Many British motorists driving in Europe are not nearly as well insured as they assume, according to the Association of British Insurers. The majority of UK insurance policies will cover drivers for the minimum legal requirements whilst in EU countries but eventualities such as accidents, breakdown and theft will not be included, leaving holidaymakers out of pocket and facing a ruined trip.
Research carried out by Zurich on car insurance abroad revealed that a worrying number of people do not take the necessary amount of care and attention regarding their cover when driving in foreign countries. 28% of British motorists do not check the validity of their policy in the country in which they will be driving whilst 43% have no idea whether their insurance covers important issues such as medical bills resulting from an accident. 53% do not inform their insurer when they are due to drive abroad.
Insurance firm Esure echo the ABI’s sentiments, asserting that it is naïve to assume that UK car insurance will cover every eventuality on foreign soil. Adrian Webb, head of corporate communications for Esure, explained: ‘People seem to have absorbed the view erroneously that having an insurance policy with a UK company covers you anywhere within the EU.’
Mr. Webb says that it is a common misconception that UK insurance will cover damage incurred to the driver’s vehicle in the event of an accident: ‘If you crash your car into somebody else’s, writing off their car and injuring them and writing off your car and injuring you, the only thing that’s covered is their losses. Any damage to your own car is not covered.’
For these reasons insurers are strongly recommending that motorists planning to drive in the EU seek out European car insurance in addition to their standard British cover. Taking out such a policy is the best way of ensuring that your own damages are covered, as all UK insurance policies are third party only in the EU. However, it is important that the European insurance policy taken out is comprehensive, especially if the holder is planning to drive through a number of different countries.
Malcolm Tarling of the ABI advised motorists to conduct a thorough check of European policies as they vary considerably in price from country to country, depending on the national accident rate: ‘For those countries where there’s a high accident rate, such as some of the Mediterranean countries – Greece or Portugal for example – you may pay more than if you were driving in France or Germany or Holland.’ According to a report from the RAC Brits driving in Spain or Portugal are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than they are at home.
There are some UK insurers that will provide a limited period of free comprehensive cover, usually 90 days, but these firms are relatively few and far between, warned Ian Crowder, public relations manager at AA. Other companies can charge extra for the privilege whilst many will not give the holder the option at all.