Written by Stephen Hurrell ▼

The alternative Paris Motor Show

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  • Left Right

Driving abroad comes with plenty of things to think about; there can be different driving laws, certain equipment you need to have in the car and, perhaps most importantly, insurance to think about.

In the UK car insurance is compulsory for any driver taking a vehicle out on the road. Without insurance, the car is being driven illegally and the driver is open to prosecution in the form of fines, points on a licence or even criminal charges and driving bans.

This is no different in Europe - but worryingly some Brits may not be aware their current insurance policy will not actually cover them when they travel to the Continent.

Luckily, this guide can walk you through the different things to think about when finding European car insurance.

UK insurance in Europe

All drivers in Europe must have a motor insurance certificate, in order to drive in Europe. This will be the certificate that proves you are insured.

This can be used to prove that you have insurance in the event of an accident and some countries could even ask to see it at the border.

However, the motor insurance certificate could, according to leading insurance expert MoneySupermarket.com, actually offer less cover than basic third person insurance in the UK.

This means drivers may not be protected for fire, theft or for damage to their own car in the event of an accident and this could result in a costly trip.

As in the UK, it is possible to get extra insurance cover in Europe including third party, fire and theft cover and even fully comprehensive.

Fully comprehensive cover is the most expensive cover and includes theft, fire and damage to your car in the event of an accident. It is also the most expensive type of cover available for travelling abroad.

In some countries, for example those outside of the European Union, it may be that you will have to have a green card to drive there.

This used to be the standard documentation for driving abroad before several EU countries dropped in as part of the free market.

How long is European car insurance cover?

When taking out a European car insurance policy the length of time the car is covered for abroad will depend on the individual package taken out.

However, most policies will have a maximum length of time up to around 90 days - but it is always worth checking this if you are planning on driving abroad for an extended period.

Alternatively drivers have the option of temporary or short-term European insurance cover. This will cover a driver for a period of between one and 28 days and is perfect for a single trip or driving holiday.

What to check

Before travelling abroad it is essential to check the small print of the European car insurance cover in order to confirm you are covered in all European countries you plan to visit.

This is because some countries outside of the European Union may not be covered by standard European insurance cover and as a result extra cover or documents may be needed. This can be done by speaking to your insurer.

European breakdown cover

European breakdown cover is also available to ensure drivers are not stranded at the roadside in a foreign country.

If you have taken out a European car insurance policy you will need to check if it includes European breakdown cover.

According to MoneySupermarket.com: " Adding it as an extra will clearly up the cost of your premium, but if the alternative is standing on the roadside stranded in an unfamiliar country, it would certainly be money well spent."

Other documents

As always when driving abroad you will also need a driving licence, vehicle registration document and contact details for your insurer.

A spare set of keys is also advised, while knowledge of drink-driving laws and equipment is essential. For example to drive in France all cars must have a breathalyser, high-vis jacket and warning triangle at all times with penalties for those who do not have them.

Moving abroad

If you are moving abroad permanently you will need to take out an entirely new insurance policy in the country that you were moving to.

And remember, if you are moving abroad and not taking a car you will have to declare your car SORN if you are planning on storing it somewhere in the UK.