Given the media coverage of the horrendous delays and flight cancellations at major UK airports, which we covered in June’s article, it is little wonder that more people are looking at driving to Europe for their much-needed holiday. Not only will you avoid all the stress of the airport, but significant savings can be made by not having to pay for plane tickets, airport taxes and car parking/taxi charges. However, failing to ensure you have adequate European Breakdown Cover in place, could prove costly if you run in to any difficulties with your vehicle.

If you are planning on taking your car across the channel, or maybe you have acquired a new camper van and are keen to start exploring, it is important to be prepared and thoroughly check your breakdown cover. Never make the assumption that your vehicle automatically has the same level of breakdown cover overseas, as it does at home.

What is European Breakdown Cover?

European Breakdown Cover means that you will be covered if your vehicle breaks down while you are driving abroad on the Continent. Having European Breakdown Cover in place will ensure, where possible, you can get your car repaired at the side of the road, or at a local garage if a roadside repair isn’t possible. In more serious instances, if your vehicle needs to be brought back to the UK, your European Breakdown Cover may also cover you for this.

The cost of vehicle repairs and recovery can be much higher in Europe. Vehicle parts are often more expensive too, especially if they vary for left and right-handed drive vehicles. If you find yourself involved in an accident, it is much more complicated when overseas compared to the UK, where your insurance provider makes the necessary arrangements for your vehicle to be taken to a garage for the required repairs.

France is the most common place for people driving from the UK to break down (52% of people breakdown here), and the average cost of a vehicle recovery and repair is £700. The least number of breakdowns occur in Italy (4%), but the average cost of a vehicle recovery and repair there is £950.

Sweden, where recovery costs average £1,450, is the most expensive country in Europe to break down. Romania (£1,400) is the second, followed by Turkey (£1,250), Italy (£950) and then Croatia (£900). These figures don’t include all repair costs, which vary depending on the damage to the car.

Without European Breakdown Cover in place, if your vehicle was to break down on your travels, you could find yourself having to cover the expense of your car being towed to a local garage and repaired, or even the cost of bringing the vehicle back to the UK. This could be extremely difficult if you are unfamiliar with the area you are in and are unable to speak the language.

Different levels of European Breakdown Cover available

European Breakdown Cover can be taken out for motorbikes, cars or vans. Cover can be taken out for a single trip or an annual policy if you are going to be driving overseas frequently.

The level of cover varies between providers, so below is a list of things to bear in mind when you are looking at cover:

  • Number of call outs. Some providers impose a limit on the number of call outs you are covered for before you have to pay a fee. Check the number of call outs allowed under your cover.
  • Claim limits. Some providers impose a limit on the cost of each claim per trip, with the stipulation that you pay the rest. Check if there is a limit per claim under your cover.
  • Round the clock assistance. Not all providers offer 24-hour assistance. Check if this is available under your cover, as the last thing you want when overseas, is to be stranded somewhere unfamiliar in the middle of the night.
  • Towing service. If your vehicle breaks down and can’t be repaired at the roadside, it will need to be towed to a local garage. Some providers will include this service as standard, some may offer it as an additional extra and some may charge for it regardless of the level of cover you have. Check if towing is offered under your cover, or if you will need to pay extra for this service.
  • Countries covered. Check what countries are covered by your policy. You may need to take out a different level of cover in order for different countries to be included.
  • Onward travel. If your vehicle cannot be repaired and you need to get to your destination, some providers will help you to get there as part of their standard cover, whilst others might charge extra or require you to take out an extra policy for this. Check if you are fully covered with your policy.
  • Repatriation of vehicle & passengers. In the event your vehicle needs to be taken back to the UK because it can’t be fixed, some providers will cover this, and others will include it as an extra. Some providers will also cover the cost of getting the driver and passengers home. Check what, if any cover, your policy gives you under these circumstances.
  • Courtesy vehicle. If your vehicle cannot be repaired immediately, some providers will arrange access to a courtesy vehicle, whilst others will offer this at a fee. Check if you are entitled to a courtesy car with your policy.
  • Wrong fuel. If you accidentally fill up your vehicle with the wrong type of fuel, some providers will allow you to claim for a garage repair. Check whether this is included as standard in your policy, or if you will have to pay extra.
  • Lost keys. Losing your keys can be stressful at the best of times. Check whether this cover is included as standard, or available as an optional extra.

 What to do if you breakdown in Europe

Breaking down abroad can be particularly difficult, as it can involve language barriers and different rules and regulations. However, there are certain steps you should take to ensure the safety of you and your passengers.

  1. Pull over. Pull over to a safe place away from traffic or, if you are on a motorway, on to the hard shoulder.
  2. Exit the vehicle. Get everyone out of the car and to a safe distance away if it is an emergency, or if you are on a motorway.
  3. Call your provider. If you have European Breakdown Cover, call your provider and let them know your location.
  4. Call for assistance. If you don’t have cover, call for assistance using your phone. In an emergency, the number to call for all of the EU member states is 112.

Tony Buckingham, Managing Director of Buckingham Insurance says, “Just as you wouldn’t holiday abroad without travel insurance, you shouldn’t consider driving abroad without European Breakdown Cover. Travel insurance should be taken out as soon as you book your holiday to offer you immediate protection. This will ensure you can claim for circumstances that may arise before you travel, for example, cancellations or delays. European Breakdown Cover can be taken out for the duration of your holiday, or as an annual policy if you are a frequent overseas driver.”

If you would like to discuss your travel insurance needs, please don’t hesitate to contact us or telephone one of our friendly staff on 01246 575 625 (Clowne) or 01773 748 627 (Ripley).”