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Driving in Europe and the COVID-19 pandemic
Following new restrictions implemented on 5 January 2021, you can only travel internationally if you're legally permitted to do so while the UK is under full lockdown restrictions.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) currently advises British nationals against all but essential international travel. See the latest FCDO advice for further information.
For more detailed information about driving during the COVID-19 pandemic, read our coronavirus and motoring FAQ page.
Please note: This information was correct at the time of publication on 13 January 2021, 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?
It’s important to know you can get your car fixed or towed to the nearest garage if you’re on a driving holiday. With European breakdown cover, you’ll get roadside assistance if you break down while driving in Europe. If the problem persists and your car needs to be repaired back in the UK, breakdown cover can take care of these expenses too.
European breakdown cover isn’t included as standard with car insurance, so if you’re planning on driving in mainland Europe you should make sure to add it or take out a standalone policy.
Is my European breakdown cover still valid now that we’ve left Europe?
Your breakdown cover policy will offer the same level of protection as before Brexit (unless your provider has contacted you to say otherwise). If you’re at all unsure, check your policy documents or contact your provider.
What features does European breakdown cover include?
Typically, European breakdown cover can offer:
1. Home start 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. Make sure you check any call-out limits on your policy, otherwise you may have to pay extra.
3. 24/7 assistance Gives you anytime access to support and recovery, and prevents you from being stranded anywhere overnight.
4. Garage labour costs Cover for all or some of the costs of fixing your car at a garage.
5. Onward travel This will enable you to continue your journey if your car breaks down. For example, some policies provide a replacement car while yours is at the garage, some will reimburse you for the cost of travelling on public transport and some even cover accommodation costs.
6. Vehicle repatriation Covers all or some of the costs of returning your car to the UK if it can’t be fixed. Some policies may also cover the costs of getting you and your passengers back to the UK. This is called ‘repatriation’.
7. Wrong fuel type Cover for damages or repairs if you mistakenly put diesel in a petrol car or vice versa.
8. Lost keys If you lose your keys while you’re travelling, you can be reimbursed for the cost of replacements.
Details vary from policy to policy, so always check what’s covered before you buy.
Which countries will I be covered in?
It depends on the breakdown insurance provider you choose.
In most cases, you’ll be covered in 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 might be a limit 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 things.
- How long you’re away for – the longer you’re away, the greater the chance of a break down.
- Where you’re going – cover may be more expensive in some places because of repair costs or the potential cost of getting your vehicle back to the UK.
- Your vehicle – the age and likelihood of it breaking down, plus 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 should I 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 the road or at the side of the road, away from any traffic.
- Get out of your car – if it’s safe to do so, and keep your distance from any traffic.
- Call your breakdown cover provider – they’ll 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, which can be hefty. For example, the cost of 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 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 look at 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 in Europe without the right cover, not only will you have to pay for expensive repairs and call-outs, you’ll also have to organise everything yourself, in a country whose language you might not understand.
Add on the unfamiliar rules of the road and a lack of local knowledge, and breaking down overseas becomes 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’s 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 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 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 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 to 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. Now that we’ve left the EU, you’ll also need a Green Card to drive in Europe. This will prove that your insurance offers the minimum cover for the country you’re driving in. Ask your car insurance provider to issue you with a Green Card.
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 and 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 take with you, particularly in the event of a breakdown, include:
- spare fuel can
- engine oil and water for topping up
- 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?
Most 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 vary between breakdown insurance providers.
What do I need to get a quote?
Whether you decide on cheap breakdown cover or want 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.Get a quote
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