Car insurance for driving abroad

If you’re driving overseas, you'll need to make sure your car insurance includes European cover. Find out how to get your green card and consider breakdown cover for essential roadside help overseas.

Amanda Bathory-Griffiths
Amanda Bathory-Griffiths
Updated 24 June 2021  | 4 mins read

To drive in another country, you must have the minimum car insurance required there. In the EU, you must have at least third party only (TPO) cover.

TPO is the most basic car insurance - it’ll only cover the other car(s) involved, 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. 

Instead, you might want to consider a comprehensive policy to cover damage to your car, your belongings and yourself in the event of an ‘at fault’ claim while abroad.

 In some countries, you'll need to carry a green card in your vehicle to prove you have suitable insurance. You can get a green card from your insurer.

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
  • Contact your insurer well before you travel to ask for a green card if you need one

Insurance for driving abroad and 'foreign use'

We checked Defaqto and found that 85% of 363 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.

You don't need to carry a green card to drive in the EU, but you'll need it if you're going further afield, including places like Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, Israel and Morocco. Check whether you need one and ask your insurer for a green card before you travel and carry it in your car.

A green card is a document proving that you have the minimum level of insurance legally needed in the country you're driving in. Contact your insurer at least six weeks before you travel in case it needs to post it out to you.

The green card

You'll need to carry a green card while driving your own car in many countries. It’s free to get one, and shows that you have the minimum level of car insurance required by the country you’re driving in.

You don't need to carry a green card to drive in EU countries or Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Andorra, Switzerland, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

But you will need a green card to drive in Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Azerbaijan and Albania, as well as several countries in the Middle East and others bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

You can order one 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.

Driving in the EU

You don't need to carry a green card when driving in the EU as proof of insurance, but you'll need to bring a copy of your insurance certificate with you.

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.

Check your policy documents to see what level of cover your insurer provides when you're in Europe.

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 in advance
  • It might just want to know about long-term travel plans, rather than shorter trips

Are you driving in the EU after Brexit?

Here’s what you need to know

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 6% of the comprehensive car insurance policies had European breakdown cover as standard, but 55% 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 3 June 2021

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