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Car insurance for international drivers in the UK

Find out how car insurance works for international drivers in the UK

published: 02 August 2022
Read time: 5 minutes

You need car insurance to drive in the UK, wherever you come from. Find out more with our guide to car insurance for foreign drivers

Is car insurance for non-UK residents necessary?

Yes, if you’re planning to drive while in the UK, valid car insurance for non-UK residents is a legal requirement, even if you’re only visiting. If you plan to drive a friend or relative’s car while you’re in the UK, there are a several insurance companies who can provide you with temporary cover for your short stay. Alternatively, you could be added to your friend’s or relative’s policy as a named driver, although this could be more of a hassle than temporary car insurance. It’s worth comparing both options, as the risk factor can affect the premiums.

If you’re hiring a rental car, you won’t need to worry about car insurance; this will be included in the price. However, you might want to buy separate car hire excess cover, which is often cheaper than the excess insurance offered by hire car companies.

If you’re driving a company car, it’s your employer’s responsibility to make sure you have the right cover, this being business car insurance. However, fleet insurance policies often exclude non-UK licence holders, so you may need to get a UK driving licence to be covered this way.

Female traveller with suitcase opening car door

Is car insurance for non-UK residents possible?

Yes, car insurance for non-UK residents is an option. If you’re visiting the UK for up to a few months and want to drive someone else’s car while you’re here, short-term car insurance might be the best bet.

Policies of this kind last for between 30 and 90 days, but whether you can qualify often depends on where you usually live.

Can I get car insurance with an international driving licence?

Car insurance for non-UK residents with a foreign driving license is possible in the UK, although it is often more expensive given that insurers usually view international drivers as a higher risk.

The three main levels of cover available are: 

  • Comprehensive cover: The highest level of cover which also includes accidental damage to your car, as well as any injuries you incur

  • Third-party, fire and theft: This level of cover also includes costs related to fire damage or the theft of your car

  • Third-party only: This is the minimum level of insurance that you must have by law in the UK. It covers damage to other vehicles and property, but won’t cover damage to your car

Is foreign car insurance valid in the UK?

If you’re bringing your own car on a trip to the UK, your existing insurance policy will generally provide third-party cover while you’re here. However, it’s always a good idea to check this before driving in the UK. It’s also worth asking your insurer to give you a ‘green card’ that proves you have the necessary insurance in case you’re involved in an incident.

However, if you want to buy a car in the UK, you will need a UK car insurance policy.

Do I need an international driving permit to drive in the UK?

You don’t need an international driving permit to drive in the UK. As long as you have a valid driving licence from your country of origin and an accepted form of ID (such as a passport), this should be enough for non-UK residents to get behind the wheel in the UK for up to 12 months.

How long can I keep a foreign car in the UK?

If you become a UK citizen or decide to stay in the UK for longer than 6 months, you’ll need to register and tax your vehicle here to continue to use it on British roads. This is a legal requirement and you could be fined for not doing so. You’ll also have to do this if you plan to make several shorter visits to the country that total more than 6 months during a 12-month period.

If you’re visiting for less than 6 months, your car can remain taxed and registered in your home country.

How long can I drive with an international driving license in the UK?

You can use a foreign driving licence for up to 12 months in the UK, after which you’ll need to get a UK licence.

If you have a European licence or an exchangeable international licence, you should still be able to swap it for a UK licence once you’ve been a resident here for six months – even post-Brexit. Just fill in the form on the government website and pay the £43 fee.

If you have a non-exchangeable international licence, you’ll have to take a driving test to get your UK licence. You can apply for a provisional licence and take your test once you’ve been a resident in the UK for six months, which you may have to do to be covered when driving a company car.

How much is car insurance for non-UK residents?

Car insurance for non-UK residents is more expensive, even if you have been driving for many years and have never had an accident. According to MoneySuperMarket data, the average premium paid by international licence holders is £1,578 – or almost £952 more than the average premium paid by UK drivers.*

Driving licence type

Average annual premiums*

Full Europen (Non-EU)

£1,683

Full International Licence

£1,578

Full EU Licence

£1,112

Full UK Car Licence

£626

Based on fully comprehensive car insurance policies with one driver only. MoneySuperMarket data collected between July and December 2021, accurate as of February 2022.

The reason for this is that insurers believe international drivers are more likely to make a claim due to their lack of experience on UK roads, thus being more of a risk. You may also struggle to find a car insurance company that will take into account any no-claims discount you have built up in another country.

Can I use my existing no-claims bonus in the UK?

When taking out UK car insurance, you may be able to negotiate a discount based on a no-claims bonus built up overseas if you can present a certificate proving it from your previous insurer. The same is true if you’re a UK resident moving abroad.

However, not all insurers will accept a certificate from a non-UK insurance provider, so you’ll need to have a look at different providers to find one that does.

How can car insurance for non-UK residents be cheaper?

Get a UK licence

One of the easiest ways to cut the cost of insurance in the UK is to get a UK driving licence. Either swap it for your existing licence or take a driving test.

Shop around before you make a decision

If you have several years of no-claims bonus built up in your home country, it makes sense to try to find an insurer that will take this into account when pricing your policy.

Compare different levels of cover

Third-party cover is not always the cheapest option, especially if you have an accident. Check different levels of cover and compare the protection provided, as well as the price. 

Compare car insurance

It’s easy to compare car insurance with MoneySuperMarket. Just pop in a few details about yourself, the car you plan to drive, and your driving history, and we’ll show you a list of car insurance policies that suit your individual needs.

Then all you have to do is choose the one that offers the cover you need at the best price and click through to confirm your purchase. 

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