car insurance for international students

Car insurance for international students

Heading to the UK for overseas study? Learn the steps to get car insurance as an overseas student.

The United Kingdom has long been a popular option for overseas students looking to study abroad. If you are currently living in the UK as a temporary student or planning on visiting, you may have considered purchasing a car for getting around your area or for trips away. Whether you are borrowing a car or purchasing a car of your own for the duration of your stay, you will need to ensure that you have adequate cover in place.

This article will explore what you need to know about getting car insurance as an international student, licensing requirements and steps to pay less for cover.

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There are many large and reputable car insurance providers. If you only get quotes from one, it’s likely that you will end up paying more than you need to for insurance. By getting a number of quotes, you can find the cheapest car insurance with the coverage you need.

What you need to know about car insurance in the UK

Every driver in the UK is required by law to have car insurance. Driving without car insurance could lead to a fine, points on your drivers licence, or even the removal of your licence altogether.

The three main types of car insurance are:

Third party car insurance. This is the legal minimum level of cover in the UK and provides the least protection. This means you’re covered if you cause an accident resulting in damage or injury to any other person, vehicle, animal or property. It doesn’t cover any other costs like repair to your own car or medical bills if you sustain an injury.

Third party fire and theft. This type of policy offers the same level of cover as that offered by third party policies, but it also protects against loss or damage if your car is damaged by fire or stolen.

Fully comprehensive. If you’re looking for the greatest level of cover from your car insurance policy, you should consider fully comprehensive car insurance, also known as fully comp cover. This includes cover for damage to your own car as well as any damage suffered by others from a range of causes, including accident, fire and theft. This offers a more extensive level of protection than third party and third party fire and theft car insurance.

Which car insurance should I choose?

You are not legally required to get additional cover to third party insurance, but going without means that the slightest accident could cause severe financial stress. Scratching a more expensive car, clipping a petrol pump or anything else might blow your budget with a significant added cost.

With third party cover, it really only protects other people and their vehicle(s) if an accident is your fault. Everything else is your responsibility.

That’s why fully comprehensive car insurance is a popular option. The main cost is third party liability, which all the policies have, and a lot of the available discounts are for comprehensive cover only. To get a sense of the price difference, you can get a quote for third party only insurance and compare it to a comprehensive car insurance quote.

When you do, remember that there are ways to reduce the cost of car insurance, and that many of these will only be available with comprehensive cover.

See how the different policies protect your needs:

With third party only cover, you:

  • can make a claim for any damage or injury caused to other people and their vehicles when an accident is your fault
  • can’t make a claim for any repairs needed for your car or for any injuries you sustain

With third party fire and theft cover, you:

  • can make a claim for any damage or injury caused to other people and their vehicles when an accident is your fault
  • can make a claim to replace your car if it’s stolen
  • can make a claim on damage from an attempted theft such as a smashed window and stolen car radio.
  • can make a claim on an arson attack or fire damage to your car
  • can’t make a claim for any repairs needed for your car or for any injuries you sustain

With fully comp cover, you:

  • can make a claim for any damage or injury caused to you and/or other people and their vehicles when an accident is your fault.
  • can make a claim if it’s unclear who is to blame for an accident. For instance, if you return to your car after a day trip and see that someone else has obviously reversed into your car in the carpark and driven off.
  • can rest easier knowing that you have an added level of protection and won’t have to shell out for expensive repairs, just the excess, if any, agreed on the policy when making a claim.

About driver’s licences and car registration

As an overseas student with a valid driver’s licence issued from your own country, you can usually drive in the UK for up to 12 months. After that, you may need to exchange your licence or even take a driving test in the UK.

Whether you can use an overseas driver’s licence after the first year depends on which country you passed your test in. Further information can be found on the British Government’s services and information page.

  • As an overseas student, your overseas driver’s licence must be current and valid. Any conditions that apply to your overseas licence will likely also apply in the UK.
  • It’s advisable that you keep your driving licence with you at all times while driving.
  • Your car must be registered with the UK Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and have up-to-date vehicle tax. You’ll also need to have a current MOT certificate, which is an annual safety check performed on vehicles.
  • Finally, it’s your responsibility to make sure the car you drive is roadworthy and safe to drive.

While every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of this information, you should check for information specific to your situation and location at the relevant website.

How much does car insurance cost?

How likely you are to make a claim and what risk group an insurer places you in determines the cost of your car insurance.

  • Male or female. Males are statistically at higher risk of accidents, which is why women often pay less for car insurance than men.
  • Your age. If you are under 25 years of age, you will pay more for car insurance. Once you turn 26, you can start getting cheaper insurance with lower premiums.
  • Where you park the car. If your accommodation comes with undercover car parking, you can often pay less for car insurance than someone who has to park on the street.
  • How much your car costs. More expensive cars cost more to insure.
  • How much you drive. If you drive long distances every day, you will usually have to pay more for car insurance than someone who only drives short distances or not very often.
  • Your driving record. Safe drivers, who don’t have a history of car accidents, are often able to pay less for car insurance.
  • Where you are staying. If you live in a safe neighbourhood, you can often get lower prices than someone who lives in an area with a higher crime rate.
  • Your car’s safety rating. All cars have a safety rating, and it may also have certain safety devices. Insurers will often use these to set prices, and they will give lower premiums for safer cars.

These are just some of the many factors which affect car insurance prices. To find out how much you’ll be paying, get quotes from multiple insurers.

Your car insurance premiums are the regular, ongoing costs of having a policy, but they are not the only expense. It’s also important to consider the excess.

  • The deductible is a fee that you need to pay when making a claim.
  • There might be more than one deductible on your policy, depending on the deductible chosen for each type of coverage.
  • You are often able to choose your own basic deductible. A higher deductible will have lower premiums, while a lower deductible will have higher premiums. The choice is up to you, and how you want to balance the costs.

How to pay less for car insurance

There are a lot of different ways to reduce the cost of car insurance and make sure you have effective cover.

  • Get discounts for buying online, being a safe driver, good student and more.
  • If you won’t be driving much, consider pay as you drive car insurance.
  • Don’t make claims if you can avoid it in order to grow a no-claims bonus discount.
  • Consider the limits and know how to compare policies.
  • Know your policy conditions and exclusions, and what your car insurance doesn’t cover.

The only way to find the right cover, at the right price, is to get quotes from a range of different insurers.


*51% of consumers could save £200. Quote aggregator Seopa split the insurers on its comparison systems into different categories. It then selected quotes from the most popular providers as well as quotes from other providers which returned a price. It then selected providers, weighting them according to UK insurance market share (data from the Association of British Insurers), choosing the cheapest of either the most popular providers or other providers (“the cheapest selected quote”). Seopa then compared the cheapest quote on its system against this “”cheapest selected”” quote. The company then took the savings figure which 51% or over could have saved, using that formula. The savings you could achieve will depend on your individual circumstances and how you selected your current insurance supplier.

Frequently asked questions

Please take reasonable care to answer all the questions honestly and to the best of your knowledge. If you don't answer the questions correctly, your policy may be cancelled, or your claim rejected or not fully paid. The offers compared on this page are chosen from a range of products we can track; we don't cover every product on the market...yet. Unless we've indicated otherwise, products are shown in no particular order or ranking. The terms "best", "top", "cheap" (and variations), aren't product ratings, although we always explain what's great about a product when we highlight it; this is subject to our terms of use. When making a big financial decision, it's wise to consider getting independent financial advice, and always consider your own financial circumstances when comparing products so you get what's right for you.
*51% of consumers could save £200. Quote aggregator Seopa split the insurers on its comparison systems into different categories. It then selected quotes from the most popular providers as well as quotes from other providers which returned a price. It then selected providers, weighting them according to UK insurance market share (data from the Association of British Insurers), choosing the cheapest of either the most popular providers or other providers ("the cheapest selected quote"). Seopa then compared the cheapest quote on its system against this "cheapest selected" quote. The company then took the savings figure which 51% or over could have saved, using that formula. The savings you could achieve will depend on your individual circumstances and how you selected your current insurance supplier.
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