Be prepared for a breakdown

Taking you car abroad can turn into a headache if you've gone without cover

Millions of Britons have discovered the dubious de-lights of taking their cars abroad. The AA estimates 3.5 million car trips are made to Europe each year, and every one of those drivers fears one thing: breaking down abroad. Unless you are familiar with the French word for head gasket, buying breakdown cover for your summer holiday is money well spent.

Many groups, including the AA, RAC, Green Flag and EuropAssistance offer insurance cover for driving abroad. Luke Basdet, of the AA, says many of the problems are relatively minor but can be hard to deal with abroad: "Burst tyres, flat batteries and overheating provide the three biggest problems. A surprising number of people manage to lose their keys. If they have no spares we have to ring the house sitter or any neighbour with whom they have left duplicate keys, arrange to collect them, and then take them by car to wherever the car is stuck."

The RAC expects around 200,000 cars with GB stickers will get into trouble this summer. The basic policies don't vary much between the operators. If you have existing UK breakdown cover, the easiest thing is to phone your provider and have the policy extended. All companies provide some roadside assistance from a mechanic, and will cover the cost of any spare parts needed (although you will have to pay for them upfront). Most will also pay for you to hire a car if yours is out of action. Autonational Rescue's policy pays up to pounds 70 a day for car hire plus a pounds 200 contribution towards accommodation. If all else fails, the breakdown companies will pay for the car to be towed home.

If you do have to make a claim, the process is fairly painless - you call a 24-hour number and your insurer will locate a local garage that participates in its scheme.

Some insurers, such as Green Flag, won't take you on if your car is more than 10 years old, although the RAC only charges extra for cars that are more than 15 years old. You pay an automatic pounds 45 supplement for a two- week holiday, on top of the standard cover costing pounds 51.70. Existing RAC breakdown members get a 10 per cent discount on their policy. Autonational will also take cars up to 15 years old for an extra fee. Those taking caravans on holiday can generally have them added to the policy for a fee - Green Flag charges pounds 15 extra for this.

If you have a second home abroad it's worth getting an annual European motoring policy. The AA's deal costs pounds 95 but you cannot be abroad for more than 40 days at a time. At the other end of the spectrum, Autonational offers cover for day trips to France, costing pounds 8.50. This is for rapid repairs or taking you to the nearest ferry port.

Neat extras include seven-day "pre-holiday" cover from Green Flag, which pays for rapid repairs in case of serious mechanical breakdown. You won't get cover for illness, forced cancellation, death or any other non-motor related disasters. For that you need adequate travel insurance.

If you do decide to chance it without insurance, the costs of getting your car sorted out can be eye-watering. The RAC says the most common breakdowns abroad are failing starter motors and alternators, which can cost pounds 800, and blown head gaskets, which can be pounds 500. Towing your car home costs even more.

n AA, 0800 444999; Autonational, 01277 235935; EuropAssistance, 01444 442900; Green Flag, 0345 670345; RAC, 0800 550550.

CHECKLIST FOR MOTORING ABROAD

Call your motor insurer well before you leave the UK. All policies issued in this country meet minimum European guidelines and provide third- party insurance cover for European driving. But if you want fully comprehensive cover abroad you may have to pay a supplement of up to pounds 30. This also gets you a so-called Green Card (actually called an international motor insurance card), which is not strictly necessary but does extend your comprehensive cover. It is very useful as it is multi-lingual and, even if you have breakdown cover, garages may ask for proof of motor insurance before they will carry out repairs.

Getting a new-style European photocard driving licence will save a huge amount of hassle abroad. Pick up a form to switch to a photocard from any post office. But it takes about three weeks to process and you will need to send your passport to the DVLA to avoid having your photos signed by clergymen or doctors (the latter can charge for this service).

If you have an old driving licence you should get an international driving permit which carries translations about the validity of your licence.

Carry an emergency kit in your car wherever you go in Europe - including spare bulbs for your headlights and a first-aid kit. It is now compulsory for all cars on the road in Spain to carry two warning triangles. One should be placed behind and one in front of the car if you break down. Spain-bound drivers should also ask their insurer for a bail bond.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
video
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Amis: Taken to task over rash decisions and ill-judged statements
booksThe Zone of Interest just doesn't work, says James Runcie
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Travel
travelFrom Notting Hill Carnival to Zombeavers at FrightFest
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Service Delivery and Support Manager

£55000 - £75000 per annum + excellent benefits: Harrington Starr: Service Deli...

Corporate Tax Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL ...

Relationship Manager

£500 - £600 per day: Orgtel: Relationship Manager, London, Banking, Accountant...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home