Going abroad in your car? Understand your car cover before you go

Whether you love a good road trip or you just like the practicalities of travelling in your own car, it's important you understand what car insurance cover you need to satisfy legal requirements as well as meeting your own needs should something happen to your car while you're away.

Car driving in Europe
Just like car insurance cover in the UK, not all covers are the same when you're driving abroad

Driving outside of the UK - the legal requirements


Just like in the UK, it's a legal requirement for your car to be insured when you drive it in Europe. It's also a requirement that all UK car insurance policies have to provide third party liability cover for you to drive in Europe and certain other countries.


Green Cards and Foreign Use Extension - what's the difference?


Consumers often confuse these two terms or think they mean the same thing, but they're very different. A Green Card is essentially an international certificate of insurance used to evidence that your car is covered for the minimum compulsory level of cover required for the country you're visiting. A Foreign Use Extension may be included or offered by an insurer in order to increase the level of cover given to include more than the minimum compulsory level, such as cover for theft or accidental damage to your own car.


Following Brexit, it became a requirement for UK motorists to take with them a physical printed Green Card when they travelled outside of the UK, but a recent rule change means this is no longer the case, but you may choose to request one for your own peace of mind. An insurer can't charge you for a Green Card, but they can charge you a fee to cover the cost of providing one, such as administration or postage.


So is my insurance the same in the UK as it is when I'm in Europe?


This is unlikely so don't assume that it is. Some policies will only provide the basic legal requirement cover as standard, and anything above that will have to be added at your request and often for an additional premium. This is where the Foreign Use Extensions come in - they 'extend' your cover beyond the basic legal requirement - but will often fall short of matching what you get in the UK. For example, the Foreign Use Extension may give you elements of your Comprehensive UK cover such as theft or accidental damage, but the insurer is unlikely to offer you a courtesy car or hire car if the claim happens outside of the UK, until your car is returned to the UK and enters a UK repairer.


Do I always have to pay to get a Foreign Use Extension?


Some policies will automatically include Foreign Use Extension for a period of time, such as 90 days per policy year, and you may not even have to call and activate it, you can just go. Some insurers will ask you to contact them to add the cover, and may charge an additional premium for some or all of the period of cover you ask for. Check how each policy works when you're comparing quotes.


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