Europe can be a difficult place to drive, with different infrastructures and rules, and of course driving on the other side of the road can be confusing. According to the EU Commission it’s almost twice as dangerous to drive in France as it is in the UK, for example. Their figures show that it's most dangerous to drive in Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria - so be careful.
The good news is that almost all UK car insurance policies come with at least the minimum level of cover required for driving in the European Union.
However, some insurers will automatically drop the cover provided to third party only, meaning that if you have an accident then your insurance will cover the damage to the other cars but not your own. Others will maintain the UK level of protection, so if you have a fully comprehensive policy in the UK, it will follow you across Europe.
When you compare cheap car insurance quotes, it’s always worth checking how each insurer handles driving in Europe to see what level of cover the policy will include. If you already have car insurance, you should check your policy before taking your car to Europe, and increase the protection provided if necessary.
Have you got the right car insurance?
Having an accident when driving in another country can be particularly stressful, as you might not be familiar with the local language, or how such events are handled by the authorities. For instance, you might be expected to pay an instant fine, for which you would need cash.
Furthermore, not having adequate and appropriate insurance would only make worse an already difficult situation. So before you set off on your trip, check what insurance cover you have to determine whether or not you need to add to it.
According to gov.uk, all UK car insurance provides the minimum third party cover to drive in other EU countries. The map above highlights countries in the EU and EEA that most insurers will provide cover for - but you should always check your policy.
What to check with your insurer
- Check the level of cover you have for driving in the UK, i.e. fully comprehensive, third party fire & theft, or third party only.
- Verify the level of cover provided for the country you are planning to visit, and whether this is the same as on home soil or downgraded to liability only.
- Make sure that the policy covers the country you are driving in. Some countries that are in Europe but outside the EU, such as Switzerland or Norway, may not be covered by your policy.
- Look at how many days you are allowed to be away, as most insurers impose a limit of, say, 30 days’ cover for driving abroad. You might need to pay an additional premium if you are away longer.
- Check the options you have to boost the cover or extend the time period, if necessary. For instance, you might want to increase the level of cover, particularly if it’s basic third party.
- If you’re only driving in the EU for a short period, is there a temporary or short-term European car insurance policy on offer? This typically covers you for up to 28 days, and can be worthwhile if you’re only taking a single trip in the year.
- If you have breakdown cover in the UK, can this be extended to Europe? Being stranded on the roadside abroad, where you don’t speak the local lingo, could ruin a holiday. You might want to buy additional European breakdown cover.
Do I need a green card?
A green card is a certificate that acts as proof of insurance in Europe. In most countries this isn’t required any more due to the establishment of the European Union and European Economic Area (EEA), but you will need to take your insurance documents nonetheless.
You should check with your insurer whether you need a green card and if you do, make sure you get one before you trip. It could help when making a claim abroad, so take it with you and keep it safe with other documents while on your travels.
When to increase your cover
You may simply want to increase your cover for peace of mind, particularly if you only have third party insurance. Driving in an unfamiliar country can be nerve-wracking enough, without worrying about the level of your insurance cover.
Plus, if you find yourself running into difficulties, not having the correct cover could cause extra stress, financial difficulties, or even risk ruining your holiday if you were to be stranded.
Also consider the value of your car, and how expensive it is to repair, because if you suffer an accident that’s not your fault and you have the wrong insurance, you’ll be unable to make a claim for any repairs required and you could be left substantially out of pocket.
What to look out for
- Suitability of policy: If 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.
- Policy length: Most policies will impose a limit on the length of time you’ll be covered while driving abroad, which is usually 90 days.
- Extended cover small print: Always make sure you read the small print and double check, 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.
- Countries cover is provided for: It sounds simple – Europe means Europe, doesn’t it – but some policies will only cover countries that are in the EU, for example.
What to do if you have an accident abroad?
If you should be unfortunate enough to have an accident abroad, the law of the country in which it took place will be applied. This also means that claiming compensation will probably have a different process than in the UK.
But what should you do if you are in an accident?
Firstly and most importantly, don’t leave the scene of the collision – it will be very difficult to claim if you do not get details from the other driver, and you may need to call the emergency services or the police if necessary.
Plus, you will need to fill in an accident report, which details the exact circumstances of the accident and who was involved. Your insurer will usually give you an accident statement form when you claim.
It’s good to know that insurers’ associations have developed a common form, called the ‘European Accident Statement’ which should help you quickly collect all the relevant information making it easier to make an insurance claim.
And if you don't have an accident statement or an insurance form with you, make sure you write down:
- The date and place of the accident
- Any details of injuries, damage to cars and if possible witness and their details.
- The other driver's contact and insurance details, including the registration number and make of the car involved.
- Information about the other driver's vehicle (registration number, country of registration, make and type – and the same information for any trailer)
- Contact details of the police authorities to whom the accident was reported
- Circumstances of the accident
- If you and the other driver agree on the circumstances of the accident, you should sign a statement. It will make it easier to settle the insurance claim.
Remember – do not admit liability and only sign the accident report if you fully understand it.
If you don't agree, your insurer will settle the dispute with the other driver's insurer. The insurer will base the settlement on the police report, assessment of the damage or other information.
To support your claim you should collect:
- Witness statements and/or
- A police report
You must report the accident to your insurance company, even if you don't want to make a claim.
Find out more about making a claim on your car insurance.