Car insurance for non-UK residents

Can you get car insurance in the UK if you live abroad? And do you need to swap your international driving licence for a UK one? Read on for the answers and more.

Can you get car insurance in the UK if you live abroad? And do you need to swap your international driving licence for a UK one? Read on for the answers and more.

Kate Hughes
Car insurance expert
6
minute read
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Last Updated 15 AUGUST 2022

Do I need car insurance to drive in the UK?

Yes, by law you must have valid car insurance to drive on UK roads, even if you’re only visiting for a short time. 

If you’re planning to borrow a car from friends or family while you’re here, you could get temporary car insurance. Short-term policies are available from one hour up to 28 days. However, you’ll typically have to pay a higher premium than UK residents as you’re considered a higher risk, even if you have a good driving record abroad. 

An easier option might be for the car owner to add you to their policy as a named driver. They might have to pay extra to do this, but it could still work out cheaper than buying temporary cover. 

If you’re renting a car, you won’t have to worry about insurance as it’s included in the price. However, you might want to check what’s covered in the rental agreement and consider adding extra cover if needed. 

Can I get car insurance with an international licence?

Yes, it’s possible to get car insurance with an international licence – but it may cost you more than those with a UK licence. Lack of familiarity with UK roads means there’s a higher risk of international drivers being involved in an accident and having to make a claim. 

There are three levels of cover available in the UK:

I’m coming to live in the UK. Can I get car insurance?

If you’re moving to the UK to work or study, you might want to buy a car – especially if you’ll be based in a rural or semi-rural area where public transport can be limited. If so, you’ll need to follow UK rules, meaning your car must be: 

  • Registered in your own name
  • Taxed
  • Insured
  • Have a valid MOT (from the official Department for Transport test of vehicle safety, roadworthiness and emissions) if the car is more than three years old. 

I’m bringing my car to the UK. Will I be covered?

If you’re bringing your own car into the UK, you may be covered for at least third-party damage by your existing overseas car insurance policy. However, you might want to bring your level of cover up to fully comprehensive so you and your vehicle are financially protected. You should check to make sure, and to see exactly what’s covered before you start driving. 

You’re required by UK law to have at least third-party car insurance in place to drive on roads in the UK, even if you’re only visiting. 

It’s a good idea to ask your insurance provider for a Green Card if you’re coming from one of the 48 countries that are part of the scheme. This proves that you have valid insurance in case you have an accident. 

The UK government’s Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and its Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has additional information on driving and insurance requirements in the UK. 

Can I drive in the UK with an international driving licence?

Yes, you can drive in the UK with a valid international driving licence for up to 12 months. After that:  

  • If you have an EU driving licence, you can continue to drive with it in the UK until you’re 70 and your licence expires. However, if you’re a UK resident, you can choose to swap your EU licence for a UK one for a small fee, without needing to take a test.
  • If you have a driving licence from a ‘designated country’, you’ll have to exchange it for a UK licence. If you apply within five years of becoming a UK resident, you won’t have to take the UK driving test.
  • If your driving licence was issued in the US, a non-EU or non-designated country, you’ll need to apply for a provisional driving licence and pass the full UK driving test

The process is different if you want to exchange your foreign licence in Northern Ireland

Did you know?

Designated countries are those that have a licence exchange agreement with Great Britain. These include: Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Japan, South Africa, Zimbabwe, the United Arab Emirates, and Switzerland.

How much is car insurance for international drivers in the UK?

If you’re driving in the UK on a foreign driving licence, you should expect to pay more for your insurance than someone with a UK licence, even if you’ve got an impeccable driving record.  

Most insurance providers consider drivers from overseas a higher risk due to their lack of experience on UK roads. There’s more chance of being involved in an accident and having to make a claim, so you may be charged a higher premium to reflect this. You might also have trouble finding a provider that will accept a no-claims discount from another country. 

Other factors that could affect the cost of your UK car insurance include:

  • Your personal circumstances and driving history
  • Your address in the UK
  • Make, model and age of your car
  • Your estimated mileage
  • Where you’ll be parking your car overnight.

Find out what else can impact the cost of car insurance in the UK.

Should I change my foreign licence for a UK one?

If you have a foreign driving licence, it might be worth exchanging it for a UK one as:

  • Having a UK licence could mean you pay less for your car insurance as you fit more neatly into insurance providers’ various risk profiles.
  • Most company cars are covered by fleet insurance, which excludes non-UK licences.
  • You can use your UK driving licence as ID – useful for everything from buying a pint in the pub to joining the local library. 

Unless you’re an EU licence holder, you can only drive in the UK on a foreign licence for up to 12 months – so if you’re staying for more than a year, you’d have to exchange it for a UK one anyway. 

Find out more about exchanging a foreign driving licence at GOV.UK.

Do I need an international driving permit?

No, you won’t need an international driving permit to drive in the UK. What you’ll need is: 

  • A valid driving licence
  • Insurance
  • ID – for example, your passport
  • Breakdown cover is optional, but it could prevent you from being stranded at the side of the road. 

For information about international permits for UK residents, read our guide to driving abroad.

Frequently asked questions

Can I use my no-claims discount from overseas?

If you can get a certificate from your usual insurance provider proving your no-claims bonus abroad, you might be able to use it to negotiate a discount here in the UK. However, not all UK insurance providers will accept an overseas no-claims discount, so you may need to shop around to find one that does. 

Similarly, if you’re a UK resident moving abroad, ask your insurance provider to give you a certificate you can take with you.

How long can I drive my foreign car in the UK?

If you become a UK citizen or decide to stay in the UK for longer than six months within any 12-month period – no matter whether it’s in a single stay or several shorter stays – you’ll have to register your foreign car and pay road tax (VED) to continue driving it on UK roads.

How can I save on my car insurance as a foreign driver?

If you’re an international driver working or living in the UK, you can save money on your car insurance by:

  • Exchanging your foreign licence for a UK driving licence
  • Finding a car insurance provider that accepts the no-claims discount you’ve built up in your home country
  • Shopping around to find the best deal.

That’s where we can help. Compare car insurance with us and see what deals are available. 

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Compare quotes with us today and see if you can start saving. 

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