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European car insurance and driving abroad

Useful things to consider before you drive in Europe

A couple in front of a car, the man is looking at a map and the sun is gleaming in the background

You can picture it now. Sunglasses on, wind in your hair as you cruise the winding roads of the Amalfi coast or power up through the Alps to your mountain retreat.

Okay - back to reality. First there are some practical things you need to take care of before you head to Europe in your car.

Do you have the right licence?

You can use your GB or Northern Ireland driving licence in all European Union or European Economic Countries, including Switzerland.

If your journey takes you outside of the EU, you'll need an International Driving Permit (IDP). This, together with your driving licence allows you to drive a private vehicle in that country.

Are you old enough to drive abroad?

In many European countries, you need to be 18 to drive.

And for new or young drivers there may be restrictions on the number of passengers they can carry or how much alcohol they can have in their bloodstream.

Do you need European car insurance?

Yes. Like the UK, European countries require you to have a minimum level of car insurance before you take to the public roads.

The requirements can vary from one country to another, but at the very least, you will need third party cover.

As long as you already have UK comprehensive car insurance or third party, fire and theft insurance, your policy should provide at least the minimum level of cover required when you drive in Europe.

But don't assume your UK policy will provide the same level of cover in Europe as it does in the UK. If you have comprehensive cover in the UK, your insurer may only provide third party cover in Europe as part of your policy.

Third party insurance provides cover for other people and vehicles involved in an accident that is your fault, but it won't provide cover for you.

This could leave you seriously out of pocket if your car is damaged whilst you're away. Not to mention spoiling or curtailing your holiday.

For peace of mind, check to see if your car insurance policy already covers you to drive in Europe. If necessary, ask your insurance company to extend your comprehensive insurance to cover you whilst driving in Europe or add it on as an optional extra.

How to make sure you have comprehensive car insurance in Europe

  1. Check your car insurance details carefully to see what level of cover you can expect when you drive abroad. It's possible that your insurer provides cover already or will temporarily extend cover for free, say for 30 days.
  2. If you want comprehensive cover in Europe, but your insurer doesn't provide it as standard, call your provider to ask them to extend your cover. You'll probably need to pay a bit extra for this.
  3. Make sure the insurance covers you for the countries you want to visit and the full length of time you plan to be away.

With LV= you can get the same level of cover in Europe as you have in the UK, for up to 180 days.

This means that if you have comprehensive car insurance with us in the UK, you can get the same cover automatically when you drive abroad.

What's a Green Card?

A Green Card is proof that you have insurance whilst you're driving in Europe. Most EU countries no longer require you to carry one, but in some countries, like Morocco or Turkey you still need one.

There could be a charge for a Green Card. In the UK, your insurance company will usually issue you with one if you need it.

There could be a charge for a Green Card.

Other things to consider when driving abroad

  • Do you have the right kit in your car?
  • High-Vis jacket for every person
  • Red warning triangle
  • Spare wheel or tyre repair kit
  • Spare light bulbs
  • Breathalyser (for France)
  • Do you have European breakdown cover?
  • Make sure your GB sticker or number plate is visible.
  • Have you converted your headlights so you don't dazzle oncoming traffic?
  • Take your car insurance documents, Green Card (if needed), car registration document and driving licence with you.

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