Taking to the road overseas
Europe-bound British motorists could be out of pocket by thousands of pounds as they return from foreign holidays, simply because they are confused about the levels of insurance cover needed for driving on the Continent.
Many drivers assume they are automatically covered for driving abroad, when in most cases they are only automatically covered for basic Road Traffic Accident (RTA) insurance.
At best they will have third party cover (depending on the country they are travelling in), which means drivers would not be covered if their car was stolen, or if they become embroiled in legal matters after an accident.
The green card
The confusion boils down to history, as British drivers have historically needed a document, called a Green Card, as proof of their insurance overseas. With the advent of the single market in the early nineties some EU countries agreed that tourists need not travel with their green card documentation, but that was not universally applied across Europe.
The countries that do require a Green Card are: Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Iran, Israel, Moldova, Morocco, Russia, Serbia and Montenegro, Tunisia, Turkey and Ukraine.
The countries that don't require a Green Card are: Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Here, your UK insurance certificate should suffice.
However, even tourists travelling off-the-beaten track in France and Italy can experience difficulties if they don’t have a Green Card, despite the fact that these are both countries where, in theory, you do not need one. So you may consider it advisable to carry a Green Card simply to avoid any inconvenience.
The card itself is free. It simply states that you have cover to drive in the UK and that cover, under EU law, entitles you to drive within Europe with cover. But the cover is basic - the minimum third party cover required by the country you’re visiting.
Alternatively, some insurers offer European cover which will allow motorists to drive within Europe at the same level of cover they have in the UK. Confusingly, insurers often call this 'green card cover' and charge for it so it can seem as if you’re paying for something that should be free but this isn’t the case.
Insurance rates do vary for extension of cover depending on how long your trip is and some will also take into account the type of car being covered. Some offer hybrid packages which include European breakdown cover.
We advise anyone travelling abroad in their car to extend their comprehensive cover well before they travel in order that the documentation arrives before the date of travel. Also complete a full check of your vehicle for the basics such as oil and water, ensure that your MOT is up to date.