European breakdown cover
Driving to Europe? European breakdown cover includes roadside assistance and recovery if your vehicle has mechanical problems while you’re away. Find out why it’s so important and compare cover for your trip.
What is European breakdown cover?
European breakdown cover is a roadside assistance and recovery service designed to cover you while you’re driving in Europe. It can help you get your car fixed or towed to the nearest garage if break down on a driving holiday.
Typically, European breakdown cover includes an English-speaking helpline you can call, 24 hours a day, to help you navigate any language barriers. And if the problem persists and your car needs to be repaired back in the UK, it can take care of the expenses of getting you, your car and passengers back home safely too.
Europe breakdown cover isn’t included as standard with car insurance, so if you’re planning on driving in mainland Europe you may want to add it or take out a standalone policy.
What does European breakdown cover include?
European breakdown cover typically includes:
- Home start — in case your car breaks down before you set off on your trip.
- 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.
- 24/7 assistance — gives you anytime access to support and recovery and prevents you from being stranded anywhere overnight.
- Garage labour costs — to cover all or some of the costs of fixing your car at a garage. In some cases, you’ll need to add this on to your policy as optional parts and labour cover.
- Onward travel costs — enabling 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.
- Vehicle repatriation — to cover 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’.
- Misfuelling — cover for damages or repairs if you mistakenly put diesel in a petrol car or vice versa.
- 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.
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Why do I need European breakdown cover?
If you break down in Europe without the right cover, you’ll have to pay for repairs and callouts. And you’ll 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 makes sense to be on the safe side and opt 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.
What level of European breakdown cover do I need?
Depending on how often you’ll be driving in Europe, you can either buy single trip or multi-trip cover.
Single trip European cover
- Covers you on a one-off return journey to European destinations.
- Could cover Europe trips from one day up to a maximum of 90 or in some cases 180 days.
- Also includes cover in the UK, for the drives both leaving and returning home.
- Buying European breakdown cover for a single trip could work out cheaper than buying an annual policy if you’re only planning short trips to Europe once or twice a year
Annual European breakdown cover
- Covers you for unlimited journeys to Europe in a year.
- Typically covers you for up to 90 days on each trip.
- Also includes nationwide cover in the UK.
- Could work out cheaper than separate single-trip policies if you’re planning several shorter trips to Europe throughout the year.
Before you buy, please make sure you don't already have breakdown cover elsewhere. It's sometimes offered as part of your car insurance or a packaged bank account.
Which countries will I be covered in?
It depends on the breakdown insurance provider you choose.
In most cases, you’ll be covered in around 44 European countries, not just European Economic Area (EEA) members, which include:
- Bosnia & Herzegovina
- Czech Republic
- North Macedonia
- San Marino
- United Kingdom
- Vatican City
Some providers may also cover you for:
To make sure you get the right level of cover, many providers make things easier by dividing the countries they cover into zones. However, it’s important to note that the countries covered by these zones can vary per provider, so check your policy details to make sure you’ll be covered for your chosen European destination and the countries you travel through to get there and back.
What is excluded from European breakdown cover?
You must buy your policy before you travel – sometimes up to seven days beforehand -otherwise it won't be valid. Some providers might not offer cover for vehicles over a certain age.
European breakdown cover won’t cover non-emergency repairs. And it may not cover the cost of repairs at a local garage or replacement parts unless you’ve chosen to add parts and labour to your policy.
When you compare European breakdown cover, check the following to make sure you have adequate protection:
- Do you need to get your vehicle serviced before you travel?
- Are you covered for the countries you want to visit and the length of trip you want to take?
- Are there any limits on the number of callouts you can make?
- Will you get a hire car and accommodation while your vehicle is being repaired?
- Are you covered to bring your caravan or trailer?
- Are you covered if you’re driving over to Europe for business purposes?
- What is the maximum amount you can claim for any repairs?
- What is covered in terms of onward travel if you are unable to continue your journey as planned?
- Are you covered for mistakes like misfuelling and lost keys?
Be aware that Pay and Claim is common with European breakdown policies. This means that, 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.
What you need to drive in Europe: our checklist
With European breakdown cover you’ll have the peace of mind that help will be on its way if you run into mechanical trouble. But to make sure your European driving holiday goes off without a hitch, here’s a few essentials you’ll need to bring with you:
- Your vehicle’s V5C log book — if you’re driving your own car in Europe, you’ll need to take your log book with you to prove that you’re the registered keeper of the vehicle. If you’re taking a leased or hired vehicle to Europe, you’ll need a VE103 vehicle on hire certificate to drive it abroad.
- A valid full UK driving licence — although your UK driving licence is valid in the EU, you may need an international driving permit (IDP) if you don’t have a photocard licence, or you’re driving to certain European countries outside of the EU.
- Proof of valid UK car insurance — you won’t need a green card to drive in the EU, but you will need valid vehicle insurance. All UK car insurance includes third-party cover in the EU as a minimum but check the terms carefully to make sure you’ll have adequate cover for your trip.
- A UK sticker — if you’re driving a UK-registered vehicle in Europe, you’ll need to display a UK sticker on the rear of the vehicle. That applies even if your number plate has a Euro symbol, a GB symbol or shows one of the national flags of England, Scotland or Wales.
- European breakdown cover policy details — make sure you have the policy number to hand and all relevant documents, including the emergency helpline number you need to call if something does go wrong.
What else do I need to take with me when driving in Europe?
As well as your documents, you’ll need to make sure you’re carrying all the equipment required by any country you’re driving through. Check the requirements for all countries you’re visiting to make sure you comply with local rules.
Depending on the country you may need:
- A reflective jacket for each person in the vehicle
- A warning triangle
- Headlight converter stickers so you don’t dazzle oncoming drivers
- Spare bulbs for your lights
- First aid kit
- Winter tyres and snow chains for alpine areas, and anti-freeze for radiators and windscreen washers
- Suitable car seats for children.
Other items that aren’t compulsory but may come in handy if you break down, include:
- Spare fuel can
- Engine oil and water for topping up
- Fire extinguisher
- Sun cream.
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.
- 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.
- Where you’re going – different cover levels may include more countries than others. Don’t assume that a policy covers all of Europe. Check that it covers your destination.
What do I need to get a quote?
Whether you decide on cheap European 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 – for single trip policies – 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.Get a quote
Frequently asked questions
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected European breakdown cover policies?
Your European breakdown cover should still be valid, and your provider should still come and assist you. However, you should read your policy documents carefully or get in touch with them to confirm, before you travel. You should also check for any local restrictions in the country you’re travelling to.
For travel advice on your destination, check the UK government's latest travel advice.
Is my European breakdown cover still valid now that the UK has left the EU?
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.
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.
Can I get one-off breakdown cover for a holiday?
Yes, single-trip policies are available for European breakdown cover. You could even get single-trip policies for as little as a day, so you can really tailor it to fit your trip. European breakdown cover is usually covered across all of Europe, or in certain zones. This means you won’t normally be able to get cover for just the country you’re travelling to.
Will my European breakdown policy cover me to drive in the UK?
It depends on the type of European breakdown policy you get, but most standard policies will cover you for driving in the UK, as well as Europe.
Will European breakdown cover get my car back to the UK?
Yes, ‘vehicle repatriation’ is a common inclusion with European breakdown cover. Vehicle repatriation can cover some, or all, of the costs to bring your car back to the UK, if it can’t be fixed where you’re currently travelling.
While vehicle repatriation is often included, make sure you check whether repatriation is also covered for you and your passengers, otherwise it’ll only be the car that’s paid for.
Is breakdown cover the only insurance I need to check?
Check your main vehicle insurance policy too. Your UK car insurance will automatically cover you to drive within Europe, but it may only include the minimum third-party cover. It’s best to check what level of cover you have as you may want more comprehensive cover to protect you and your vehicle. And it's worth making sure you understand if there are any exclusions before setting off.
You won’t need a Green Card to drive in the EU and most European countries but you will need to carry proof of your UK insurance with you.
You might also find that your policy requires your car is serviced before you travel.
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 to get your car towed and in the 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.
Can I get short-term car insurance to cover me in Europe?
All UK car insurance policies will include third-party cover to drive in EU countries as standard. However, if you’re looking for more comprehensive European car insurance, then you should get that added as an extra, or on a separate policy. If you only need temporary car insurance to drive in Europe, then this can be taken out, too.
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 2.3-2.55m.
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 European caravan breakdown cover if you’re a member of a caravanning club, such as The Camping and Caravanning Club. These often have 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.