France’s new plan to help motorists with rising fuel costs

Fear of rising fuel prices has taken hold in France, after the government cut the subsidy. In response, the French prime minister has already begun laying out plans for what future help it will offer motorists.

France's new plan to help motorists with rising fuel costs
Fuel nose units at a petrol station in Quimper, Brittany, western France (Photo by FRED TANNEAU / AFP)

Fuel prices are cause for concern in France again, after the government’s fuel subsidy – which ran from September until mid-November – decreased recently.

The subsidy previously awarded motorists a €0.30 per litre rebate at the pump, and it was decreased on November 16th to a subsidy of €0.10 per litre of fuel, which will remain in place until December 31st.

With concern rising over high fuel costs, the French government has already begun discussing a possible replacement for the subsidy.

In an interview with French news organisation Les Echos, the French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, referenced plans for a  “working fuel allowance” that would become available at the start of the new year for French people who rely on their cars for long commutes to work.

According to Borne, the successor to the blanket fuel subsidy will be income-based. The prime minister told Les Echos that the “working fuel allowance” would “benefit households in the lowest five income brackets”, i.e. half of all households in France.

As of November 18th, the government’s plan was for these households to receive a first payment in January.

“We are still working on the scale [of the payment], with the intention of significantly helping those who make a long journey to work,” Borne told Les Echos.

The French government discussed a similar proposal over the summer, prior to the extension of the fuel subsidy. At the time, President Emmanuel Macron’s coalition had envisioned a targeted aid €100 to €200 for drivers who relied on their vehicles to get to work, depending on income level. 

As of 2017, three-quarters of the 24.6 million working people in France surveyed by INSEE used a car to get to work. 

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MAP: The 20 cheapest French towns and cities to live in

The cost of living is a hot topic in France and across Europe right now - so where are the cheapest places to live?

MAP: The 20 cheapest French towns and cities to live in

At a time when purchasing power has never been so central to French people’s concerns, French daily Le Parisien has compiled a list of towns and cities where your money will go the furthest.

In order to produce this ranking, Le Parisien compiled the average salary in each location and then looked at the price of the average supermarket shop, the cost of transport (fuel as well as public transport), property prices (to buy or rent), property tax rates and the cost of a cinema ticket. 

READ ALSO Food, fuel and transport: Which prices will rise in France in 2023?

And it turns out smaller is better.

Of the 96 towns and cities tested, Niort, in the département of Deux-Sèvres in south west France (population around 60,000) came top,

Laval, in Mayenne (population around 50,000) was third; Saint-Brieuc, in the Brittany département of Côtes-d’Armor (population around 45,000), was 8th, and Rodez, down in the southern département of Aveyron (pop: c 25,000) was 10th.

The 20 most wallet-friendly towns in France are:

  1. Niort
  2. Châteauroux
  3. Laval
  4. Nevers
  5. Belfort
  6. Chaumont
  7. Épinal
  8. Saint-Brieuc
  9. Saint-Étienne
  10. Rodez
  11. Châlons-en-Champagne
  12. Quimper
  13. Arras
  14. Foix
  15. Poitiers
  16. Le Mans
  17. Colmar
  18. Montauban
  19. Bourg-en-Bresse
  20. Nantes

READ ALSO The 20 small towns most popular with house-hunters in France

Niort gains, the study found, in part because it has offered free local public transport since 2017 - a policy that other towns that rank well also implement, including second-placed Châteauroux (Indre), Bourg-en-Bresse (Ain, 24th) and Gap (Hautes-Alpes, 63rd).

For various reasons, including infrastructure, offering free public transport that meets higher levels of demand in larger cities is unviable, the report said. 

In fact, France’s larger cities are noticeably low in Le Parisien’s rankings. Lyon stumbled on to the list in 58th, Paris in 77th, Marseille 84th, and Montpellier 90th. Nantes, coming in 20th, is the only ‘large city’ representative in the top 20.

READ ALSO Wild boar, fast internet and kindly neighbours – why small-town France has the best of all worlds

The report stated that, despite salaries being little higher than average in larger conurbations, people also pay more for shopping, public transport, movie tickets, and housing.

The survey found that, on the whole, your euro goes further in the west of the country - where supermarkets are cheaper, and towns aren’t too congested, while the cost of a tank of fuel is lower, as are - researchers discovered - the more abstract costs, such as insurance, for the same level of service as elsewhere.

READ ALSO OPINION: An inflation ‘tsunami’ is about to hit France

Eastern France, the study found, benefited from relatively cheap property prices - offering more bang for a house-buying buck than the expensive ‘coastal bounce’-affected south or the Ile-de-France region, which orbits the cost-of-living singularity that is Paris.