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Have you got the right car insurance?

If you are off on your travels to Europe and plan to take your car, making sure you have the right insurance in place should at the top of your 'to do' list.

Motoring in a country where you don't know the landscape, language or people could result in real problems if you were to run into unexpected difficulties - as well as triggering significant financial expense.

However, a conventional UK car insurance policy is unlikely to cover you for travel on the Continent, so you'll need to take out a specialist European car insurance policy.

But before purchasing European car insurance cover, it's important to do your homework. No two policies are the same and there are different types and levels of insurance available, so it's important to work out exactly what you need before making your choice.

Levels of European car insurance

European car insurance policies range in what they offer. Some offer a minimal level of cover while others are comprehensive. It's important to make sure you're not tempted to choose the cheapest as this could prove to be a false economy that might leave you vulnerable in the event of a claim.

The minimum level of insurance needed to drive on the Continent is a motor insurance certificate or 'green card.' But this is very basic and, in some countries, it would provide even less protection than third party car insurance cover does in the UK.

However, there are more extensive policies available that will provide the same protection as fully comprehensive car insurance in the UK. This sort of cover would not only afford you protection against a greater range of eventualities but would also give you peace of mind.

What to look out for

Most policies will impose a limit on the length of time you'll be covered while driving abroad, which is usually 90 days. Always make sure you read the small print and double check, though, as this can vary across insurers. If you are planning on travelling for an extended period, ask whether you can have extended European car insurance.

If, on the other hand, you are only likely to be driving on the Continent for a relatively short period, you may be able to get a temporary or short term European car insurance policy. This will typically cover you for between one and 28 days, so if you are taking just a single short trip in the year then this could be a better option.

Something else to check is that the countries you are visiting are covered under the terms of the policy. It sounds simple - Europe means Europe, doesn't it - but some policies will only cover countries that are in the EU, for example.

Also think about any extras you might need, such as European breakdown cover. This could be an absolute lifeline if you were to breakdown and is not likely to be automatically included in your policy. Adding it as an extra will clearly up the cost of your premium, but if the alternative is standing on the roadside stranded in an unfamiliar country, it would certainly be money well spent.

Get the best deal on European car insurance cover

Shopping around for your European car insurance cover will ensure you get the best deal. The added potential expense for insurers of having to source spare parts abroad, for example, means these policies don't come cheap.

†82% of shoppers obtained a quote in 5 minutes or less. Source eDigitalResearch December 2012.