CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to France Magazines today CLICK HERE

Ways to save money when driving in France

PUBLISHED: 16:03 18 April 2018 | UPDATED: 16:03 18 April 2018

There are many ways you can save on driving in France 2CV © Ivonne Wierink - Fotolia

There are many ways you can save on driving in France 2CV © Ivonne Wierink - Fotolia

Archant

Taking the car to France is a preferred option for many British homeowners, but paying for fuel and road tolls can quickly add up. Here are six ways to cut the costs of driving in France

Shop around for petrol and diesel

Right now you can buy unleaded petrol in France for around €1.38 a litre, on average. This is pretty much what petrol costs in the UK, as at the time of writing the average price at the pumps is £1.19 or €1.36 a litre. There’s more of a price difference when it comes to diesel, which retails at €1.26 a litre, again on average.

Everyone knows that motorway service stations tend to charge more for fuel than supermarket garages. Yet, while we invariably know where the cheapest local service stations are in our neighbourhoods, the chances are you won’t know where to stop when driving abroad. This is no small point, as prices per litre fluctuate widely at service stations across all of the 96 French departments. For example, you could pay as little as €1 a litre for petrol in Côtes d’Armor or as much as €1.89 a litre in Paris. If your car has a diesel engine you could be charged anything from €1.17 a litre in Hautes-Alpes to €2.2 a litre in the Ariège. And then there is the considerable cost variance at the numerous service stations within each of these departments. For this reason, it makes sense to identify departments that are cheaper for fuel, on average, and keep an eye on the pump prices as you pass though these regions. After all, it could cost you anything from around €60 to €132, a difference of €72, to put 60 litres of diesel in your car, depending on where you stop.

Driving in France, you'll see some stunning scenery © ThinkstockDriving in France, you'll see some stunning scenery © Thinkstock

Find out where the cheapest fuel is

You’d be crazy to drive too far out of your way to secure the very best deals, especially as you can avoid too much stress and expenditure with a little pre-planning. This French government-produced website is a good place to start, as it shows regularly-updated fuel prices at every station in all of the country’s departments.

It’s also worth downloading a service station locator phone app, such as Moricarbu, that displays the cost of fuel at any garage within your vicinity, and generates a map showing you how to get there.

Give your car a home service before setting off

Scouring the land for the best places to refuel is only one way to keep the costs down – there are lots more ways. For example, it’s essential to give your car a home service before setting off, checking the oil, water, power steering and coolant reservoirs, all of which will help make the engine run smoother. Don’t forget to adjust the tyre pressure if you’re filling the boot with luggage, as the extra weight will increase each tyre’s foot print. By increasing the pressure to the recommended level, the car won’t guzzle more fuel to compensate for the additional drag.

____________________________________________________________________

Don’t miss...

50 words and phrases you need to learn for driving in France

Road trip: explore the Loire Valley

____________________________________________________________________

You can get from Calais to Nice without driving on France's autoroute system but they will save you time and probably money © GettyImagesYou can get from Calais to Nice without driving on France's autoroute system but they will save you time and probably money © GettyImages

Weigh up the cost of tolls against the extra cost of fuel if you take the toll-free scenic route

It’s possible to get all the way from Calais to Spain without ever driving on one of France’s motorways, the autoroutes. However, don’t be lulled into thinking that avoiding these highways is a sure-fire way to cut costs.

Let’s say you’re hankering after a move to the French Riviera, and plan to drive to Nice for a reconnaissance from Calais. The fastest way to get there is on the autoroutes, which will cost €107 in tolls and take 12 hours. Alternatively, you could avoid the toll roads and take the scenic route. This option may seem cheaper, but it probably isn’t, as you’d spend almost €20 more in fuel. Also, even with two drivers you’d almost certainly require a stop-over, as you’ll spend an estimated 20 hours behind the wheel.

Get a Sanef tag to avoid lengthy queues at toll booths

Autoroutes are by far the most efficient way to travel long distances in the shortest time, but it can be frustrating queuing to pass through a toll, or péage. On a busy route or day, you could spend what seems like an eon shunting towards the payment machine. The alternative is to subscribe to the Sanef toll scheme , which gives you access to the fast lanes thanks to a small radio transmitter tag that slots into a small holder placed behind the rear view mirror. The tag talks to the toll booth, which raises the barrier just before you reach it, so there’s no stopping. Sanef charges a €20 security deposit – which is refunded when you return the tag – and a non-refundable €10 application fee. There is also a €5 fee that’s imposed each month you use the tag and, of course, you’re charged the same as anyone else does for passing through a barrier. The tags may cost, but you’d need to weigh up their benefits, especially if you’re hoping to pack as much in on a househunting expedition. Avoid the hassle of spending time entering your card details or feeding the payment machine with euros, not least as you’ll avoid burning fuel waiting to pass barriers and in putting your foot down to make up for lost time.

Obey the speed limits and remove speed detectors from your car

You risk more than draining the fuel tank if you hammer the accelerator, due to the abundance of speed cameras on French autoroutes. Fortunately, speed cameras are well signposted, as are the speed limits, which are typically 110km or 130km on the autoroutes. Fines for speeding are high and, unlike a few years back, improved technology and communications means penalties will chase you across the Channel, so you will have to cough up eventually. Note that in-vehicle speed camera detectors are illegal in France, regardless of whether or not they are being used, and this includes satnavs. Penalties can include fines of up to €1,500, confiscation of the device and of the vehicle. If your satnav is capable of showing camera locations in France, you must disable camera alerts. If your satnav system is built into your car, the AA recommends contacting the vehicle manufacturer.

____________________________________________________________________

Don’t miss...

A French icon: the Citroën 2CV

10 insider tips for travelling by train in France

____________________________________________________________________

Since March 2017 all drivers in certain cities in France have to display an anti-pollution stickerSince March 2017 all drivers in certain cities in France have to display an anti-pollution sticker

How to avoid other fines

Wherever you drive you’ll be subject to certain laws, such as those covering speeding and drink-driving. However, France has some rules that could prove far more costly than a fuel tank of petrol.

Under French law all vehicles much carry high-visibility jackets, one for each passenger. These need to be kept in the passenger compartment. If your car breaks down, you and all passengers must wear a high-vis jacket as soon as you leave the vehicle or you could face a €135 fine. A warning triangle is another must if you don’t fancy paying a €135 fine, as is a spare light bulb kit and headlamp adjuster stickers (if your car does not have a switch to automatically realign your lamps) so oncoming vehicles approaching you from the left-hand side of the road won’t be blinded. Failure to have spare bulbs or lamp adjusters could cost you €80 and €90, respectively.

One quirk of French law is a requirement to carry a breathalyser, which you can pick up for around £5 at most service stations. Theoretically, motorists face a fine for not having one on board, although the government has indefinitely suspended this requirement. In any case, given the small outlay it may make sense to carry one, just in case the government changes its mind.

Since March 2017 all cars being driven in certain cities, currently Paris, Lyon and Grenoble, must display an emissions sticker. Drivers who fail to comply face on-the-spot fines of up to €135. The anti-pollution sticker can be obtained for €3.70 plus postage via the Crit’ Air website.

Get the right level of insurance and breakdown cover

All UK motor insurance policies provide a minimum of third-party cover for driving in France, and other EU countries. Some insurers will offer a higher level of protection for driving abroad, but even if you have a ‘premium’, ‘gold’ or ‘platinum’ policy, ensure you read the T&Cs before travelling to establish what you’re covered for. If you only have third-party cover and would like a greater level of protection contact your insurer to arrange an upgrade.

All French autoroutes are privately operated, so you can’t call on the likes of AA, Green Flag or RAC to come to the rescue should your car break down. Instead, you’ll need to use the orange emergency telephones, which are planted every 2km along the roads. A regulated company or the police will escort you to either to a garage or a convenient drop-off point where you can meet your breakdown assistance company. This may seem convoluted, but it’s the rules. For a relatively low outlay from around £10, breakdown cover may save you a small fortune if the worst happens – unless you understand French well enough to explain the inner workings of the internal combustion engine.

Useful websites to...

Compare fuel prices

Sign up for automatic toll payment

Buy your Crit’ Air anti-pollution sticker

Plan your journey

Avoid roadworks

Other articles you might like:

Road trip: explore Charente

Crusing on a canal barge: the best way to see Champagne

31 words and phrases you’ll need to hire a car in France

12 tips for driving in France

14 things you should know about French driving etiquette

Article by France Magazine France Magazine

More from Living in France

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The quality of family life in France is one of the reasons why expats rate the country so highly when asked how they feel about their lives overseas, according to a new study

Read more
Expats in France
Monday, October 8, 2018

When Jacalyn Burke left the UK for New York, little did she know that she would meet her long-term partner Kate Fitzgerald and that they would buy their first home together in France. Jacalyn tells us how they made it happen and why they love life in Charente-Maritime

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

With a little thought and some careful planning, you can stretch your budget and make sure you don’t waste a single penny. Here are 9 ways to save money in your French home and have more to spend on enjoying life in France

Read more
Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Relocating to France? Make sure you prepare these 6 things before the big move to your French property

Read more
Expats in France
Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Thinking of setting up a campsite in France? Here’s what you’ll need to consider when it comes to planning permission.

Read more
Friday, April 6, 2018

Understand the home-sharing website Airbnb, including the latest French rules, and follow our top tips for using it to rent out your property in France

Read more
Running a business
Tuesday, June 26, 2018

With its unbeatable wine and cheese and laissez-faire attitude, there’s nowhere better to retire than France. But which cities are best for growing old in? Here’s the top 10

Read more
Pays de la Loire
Thursday, January 25, 2018

If you are buying in or moving to France you will need a French bank account but before you open one make sure you read these 11 things you need to know to avoid making a costly mistake

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

France might be experiencing a shortage of general practitioners but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find a GP willing to take on new patients. Here’s what you need to know about finding and registering with a doctor when you move to France

Read more
Expats in France
Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The French pharmacy is so much more tham a place to pick up your prescriptions. Here are 11 things you might not know about pharmacies in France.

Read more
Healthcare in France
Subscribe today

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

France Forum

Questions about France? Visit our free France forum to get help and advice from thousands of other Francophiles and expats. Topics include: property, tax, law, travelling, pets, education, healthcare and much more.

Join the forum

Most Read

Join us on social media

France magazine
Living France magazine
French Property News magazine

Enter our competitions

Win books, DVDs, travel and even holidays in France in our great competitions! Take a look at our latest competitions…

Enter now