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Things you need to know about insurance cover for driving abroad

How to prepare for European driving

You may have packed your suitcase and even remembered your toothbrush, but if you’re planning to take your car with you on a trip abroad there are plenty of other things to remember – from suitable car insurance to familiarising yourself with the rules of the road. Here we look at how to prepare for European driving.

Why it is important to have breakdown and car insurance cover abroad

Breakdown cover: Statistics from Saga car insurance emphasise the importance of taking out a suitable level of breakdown cover for overseas driving. According to its findings, the cost of repatriating a vehicle from Italy can reach £1,935, while in Germany it could cost £1,500. Motorway recovery to the nearest garage in France could cost £125 on a weekday and £155 over the weekend. So if your car breaks down vehicle breakdown cover will give you peace of mind.

Make sure that any breakdown insurance you might already have includes European cover - unlikely unless specified at the start. If you are likely to take your car overseas for more than one annual trip you should consider annual breakdown cover. This could be more cost-effective than taking out several single trip policies.

To see the benefits offered by a European vehicle breakdown policy, click here.

Vehicle insurance: Car insurance cover overseas is vital too. Thieves often target cars with foreign registration plates and there is also a greater risk of having an accident when driving on an unfamiliar road.

Attempting to find the money to cover the costs of an accident or breakdown abroad would be difficult – so car insurance with additional breakdown cover can provide welcome peace of mind in case something goes wrong.

Do you have the right level of car insurance?

Many motorists assume that because they have comprehensive car insurance in the UK they will have the same level of cover abroad. In fact, the majority of car insurers simply include a ‘green card’ within their policies which offers the minimum level of cover to legally drive in the European Union.

This means that even if you have comprehensive cover in the UK you will only get the equivalent of a third party policy overseas. This covers damage to other vehicles and injuries to third parties but will not repair or replace your own vehicle if an accident occurs.

However, there are a number of insurers that offer the same level of cover abroad as at home – although this normally comes with an additional premium. The key is to check the terms and conditions before you travel and also examine the length of time you will be covered for – most insurers limit coverage to a maximum of 90 days, with some even limiting their cover to less than a week.

So look at your existing policy and ensure you find the answer to all of these questions:

- Do you have the same cover abroad as at home?
- How long are you covered for?
- Will you still receive options such as a courtesy car abroad?
- Are repatriation costs included?
- Are you covered for personal injury treatments in an overseas hospital?

What else do you need to know before you travel?

To help avoid accidents on overseas roads, familiarise yourself with road signs and any different rules that may apply in the country you’re travelling to. Be particularly aware of changing speed limits – when moving from a country road to a village, limits often plummet from 90km/h to 50km/h with only the village’s ‘welcome’ sign as a warning.

Look into the alcohol limits in case you need to drive after a night out – in France, for example, the legal alcohol limit is 50mg in every 100mg compared to 80mg in the UK.

Finally, ensure your car would pass a safety check on a foreign road – in many countries it is essential to carry a high visibility jacket, GB stickers and a warning triangle.

A country-by-country guide to driving in Europe.