European car insurance

Compare quotes from insurers that offer basic European cover as standard if you're looking to drive abroad. Make sure you are covered to drive in Europe by having the right insurance in place.

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Car insurance for Europe

Last updated: June 30, 2021

After Brexit the car insurance rules for UK drivers in Europe changed - but while there are now extra steps, that doesn’t mean you necessarily need a new policy to drive your car in the EU. However, you might only be covered for other drivers' costs when overseas on your current policy, so you should consider extending your cover to get the best protection.

Driving in Europe after Brexit

From January 1, 2021, people with British car insurance need a Green Card to drive in European Union and EEA countries, as well as a GB sticker in some cases.

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.

You do not need a sticker if your number plate has a GB identifier on its own or with the Union flag in most cases, but if you’re in Spain, Cyprus or Malta, you must display a GB sticker no matter what is on your number plate.

You also need to display the sticker if your number plate has any of the following:

  • A Euro symbol

  • A national flag of England, Scotland or Wales

  • Numbers and letters only – no flag or identifier

How to get a Green Card

Green Cards are basically proof that your car is insured - and the good news is they’re free. Simply contact your insurance provider and ask for one ahead of your trip.

However, you will need a physical copy of this - which you can print out at home or be sent by your insurer. And, no, Green Cards do not have to be printed on either card or anything green to be valid.

You do need a full licence, though, so policyholders and named drivers who only have a provisional licence won’t be named on the Green Card.

You need to carry multiple green cards if:

  • You have fleet or multi-car insurance – meaning you’ll need a Green Card for each vehicle

  • Your vehicle is towing a trailer or caravan – when you’ll need one for the towing vehicle and one for the trailer or caravan (you need separate trailer insurance in some countries)

  • You have two policies covering your trip. For example, if you renew your policy during the journey

Do you need an international driving permit for Europe now?

Most people will be covered with their normal, UK licence - but there are some exceptions.

You may need an international driving permit if:

  • You only have a paper driving licence

  • Your licence was issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man

You can pick up an international driving permit over the counter at the Post Office for £5.50 if you’re a resident of Great Britain or Northern Ireland, have a full UK driving licence and are 18 or older.

How much insurance cover do you have when driving in Europe

When you are abroad, most car insurance policies only offer third party cover - meaning damage to your own car and injury to yourself are not covered.

They also frequently limit the number of days you can drive abroad in a year - as well as putting limits on how many days you can be abroad in a single stretch.

You can extend the level of cover from basic third-party insurance to comprehensive cover when driving overseas, but this may cost you extra.

Here is more on the cover you need to drive overseas

Get the right length of European car insurance cover

Most will European car insurance policies will include the following terms and conditions:

  • A maximum period for the term of the European car insurance policy: This is normally a total of 180 days a year

  • A maximum length of each individual trip: this is normally between three and 90 days, depending on the insurer

If you are planning to be away in a foreign country for three months during the year, make sure you get cover for at least 90 days.

Make sure each trip made during those 90 days does not exceed the single trip limit.

Some insurance companies offer unlimited annual European cover, which means you will be covered for trips of any length during the policy.

You should also make sure the policy you choose covers everything you need, not just driving in Europe. Here is everything car insurance can cover you against.

Short term car insurance can cover any trips to Europe but check your level of cover first.

European car insurance FAQs

Most car insurance policies give you third party cover to drive in Europe - but it’s worth checking. You can usually extend your cover; find out how to add European cover here.

If you are under 25 search for car insurance for young drivers to compare European cover.

All European Union (EU) countries and other destinations inside the European Economic Area such as Andorra and Norway will be covered by European car insurance. The policy documents will outline exactly which countries are included.

No, only if you have added European breakdown cover to your policy, or taken out a standalone European breakdown policy.

Yes - you will now need to carry a physical copy of the Green Card when driving in Europe.

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.

Standard third-party European cover includes damage to another driver's car after an accident. You can extend it to cover damage to your own car, and to cover theft, vandalism, fire and more.

This your car generally won’t be covered for damages, or any expenses for personal injuries sustained without extending it.

  • Know what you are covered for whether you have third-party only (TPO), third-party damage, fire and theft (TPFT) or comprehensive cover

  • Third-party only insurance will not cover damage to your own car or your medical expenses

  • Third-party damage, fire and theft insurance also covers you for arson and if things are stolen from your car

  • Check how many days you are insured for

Before you do, make sure you have the right to drive in your country of choice: check on where you can use your licence abroad.

If you hold a British driving licence you are fine to drive in:

  • European Union (EU) member countries

  • European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland

You’ll need an International Driving Permit if you only have a paper licence, to drive in countries outside of these zones or if your licence was issued in  Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man.

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