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European breakdown cover

Cover that gets you back on the road when you breakdown.

Cover that gets you back on the road when you breakdown.

Cover that gets you back on the road when you breakdown.

Cover that gets you back on the road when you breakdown.

Cover that gets you back on the road when you breakdown.

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Breakdown cover is not a qualifying product; however, compare prices now and find the right cover for you.

What you need to know about European breakdown cover and the COVID-19 pandemic 

The coronavirus pandemic has spread across most of Europe. 
 
If you’re currently in the UK, the government announced that you shouldn’t leave your home unless essential. On top of this, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) have advised against all non-essential travel abroad. 
 
Some European countries, including some of those in the Schengen Area, are restricting entry to foreign drivers. You should check the Foreign Travel Advice section of the GOV.UK website for specific advice if you’re planning to, or are already driving in a European country. You should also contact your insurance provider, to find out how driving abroad during the coronavirus outbreak may affect your policy. 
 
For more information, read our coronavirus and motoring FAQ page
 
See government instructions on social distancing
 
Please note: This information was correct at the time of publication on 26 June 2020, but, because of the impact of COVID-19, things are changing rapidly. We aim to keep this page updated, but check with your insurance provider or potential provider directly to confirm any details. 

What is European breakdown cover? 

European breakdown cover ensures you still get the benefit of roadside assistance if you break down while driving in Europe. It’s important to know you can get your car fixed or towed to the nearest garage if you’re on a driving holiday. If the problem persists, and your car needs to be repaired back in the UK, you can also get cover for these expenses. 
 
European breakdown cover isn’t a standard inclusion with car insurance, so, if you’re planning on driving while abroad in mainland Europe, you should make sure that you take out additional cover. 
 
Please note: while cover remains unaffected during the Brexit transition phase, this may change after 31 December 2020. Some providers have announced that they will continue to support cover, but this may vary, and you should check your policy details or contact your provider if unsure.

What features does European breakdown cover include?

These features are typically available with European breakdown cover: 

  1. Home start: offers cover if your car breaks down before you set off on your trip.
  2. Roadside assistance: a recovery vehicle will try to fix your car by the side of the road. If this isn’t possible, it will be taken to a nearby garage. You should make sure that you’re aware of any callout limits that are part of your policy, otherwise you may have to pay extra.
  3. 24/7 assistance: ensures that you always have access to support and recovery, and prevents you from being stranded anywhere overnight.
  4. Garage labour costs: to cover all or some of the costs of repairing your car at a garage.
  5. Onward travel: this includes a means of continuing your journey. For example, some policies provide a courtesy car while yours is at the garage, some offer reimbursement of public transport costs and some even cover accommodation costs.
  6. Vehicle repatriation: to cover all or some of the costs of returning your car to the UK if it can’t be fixed. Some may also cover repatriation costs for you and your passengers.
  7. Wrong fuel type: if you fill up with the wrong type of fuel, you may be covered for any damages and repairs.
  8. Lost keys: if you lose your keys while travelling, you can recover the cost of replacements. 

Specific details will vary from policy to policy, so always check what the cover includes before you buy.

Which countries will I be covered in?

The countries you’ll be covered in will depend on the breakdown insurance provider you choose.

In most cases, these include the 44 countries that make up the European continent, not just European Economic Area (EEA) members.

To make sure you get the right level of cover, many providers make things easier by dividing the countries they cover into zones.

Check your policy details for a list of all countries covered.

What level of European breakdown cover do I need?

Depending on how often you’ll be going away, you can either buy single trip or multi-trip cover.

  • Single trip European cover
    If you drive to Europe once or twice a year, single trip European breakdown cover could work out cheaper than buying an annual policy.
  • Multi-trip (annual) cover
    This provides cover for all the trips you make in a year, up to 90 days in total. There may be a limitation on the number of consecutive days you can be covered for, so check the policy details carefully before choosing.

How much does European breakdown cover cost?

How much you’ll have to pay depends on a variety of factors. 

  • How long you’re away for – the longer you’re away, the greater the potential chance of breakdown. 
  • Where you’re going – cover may be more expensive in some places because of repair costs or the potential cost of repatriating your vehicle. 
  • Your vehicle – the age and likelihood of it breaking down, together with different repair and replacement part costs. 
  • The level of cover you want – generally speaking, the higher the level of cover the more expensive the policy. 

What to do if I break down in Europe? 

If you’re unfortunate enough to break down while driving in Europe, here’s what you need to do: 

  • Pull over in a safe place – make sure that you’re off or at the side of the road, away from any traffic 
  • Get out of your car – if it’s safe to do so, exit the vehicle and remain at a distance from any traffic 
  • Call your breakdown cover provider – they will take you through the next steps and organise the recovery of your vehicle and any repairs.

What happens if I break down without European Cover?

If your vehicle breaks down and you don’t have cover, your first step is to find a recovery company, then a reputable garage to repair your car. You’ll have to pay all the charges. For example, the cost for towing a car off a French motorway ranges from around €127 to €236, which could leave you seriously out of pocket. In a worst-case scenario, you’ll also need to pay for your vehicle to be brought back to the UK (repatriated) – which can prove to be very expensive. 
 
If you’re intending to drive in France, it’s also worth knowing that only specific companies can tow you off a motorway – and you need to pay them regardless of whether you have breakdown cover or not. Most companies have a maximum limit for claiming these expenses back, so you should refer to your policy documents to check the amount you may be covered for. Once you’ve been towed safely off the motorway, you can contact your breakdown provider for further recovery services, if needed, and you can reclaim the costs from the French operator.

Frequently asked questions

Why is European breakdown cover important?

If you were to break down while travelling in Europe, without the right cover, you’ll not only find yourself having to pay for expensive repairs and callouts, you’ll also have to organise the whole thing yourself, in a country whose language you may have no understanding. 
 
Language barriers, unfamiliar rules of the road and a lack of local knowledge all make breaking down overseas even more stressful than it would be on home turf. So if you’re off to Europe for business or pleasure, it’s a good idea to reserve part of your budget for European breakdown cover. 
 
Fortunately, there are plenty of options available from breakdown insurance providers, and you can often add European cover as an extra to your existing policy.

Is European breakdown cover already included in my policy?

European cover could already be included as part of your existing breakdown policy – check the policy documents or terms and conditions. Some policies will include it, but for very short trips only and at the lowest level of cover, so even if it is included you should make sure it meets your needs. If it’s not included, you can buy European breakdown cover as a single, standalone policy.

Is breakdown cover the only thing I need to check?

While you’re thinking about European breakdown cover, take a look at your main vehicle insurance policy too. Some UK car insurance policies may automatically cover you to drive within Europe, but it’s best to check what level of cover you have before setting off and see if you need to increase it.

Some countries require you to carry proof of your insurance, so you might need to take your UK policy with you. If you’re travelling to non-EU countries (and potentially EU countries after the Brexit transition period), you need a green card to prove that your insurance offers the minimum cover for the country you’re driving in. Ask your insurance provider to issue you with one.

You might also find that your policy requires your car is serviced before you travel.

In a few cases, you might need an International Driving Permit as well as your UK driving licence.

What happens if I don’t have breakdown cover in Europe?

If your vehicle breaks down and you don’t have cover, your first step is to find a recovery company, then a reputable garage to repair your car. You’ll have to pay all the charges.

For example, the cost for towing a car off a French motorway ranges from around €127 to €236, which could leave you seriously out of pocket. In a worst-case scenario, you’ll also need to pay for your vehicle to be brought back to the UK (repatriated) – which can prove to be very expensive.

If you’re intending to drive in France, it’s also worth knowing that only specific companies can tow you off a motorway – and you need to pay them regardless of whether you have breakdown cover or not. Once you’ve been towed safely off the motorway, you can contact your breakdown provider for further recovery services, if needed, and you can reclaim the costs from the French operator.

What affects the cost of European breakdown insurance?

How much you’ll have to pay depends on a variety of factors.

  • How long you’re away for – the longer you’re away, the greater the potential chance of breakdown.
  • Where you’re going – cover may be more expensive in some places because of repair costs or the potential cost of repatriating your vehicle.
  • Your vehicle – the age and likelihood of it breaking down, together with different repair and replacement part costs.
  • The level of cover you want – generally speaking, the higher the level of cover the more expensive the policy.

What else should I consider when driving in Europe?

Some policies might offer priority for vulnerable motorists, such as those travelling on their own with children, or have faster average response times than others.

Remember to take your driving licence and vehicle registration documents (V5C) with you if you’re driving in Europe.

You’ll also need to make sure you’re carrying all the equipment and documentation required by any country you’re visiting or driving through. You’ll need to check the requirements for all countries you’re visiting and make sure you comply with local rules.

Depending on the country you’re visiting you may need:

  • a reflective jacket for each person in the vehicle
  • a warning triangle
  • headlight converter stickers so you don’t dazzle drivers coming towards you
  • spare bulbs for your lights
  • first aid kit
  • a GB sticker
  • winter tyres, snow chains in mountain areas in winter and even anti-freeze for radiators and windscreen washers in some places
  • suitable car seats for children

Other items that aren’t compulsory but are worth making sure you have with you, particularly in the event of a breakdown, include:

  • spare fuel can
  • engine oil and water for topping up
  • torch
  • fire extinguisher
  • blanket (in case it’s cold while waiting for help)
  • sun cream (in case it’s sunny while waiting for help)

What kind of exclusions are there?

An annual policy will typically offer breakdown cover in Europe up to a maximum of 90 days a year, and you might be asked to provide proof of your travel arrangements.

Some providers won’t cover you if you regularly drive to a holiday home on the continent. And if you usually bring your caravan, check that it’s covered as it will be much trickier to tow and some providers will exclude it.

Pay and Claim is common with European breakdown policies. For example, if you’re towed off a motorway in France, you’ll need to pay the breakdown company then claim back the cost from your breakdown provider.

Will I need to speak the local language to get help?

The majority of European breakdown policies include a 24/7 English-speaking helpline and multi-lingual operators. They’ll organise the help you need, so you shouldn’t need to worry if you don’t speak the local language.

Can I cover a motorhome or caravan in Europe?

Some providers will cover motorhomes under a certain weight and size. In most cases these must be:

  • a maximum weight GVM of 3.5 tonnes
  • maximum overall dimensions of: length 7m; height 3m; width 2.55m.

Most policies will also cover caravans, but the same height and weight restrictions generally apply.

You must tell your provider that you’ll be towing a caravan in Europe. In some cases, you may be asked to pay a towing supplement. Most companies will only recover a caravan if it’s attached to the vehicle.

A few providers offer dedicated motorhome and caravan breakdown cover if you’re a member of a caravanning club, such as The Camping and Caravanning Club. These often have a number of benefits, including no weight and size restrictions.

What happens if I have to return home before my car is fixed?

Some policies will cover the costs of getting your vehicle back to the UK if it can’t be fixed before your planned return.

Depending on the policy you choose, this may also include the use of a hire car and the costs of getting you and your passengers home.

If you choose vehicle and passenger repatriation, read the policy details before you buy, as cover and limits will vary between breakdown insurance providers.

What do I need to get a quote?

Whether you decide on cheap breakdown cover or want to invest in a more extensive policy, we can help you compare quotes.

Just type in a few details and compare multiple quotes on one easy-to-read page. You’ll need to give us:

  • the dates you’d like your cover to start and end
  • details of your vehicle, including age, registration, manufacturer and model
  • a few personal details, including your name and address.

You’ll see the policies listed with the cheapest first, and an at-a-glance guide to the main benefits of each, including any cashback or discounts.

When you’ve chosen the most suitable breakdown cover for you, just follow the link to the provider’s website to get your deal.

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Why use Compare the Market?

We compare 15** breakdown insurance providers

Get a quote in
2 minutes***

94.0%**** of users would recommend Compare the Market to friends or family

**Correct as of May 2020.

***On average it can take less than 2 minutes to complete a breakdown quote through Compare the Market based on data in May 2020.

****For the period 1st March 2020 to 31st May 2020, 11,723 people responded to the recommend question, 11,015 responded with a score of 6 or above, therefore 94.0% are likely to recommend.

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