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Know before you go – UK motorists urged to check their insurance and local driving laws before taking car abroad

21 July 2014
  • 22% of Brits plan to drive abroad in the next 12 months but only 69% check the driving requirements of the country they are visiting; 
  • Only 57% of motorists check that their car insurance fully covers them to drive abroad;
  • Nearly a fifth of drivers think that all they need to drive their car in Europe is a GB sticker and headlamp converters.  

Millions of Brits will take their car over to the continent this year, but new research reveals that a great many could be leaving themselves at risk by not checking their car insurance before they set off or taking time to understand the rules of the road in the country they are visiting. 

Gocompare.com Car Insurance asked over 1,000 UK motorists who had or plan to drive abroad in the next 12 months about the preparations they make.  The survey found that only 69% drivers said that they always check the driving rules and regulations for the country in which they will be driving, while 4% said that they don't worry about local driving laws at all. Just under a fifth (19%) thought that all that they need to do when driving their own car in Europe is to slap a GB sticker on the boot of their car and headlamp converters on to their lights.  

In reality, speed limits, traffic signals and priorities, local rules on alcohol limits and safety requirements for travelling with children differ from one country to the next - so many holidaying motorists could face hefty on-the-spot fines or run the risk of an otherwise avoidable accident if they fail to properly prepare for their trip.  

Many of those surveyed also admitted to not checking that their insurance fully covered them for motoring abroad.  Only 57% said that they always check that their insurance will cover them when they are abroad and only 42% said that they arrange breakdown cover which they can use on the continent. 

While UK vehicle insurance provides the minimum compulsory insurance cover to drive in other EU countries (and other countries specified in your policy document) policies don't necessarily offer the same level of protection as you have while driving in the UK.  So, drivers need to check with their insurer to see if their car is covered against theft and/or damage while abroad.  Likewise, motorists shouldn't assume their UK breakdown cover extends to driving abroad. 

A comparison of over 240 comprehensive car insurance policies by Gocompare.com found that not all policies fully cover you to drive abroad.  While most (83%) provide cover for foreign use as standard, 16% only provide full cover as an optional extra (for which a fee is payable) and three polices provided no cover at all.  Only 11% of the policies compared provided standard EU breakdown cover (21% for UK breakdown as standard), while most policies either don't provide EU cover (45%) or provide it as an optional extra (43%).

The comprehensive car insurance policies also varied in the length of time European car cover is valid for, some policies provide cover for only eight days, while others provide cover for 180 days a year. 
Claire Peate from Gocompare.com Car Insurance commented, "Many of us have become adept at researching the best hotels, restaurants and places to visit on your summer holiday. However, if you are planning to drive abroad, make sure you also take the time to familiarise yourself with the local driving rules, traffic signs and priorities and road conditions. 

"Driving in France, for instance, isn't just about driving on the 'wrong' side of the road.  Speed limits, parking regulations and alcohol limits are different to the UK and, all motorists are legally required to carry a warning triangle and florescent vest as well as a portable breathalyser kit.

"And, don't assume your car insurance provides the same cover as it does in the UK - speak to your insurer and check your policy well in advance of your holiday so can you can top-up it up if necessary.  Not having the right cover could leave you with a bill of hundreds or even thousands of pounds to get your family and your car back home." 

For more information on driving abroad visit: http://www.gocompare.com/car-insurance/driving-abroad/


Notes to editors:

*On 17th March an online survey was conducted amongst 4,010 randomly selected British adults age 18+ who are also Springboard United Kingdom Community members. The margin of error-which measures sampling variability-is +/- 1.5%. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current data on age, gender, region, and education from the most recent census data, to ensure the sample is representative of the entire adult population of the UK. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

**Source: Defaqto Matrix of 247 comprehensive car insurance policies - instant and unbiased market and competitor intelligence, from independent financial research company Defaqto (4 April 2014).