Will Your Car Insurance Travel Well?

If you are planning to drive abroad in the school holidays you need to check exactly what type of car insurance cover you have.

A lady in London was shocked by how much she had to pay out for two minor accidents, even when she had bought insurance for her hire car. The two small scrapes, breaking a headlight and bumping the left wing of her car against a second rental car when parking, would probably have cost her little more than £100 each. Instead, she ended up paying out £1,237 in excess penalties.

When you rent a car in the UK or on abroad, the price includes fully comprehensive insurance but many people are not aware of the inflated excess charges which can be as high as £1,000 on the continent. Online provider, insurance4carehire, confirms this saying almost four out of 10 holidaymakers don’t know that they could be liable for these costs.

One way to get the cover you require without is to pays around £69 for an annual standalone policy, available from companies like insurance4carhire which covers all eventualities (including damage to underbody, tyres and windows, which are usually excluded in excess-waiver policies from car hire companies).

Every year three million British drivers set off to the continent, yet the price comparison website uSwitch says that two thirds aren’t sure if their insurance covers them or not. Apparently, ten per cent of Britons embark upon a driving holiday with the somewhat cloudy and incorrect notion that driving accidents are covered by our travel insurance. Remember to read the small print, whether you are hiring a car or driving your own.

Mistake number one, if you are driving your own car, is to assume that your own fully comprehensive insurance necessarily provides the same level of cover when you are not in the UK. It does not. EU law only states that insurers are obliged to provide the bare minimum – which means third-party cover. This, of course, will not protect against accidental damage, theft or accident claims and only pays out for damage sustained to another person or car.

Ashton Berkhauer, an insurance expert at uSwitch, reckons that very few of the main providers offer free cover more than three days. The exceptions are eCar and Saga, which both provide driving cover abroad for 365 days a year. Barclays it will charge you £21.50 for up to 90 days’ cover, and with Admiral it will cost you £9 for four days and £17 for up to 30.

Paul Baxter of Tescocompare.com recommends that drivers should also make sure they have adequate breakdown cover. Breakdown cover in the UK can cost as little as £30 a year, and the cheapest Europe-wide policy is £69, this covers an annual trip of up to 31 days in Europe (IC Breakdown relating to a 30-year old man driving a Ford Focus with an annual mileage of 12,000).

However, Peter Gerrard of price comparison site Money-supermarket.com points out that some of the less expensive policies (not including IC Breakdown) are fairly stripped-down and you have to pay when the breakdown occurs, then claim the cost back on your return. Single-trip policies can also be bought for about £42 from the RAC, AA and Europ Assistance.