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European breakdown cover

Breaking down while on holiday can be extremely stressful, but good-quality breakdown protection isn’t expensive. Read on to find out more about European breakdown insurance.
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European breakdown cover

If you’re planning to take a trip across the Channel, the last thing you want is for your car to expire at the side of the Autobahn. But breakdown cover can provide peace of mind while you enjoy a well-earned break – providing you get the right policy.

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What is European breakdown cover?

If you have European breakdown cover, it means you'll get vehicle repairs at the roadside. If they can’t be done – perhaps because it’s not safe, isn’t permitted (as is the case on French motorways) or the problem requires more work – you’ll be towed to a local garage rather than being left stranded.

It sounds simple, and it is in theory, but breakdown cover is never one-size-fits-all, so be sure to scrutinise your policy before heading off.

What types of European breakdown cover can I get?

You can get European breakdown cover for cars, vans and motorbikes.

You need to consider whether you want to cover just one car or you want to cover yourself in any vehicle you are driving.

Getting European breakdown cover for just the car is the cheaper option and might provide all the cover you need while abroad.

But if you expect to drive different cars in Europe, consider taking out personal cover instead – although make sure you are aware of any restrictions on the cars you drive.

You can also choose between taking out breakdown cover for a single trip to Europe or an annual policy.

A single-trip policy can cover you for a long visit of up to six months, but it won’t let you make multiple short trips within that period. If you expect to make several trips a year to the continent it’s almost certain that an annual policy will prove to be better value.

What features does European breakdown cover include?

The exact details of what breakdown cover includes varies from policy to policy, so check your details before you travel.

Some features might need to be add-ons to a standard breakdown policy, but some of the key things that you should consider include:

  • Pre-trip protection: You can call the breakdown service if your car won’t start when you’re intending to leave home on holiday

  • Roadside assistance: If you break down during a journey, a mechanic will come to you

  • Repairs: Your policy will pay for some or all of the repairs needed to get your car back on the road. Always check the limit, as it may be worth paying a little more for extra cover

  • Home-start: This means you can call out a mechanic if your car breaks down before you start your journey

  • Onward journey: You’ll be covered for any reasonable costs incurred to get you to your destination if your car can’t be fixed at the roadside

  • Accommodation: Some policies will cover emergency accommodation if you find yourself stranded

  • Courtesy car: Your policy might cover the cost of a replacement car while yours is being repaired

  • Misfuelling: Some providers cover costs stemming from putting the wrong fuel in your car, including recovery and repair

  • Key cover: This pays for repairing and replacing lost or damaged locks and car keys or fobs

  • Repatriation: You may be covered for the cost of returning your car to the UK for comprehensive repairs if they can’t be done abroad

  • English-speaking assistance: This is offered by some providers.

Which countries will I be covered in with European breakdown cover?

The exact list of countries you can get protection for with European breakdown cover will depend on your provider, but you should find you can get cover in more than 40 countries across the continent – far beyond the EU and the European Economic Area.

But you might need to specify in advance where you're going to be driving as some providers offer policies based on various zones rather than providing cover for every country

Some policies will cover you even further afield, in countries such as Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan.

How much does European breakdown cover cost?

While a higher level of breakdown protection can cost more, it’s not always the case. Shop around and you may find better-value and better-quality protection.

You generally build your cover according to what you want, and the cost of your policy will depend on how long you’ll be away and any excess charges, as well as the level of cover you want and where you’ll be going.

The cost of your policy will also depend on the age and condition of your vehicle and whether it’s had any modifications.

Your existing UK breakdown policy might allow you to upgrade – but be careful if the fee seems too high. It may be cheaper to buy standalone cover.

What should you pack to drive in Europe?

Each country has its own rules of what you should carry in the car at all times. For example, consider France’s requirements:

  • Emergency warning triangle (two in Spain)

  • Headlight beam deflectors

  • Unused breathalyser, which shows the French certification mark ‘NF’

  • High visibility reflective jackets for each occupant of your vehicle

  • Spare headlight bulb kit 

  • If your car registration plates don’t display the EU symbol/Union Flag then you need a GB sticker

  • Spare pair of driving glasses if you use driving glasses

  • Some French cities now demand emissions stickers – ‘clean air’ vignettes – on your windscreen.

Pay close attention to mobile phone use. Using a Bluetooth hands-free mobile in France is illegal. In some cases, you can have your licence suspended regardless of nationality if caught using a mobile at the wheel – which would seriously disrupt your driving holiday. 

Sat-navs that warn you of speed cameras in France are also illegal – so turn off your speed camera alerts.

Extra driving rules to consider when driving in Europe

Winter tyres are mandatory in Austria, Czech Republic and compulsory in Italy on certain roads. In mountainous regions of France, Germany and Italy snow chains must be carried in the car. 

If you are not sure about highly specific local requirements, check carefully before leaving. Typically, European winter tyre regulations come into force between 1 November and the middle of April.

Rude or offensive gestures towards other road users can attract steep fines in Germany, for example. Be aware, too, of local rules around eating at the wheel and distraction risk.


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