Don’t invalidate your car insurance: 10 things you need to know when driving in Europe

Don’t invalidate your car insurance: 10 things you need to know when driving in Europe

There’s nothing quite like exploring Europe from the comfort of your own car – from ancient castles and forests to relaxing beach resorts, it truly has it all.

But even if you’re well-versed in driving abroad, do you know what it means for your car insurance and how you could unwittingly affect your premium? To ensure you don’t jeopardise your cover, here’s our guide to things you should consider when driving abroad.

Jump to:

1. Make sure you’re covered for every country you visit
2. Take all the right documents
3. Keep things out of sight
4. Stick to the local rules
5. Keep your car secure
6. Don’t overload your car
7. Make sure your pets are covered
8. Know what you tow 
9. Be careful of booze cruises
10. Try to avoid high-risk areas
What do I need to remember before driving in Europe?
What do I need to remember before I start my road trip?
Do I need European breakdown cover to drive in Europe?
What happens if I break down abroad?

 


 

1. Make sure you’re covered for every country you visit

Under the Green Card system, the majority of UK car insurance policies should provide you with the minimum third-party cover in all other EU countries. Check with your provider beforehand as this may be less than your UK level of cover.

Non-EU countries, including Montenegro and Ukraine, are not part of the Green Card system, so you’ll need to carry a Green Card at all times. You can get this from your provider so contact them well ahead of time.

2. Take all the right documents

As well as a valid UK driving licence, remember to take along a copy of your car insurance certificate. This is a legal requirement in many countries and will help you contact your provider should anything go wrong.

You should also make sure you have contact details for your insurer’s claims team, should you need it, including any numbers you may need while abroad.

3. Keep things out of sight

It goes without saying that you should never leave valuables in your car at the best of times, and anything you do should be kept well out of sight so as not to tempt would-be thieves.

When you’re relaxed on holiday it’s easy to let your guard down, but leaving belongings on show could see you become a victim of crime, and any claim you make could mean you’re liable for excess, and could also affect your No Claims Bonus and/or premium. It’s better to be vigilant and keep anything of value with you.

Easily forgotten items could include your sat-nav, your phone in a holder or the kids tablets on the back seats. Nothing tempts a thief like a bag on a seat, so don’t leave one in sight, even if they’re not holding anything particularly valuable.

4. Stick to the local rules

driving-in-europe-insurance-invalidate-warning

 

Wherever you’re driving in Europe, it’s essential to make sure you’re aware of all the local driving laws – and what you need to do to stay on the right side of them. Failing to do so could see your insurance invalidated when you need it most.

Each country is different, so check out the our driving advice for every country in Europe for more info.

For example, when driving in France you’re legally required to carry a warning triangle that should be placed behind your vehicle in the event of a breakdown or accident.

There are many more details like this for each country, so make sure you’re brushed up by reading the relevant guide.

European driving rules by country

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5. Keep your car secure

When you’re trying to organise the whole family at the beach or campsite, it’s all too easy to forget about securing your car as you would at home – which is exactly why thieves know to target distracted holidaymakers.

But you may well invalidate your policy if you’re the victim of a crime and your car was left unlocked, the sunroof was left open, or your roof-rack was unsecured, so make sure you’re vigilant at all times and don’t give yourself a holiday headache.

 

6. Don’t overload your car

One of the best things about taking a road trip across Europe is that you don’t have the same restrictions on luggage as you would on an aeroplane, but that doesn’t mean you should go overboard when it comes to packing.

Overloading your vehicle, whether with camping gear, mountain bikes, or all that cheese you’ve picked up in a French market, can invalidate your insurance policy if it leads to a collision, so be careful and pack – or shop – in moderation.

Make sure everyone and everything is safely secured – don’t pack in goods and baggage at the expense of personal safety. If you can’t quite fasten your seatbelt because there’s something in the way, don’t set off until you reassess your packing or lighten the load.

We don’t expect you to start tallying up the weight of each individual item, but if you’re finding it a struggle to force extra items into every nook and cranny, you might want to step back and start making sacrifices before you put yourself at risk.

Whether you’d rather leave your first born on the side of the road in favour of that gorgeous wheel of parmesan is up to you.

7. Make sure your pets are covered

insurance-pets-covered

 

If you’re taking your four-legged friends along on a European break, make sure you don’t end up with a dog’s dinner of a holiday by letting your pets inadvertently invalidate your insurance policy. 

Driving with an unrestrained animal in the car could leave you without appropriate cover, and if you’re involved in a collision because you’re distracted by your pet, it’s possible your provider won’t pay out.

8. Know what you tow

driving-in-europe-insurance-invalidate-caravan

 

The idea of pitching up on the French Riviera or the Costa Brava with your caravan is the dream for many holidaymakers, but towing in other countries is not necessarily the same as towing in the UK.

Some countries have strict laws on what you can and can’t tow, and breaking these could see your insurance invalidated if you’re involved in an accident. Always check ahead and make sure you’re not towing something you shouldn’t be.

9. Be careful of booze cruises

So-called booze cruises to France or Belgium are perfect for stocking up on the cheap for weddings and big events, but they could end up costing you your insurance policy – or more.

A car overloaded with beers and wines could see your insurance voided, and you should always be aware of local drink-drive laws if you’re heading abroad, too, in case you want to try before you buy.

10. And finally... Try to avoid high-risk areas

driving-in-europe-insurance-invalidate-danger

 

A lot of insurance policies don’t cover natural disasters, which is mostly fine in the UK (aside from the odd minor tornado and an attempt at an earthquake here and there) but for the very unlucky, could cause some concern if you’re driving abroad.

There are a few known natural disaster hotspots across Europe – such as Mount Etna on the Italian island of Sicily – that you’re best avoiding if you don’t want to risk invalidating your policy.

Aside from natural disasters, areas of civil unrest could well pose a risk to you and your passengers. The government offer up to date foreign travel advice on over 200 countries which covers this kind of information, so give it a look before you head out.

We know the chances that anyone is planning to off-road their way up to a volcanic crater or go sightseeing in an area of unrest are very slim, but in the rare event of something happening to your vehicle if you did, technically your insurance provider may not pay out.

For the vast majority of us, we're sticking to regions of safety and won't let this extremely unlikely possibility stand in the way of our holiday!

Make sure you stay covered and save money with our insurance guides:

 


 

What do I need to remember before driving in Europe?

Driving in other European countries is different from in the UK, so before setting off make sure you prepare yourself (and your car) for the laws and requirements in every country you pass through.

These range from carrying Crit’Air clean air stickers in France to warning triangles when driving through Belgium, so make sure you do your research and stay on the right side of the law so you don’t inadvertently invalidate your policy.

The RAC Driving in France kit will help you meet some of these laws in France, but you should always research the specific requirements for you and your car if driving in a different country.

You’ll also need a GB sticker on your car to drive in other European countries. Failure to do so could lead to an on-the-spot fine, not the best way to start your holiday…

In the EU, you can get around this if you’ve got an EU number plate, but outside the EU you’ll definitely need a GB sticker.

What do I need to remember before I start my road trip?

invalidate-insurance-holiday-europe-forces

 

Before heading off on any long journey, it’s always important to carry out some essential maintenance checks at home to ensure your car is in tip-top condition and you can get to your destination and back safely.

The RAC encourages drivers to remember the acronym ‘FORCES’ when carrying out car checks: Fuel, Oil, Rubber, Coolant, Electrics, and Screen wash. Check our tips for avoiding a breakdown for more information on FORCES.

You should also remember to take along a few road trip essentials for the journey; including a first aid kit, additional engine oil and water, mobile phone charger and snacks and games, especially if you’re travelling with children.

Do I need European breakdown cover to drive in Europe?

Wherever you’re heading across Europe, RAC has great value European breakdown cover options that give you comprehensive cover if you break down on your way, offering roadside assistance and a 24/7 English-speaking helpline.

What happens if I break down abroad?

Depending on the level of your European breakdown cover, the RAC will pay towards any garage labour costs, onward travel expenses and accommodation fees – something to consider if you’ve got a booking to make.

To find out everything you need to know about breaking down on the continent, and to get the right quote that meets your needs, check out our complete guide to RAC European breakdown cover.

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* 10% of all customers buying Car Insurance Plus with us from 1st January 2019 to 30th June 2019 paid less than £123. Based on comprehensive Car Insurance Plus, purchased direct, excluding any additional products and upgrades, with payment on an annual basis. Your premium will depend on your circumstances and the level of cover you choose.