Car insurance on the continent causes confusion, says moneysupermarket

12 May 2009 / by Rachael Stiles
Almost half of UK motorists could be putting themselves at risk because they do not know whether or not their car insurance policy would cover them for driving in Europe, research from has found.

An increasing number of Brits could be opting to drive to Europe for their summer holidays this year, as the credit crunch puts a stop to more expensive long-haul trips, but 49 per cent of UK drivers do not know what they would be insured for if something went wrong.

"It is a mistake to assume your existing cover is valid when driving abroad - chances are your insurance policy is likely to differ," says Steve Sweeney, head of car insurance at

Almost a third of British drivers believe that a fully comprehensive car insurance policy will provide the same cover abroad as it would at home, but only 20 of the big brand car insurance providers offer the same cover automatically.

Meanwhile, more than a fifth of drivers believe that their policy will be automatically downgraded and provide third party cover when they head across the channel in their motors, moneysupermarket's research discovered.

Moneysupermarket warns drivers to beware of automatic downgrades, as nine insurers will automatically downgrade the policy so that it matches the minimum level of cover required for the country of destination, and another provider downgrades their customers' cover to include third party protection only.

Mr Sweeny said: "When driving in continental Europe, motorists need to be aware a provider could automatically downgrade a fully comprehensive policy," and this will happen "as soon as the wheels hit continental soil."

Therefore, it is crucial that drivers study the small print of their car insurance policy before they set off, Mr Sweeny urges. "If you were unfortunate enough to have a crash whilst abroad and were only covered for third party, you could find your great holiday getaway turns into an expensive motoring nightmare," he added.

Moneysupermarket also warns that cover can sometimes be limited, lasting only for the first 30 days that the driver is on the continent, whereas other car insurance providers offer unlimited cover, within reason.

Steve Sweeney concluded: "If your motor insurance policy does automatically downgrade you, it's worth speaking to your insurer ahead of your trip so you can make amendments to your policy if needs be – most providers allow policy holders to upgrade their cover for around £20 for a trip to the continent."

Compare car insurance deals »

© Fair Investment Company Ltd