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How to find the right European breakdown cover

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Written by Matt Fernell, Financial Content Writer

10 December 2018

If you take your car abroad, having breakdown cover can save you a lot of time, money and stress. Here is what you should look for to find the best European breakdown cover.

For all your travel essentials in one place, visit our Travel Hub.

What is European breakdown cover?

It is a policy that gives you assistance if your car breaks down while you are travelling in Europe.

Most breakdown providers offer two cover options:

  • Single trip: This covers you for one specific trip abroad. Most providers can cover a trip of between 1 and 31 days.

  • Annual or multi trip policies: This covers you for any trips you take to Europe in a year. There is a limit to the length of each trip and how many claims you can make.

You get access to a 24-hour English-speaking helpline, so you do not have to worry if you are not in an English-speaking country.

If you already have a UK breakdown policy, check if you have European cover in place, and how many trips it covers.

Which option should you choose?

If you are only taking your car on one trip to Europe in the next year, a single trip breakdown policy will be the cheapest option.

If you are planning to drive abroad twice or more, it will probably work out cheaper to get an annual policy.

Before you buy an annual policy, check the maximum length each trip to Europe can be and how many claims you can make during the year.

Most annual policies cover trips of up to 90 days, but you may be limited to only three claims per year, depending on the provider or level of cover you choose.

What does it cover?

You can get the same benefits as a UK breakdown policy, including:

  • Roadside assistance

  • Alternative travel

  • Emergency accommodation costs

  • Parts and labour

Look out for other benefits specific to European breakdown cover, like:

  • Cover before departure: This covers you in the UK for a set period before you travel abroad. You can get cover for up to seven days before you leave, but the claim limits may be different to the cover you get in Europe, so check your policy carefully.

  • Vehicle and passenger repatriation: This covers the cost of getting you and your vehicle back to the UK if it cannot be repaired before you leave. Some policies also give you a hire car while you wait for your car to return.

  • Customs duty indemnity: This covers the cost of import duty if the repair cost of your vehicle is more than its market value and it has to be scrapped in Europe.

What cover you get depends on the breakdown provider and what level of protection you buy.

Most offer several options so you can choose the level that best suits your car and trip. The more you are willing to spend, the more protection you can get.

Here is what a breakdown policy can cover

What is not covered?

Most European breakdown policies have the same exclusions as standard UK cover, including breakdowns on private property and any vehicle that is not roadworthy.

Read the terms and conditions carefully to find out what is not covered by the policy, including which countries you will be covered in.

You can find out more about what is not covered by breakdown cover here.

What countries are covered?

You will be protected in most European countries, and most policies split the countries they cover into three zones, for example*:

  • Zone 1: Andorra, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands and Republic of Ireland.

  • Zone 2: Austria, Denmark, Finland, Gibraltar, Italy, Liechtenstein, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Vatican City.

  • Zone 3: Albania, Armenia, Belarus, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russia (west of the Urals), Serbia, Slovakia and Turkey.

* These are the territorial zones as defined by the RAC, other providers may differ

Providers don't cover all the same countries and may have different definitions of the zones. Some countries may be included by one provider but excluded by another. The ones above are defined by the RAC.

Most basic cover options only cover Zones 1 and 2, so you may need to upgrade your policy if you are visiting a Zone 3 country.

What to do if you breakdown

If you break down in Europe you should:

  1. Pull over safely

  2. Get all passengers safely away from moving traffic

  3. Call your breakdown provider on their European helpline number*

  4. Give them your details, including your exact location and telephone number

* You can find this on your policy documents

Breakdown on a French motorway

Your provider will not be able to send anybody to help you if you break down on a French motorway because they are privately managed.

You need to use an emergency telephone box and the police will send help. Once you have been towed off the motorway you should call your provider for further assistance.

Here is more information on how to deal with a breakdown.

How to find the best policy

There are two main ways you can get European breakdown cover:

  • Add it your existing policy if you have one. Most breakdown providers offer European cover as an extra to a standard breakdown cover policy, so contact them to find out what cover you get and how much it costs to add.

  • Buy a standalone European policy for your trip, or for any journeys you take during the year. You can compare cover using this comparison.

You might get better cover by choosing a standalone policy, even if your existing policy offers European cover as an extra. Compare the cover and price to standalone policies to make sure you are getting the best deal.

For all your travel essentials in one place, visit our Travel Hub.

By comparing breakdown cover providers, you can find a policy that gives you the level of cover you need at a price you can afford.

Compare breakdown cover

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