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European car insurance

Driving in Europe after Brexit

published: 23 December 2021
Read time: 5 minutes

Getting car insurance for driving in Europe is simple, and you will no longer need a green card – even after Brexit. Read on to find out if you’re covered for driving across the Channel.

Can I drive in Europe after Brexit?

Yes – as long as you have a minimum of third party car insurance, you can drive in Europe after Brexit – all UK insurers are legally required to include at least 30 days of European cover per year. If you’re planning a longer trip, you might need to take out extra insurance.

However, when you’re taking your car abroad, the rules work slightly differently. For instance, your insurance might not give you the same level of cover you’re used to in the UK, so it’s often a good idea to arrange extra protection.  You’ll also need to make sure you have all the right documents with you, and mark your car with a UK sticker.

Luckily, some new agreements have made driving in Europe after Brexit much simpler than it used to be – read on to find out more. 

European road in the hills

What is a Green Card?

A green card is an international insurance certificate – it lets local authorities know that you have the legal minimum of cover. 48 countries have signed up to the green card system, including all EU countries, plus several others like Russia, Morocco, and Israel.

You won’t get a green card automatically – you’ll have to apply for one with your insurer. It can take around six weeks before your green card arrives, so make sure you leave plenty of time before your trip.

Do I need a Green Card?

If you’re driving anywhere in the EU, you won’t need a green card – your UK insurance will cover you, just like it did before Brexit. You used to need a green card to drive in Europe after the 1st of January 2021, but it’s no longer required – in August that year the UK made a deal with Europe to allow travel without a green card.

You can also now drive without a green card in the following non-EU countries:

  • Andorra 

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina

  • Iceland

  • Liechtenstein

  • Monaco 

  • Norway

  • San Marino

  • Serbia (but not Kosovo)

  • Switzerland 

  • Vatican City

However, there are still a few countries in Europe where you’ll need a green card or a local insurance policy before you can drive. These are:

  • Albania

  • Belarus 

  • Moldova

  • North Macedonia

  • Russia

  • Turkey 

  • Ukraine

The only place in Europe that isn’t part of the green card system is Kosovo. If you’re driving into Kosovo, you’ll have the opportunity to buy local insurance at the border – it shouldn’t cost more than 15 euros or so. 

How do I apply for a Green Card?

To get a green card for driving outside the EU, simply get in touch with your insurer. They’ll be able to get you one – but the process could take up to six weeks, so make sure you leave plenty of time before your trip. The green card itself is always free, but some insurers might charge a fee for handling the paperwork.

Will I need a Green Card for driving in Ireland?

No, you won’t need to carry a green card for driving anywhere in the EU, including Ireland.

What else do I need for driving in Europe?

There are a few documents you’ll need to have with you whenever you’re driving in Europe after Brexit. These are:

  • Your driving licence

  • An international driving permit, or IDP (in some cases) 

  • Your vehicle logbook, or V5C

  • Your car insurance certificate

  • Your travel insurance documents

If your driving licence is a card with a photo of you, you won’t need an international driving permit in any EU country. But if you have a paper licence, or your licence was issued in Guernsey, Jersey, the Isle of Man, or Gibraltar, you’ll need an IDP.

Your car will also need to be marked to show that it’s from the UK. From the 28th of September, 2021, all UK cars must have a UK mark – a GB identifier is no longer allowed. 

If your car’s numberplate already includes a UK identifier with the British flag, you don’t need a sticker. But you’ll need to display a UK sticker if:

  • It says GB rather than UK 

  • It shows an English, Scottish, Welsh, or European flag

  • There’s no country indicator – just numbers and letters

There’s one exception: if you’re driving in Cyprus, Malta, or Spain, you’ll need a UK sticker, no matter what’s on your numberplate.

One more thing – since they drive on the other side of the road in Europe, you’ll need to prevent your headlights blinding other drivers. You can buy headlamp converters online or at your local garage that should do the trick. Also, make sure you keep up with local laws – in France, for instance, all drivers have to keep a high-vis vest in the car. 

What type of car insurance will I need for driving in Europe?

All drivers in the EU must have a minimum of third party car insurance. Luckily, if you have a UK car insurance policy, that means you’re already covered – by law, all UK insurers have to include at least 30 days of third party cover in the EU per year. 

But will that be enough? After all, if you get in an accident, third party insurance will only cover the other driver. If you’re driving your car in Europe and you seriously damage your own vehicle, you could be left without cover. That could lead to serious expenses – plus, it’ll be much harder to enjoy the rest of your holiday.

Even if you have fully comprehensive cover in the UK, you should never assume you’ll get the same level of protection when you’re taking your car abroad – in most cases, you won’t. It’s a good idea to check your policy carefully to see what’s included and what isn’t when you take your car abroad. Some things to look out for include: 

  • Your level of cover: check to see whether the level of cover you have for driving in the UK matches the level of cover provided for the country you are planning to visit 

  • The countries covered: make sure the policy covers the country you are driving in. Some countries that are in Europe but outside the EU – such as Switzerland – may not be covered by your policy 

  • The policy length: most policies will limit the length of time you’ll be covered while driving abroad, which is usually between 30 and 90 days. You might need to pay an additional premium if you are away longer

  • Breakdown cover: if you have breakdown cover in the UK, can this be extended to Europe? Having breakdown cover means you won’t end up being stranded on the roadside abroad, where you might not speak the language. You might want to buy additional European breakdown cover 

Do I need extra cover if I’m driving in Europe? 

If you decide you need extra cover for driving in Europe, the easiest way is to let your insurer know you’re taking the car abroad. Most insurers will offer to boost your insurance while you’re in Europe for a small extra fee. 

However, if you don’t like the offer your insurer makes, there are other options too. For instance, you could consider getting short term car insurance to cover your holiday. That way, you can choose a deal from dozens of insurers, and find one that includes all the protection you need.

How much does car insurance cost for driving in Europe

If you already have car insurance in the UK, there’s no extra cost for driving in Europe – at least 30 days of European third party cover will already be included in your deal, and you won’t have to pay a penny. 

If you want to increase your level of cover while you’re abroad, though, there will be some extra expenses. Driving abroad comes with extra risks – odds are you’ll be driving on unfamiliar roads in a country with a foreign language, and what’s more, you’ll be driving on the other side of the road. These increase the likelihood of an accident, which insurers factor in – but the extra cost shouldn’t be too much. After all, you’ll only need the extra cover while you’re out of the country, rather than for a full year. 

How can I get cheaper cover for driving in Europe?

If you want to keep the cost of car insurance low while you’re driving in Europe, there are a few ways to get less expensive cover.

For instance, you should think carefully about what extras and add-ons you’ll need for your trip. You might not need all the same features as you would in the UK – for instance, a courtesy car might not be as important if you’re on holiday. Losing a few add-ons should help save on expenses.

Your insurer is also more likely to charge you less if they know you’re a reliable driver. If you’ve gone years without making a claim on your insurance, you’ll build up a solid no claims discount – and your insurer might take that into account when you tell them you’d like to drive your car on the Continent. 

And if you think your insurer’s European cover is too expensive, you can always look elsewhere. A short term car insurance policy might be able to help you out instead – and when you compare prices online, you can be sure you’re always getting the best possible deal. 

Compare car insurance quotes

Wherever your travels take you, the best way to get a great deal on car insurance is by comparing prices online. With MoneySuperMarket, it couldn’t be easier to find a great policy – simply give us a little information about yourself and your car, and we’ll instantly put together a list of quotes that fit your requirements.

You’ll be able to sort through deals by their overall monthly and annual cost, the coverage you’ll get with the policy, and the excess you’ll need to pay to make a claim. Once you’ve found a quote that ticks all the boxes, just click through to the provider’s website to finalise your purchase.

As with all types of insurance be wary of taking out the cheapest available quote as it might not offer the level of cover you really need. We recommend you aim for a balance between price and policy, so you can get the right deal for you and avoid over- or under-insuring yourself. 

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