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European Car Insurance

Make sure you're covered for driving in Europe

Driving around Europe is very popular among British holidaymakers, but if you’re planning to drive abroad it’s important to check you have the correct car insurance documents

By Jo Thornhill

Published: 07 January 2021

European road in the hills

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Can you drive in Europe after Brexit?

The short answer is yes – provided you have asked your insurer for a green card to prove your UK car insurance is valid and up to date.

The UK has left the EU but in most cases you can drive in Europe without needing an international drivers’ licence. You need a green card and you must display a GB sticker on your vehicle.

According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), any domestic UK car insurance policy which provides the legal minimum coverage for travel in countries in the European Economic Area (EEA) is still valid for driving in Europe - provided holidaymakers are travelling with a green card.

 

What is a car insurance green card?

A green card is a certificate of insurance issued by a UK insurance provider that guarantees a motorist has the necessary third-party insurance to travel in Europe.

Your insurer won’t issue you with a green card automatically - you’ll have to apply for one. Allow at least six weeks to apply before you travel. If you travel without, you could face a fine or prosecution, and perhaps have your vehicle impounded.

For drivers based in Northern Ireland, a green card will be necessary if you cross the border into Eire.

How do I get a car insurance green card?

You’ll need to get in touch with your insurer – it’s best to do this sooner rather than later if you have a planned trip coming up. The green card is free, but be aware there might be an administration cost to issue the document – this will vary from provider to provider.

Car insurance in Europe

According to gov.uk, every UK car insurance policy comes with at least the minimum level of third-party cover that’s required for driving in the EU.

But keep in mind that even if you have a fully comprehensive policy  in the UK, some insurers will automatically drop the cover provided for Europe to third-party only – which means if you have an accident, your insurance will cover the damage to the other cars, but not your own.

Other insurers will keep the UK level of protection in place, so if you have a fully comprehensive policy in the UK, it will follow you across Europe.

Which countries are covered by European car insurance?

Most countries in Europe are covered by a standard car insurance policy – but some aren’t, such as Switzerland, Vatican City, Turkey and Russia. Always check your policy to make sure the European country you’re planning to travel to is covered.

Do you need to increase your car insurance to drive in Europe?

You may want to increase the level of insurance cover  you have for peace of mind, particularly if you only have third-party insurance. Driving in an unfamiliar country can be nerve-wracking enough thanks to different infrastructures, rules, and driving on the other side of the road – without worrying about how much cover you have.

Having an accident when driving in another country can be particularly stressful, as you might not be familiar with the local language, or how the authorities handle car accidents. For example, you might be expected to pay an instant fine, which you’d need to pay with cash.

Increasing your insurance cover can therefore make driving abroad far less stressful, and you can be reassured that if anything happens, you’ll be fully covered and won’t have to fork out for unexpected expenses, such as emergency repairs to your car.

If you do decide to increase your level of cover, simply contact your insurer, let it know where you’re headed and what level you want to be insured for.

European cover

If you’re planning to drive your car abroad, it’s a good idea to check:

  • 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
  • How to boost your cover: check the options you have to boost your cover or extend the length of time if necessary. You might want to increase the level of cover if it’s basic third-party, which won’t cover damage to your own vehicle
  • Whether a short-term policy is enough: if you’re only driving in the EU for a short time, is there a temporary or short-term European car insurance policy available? This typically covers you for up to 28 days, and can be a good idea if you’re only planning to take a single trip in the year
  • 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

Compare car insurance quotes

When it comes to renewing your car insurance, comparing quotes is the best way to get a good price. You can compare cheap car insurance quotes using MoneySuperMarket’s comparison tool, and it’s always worth checking the policy results and policy documents to see how insurers handle driving in Europe, and the level of cover each policy would 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.

 

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