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European car insurance guide

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To legally drive in Europe, you’ll need at least third-party car insurance – this is included in all UK car insurance policies as standard and covers you if you injure someone or damage their car. 

You’ll also need to have your driving licence, vehicle log book and UK identifier to drive legally in Europe.

What car insurance do you need to drive in Europe?

You need third-party car insurance to legally drive in Europe. Third-party cover for Europe is included in all UK car insurance policies as standard. It’s important to note that even if you have a fully comprehensive policy in the UK, you may only have third-party cover in Europe.

Most policies limit the number of days you’ll be covered in Europe, typically to 30 or 90 days, so you may need extra cover if you go on a longer trip.

Third-party insurance only covers other people’s injuries and damage to other cars. It won’t cover your injuries or damage to your car. 

You can upgrade your insurance to have comprehensive cover in Europe. This is a good idea for several reasons. If you have an accident abroad, getting your car repaired or bringing it back to the UK will be expensive without insurance. In some countries, if the accident is caused by an uninsured driver or the driver cannot be traced, you won’t be compensated. Comprehensive insurance will also cover you if your car is stolen while in Europe.

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How does European car insurance work?

UK car insurance policies all include third-party cover for driving in Europe. If you want comprehensive cover or breakdown cover, you may need to upgrade your insurance policy or buy this cover separately.

How long does European car insurance cover last?

A UK car insurance policy will include third-party cover for driving in European Union (EU) countries for up to 30 days.

Some insurers offer longer periods. For example, Admiral car insurance policies come with 90-day European cover as standard, except the Essential policy.

If you want to add fully comprehensive cover for driving in Europe, the coverage period may differ, depending on the insurer. For example, with Aviva, some policies include Foreign Use as standard, while some of its other policies include it as an optional add-on. In either case, you’ll have a similar level of cover to what you have in the UK, valid for up to 90 days for one trip and up to 180 days during the year.

Which countries does it cover?

European car insurance covers all the countries in the EU, plus a few more:

Countries in the EU Other countries also covered
Austria France Malta Andorra
Belgium Germany Netherlands Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bulgaria Greece Poland Iceland
Croatia Hungary Portugal Liechtenstein
Republic of Cyprus Ireland Romania Norway
Czech Republic Italy Slovakia Serbia
Denmark Latvia Slovenia Switzerland
Estonia Lithuania Spain
Finland Luxembourg Sweden

How much does European car insurance cost?

Third-party cover in Europe is provided as standard on UK car insurance policies – so going to Europe won’t cost you any extra. 

If you want to add fully comprehensive cover for driving in Europe, the cost will depend on the insurer. As an example, Aviva charges £28 a year for Foreign Use, which can be used for single trips up to 90 days each and up to six months in total each year.

Can I get temporary European car insurance?

You may want temporary car insurance if you are borrowing someone else’s car to take to Europe or sharing the driving with someone else.

However, most temporary car insurance policies only include third-party cover for Europe – if you want comprehensive cover, you’ll need to pay for extra cover. 

Make sure you have the European cover you need when you take out temporary car insurance.


Whichever type of car insurance you need, make sure you shop around for the best deal. You can find cheap car insurance by following this advice:

  • Reduce your mileage
  • Increase your vehicle’s security
  • Increase your voluntary excess
  • Pay your car insurance annually
  • Build a no-claims discount
  • Don’t modify your car

What is a green card and do I need one to drive in Europe?

A green card is proof that you have vehicle insurance when driving abroad. It acts as an internationally recognised car insurance document. UK drivers needed a green card to drive in the EU straight after Brexit, but this is no longer the case.

If you have UK car insurance, you don’t need to carry a green card when you drive in the EU (including Ireland), Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Serbia or Switzerland. 

But you may need to carry a green card to drive in other countries, such as Albania, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Turkey and Ukraine. If you’re involved in an accident in one of these countries and the other driver is found to be at fault, having a green card guarantees that you’ll be compensated in that country.

Do I need European breakdown cover?

European breakdown cover isn’t a legal requirement, but it’s a good idea to have it. Breaking down in a foreign country can be stressful if you don’t speak the language and are far from home.

European breakdown cover is often available as an add-on to your car insurance. Alternatively, you can get a standalone policy from the AA or RAC, as well as several other companies.

As an example, AA European breakdown cover costs from £4.21 a day. It gives drivers access to more than 60,000 repairers and recovery operators in 44 countries across Europe. The breakdown cover includes alternative accommodation and travel arrangements, recovery of your vehicle back to the UK and up to £50,000 in legal costs.

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Do I need anything else to drive in Europe?

Here’s a checklist of what you should take with you when driving in Europe.

Driving licence

You need to carry your UK driving licence with you when you drive in Europe. You won’t need an international driving permit (IDP) to visit and drive in the EU, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein. 

You may need an IDP to drive in some EU countries and Norway if you have an old-style paper driving licence or a licence that was issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man. An IDP costs £5.50 at the Post Office.

Proof of vehicle insurance and breakdown cover

Your proof of insurance should include your insurer’s name and your policy number. You should also take note of your insurer’s emergency numbers. 

The same goes for European breakdown cover – take all the details with you.

Vehicle registration documents

If you’re taking your vehicle to the EU for less than 12 months, you should take your vehicle log book (V5C). If you are driving a hired or leased vehicle abroad, take the VE103 to show you’re allowed to drive the car.

UK identifier

You must display the UK identifier when driving a UK-registered vehicle abroad. If your number plate includes the UK identifier with the Union Jack flag, you don’t need a UK sticker.

But you will need to display a UK sticker clearly on the rear of your vehicle if your number plate has a GB identifier with the Union Jack flag; a Euro symbol; a national flag of England, Scotland or Wales; or just numbers and letters with no flag identifier.

If you drive in Spain, Cyprus or Malta, you need to display a UK sticker no matter what is on your number plate.

Safety equipment

You need to carry certain equipment when driving in Europe. Exactly what is required varies from country to country, but it’s advisable to take it all to be on the safe side.

You need to keep the following in your car:

  • Reflective jackets for each passenger 
  • Warning triangle
  • Headlamp beam deflectors (or be able to adjust the beam manually)
  • Safety helmets for mopeds and motorbikes
  • First aid kit 

Do your research

Before you set off for Europe, read up on the local driving laws. Most people driving in Europe will enter via France, so it’s important to understand the French rules, even if it’s not your final destination. 

Remember that only four countries in Europe drive on the left – the UK, the Republic of Ireland, Malta and Cyprus. Everyone else drives on the right. Some European countries have motorway toll roads, so read up on how much they cost and how to pay before you set off. 

More than 200 cities in 10 countries across Europe have Low Emission Zones (LEZ) where the most polluting vehicles are either banned or charged a fee. Before you go, check out where these LEZs are, which types of vehicles they affect, which emissions standards are required and whether registration is required. Some LEZ schemes only affect vans and lorries, but some in France, Germany and Italy also affect cars.

Frequently asked questions about European car insurance

If you hire a car in Europe, the rental will usually include a basic level of insurance. Some car hire firms will also offer a damage waiver, which will protect you against some of the costs arising from damage or theft. The waiver will include an excess – check this carefully, as it could vary from £100 or so to more than £1,000.

You can buy standalone car hire excess insurance before you go, either for a single trip or as an annual policy. For a relatively cheap cost, this covers you for the excess that car hire companies charge you if the hire car is damaged or stolen.

In most European countries, you must be 18 to drive on your own.

A handful of countries have a minimum age of 17. These include the UK, Ireland, Cyprus, Gibraltar and Hungary. In France you can start learning at 15 and in Estonia, Iceland, Slovenia and Sweden at 16. If you’re a young driver, it’s best to check the minimum age of the country you want to visit.

Yes, you can drive in Europe since Brexit, and you don’t need a green card. Since 28 September 2021, motorists need a UK sticker instead of a GB sticker when driving either in the EU or anywhere abroad (except Ireland). You’ll also need appropriate insurance as detailed above.

If you have an accident in Europe, you should complete a European Accident Statement (EAS) form. You can download this from your insurer’s website and print it out before leaving. 

The EAS allows you to note down all the relevant information if you’re involved in an accident abroad. Some countries have their own version of the form – make sure you understand what it says (get it translated if necessary) before signing it. 

If you don’t have an EAS, the same advice applies as when you have an accident in the UK: get the other driver’s name, address, insurance details and vehicle registration and take photos of the scene and damage to both cars. 

emma lunn

Emma Lunn

Money Writer

Emma Lunn is a multi-award winning journalist who specialises in personal finance and consumer issues. 

With more than 18 years’ experience in personal finance, Emma has covered topics including mortgages, first-time buyers, leasehold, banking, debt, budgeting, broadband, energy, pensions and investments. 

Emma’s one of the most prolific freelance personal finance journalists with a back catalogue of work in newspapers such as The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, the Mail on Sunday, and the Mirror. 

As a freelancer she has also completed various in-house contracts at The Guardian, The Independent, Mortgage Solutions, Orange, and Moneywise. She also writes regularly for specialist magazines and websites such as Property Hub, Mortgage Strategy and 

She has a real passion for helping people learn about money – especially when many people are struggling to get by in today’s challenging economic climate – and prides herself on simplifying complex subjects.