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European breakdown cover: Is it worth it?

Breaking down is always a hassle, but if it happens in another country, it can be even more stressful.

That’s where European breakdown cover comes in. If your car goes kaput on the continent, your European breakdown cover could save you a small fortune. Typically, you’ll get access to an English-speaking helpline - and you’ll be covered for anything from roadside repairs and replacement keys to car repatriation.

It’s important to bear in mind that all breakdown cover policies are different. So, it’s important to read the terms and conditions carefully before signing up.

In this guide, we’ll explain when you should take out European breakdown cover, the various types of cover – and where coverage is typically available.

We’ll also break down the different levels of European breakdown coverage, the various factors that influence costs – and what’s typically included.

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When do you need European breakdown cover?

If you’re planning to drive in Europe, taking out European breakdown cover is a good idea. Standard UK breakdown policies generally don’t include driving in Europe, so you’ll need to take out additional coverage.

Of course, you are not obliged to take out European breakdown cover; you can drive anywhere in Europe without it. However, having that extra protection does mean that if the worst happens, you can continue to spend your holiday budget on fun stuff rather than car repairs.

What’s more, if you do break down, you won’t have the added complication of trying to sort things out when you don’t speak the native language.

Types of European breakdown cover

There are two types of European breakdown cover: single trip and annual multi-trip. The best option here will depend on how frequently you plan to drive within Europe.

A single trip policy is the one for you if you’re going to be visiting Europe once or twice a year. An annual multi-trip policy should be the better option if you plan to drive in Europe at least a few times within 12 months.

Both options place limitations on how long you can be away, although these timeframes will vary between providers. Single trip policies can last up to 180 days, whilst annual multi-trip policies generally have shorter limits for how many consecutive days can be covered for each trip. So, check with your provider before signing up.

Where will I be covered?

Most providers will offer European breakdown cover for the following 44 countries:

  • Albania

  • Andorra

  • Austria

  • Belarus

  • Belgium

  • Bosnia & Herzegovina

  • Bulgaria

  • Croatia

  • Czech Republic

  • Denmark

  • Estonia

  • Finland

  • France

  • Germany

  • Greece

  • Hungary

  • Iceland

  • Ireland

  • Italy

  • Latvia

  • Liechtenstein

  • Lithuania

  • Luxembourg

  • Malta

  • Moldova

  • Monaco

  • Montenegro

  • Netherlands

  • North Macedonia

  • Norway

  • Poland

  • Portugal

  • Romania

  • Russia

  • San Marino

  • Serbia

  • Slovakia

  • Slovenia

  • Spain

  • Sweden

  • Switzerland

  • Ukraine

  • United Kingdom

  • Vatican City

These countries are usually split into three zones. However, not all providers split their zones in the same way - and some don’t include all of the countries listed above. So, as always, check the terms carefully before purchasing a policy.

Providers are unlikely to cover countries with conflicts such as wars, invasions and civil unrest, so check the Foreign Travel Advice page on the UK Government’s website for any travel warnings before you go.

Picking the right level of cover

Most providers offer two levels of cover:

  • Vehicle cover is for when you’re going to be driving one car only, which will be named on the policy. This is usually the cheaper option.

  • Personal cover is much more flexible, as the policy names you rather than a specific vehicle, meaning you’re covered no matter how many cars you drive. This is ideal if you’re going to be borrowing and/or hiring a car, as well as driving your own. The downside is it’s generally much more expensive.

If you’re just taking a short, single trip across the Channel, vehicle cover is probably your best bet. If you’re likely to be driving rentals or friends’ cars during your holiday, or taking several different trips in a year, personal cover is the one to go for.

How much does European breakdown cover cost?

Numerous factors that can influence the cost of your European breakdown cover, including:

  • Where you plan to travel: The further away from home your destination is, the more expensive your cover is likely to be.

  • Proximity to conflict or natural disasters: If your destination is close to an area of conflict or is prone to natural disasters such as floods or volcanoes, your cover is likely to cost more.

  • The duration of your trip: The longer you require coverage, the more your policy will cost.

  • Your chosen policy type: A multi-trip policy will cost more than coverage for a single trip but should work out cheaper than taking out policies for individual trips.

  • Optional extras: Any optional extras that you select will increase the cost of your policy.

  • Breakdown risk: The age, make and model of your car will influence the cost of your policy. Your provider will use these factors and others to calculate the risk of a breakdown. The higher the perceived risk, the more your policy is likely to cost.

What’s typically included?

Although not all providers are the same, most will offer:

  • Roadside assistance: If you break down on a European road, someone will come to repair your car on the spot or, if that’s not possible, tow it to the nearest garage.

  • Home start: This covers you if you break down before you leave the UK.

  • 24/7 support: You’ll have access to English-speaking help and support around the clock.

  • Garage labour: This covers the repair costs incurred at a garage, usually up to a set amount.

  • Onward travel: If you need to continue your journey after you’ve broken down, costs such as car hire or public transport fares may be covered.

  • Vehicle repatriation: This covers the cost of getting your car back to the UK if it can’t be fixed abroad.

  • Misfuelling: If you add the wrong type of fuel to your car, this will cover your repair costs.

  • Lost keys: If you lose your car keys, you’ll be covered for a replacement set.

Documentation and safety

The essential documents you need to drive in Europe include:

  • A valid full (not provisional) driving licence.

  • Your V5C logbook.

  • Your car insurance certificate.

  • A UK sticker, if your number plate doesn’t have a UK identifier (for example, if it has GB or EU instead).

  • Depending on which country you’re driving in, you may also need an International Driving Permit.

  • If you’re hiring a car in the UK and driving it to Europe, you’ll also need a VE103 vehicle on-hire certificate.

Before you travel, you’ll need to check the laws and safety standards of the country or countries you’ll be visiting, as you might need to take extra equipment to comply with them.

For example, some cities in Europe require you to display emission permits or use headlight converter stickers. As long as you double-check before you go, you’ll be able to stay on the right side of the law, avoid fines - and stay safe.

Is European breakdown cover worth it?

Yes, European breakdown cover is definitely worth it. If your car breaks down, it could save you a large sum of money, not to mention, a whole lot of stress!

It’s important that you get the right policy to suit your needs. So, make sure you do your research and compare providers using a price comparison website.