European car insurance

Amanda Bathory-Griffiths
Amanda Bathory-Griffiths
Updated 16 February 2022  | 4 mins read

Does standard car insurance cover me in Europe?

Yes, all UK car insurance providers will cover driving in Europe as standard. But the level of cover can vary between insurers, so check the terms and conditions in your policy.

You might not get the same level of cover that you do when you’re driving in the UK.

For example, most insurers will provide third party only (TPO) cover in Europe as standard (and this must be for a minimum of 30 days per year).

If this is the case with your policy, you may want to look into paying extra to get fully comprehensive car insurance.

Key points

  • Standard car insurance covers driving in Europe but usually provides third party only cover
  • For fully comprehensive cover you can buy a policy add-on or take out short-term European car insurance
  • Be prepared - do your research and make sure you’ve got all the required documents and equipment
  • Having European breakdown cover in place can save you a lot of hassle and money

How can I get European car insurance?

Speak to your current car insurance provider to let them know you’re planning a trip to Europe and find out if they’ll extend your cover.

Many insurers will offer fully comprehensive European car insurance that you can buy as a policy add-on, giving you the same level of cover while you’re away.

Alternatively, there are providers that offer temporary or short-term car insurance. These policies can last from one day up to a few weeks and can sometimes be a cheaper option.

Which countries are covered by European car insurance?

All UK insurers will provide TPO cover as a minimum for you to drive in:

  • All countries in the European Union (EU), including Ireland
  • Andorra
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Iceland
  • Liechtenstein
  • Norway
  • Serbia
  • Switzerland

What’s a car insurance green card?

A green card is a document provided by insurers that proves you’ve got the minimum insurance required by the country you’re driving in.

You’ll need a green card if you plan to drive through certain countries, including:

  • Albania
  • Azerbaijan
  • Belarus
  • Moldova
  • Russia
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine

As well as countries outside of Europe, such as Iran, Israel and Morocco.

The good news is that you don’t need one to drive in the EU - including when you’re in Ireland - or in European Economic Area (EEA) states, such as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

However, even though you’re unlikely to need a green card in Europe, you’ll still need proof that you’ve got valid car insurance.

Before you drive to Europe or other destinations it’s always best to ask your insurer what you’ll need and visit for the most up-to-date regulations and travel advice.

Can I get temporary European car insurance?

Yes, this can be a good option if you don’t have comprehensive European driving insurance on your policy.

You can take out short-term policies that can last for as little as one day up to a few weeks.

You can either speak to your insurer about extending your policy or compare prices online for short-term European car insurance to help you find the best deal.

What documents do I need to drive abroad?

When you’re driving abroad, you’ll need to make sure you bring a copy of your full driving licence with you.

You’ll also need to have:

  • Your vehicle’s log book (V5C)
  • If you’re taking a car that you’ve hired or leased, you’ll need a VE103 certificate
  • Proof of your car insurance
  • Your passport
  • Travel insurance documents
  • Green card (where necessary)

Depending on the country you may also need an International Driving Permit (IDP) and a UK car sticker.

What should I do if I’m in an accident while driving in Europe?

Unfortunately, accidents do happen and may be more likely when you’re driving on the other side of the road or having to negotiate roundabouts in an anti-clockwise direction.

If you have a road accident when you’re in Europe, if possible:

  • Move your car to a safe place and put on your reflective jackets
  • Make sure you and your passengers sit on the verge, well away from the car
  • Put up your warning triangle 30m away from your car to alert oncoming traffic
  • Make sure the police are called and that you get a copy of the police report
  • Ask the police for an interpreter if you don’t understand what’s being said
  • Take details from the other drivers and witnesses, and note down registration numbers
  • Take photos of the scene and the vehicles involved (preferably before they’re moved)
  • Don’t admit liability or apologise
  • Contact your insurer as soon as you can

If you’re driving in Europe your insurer may have given you a European Accident Statement (EAS) form or you may receive one at the scene of the accident.

This helps to get an agreement on the facts and can help with insurance claims - but only sign this when you’re sure you understand and agree on what happened. And make sure you’re given a copy.

What should I do if the accident was caused by an uninsured driver?

If this happens in an EU country, or in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland, you should still be able to make a claim through the country’s equivalent of the Motor Insurers’ Bureau.

Your insurance company should be able to give you more information on this or you can contact the British Embassy in the country where you’re staying.

How old do you have to be to drive abroad?

In most European countries, the legal age to drive is 18 and you’ll need a full driving licence, you won’t be able to use a provisional one.

And if you need to apply for an IDP (often needed if you’re driving outside Europe), you’ll also need to be at least 18 years old.

You’ll need to be at least 21 years old to hire a car in Europe, too.

What do I need to know before driving in Europe?

No matter how confident or competent a driver you are, it still pays to be prepared before you drive in Europe.

So, before you set off it's worth doing the following:

  1. Research your destination’s road signs

    It’s not always easy to understand European road signs, so try to learn what they mean before you go and take a copy with you

  2. Know the motoring laws

    These can vary from country to country, so make sure you know the speed limits and what you are and aren’t allowed to do when driving

  3. Be prepared for motorway tolls

    You’ll come across these much more often in Europe. While they usually take card payments, it’s a good idea to have some change handy too

  4. Check your passport’s expiry date and whether you’ll need a visa

    In some European countries you’ll need to have at least six months left on your passport

  5. Pack the right kit

    Most European countries require you to have high vis jackets, a red warning triangle, first aid kit, a UK car sticker, and to carry your insurance details

  6. Service your car

    Do this before you set off and check the level of water, oil, and coolant, as well as the tread depth and air pressure of your tyres

Do I need European breakdown cover?

Although it’s not a legal requirement in Europe, having breakdown cover in place can provide some real peace of mind if you find yourself broken down at the side of the road.

With European breakdown cover you’ll be able to call an English-speaking helpline to get roadside assistance for repairs or get help if your car needs to be towed to a garage.

If you’ve already got UK breakdown cover, you may be able to pay extra to extend this abroad or we can help you compare quotes to find the right cover.

Bear in mind that without any breakdown cover, you’d need to arrange for repairs and assistance yourself, and deal with any language barriers along the way.

Plus, emergency call-outs are likely to be very costly without cover, so you could find yourself with a large and unwelcome holiday expense.

What’s different about driving abroad post-Brexit?

Since Britain left the EU, some new rules have been introduced that change what’s required when you’re driving in Europe.

For a start, you’ll no longer need a green card to prove you’ve got insurance when you travel in the EEA - your insurance documents should be enough.

And while you’ll still be able to use your UK driving licence in Europe, you won’t if you’ve only got a paper licence (and not a photocard) or if your licence was issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man.

In these cases, you might need to get an IDP - but you can check this with the embassy of the country you want to drive in.

One of the other notable changes is the GB car sticker you previously needed for driving in Europe. This has been changed to a UK sticker - which needs to be stuck on the rear of your vehicle before you set off on your travels.

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