When it comes to motoring overseas, the rules on motor insurance vary considerably, depending on the country you are driving in. For example, did you know that car insurance is not compulsory in New Zealand? Or that young motorists are not allowed to drive at night in Australia, New Zealand and the United States? And did you know that, if you want to drive in China, you’ll need a Chinese driving licence?
Brush up on the laws
Given that the driving rules for motoring overseas can be very different from those that apply in the UK, it’s vital to do your research before you set off. Fail to get clued up on the rules and regulations and you could find yourself faced with a hefty fine – or risk having your licence confiscated. The most popular destinations for British motorists tend to be in Europe, and the key thing to remember is that continental driving rules will apply as soon as your wheels hit European soil.
How do the laws differ overseas?
In France, Germany and Italy, you will get fined on the spot for speeding, while in France, your licence will be confiscated there and then if you drive 40km/h over the speed limit. In Spain, it is illegal to use a mobile phone while behind the wheel – even if you’re pulled over at the side of the road – while in Germany, it’s important not to run out of fuel on the autobahn, as you could face a fine if you do. You also need to be aware that several EU member states operate a zero tolerance policy to drink driving. These include the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia.
It’s worth noting that the rules aren’t much more lenient in some of the more popular countries for UK drivers, as both France and Germany only permit 0.5mg of alcohol in the blood – equivalent to just one small beer, and lower than the UK limit of 0.8mg. Since 1 July 2012, drivers in France are now required to carry a portable breathalyser in their car. But this is not the only piece of equipment that you might need to have with you when motoring overseas, as in many countries it is mandatory to carry a reflective jacket, a hazard triangle, headlamp converters, a first aid kit – and to display a GB sticker. With so many different rules to remember, it’s worth getting clued-up on your particular destination well in advance, so as to avoid getting caught out.
Check with your insurer
It’s also vital that you check with your insurer before driving abroad, as the level of cover you’ll get outside of the UK will not necessarily be the same as the cover you get when motoring at home. All UK insurers are required by law to provide minimum third party cover for policyholders who are driving in Europe. If, however, you want more comprehensive cover while you’re away, you may need to speak to your insurer to get the cover upgraded. In many cases, unless told otherwise, insurance firms will automatically downgrade your cover to third-party only as soon as your wheels hit the road on foreign soil. This could leave you with a hefty bill if you have a crash – so you need to scour the small print before setting off If you do want to upgrade your cover, you may be able to do for free, although certain insurers will levy a premium for this. Speak to your insurer to find out.
Find out how long you are covered for
As well as checking the level of cover with your insurer, you also need to check how long you are covered for when driving abroad, as you could find you are only covered for a limited number of days. This could mean you are at risk of driving uninsured – so make sure you find out about this before getting behind the wheel. In addition, you need to check if there any other exclusions which apply. It’s definitely worth checking the terms and conditions of your policy. And remember to check that you’re covered – and that you know the rules of the road – for each country you are driving through to reach your final destination.
Find out about breakdown cover
Finally, before motoring overseas, it’s also worth asking your insurer about breakdown cover. Some automatically offer UK and European breakdown cover, but not all do – although you may be able to extend your policy on payment of an additional premium. Alternatively, you could buy a separate policy from a provider offering standalone breakdown cover that includes your destination. Once again, it’s vital to read the small print, as policy features can vary considerably from one insurer to the next.