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When You Need European Car Insurance

Updated on September 20, 2011


If you go to Europe, how do you get around the country without paying high cab fares or hiring a guide? You can simply rent a car and drive yourself! Anyone who has a valid driver's license in the United States can drive in Europe for up to a year without getting a special EU driver's license. Whether or not you need special European car insurance depends on your method of travel and who owns the vehicle you drive.

If you bring your own vehicle by boat or plane and drive it in Europe, you're probably going to need a special European policy. Unless you're a frequent traveler and your US-based auto insurance company covers you for driving in Europe, which is rare, then you will need to get insurance from a European company. The policies are similar, with the typical requirement being a policy that protects others from damage.

But you can buy policies that cover you and your vehicle as well, which is recommended for peace of mind and financial safety. Some policies are similar to the US liability policies but have a special clause that covers certain circumstances, but not damage to yourself or your vehicle caused in an accident that you're at fault for like a comprehensive US policy would.

European car insurance that's similar to US liability insurance is called third-party coverage, because it only covers other people and property if you're found to be the cause of damage or injury in an accident. Just like in the US, if you're in an accident and someone else is at fault, their insurance is responsible, not yours. You can also opt for the equivalent of full-coverage insurance in the US, which in European car insurance terms is usually called fully comprehensive cover or fully comprehensive coverage.

A third option aside from fully comprehensive and third-party coverage is called third party-fire and theft. It's like liability insurance in the US in that it covers other people and property if you're at fault in an accident. But it also covers your vehicle if it's stolen or set on fire.

If you drive someone else's private car, such as a friend's or family member's car, in Europe, they will probably simply need to add you to their existing European car insurance policy. If you rent a car in Europe, you probably don't need to buy separate insurance, though it wouldn't hurt to check with the rental company.

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