How to find the right European breakdown cover

Breaking down on holiday is the last thing you want. But if it happens to you it’s important to have the right breakdown cover in place. Here's what you need to know.

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If you drive in Europe, good quality breakdown cover is crucial for your stress levels, should the worst happen. So how do you find the best European breakdown cover at the best price? We’ll look at this shortly. But first you need to know what to buy and how to buy it.

What is European breakdown cover?

Buying European breakdown cover lets you call an English-speaking helpline wherever you (and your passengers) break down while driving on the continent. 

Having cover in place means that someone will come out to you and potentially repair your car at the roadside, so you get quickly on your way once the issue has been fixed.

  • Most breakdown policies are sold on either a single trip basis or annual or multi-trip; a single trip is usually up to 31 days in length

  • Annual or multi-trip policies give you cover for repeat trips through the year, though there will be claim limits and possibly length-of-trip limits too

  • If you take your car to Europe once a year, a single trip policy is enough; if you drive to Europe regularly an annual or multi-trip policy is more cost-effective, flexible and less faff

Before buying European breakdown cover, double check that you don’t have protection already. For example, Nationwide’s FlexPlus account and Co-Op’s Everyday Extra Account supply European breakdown cover as standard. There are other examples too.

What does a European breakdown policy cover? 

Generally, you get the same benefits as a UK breakdown policy, though some policies will not pay for breakdown labour and parts. Make sure you check carefully.

Broadly you choose a level that includes one of all of the following:

  • Roadside help

  • Alternative travel costs

  • Emergency accommodation costs

Keep in mind there may be towing restrictions if you have a caravan or boat. Some policies may also have night-time restrictions.

Good quality cover can make life less stressful so there may be other options you can bolt on to your cover for an extra fee. Or they might be included as standard. For example:

  • Pre-departure cover, covering you for up to seven days before leaving for your trip

  • Vehicle and passenger repatriation, protecting you from the cost of getting your vehicle back to the UK if it can’t be fixed

  • The use of a hire car if you need it

In other words, the small print is worth reading and comparison sites like Uswitch make comparing breakdown protection levels easier.

What’s the best way to buy European breakdown cover?

In some cases, you can call – if you’ve already got UK cover – your existing breakdown provider and simply add European cover to your policy. You can easily compare the cost to make sure you’re getting value for money.

Alternatively, you can search the market with the help of Money.co.uk.

Bear in mind that some stand-alone European cover policies offer better value than a bolt-on policy from your existing insurer. 

They also may offer extra protection at an overall lower cost.  

Can I still get European breakdown cover after Brexit?

You can still get European cover now that the UK has left the EU, but bear in mind that the rules around car insurance have changed.

As of 2 August 2021, drivers no longer need to obtain a Green Card from their insurer for the vehicle they are driving in the EU, Switzerland, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Andorra.

However, you might need a Green Card to drive in other countries including:

  • Albania

  • Azerbaijan

  • Belarus

  • Iran

  • Israel

  • Moldova

  • Morocco

  • Russia

  • Tunisia

  • Turkey

  • Ukraine

Green Cards are issued by insurance providers in the UK and guarantee the motorist has the minimum third-party motor insurance cover for travel in the country being travelled to. 

You can now print green cards yourself, as they no longer need to be printed on green paper. If you need a physical copy of a Green Card, you will need to contact your vehicle insurance provider at least 6 weeks before you travel.

Six tips to get the best European breakdown cover deal

  • Double-check you haven’t got breakdown cover already via a bank account or a partner’s account

  • If your car is relatively new it may have European cover with its manufacturer’s warranty – so check (again)

  • If you’ve already got cover is it enough? A bog-standard policy may not stretch far enough for your driving holiday comfort

  • Choose the right kind of protection. If you have a boat or trailer, pay close attention to towing restrictions should you break down

  • Check policy accommodation allowances – if you break down does your policy include overnight costs so you can continue your journey comfortably? Is hire car cover included?

  • Always compare price and policy upgrade options.

Before you go…

  • Take your driving licence, insurance cover note and V5 logbook with you. If you don’t, you risk a fine from European police

  • Always take your European breakdown cover documentation, including policy numbers and phone numbers, and keep them safely stored

  • Carry your car spare key and find a safe place to keep it – but not in your car!

  • Take your Green Card with you if required

  • Check the latest Covid-19 advice from the Foreign Office 

  • …and check winter tyre restrictions. These come into force between 1 November and mid-April every year across many parts of Europe

What to do if you break down in Europe

If you break down abroad: 

  • Pull over safely and find a safe space away from fast-moving traffic

  • Turn on your hazard lights

  • If your car is close to busy traffic, such as an auto-route, it’s a good idea for all occupants to find a safer space near the car. Try and get all occupants to leave the car by the door closest to the verge

  • Call your breakdown provider. Update them with your location plus any detail of the breakdown that you feel is helpful

For all your travel essentials in one place, visit our Travel Hub.

By comparing breakdown cover providers, you can find a policy that gives you the level of cover you need at a price you can afford.