of the vehicle and the cost of repairs that become important.
“In their rankings, insurers also take into account the supposed profile of the car user, explains Jean-Pierre Daniel. A minivan, generally used to transport the whole family, is considered less risky than a sedan; equal, prices can be 20% lower. And a diesel costs more than gasoline, because it is a vehicle that drives more. ”
Other criteria: driver profile and geographic area
The price differences resulting from these classifications are reduced or increased according to the personality of the driver and the use of the vehicle. Gender, age, length of license, profession and use (business trips, walks) are all points used by the insurance company to set its rates.
Then, geographic criteria are taken into account. Depending on whether the driver lives in town or in the countryside, in a quiet or busy area, he is exposed to a more or less significant risk of accident, a risk which has direct repercussions on the price to be paid.
Result, the prices make the big difference: from a few tens of euros per year to insure an old car in the countryside to several thousand euros for a convertible in the hands of a young urban man.
The “all risks” formulas
To adjust prices, policyholders can therefore only influence two levers: that of guarantees and that of deductibles. In the most complete guarantee versions, the “all risks”, insurance companies add several options to compulsory insurance.
There is generally a “damage to all accidents” guarantee, which compensates for repairs to the car when the insured is responsible for the loss (if he is a victim, he is fully compensated by the insurance of the person responsible).
There is also a guarantee that covers fire, another theft, yet another glass breakage, all supplemented by legal protection (payment of lawyers and legal costs in the event of an accident) and a assistance.
Adapt protection to the car
This comprehensive protection is recommended when the car to be insured is of great value and its disappearance or major repairs would cause too much economic damage.
For older vehicles, compensated up to their “market” value, and for drivers who wish to tighten their budget, there are lighter versions, which only include civil liability, recourse and assistance (useful more breakdown or accident). Intermediate formulas add theft, fire and glass breakage.
In these two cases, the insured is not covered for damage to his own vehicle if it causes an accident. To be reserved for very attentive drivers who respect the Highway Code!
Fixed or percentage deductibles
Deductibles also play a very important role in the price of damage, theft, fire and glass breakage insurance. They represent the sums left at the expense of the insured in the event of a problem. They allow the insurer to limit its expenses and not to intervene for small accidents.
The amounts of these deductibles can be fixed or expressed as a percentage, in proportion to the value of the damage, with a floor and a ceiling varying according to the price of the vehicle. They can, for example, represent 20% of the damage, with a minimum of 150 € and a ceiling of 400 € for a small car.
Agreeing to support a slightly higher deductible lightens the final score. “For a small car, testifies Jean-Pierre Daniel, the passage of a deductible from 150 € to 300 € leads to a reduction of one fifth of the contribution.”
With a basic “bonus” of 500 €, 100 € can be saved each year. It obviously remains to retain deductible levels compatible with its financial capacities, in order to be able to face a possible accident without too much worry.
A bonus for safe drivers
The other way to reduce the price of insurance is patience – and prudence – in order to garner a maximum bonus coefficient of 50%, if it has not yet been reached. Applied to almost all of the contribution excluding taxes, this bonus can halve the amount to be paid.
Introduced in 1976 and still in place despite European attacks, this mechanism grants a reduction of 5% of this coefficient to each insured person who spends a year without causing an accident. Starting at 1, the bonus thus arrives at the lowest rate of 0.50 after thirteen years without a hitch.
Malus: attention, rapid descent!
On the other hand, things are going much faster on the side of the “penalty”. Each accident for which the insured is responsible results in an increase coefficient of 1.25. The only consolation is that this penalty is not applied to drivers who have had the maximum bonus for three years for their first at-fault accident. Because this penalty applies as many times as there are accidents in a year.
A person with a neutral bonus-penalty of 1 which causes three accidents is thus found the following year with a penalty of 1.95 (1 x 1.25 x 1.25 x 1.25) and an insurance contribution. almost doubled! The penalty capped at 350%: a contribution of € 1,000 then peaks at € 3,500. And after two years without a glitch, the penalty (that is to say, anything above 1) automatically disappears.
A system that penalizes young people
This mechanism weighs on young drivers, who have not yet acquired solid experience and who are statistically at a higher risk of accident than experienced drivers. Because the penalty is in addition to the surcharges sometimes applied to those who take out insurance for the first time.
“The regulations allow insurers to increase their basic rates up to 100% for these risk categories,” recalls Jean-Pierre Daniel, “that is to say that the rate is doubled. On the other hand, when the young obtained his license thanks to the early learning to drive, this additional premium cannot exceed 50%. ”
It is canceled after two years without an accident in the first case, after one year with accompanied driving. It is only afterwards that the bonus counter starts.
Indispensable driver protection
In the world of auto insurance, there is a big forgotten in the event of an accident: the driver who is responsible. Not being considered a victim, he is not entitled to any compensation, with dramatic consequences in the event of death, disability or long stoppage of work with expensive care.
To correct this failure, insurance is needed: the “individual driver's guarantee”. Offered by all companies, it allows you to be compensated like a victim if the worst happens (it is better to check the compensation limits). It is an additional expense, but it is really essential.