Car insurance for driving abroad

If you’re driving overseas, get car insurance quotes with European, Green Card and breakdown cover, for essential roadside help wherever you are.

Amanda Bathory-Griffiths

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To drive in another country, you must have the minimum car insurance required there.

TPO is the most basic car insurance, so before you get in a car overseas, make sure you’re comfortable with what the policy covers.

It’ll only cover the other car, its driver, passengers and property when you’re in an accident.

You won’t be covered if your car gets stolen or catches fire, and you’ll have to pay for your own repairs and recovery.

Key points

  • Don't assume that your policy covers you in the EU. If it does, it might be basic cover
  • Check how many days you're covered for annually, and how many days are covered consecutively
  • If you’re travelling abroad, you’ll probably need to tell your insurer in advance

Insurance for driving abroad and 'foreign use'

We checked Defaqto and found that 91% of 345 comprehensive car insurance policies included ‘foreign use’ as standard.[1]

Your policy documents will contain your insurer’s definition of ‘foreign use’.

It could mean country members of the European Union. Or, any country which the Commission of the Economic Community approves as meeting the requirements of Article 8 of the EC Directive 2009/103/EC - a cross-border exchange of information on road-safety-related traffic offences.

Cover for ‘foreign use’ could be part of a TPO policy, a third party, fire and theft (TPFT) policy, or a comprehensive policy.

Check your policy documents to see if you have ‘foreign use’ cover, and if that includes protection to drive in just the EU, or non-EU countries too.

Non-EU will fall under Green Card cover, but it might not be a standard feature of your policy.

If the cover you have isn't sufficient, speak to your insurer and arrange appropriate cover before you travel.

Cover to drive in the EU

If you have comprehensive insurance in the UK, sometimes the level of cover applies when you’re driving in the EU. But more often, your level of cover reduces to third party only.

You, your car, passengers, and property will be protected if you’re involved in an accident, or if you’re a victim of theft and fire.

Any other cars, their drivers, passengers and belongings that are hurt or damaged in an accident will be covered too.

Driving in the EU after Brexit

The government has advised that if the UK leaves the EU with a deal, you’ll be able to drive in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland with your UK driving license, and VC5 log book.

If we’re dealing with a no-deal Brexit, you’ll also need a Green Card, a GB sticker and an international driving permit.

Driving outside of the EU

The Green Card (International Motor Insurance Card System) is used in 47 countries outside of the EU, “including all 28 in the EU, the additional countries which make up the European Economic Area (EEA), Andorra, Switzerland, Serbia, Russia and several countries in the Middle East and others bordering the Mediterranean Sea.”

You won’t need a Green Card for travel to Andorra, Serbia, Switzerland and the EEA.

It’s free, and gives you the minimum level of car insurance required by the country you’re driving in.

You can order a card from your insurer if you aren’t sent one at the start of your policy. If you’ve lost yours, and need to replace it, your insurer might charge an admin fee.

A Green Card could be:

  • A physical card
  • Wording translated into multiple languages and printed on the reverse of your certificate of insurance, proving that you have the minimum cover required

Take the card or certificate with you as proof of your insurance, as well as the contact details of your insurer, while you're away.

Some insurers describe Green Card cover as European cover, which you can buy as an add-on. Check the details carefully to make sure you’re covered for where you want to drive abroad.

Limits and special requirements

Your insurer will usually limit your cover abroad, for example:

  • You can only drive a maximum number of days overseas annually, and those days can’t always be taken consecutively
  • The insurer will expect to be notified of the duration of your trip, and all destinations you’re travelling to
  • If you extend your trip, you must tell your insurer and amend the policy ahead of time
  • They might just want to know about long-term travel plans, rather than shorter trips

Every insurer is different, so read your policy documents or ask what it needs to know before you set off.

Research driving rules for the country you’re visiting too.

Stick to speed limits, parking regulations, and alcohol limits of the country you’re driving in, to avoid invalidating your cover if you need to make a claim.

If you need any special kit like a triangle and fluorescent vest, or a portable breathalyser, pack them up before you set off.

European breakdown cover

European breakdown cover will fix your car at the side of the road, or give you a tow to the nearest garage in Europe, but it’s extremely unlikely to be in your UK policy as standard.

Just 7% of the comprehensive car insurance policies had European breakdown cover as standard, but 60% provided it as an optional extra.[1]

Insurance, breakdown and recovery for cars on a ferry

There will be some sort of cover for your car on the ferry, but it’ll vary.

Not all breakdown policies will cover the cost of the ferry transportation home if you breakdown in Europe.

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[1]Last checked 20 May 2019

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