Green card car insurance

Find out just what a Green Card is and why on earth you need one for taking on Europe by car.

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The rules on what insurance paperwork you need to drive in Europe have changed a couple of times since the UK left the EU. If you’re planning to head off on a road trip from London to Lisbon, we explain what you need to know, and when you do and don’t need an insurance Green Card.

What is a car insurance Green Card?

Not to be mistaken with a US residence Green Card, which allows you to live and work permanently in the States, a car insurance Green Card is an international certificate that acts as proof of car insurance. It’s a physical document that shows you have (at the very least) third party cover – the minimum legal requirement in the UK and across all countries covered by the Green Card scheme.

Do I need an insurance Green Card to drive my car in Europe?

Usually not. You don’t need one to drive in EU countries plus Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Serbia and Switzerland. You still need proof of valid vehicle insurance, though. Taking your UK insurance policy documents should be fine.

You may still need to carry a Green Card to drive in other countries in Europe, including Albania, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Moldova, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine.

The Green Card scheme is also valid in some other countries worldwide, including Israel, Morocco and Tunisia. Though, unless you’re planning a very long and exciting road trip, the chances you’ll be driving your own car in these countries is probably slim.

What car insurance do I need to drive in Europe?

If you have a UK car insurance policy, you’ll usually be covered to legally drive the insured car in European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) countries. However, in most cases the policy will only give you third party cover to drive in Europe.

If you want more comprehensive cover, you can ask your insurer to boost your cover (for an extra fee) or buy a short-term European car insurance policy. Our guide to European car insurance explains what you need to know.

How do I get a car insurance Green Card?

If you plan to drive in a country that requires a Green Card as proof of insurance, get in touch with your car insurance provider at least a few weeks before you’re due to hit the road. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) says you should make the request around a month before you travel, and the UK government recommends allowing up to 6 weeks.

You’ll need to tell your insurer:

  • Your policy number
  • Where you’re travelling to
  • The dates of travel
  • Whether you’ll be towing a caravan or trailer. If so, you may need a second Green Card for what you’re towing.

Your provider will handle your request and send the Green Card to you by post.

If time is tight, you may also be able to opt to have it sent digitally and print it off (you need a physical copy). You’ll need access to a colour printer that is able to print double-sided. By law, Green Cards must have a green background.

How much does an insurance Green Card cost?

Green Cards themselves are free. Depending on your insurance provider, you might have to pay an administration fee to cover the provider’s costs.

How long are Green Cards valid for?

Green Cards are valid for a minimum of 15 days. If you will be driving abroad for longer than this, your car insurer may be able to extend it. In theory, Green Cards can remain valid up until your existing car insurance policy expires.

Importantly, though, the same Green Card cannot straddle 2 periods of insurance. It will end when your annual term ends. If you’ll be in Europe when this happens, you’ll need to sort out your renewal before you leave. Ask the provider of the new policy to send you a second Green Card.

How has Brexit affected driving in Europe?

Danny Butler

Finder insurance expert Danny Butler answers

Every year, millions of us take our cars across the Channel for a sojourn on the continent. As is the case in the UK, it’s always been a legal requirement to have at least basic insurance to drive in Europe – but at one point, there were some concerns that the insurance rules for driving in Europe would become more complicated after Brexit.

Fortunately, that hasn’t come to pass. UK car insurance policies continue to be valid in EU and European Economic Area (EEA) countries, albeit usually only on a third party basis.

Immediately after the UK left the EU on 1 January 2021, there was initially some extra admin required, as UK drivers needed to carry a Green Card as proof of insurance. This wasn’t a disaster, but did require advanced planning and the addition of a task to the holiday checklist.

As of 2 August 2021, this extra paperwork is rarely needed, after the European Commission waived this obligation in EU countries. Now, there are only a handful of non-EU countries in Europe that require a Green Card.

You’ll still need to be able to show proof of car insurance, though, so don’t forget to take your policy documents. And if you want to boost your cover beyond third party insurance, take a look at our guide on European car insurance.

Checklist for driving in Europe

So you think you’re all set for your trip. You’ve got your car serviced and the tyres pumped up. However, it’s crucial you go through the below checklist and make sure you’ve ticked all the boxes.

For example, did you know it’s illegal to drive in some countries in Europe without reflective jackets or vests in your boot? The list below rounds up the documentation and other items you should carry with you when driving in Europe. It’s not necessarily a comprehensive list, so check the requirements for the countries you’re travelling to before you go.

  • Passport
  • Full driving licence
  • Car registration documents
  • Car insurance documents
  • Company car authorisation letter (if applicable)
  • Breakdown policy documents (if applicable)
  • Travel insurance papers
  • Reflective jackets
  • Warning triangle

Bottom line

You usually won’t need an insurance Green Card to drive in Europe, but there are some exceptions to the rule. Even if you don’t need a Green Card, you will always need to carry proof of car insurance to show on request by officials in the country, so take your policy documents with you. And don’t assume that your UK insurance will automatically cover you to the same level as driving in the UK. Your UK policy may only give you third party cover to drive in Europe – if you want better protection, check our guide to European car insurance.

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