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Car insurance for non-UK residents

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It’s illegal to drive on UK roads without car insurance. This applies even if you’re a non-UK resident or only visit briefly. So, if you need to drive while visiting the UK, you’ll have to arrange car insurance for non-UK licence holders. The only exception is if you’re driving a hire car, in which case car insurance will be included in your rental agreement.

Get the lowdown on everything you need to know about car insurance for non-UK residents, including what temporary insurance is available, with our comprehensive guide.

Do non-UK residents need car insurance to drive in the UK?

If you have an international driving licence, you can still drive in the UK, but you’ll need to ensure you have at least third party car insurance before doing so. This is because driving on UK roads without car insurance is a criminal offence.

In addition to ensuring you have non-resident car insurance, you must ensure the car:

  • Is registered in the owner’s name (whether it’s your own car or one you’re borrowing from family or friends)
  • Is taxed
  • Has a valid MOT
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You don’t need to worry about non-UK resident car insurance if you plan to hire a car while in the UK. That’s because insurance will be included in your rental agreement. However, it’s still worth checking what cover is included and taking out additional cover if needed, such as car hire excess insurance.

What are the temporary car insurance options for non-UK residents?

Short-term or temporary car insurance is a great option if you’ll only be in the UK for a while, or until you find your feet and are in a position to arrange a more long-term solution. 

Taking out a temporary car insurance policy for non-UK residents means you don’t need to alter or adjust any other car insurance policies you might have, which keeps things simple. It also means any claims you have to make won’t impact someone else’s policy if you’re borrowing their car (as opposed to being added as a named driver to their policy).

Temporary car insurance for non-UK licence holders is usually quick to arrange and available for periods from one hour to 30 days, and if you need it for longer, you just need to renew it. These policies also offer fully comprehensive insurance, the highest level of cover, which protects you and your vehicle as well as third parties.

It’s important to note, though, that the cost of temporary car insurance for non-UK residents will be higher than for UK residents, even if you’re an excellent driver with a spotless driving record in your home country.

What other cover is available for non-UK residents looking to drive on UK roads?

If temporary car insurance isn’t suitable for your needs, you still have other options as a non-UK resident.

Be added as a named driver

If you’re borrowing a car from a friend or family member, asking them to add you to their policy as a named driver is another option. This option could be convenient for you if the car owner is willing. However, the downside is that it may increase the cost of their insurance, and if you make a claim, it could harm their no-claims discount, increasing the cost of their policy next year.

Buy an annual car insurance policy

If you know you’ll be in the UK for a while, you can buy annual car insurance as a non-UK resident, but you may need to use a specialist provider. When searching for cover, you might also see car insurance for non-UK residents referred to as expat car insurance.

When searching for an annual policy, you’ll be picking between three different levels. These are:

  • Third party: in the UK, third party cover is the legal minimum for cover, and it covers damage to other vehicles and property but not you or your car
  • Third party, fire and theft: if you take out third party, fire and theft, you’ll be covered for the above but will also pay out if your car is damaged by fire or stolen
  • Fully comprehensive: comprehensive car insurance provides cover for you and your car, as well as third parties
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If you’ve driven your own car to the UK, your car insurance policy should provide some cover, but it’s vital to check what is included before you drive on UK roads and how long that cover will last. 

 

It may well be that your current insurance only offers cover overseas on a third-party basis. If your car is damaged, you would need to pay for repairs yourself, so you might want to consider upgrading to fully comprehensive car insurance. You might also find the cover duration is limited to a number of days.

 

Your insurer may give you a document known as a green card, which proves you have the minimum level of insurance to drive in the UK.

How much does car insurance for non-UK residents cost?

Unfortunately, car insurance for non-UK residents is typically more expensive, as they’re considered higher risk. For example, insurers argue overseas drivers may not be familiar with UK motoring rules and driving on the left side of the road, meaning there’s a greater chance of being involved in an accident.

Understanding these factors can – in some cases – influence your decisions and help you keep your costs under control.

Factors that affect the cost of your car insurance include:

  • Your address: your insurance costs will be higher if you’re based in an area with a high crime rate
  • Where you park your car overnight: insurers prefer cars to be parked on a driveway or in a garage rather than on the road
  • The make and model of your car: larger cars with powerful engines will cost more to insure than smaller, less racy motors
  • Your driving history: if you have a no-claims discount from another country, it’s worth seeking out car insurance companies that will take it into account
  • Your age: younger drivers with limited experience pay more than more mature motorists
  • Your mileage: the bigger your mileage, the more you’ll pay, so don’t insure more than you need

How can I get cheaper car insurance as a non-UK resident?

To make sure you get the best value for money, it’s important to shop around for your non-UK resident car insurance, and compare the widest range of quotes possible.

Depending on your circumstances, you might get a better deal from a specialist insurance company that understands the needs of non-resident drivers.

Alternatively, if you intend to stay for the long-term, you can consider exchanging your international licence for a UK licence to cut costs.

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This varies between insurance companies. If you’ve built up a no-claims bonus in your home country, it’s worth tracking down an insurance company that will take it into account when calculating your premium. It may be that you need to use a specialist car insurance company.

 

It’s also a good idea to get proof of your no-claims bonus from your insurance company in your home country to use as evidence when you arrange cover in the UK.

Do I need to apply for a UK driving licence as a non-resident?

You should be able to use an international driving licence in the UK for up to 12 months, at least.

However, meeting the minimum age requirements for driving in the UK is essential. You need to be at least 17 years old to drive a car in the UK, which increases to 21 if you want to drive a lorry or bus.

The exact rules depend on where your driving licence was issued.

Depending on the issuing country, there may not be any urgent need to exchange your international driving licence for a full UK licence – especially if you’re from the EU. 

However, if you know you’ll likely be here for a while, it may make sense to exchange it sooner rather than later (or take your driving test if you’re not from the EU or a designated country), as your car insurance will likely be cheaper with a UK licence.

If you need to drive for work, you’ll also find you may not be able to get a company car without a full UK licence.

The driving licence rules for each region are as follows:

EU/European Economic Community (EEC)

If you have a full licence from the EU or EEC, you can continue using it in the UK until it runs out. You don’t have to exchange it or take a UK driving test in the meantime.

Designated countries

If your licence is from one of the countries listed below, you can keep using it in the UK for up to 12 months. After this point, you must exchange it for a UK driving licence. You won’t have to retake your test if the exchange occurs within five years of becoming a UK resident. The countries included in this list are:

  • Andorra
  • Australia
  • Barbados
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Canada
  • Cayman Islands
  • Falkland Islands
  • Faroe Islands
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • Monaco
  • New Zealand
  • Republic of Korea
  • Republic of North Macedonia
  • Singapore
  • South Africa
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • Ukraine
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Zimbabwe

If you have a licence from Jersey, Guernsey, Gibraltar, or the Isle of Man, you can also drive in the UK for 12 months with your existing licence before you exchange it for a UK driving licence.

Rest of the world

If you have a driving licence that wasn’t issued in the EU or a designated country – like the United States – you can only use it in the UK for 12 months. It’s not possible to exchange these international licences for a UK licence, so if you want to carry on driving in the UK, you’ll need to pass a driving test.

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To exchange an international driving licence for a UK driving licence, you’ll need to complete form D1 from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and post it along with your driving licence to the address instructed. You should then receive your new UK licence within three weeks.

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Should I have an international driving permit?

An international driving permit and a UK driving licence enable UK motorists to drive in certain countries. However, it’s not a requirement for non-resident drivers to have an international driving permit to drive in the UK.

To drive on UK roads, non-UK residents simply need a valid driving licence, proof of insurance and identification, such as a passport.

Frequently asked questions about car insurance for non-UK residents

So long as your car is fully taxed in your home country and you have valid car insurance, you can drive it on UK roads for six months. After six months, you can carry on using it in the UK but will have to register it with the DVLA. You’ll also need to replace your registration plates.

If you only have a provisional international driving licence and want to drive in the UK, you’ll need to apply for a UK provisional licence. However, you’ll have to wait six months before taking your UK driving test and getting a full UK driving licence.

This ultimately comes down to your employer’s policy and their insurance arrangements. Insurance that covers a whole fleet may require all drivers to have UK licences.

If you can exchange your international licence for a UK one, getting a company car will likely be easier.

Thankfully, most drivers with an international driving licence can exchange it for a full UK driving licence without needing to take a driving test. This includes drivers with an EU licence or a licence from a designated country, such as Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa.

The exceptions are those with non-exchangeable driving licences, like those from the United States. In these cases, you can only use your licence for 12 months, after which you’ll need to take a driving test to get a full UK licence.

You’ll also need to take a driving test if you only have a provisional international driving licence.

If you are no longer a resident of the UK, you can still get car insurance on your return – in fact, it’s a necessity. However, what insurance you take out will depend on how long you are back for. 

Similarly, the cost of your expat car insurance will in-part be informed by whether or not you still have a UK driving licence.

Connor Campbell

Finance Writer

Connor Campbell is an experienced personal and business finance writer who has been producing online content for almost a decade. 

Connor is the personal finance expert for Independent Advisor, guiding readers through everything they need to know about car insurance and home insurance. From how much it costs to the best insurance providers in the UK, he’s here to help you find the right policy for your needs. 

In his capacity as writer and spokesperson at NerdWallet, Connor explored a number of topics close to his heart, such as the impact of our increasingly cashless society, and the hardships and heroics of British entrepreneurs. His commentary was featured in sites such as The Mirror, the Daily Express and Business Insider

At financial trading firm Spreadex, meanwhile, his market commentary was featured in outlets such as The Guardian, BBC, Reuters and the Evening Standard

Connor is a voracious reader with an MA in English, and is dedicated to making life’s financial decisions a little bit easier by doing away with jargon and needless complexity.

Molly Dyson

Editor

After growing up with a passion for writing, Molly studied journalism and creative writing at university in her home country of the United States.

She has written for a variety of print and online publications, from small town newspapers to international magazines. Most of her 10-year career since relocating to the UK has been spent in business journalism, writing and editing for admin professionals at PA Life magazine and business travel managers at Business Travel News Europe and representing those titles at conferences around the world.

Now an Editor at the Independent Advisor, Molly is an expert in a broad range of consumer topics, that include solar panels and renewables, home improvements and home insurance, and consumer technology such as home security and VPNs.

In her free time, Molly can usually be found exploring the outdoors with her husband and their young son or gardening.