Taking Your Car Abroad

The Channel Tunnel and good ferry links have made access to mainland Europe easier than ever and with more and more people choosing to take their car abroad, it’s crucial to ensure you’ve got everything covered to prevent any disruptions to your holiday.

Before you head off, check with your insurance company that you have the required cover for European roads. Make sure you tell them exactly which countries you intend visiting. They will issue you with a document generally known as a green card which should be carried with you at all times.

Your european green card is normally already printed on the back of your cover note/policy. Note that even if you have fully comp insurance in the UK, your standard cover usually only covers you for third party! Be sure to speak to your insurers if you want to extend your fully comp status to cover european travel. Many people have found out to their cost that if  they have an accident there’s a good chance that they will be footing the bill for repairs themselves.

Don’t be tempted to speed just because the roads are long and empty. The police often set up radar traps and if they detect an offence they will simply radio ahead to the toll booth where their colleagues will be waiting for you. Fines are instant, can be as much as €350.00 in some places and must be paid in cash.

Always carry your driving licence.

It’s also advisable to take your V5 vehicle logbook document with you when you travel. In the event of breakdown, many agents will request to see it. 

Choose your breakdown cover carefully

If you have breakdown cover for the UK, you’ll need to contact your current company to extend cover to for mainland Europe too.

While there are many different European breakdown plans available, make sure you read the small print. Find out exactly what you are covered for before selecting your policy. In the event you break down, you need to know what the limitations of your policy are.

In France for example, if you break down on a French Autoroute, your vehicle will need to be towed from the motorway by an approved operator. You cannot call your own breakdown company directly, you must use an emergency roadside telephone or call 112 for emergency assistance.

There are automatic fees which may or may not be covered by your policy. If the operator who is called out to you is affiliated with your breakdown company, your breakdown company will often pay these fees directly to the operator under the terms of your policy, but bear in mind that you might be asked to pay the fee yourself and seek a credit from your breakdown company later if no agreement is in place.

Find details of up to date fees and more on the Autoroutes France website.

Obtaining repairs

If your vehicle is taken to a garage, beware of more inflated prices than you might be familiar with here in the UK. You may be recovered to a main dealer, and just as in the UK, they often charge much more than smaller independent garages. Make sure you ask if diagnosis is chargeable and how much it will be before the garage carries out any work.

If you are not happy with the price you are quoted, talk to your breakdown company. Your vehicle may be eligible for repatriation back to the UK instead if repair costs run out of control, but be prepared to wait for up to a month for the vehicle to arrive back as many breakdown companies will have a fleet of transporters that operate on a circuit collecting cars from all over Europe, and depending on how busy they are, your car may be in a queue.

If your car is an older model, you may find that your breakdown company will check to see if the cost of the repatriation exceeds the value of your vehicle, in which case they may refuse repatriation. This is another reason why keeping your V5 logbook with you is important. In the event of repatriation it will need to stay with the vehicle.


Many stretches of motorway in Europe are subject to toll fees. In France tolls are managed by Sanef. You collect a ticket at the toll plaza and then periodically along your route you will be asked to insert your ticket and pay the relevant toll.

If you are driving alone in a right hand drive vehicle, this can be quite awkward as the ticket machines are situated on the left. To mitigate this you can purchase a tag which is affixed to your windscreen & automatically registers each toll zone you pass through. You will then be billed by direct debit.

This enables you to pass through the toll plaza without needing to interact with the ticket machines, automatically raising the barrier as you approach it. For more details go to Sanef Tolling to apply for a tag.

In Italy, a similar service can be found with Telepass.  In Germany, previously tolls were only charged for trucks on Autobahns, but in January 2017, the German government ruled that it will begin charging tolls. They are expected to take effect after federal elections September.

For details of other road charging schemes in Europe, check the Urban Access Regulations website.

Essential Equipment

It is now compulsory to carry a number of items to comply with French motoring regulations. As most people will hit France first on any European trip, it’s well worth checking what you’ll need to stay legal:

  • Headlamp Converters
    These will bend your headlamp beam in order not to dazzle oncoming motorists. This is due to the French driving on the opposite side of the road, hence headlamp beams are aimed in the opposite direction to the UK.
    Maximum fine for non-compliance: €90.
  • Hi Visibility Vests
    You will need to carry 1 vest per passenger which should be used in the event of a breakdown or when parked on the side of the road.
    Maximum fine for non-compliance: €135
  • GB Sticker
    Magenetic GB stickers are available if you do not wish it to be a permanent fixture on your car.
    Maximum fine for non-compliance: €90.
  • Warning Triangle
    To be used to warn oncoming traffic that your vehicle is broken down, especially if it is partially blocking the carriageway.
    Maximum fine for non-compliance: €135.
  • Spare Bulb Kit
    Maximum fine for non-compliance: €90.