How to find the right European breakdown cover

If you drive in Europe good quality breakdown cover is crucial for your stress levels, should the worst happen. So how do you find the best European breakdown cover at the best price? We’ll look at this shortly. But first you need to know what to buy and how to buy it.

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What is European breakdown cover?

Buying European breakdown cover lets you call an English-speaking helpline wherever you (and your passengers) are. 

Many repairs are carried out at the roadside, so you get quickly on your way once you’re fixed.

  • Most breakdown policies are sold on either a single trip basis or annual or multi-trip; a single trip is usually up to 31 days in length

  • Annual or multi-trip policies give you cover for repeat trips through the year, though there will be claim limits and possibly length-of-trip limits too

  • If you take your car to Europe once a year, a single trip policy is enough; if you drive to Europe regularly an annual or multi-trip policy is more cost-effective, flexible and less faff

Before buying European breakdown cover, double-check that you don’t have protection already. For example, Nationwide’s FlexPlus account and Co-Op’s Everyday Extra Account supply European breakdown cover as standard. There are other examples too.

What does a European breakdown policy cover? 

Generally you get the same benefits as a UK breakdown policy though some policies will not pay for breakdown labour and parts. Not all policies are the same so check. 

Broadly you choose a level which includes one of all of the following:

  • Roadside help

  • Alternative travel costs

  • Emergency accommodation costs

There may be towing restrictions if you have a caravan or boat. Some policies may also have night-time restrictions.

Good quality cover can make life less stressful so there may be other options like:

  • Pre-departure cover, covering you for up to seven days before leaving 

  • Vehicle and passenger repatriation, protecting you from the cost of getting your vehicle back to the UK if it can’t be fixed

  • The use of a hire car if you need it

In other words, the small print is worth reading and comparison sites like Uswitch make comparing breakdown protection levels easier.

What’s the best way to buy European breakdown cover?

In some cases, you can call – if you’ve already got UK cover – your existing breakdown provider and simply add European cover to your policy. You can easily compare the cost to make sure you’re getting value for money.

Or search the market with the help of Money.co.uk.

But some stand-alone European cover policies offer better value than a bolt-on policy from your existing insurer. 

They also may offer extra protection at an overall lower cost.  

Can I still get European breakdown cover after Brexit?

You will still be able to get European cover after  Brexit, but bear in mind that the rules around car insurance have changed following the UK’s exit from the EU.

This means you will need to obtain a Green Card from your insurer for the vehicle you are driving if you’re driving in the EU, EEA, Switzerland, Serbia or Andorra, from 1 January 2021.

Green Cards are issued by insurance providers in the UK and guarantee the motorist has the minimum third-party motor insurance cover for travel in the country being travelled to. 

You can now print green cards yourself, as they no longer need to be printed on green paper and if you need a physical copy of a Green Card, you will need to contact your vehicle insurance provider at least 6 weeks before you travel.

The EU has said it is planning to withdraw this requirement, but the change won't take effect until mid-July at the earliest. Until then people planning to drive abroad will still need one in place.

Six tips to keep get the best European breakdown cover deal

  • Double check you haven’t got breakdown cover already via a bank account or a partner’s account

  • If your car is relatively new it may have European cover with its manufacturer’s warranty – so check (again)

  • If you’ve already got cover is it enough? A bog-standard policy may not stretch far enough for your driving holiday comfort

  • Choose the right kind of protection. If you have a boat or trailer, pay close attention to towing restrictions should you break down

  • Check policy accommodation allowances – if you break down does your policy include overnight costs so you can continue your journey comfortably? Is hire car cover included?

  • Always compare price and policy upgrade options.

Before you go…

  • Take your driving licence, insurance cover note and V5 log book. If you don’t you risk a fine from European police

  • Always take your European breakdown cover documentation – policy numbers, ‘phone numbers and keep them safely stored

  • Carry your car spare key and find a safe place to keep it – but not in your car!

  • A *Green Card will be needed from 1 January 2021 you should allow a month to apply to be on the safe side, advises the Association of British Insurers 

  • Take your Green Card with you.

  • Check the latest Covid-19 advice from the Foreign Office 

  • …and check winter tyre restrictions. These come into force between 1 November and mid April every year across many parts of Europe

*Green Card countries include all 27 EU countries. Non-EU countries which recognise the Green Card include Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran, Israel, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Russia, Tunisia, Turkey and Ukraine. 

Some policies include all these countries. Don’t assume all will. If you attempt to drive without a Green Card in Europe you can be accused of driving without insurance, face prosecution and have your car seized. 

What to do if you break down in Europe

If you break down abroad: 

  • Pull over safely and find a safe space away from fast-moving traffic

  • Turn on your hazard lights

  • If your car is close to busy traffic, such as an auto-route, it’s a good idea for all occupants to find a safer space near the car. Try and get all occupants to leave the car by the door closest to the verge

  • Call your breakdown provider. Update them with your location plus any detail of the breakdown that you feel is helpful

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.