One of the top things on your ‘to-do’ list, if you are planning on taking your car abroad into Europe, is to speak to your motor insurer. Your insurance policy may not automatically cover you for driving your car in a foreign country so you may need to have a temporary upgrade and there is bound to be a charge for this.
Make sure your insurer issues you with what is called a ‘green card’. This is proof that you are insured to drive abroad to a minimum level of third party cover and is actually a statement to that effect printed on green paper, hence the name. Give your insurer notice if you can as sometimes these can take two to three weeks to be produced.
What do you need to know about European insurance cover?
- Many policy upgrades for driving in Europe are basic and only cover you third party whereas your insurance in the UK may be fully comprehensive. If you want to have more cover than this whilst you are away, you should be able to upgrade but there will probably be an additional charge for this
- Sometimes, European insurance cover is an extra offered to you when you take the policy out
- There is often a cap on your cover extension, most insurers offer a flat period of 30 days so if you exceed this, you may be doing so uninsured
- The so-called Green Card is required in countries outside of Europe such as Iran, Israel, Montenegro, Belarus, Turkey and Russia – this list is not exhaustive, there are others
A breakdown can be inconvenient, annoying and expensive and that’s if it happens in the UK. If it occurs abroad, then this is a whole new ball game.
Never travel abroad without European breakdown cover in place. Contact your current provider and see whether they can offer this as an extension to your existing arrangements. If you are just taking a holiday of a couple of weeks then a ‘single trip’ policy might be the best and most economical way to get cover but if you travel regularly taking your car with you, then an annual policy will probably work out cheaper.
Document checklist for driving abroad
- Driving licence
- Your V5 car log book
- Insurance documents and Green Card
- International Driving Permit (if required)
- Breakdown information and policy documents – make sure the helpline number is visible and easy to find
- Travel insurance documents
- EHIC – European Health Insurance Card
Other things to think about
Think about how it is going to feel driving on the other side of the road. Read up on the highway code and road traffic regulations in the country you are visiting, there may be some unusual inclusions which might surprise you, don’t expect them to be a carbon copy of UK highways legislation.
Each European country has different road traffic requirements which might involve changes to the vehicle or the addition of certain equipment in the car. In France, you must carry a red warning triangle and a reflective hi-vis jacket. Headlamps must be adjusted so other drivers are not affected by glare or dazzle. This sounds onerous but it can be done simply with what is known as a beam converter kit which just fits over the top of the existing headlights. In Germany, a vehicle must display an emissions sticker before it can enter any of the major cities. Stickers are based on traffic light colours and indicate how heavily polluting or not the vehicle is. The standards used for measurement are those laid down by European legislators.
The AA has produced a really handy guide to the ins and outs of what is needed in different countries. This is regularly reviewed to ensure it is up to date. Make sure your number plate is compliant; it has to show which member state the car is registered in failing which you will need a GB sticker on the outside of the vehicle.
There is also guidance given on the government’s own website both for holidaymakers and for those who move abroad to live and work.
The impact of Brexit
Brexit (if it ever happens) will impact on the ease with which UK drivers can motor in Europe. If Brexit is completed on the basis of a deal then there will be time to figure out the detail as any new changes will be implemented gradually. However, a no-deal Brexit could be a real game-changer as our current arrangments with the European Union could alter literally overnight. The latter seems less likely now and updated information is always available on the government’s website.
Top Driving Tips for European Motoring
- Avoid driving in the heart of large cities – you might possibly also do this in the UK. Even with the aid of Google Maps, city centre driving can be complicated and hazardous. Similar to the UK, many European cities are discouraging city centre motoring with tolls or congestion charges. There are usually comprehensive bus or tram schemes with out of town parking to encourage drivers away from city centres
- Familiarise yourself with the road rules for the country you are driving in, this could literally be a matter of life and death. For instance, a double white line in Germany means no overtaking but in France, this is signified by a single white solid line
- Most EU countries require safety seats for kids aged under three but some countries also require simple booster seats for older children. In nearly all EU countries, children under the age of 12 cannot legally travel in the front passenger seat without a booster seat but some don’t allow children in the front seat per se and others keep regulations in place until children turn 18
- Many European countries require headlights to be on permanently even during the daytime
- Using a mobile in your hand whilst driving is forbidden in the majority of EU member states