Everything you need to know about taking your car abroad

Road trips around the UK are great, but why not ramp things up a notch and head to another country for your next driving adventure? 😃 No, we’re not talking about roaming around Scotland and Wales; we mean venturing to the continent and visiting France, Belgium or even Germany on your next driving holiday. However, many people might not feel comfortable driving outside of the UK, our recent survey found. 

We discovered that one in eight (12%) of UK drivers questions have found driving abroad a scary experience and a further third (37%) of UK drivers confirmed they wouldn’t want to drive abroad - with fear topping the reasons why. 

So, we’ve compiled a list of everything you may need to know to ease your fears before driving into the sunset. And we’ve got the lowdown so you can drive in another country whilst playing your favourite Spotify playlist of Italo disco favourites the right way. 

Make sure you have the right documents

The last thing you want to do is set off on your journey to another country without the correct documents. It will put an end to your plans before you can even think about practising your GCSE French on the locals. So make sure you have the following docs with you before leaving:

  • Full driving licence and national insurance number
  • Proof of ID (passport)
  • Proof of vehicle insurance
  • Travel insurance documents
  • V5C certificate 
  • European breakdown cover policy and documents
  • Crit’air (clean air) sticker if driving in France

One in ten (11%) of Brits have unknowingly broken the law while driving abroad due to being unaware of these required documents, so use this tick-list before heading away to avoid a run in with local police. 

Taking a car on finance abroad

With nearly half (42%) of people driving to and around their holiday destinations in their own car, it was fascinating to discover that only a sixth (16%) of drivers have checked with their car finance lender that they can drive their vehicle abroad. 

Many car finance lenders will have a clause in your agreement that says you cannot take your car abroad without prior consent. Get in touch with your car finance provider if you're planning a trip abroad, and make sure to do it within good time before your trip is due to start!

Driving after Brexit

Drivers from the UK may be required to carry more documents with them following Brexit. These include an insurance green card that you can get from your insurer. Documents will need to cover both you and your car, as well as anything you are towing. 

You will also need one or more international driving permits and a separate GB sticker on your car. It’s worth checking the government website to see each country’s requirements before you leave.

Required items for driving around Europe

Europe is clearly a favourite among us Brits to try our hands driving abroad, with France topping the list as the most common country UK drivers have driven in, closely followed by sunny Spain. 

For those of you having a European summer trip, you’re going to need specific equipment on board that makes it legal and safer for you to drive a UK car in a European country.

  • Reflective jackets – each passenger requires one, and they must be kept within the cabin of the car
  • Headlamp beam deflector – you will need deflector stickers or need to adjust the beam manually, depending on your car
  • Warning triangle – this is compulsory in most European countries
  • GB car sticker – needed if you don’t have a GB Euro number plate
  • First aid kit – this is compulsory in Austria, France and Germany
  • Safety helmets – mandatory for riders and passengers of motorcycles and mopeds. 

These items are non-negotiable, and you could receive a fine if you fail to have them in your vehicle and are stopped by the local police. So ensure that your stocked up on the items above before hitting the road. 

Additional items you may want to consider

Driving abroad is lots of fun, but if something does go wrong, you can feel somewhat isolated – especially if you’re in a country where you don’t know the language. 

According to our recent survey, an alarming fifth (20%) of Brits who’ve driven abroad have encountered an accident or incident when driving overseas. When looking into the types of incidents, it was found that 28% involved breakdowns, 26% were accidents caused by the driver, 22% were parking tickets, 22% were accidents caused by others, and 20% involved being pulled over by the police. 

To avoid being in any of these unfortunate situations, it’s worth considering packing the following bits and bobs just in case some parts of your journey don’t go to plan.

  • Fire extinguisher
  • A high-beam torch
  • Spare fuel can
  • Replacement bulbs
  • Blanket
  • Additional engine oil and water top-up
  • Sun cream
  • Refreshments and water
  • Up to date road map or sat-nav system
  • Medication, just in case you can’t get abroad
  • Photocopies of your documents
  • Health insurance card
  • Local emergency numbers in case of breakdown or accident. 

A few handy tips to make your driving experience abroad perfect

We’ve pretty much covered the crux of what you need to drive abroad. But here are a few more tips so you can have the most enjoyable experience while you dart around French country lanes or take in the Spanish landscape. 

  • Headlights – Don’t forget to adjust headlights, so they don’t blind oncoming drivers. It’s a legal requirement
  • Bring a travel pack – Put together a neat little travel pack with all the required driving documents
  • Breakdown cover – make sure you’re insured to drive abroad and have the relevant cover
  • Visa check – Double-check to see if you have the correct visas (if needed) for the country you’re visiting. 

Keep all of these things in mind, and you should be good to hit the open road and embark on your next adventure exploring other cultures all from the comfort of your own trusty car.