European car insurance
UK car insurance policies come with at least the minimum level of cover required for driving in the European Union. Some insurers automatically drop the cover provided to third party, while others maintain the UK level of protection. 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?
Driving your car 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.
That makes insurance essential and the good news is that, if you’re insured on a policy issued in the UK, you’ll automatically be insured to drive elsewhere in the EU (and in certain other European countries too, such as Norway and Switzerland).
The not-so-good news is that, if you’ve got comprehensive or third party first & theft cover in the UK, your policy might only provide third party cover when you’re driving overseas.
Different insurers approach the subject in different ways. Some automatically drop the cover provided to third party level, meaning you’d only be insured for damages and injuries caused to others (including your passengers), not to you or your car.
Others automatically maintain the level of you’ve got in the UK when you drive on the Continent. And some will only do so if you specifically request it in advance and pay an additional premium.
Levels of European car insurance
- If you’re going to be driving in Europe, check your car insurance before you go. Specifically:
- Confirm what level of UK cover you already have in the UK (comprehensive, third party fire & theft, third party)
- Check what level of cover your policy routinely provides on the Continent (same as UK, or just third party)
- Decide what level of cover you want. Remember, third party provides just the bare legal minimum level of protection, so you might reasonably decide to upgrade from this, if this the sort of protection provided by your policy in Europe
- If you decide to upgrade, contact your insurance company, either through its website or over the phone, and ask for advice
- Once you are happy with the level of cover, ask your insurer whether you need to take a Green Card with you (this is internationally accepted evidence that insurance is in place). In most countries, these cards are no longer required, but you should take your insurance documents with you, including an emergency claims line number so you can swiftly get in touch with your provider
- Give serious thought to buying European breakdown cover (see below). If you already have breakdown cover in the UK, check whether it extends to Europe and, if not, how to extend it.
What to look out for
Shopping around for your European car insurance cover will ensure you get the best deal
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, 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.