Expats taking their cars to Europe could drive up massive bills and fines because they are unprepared for motoring on foreign roads.
Thousands will drive on roads without the right level of insurance cover, no breakdown cover and without the right emergency equipment in their vehicles, says a leading British car insurer.
Around one in 10 expat drivers fail to tell their car insurance company or breakdown cover provider that they are taking their vehicles overseas.
This leaves them at risk because they don’t have the right cover to cope in an emergency, said UK insurer NFU Mutual.
Almost a third of drivers who take their cars to Europe reported an accident, breakdown, traffic or parking fine.
The average cost of roadside assistance is around £1,000, says the firm, and if drivers do not have the right cover, they are liable to foot the bill out of their own pockets.
Insurers also point out that many drivers could avoid difficulties with traffic police if they took the time to prepare for their trips.
They suggest drivers should always carry both parts of their driving license, insurance certificate and V5 registration documents.
Long-term expats taking up permanent residence should contact the local driving licence authority as the DVLA in Britain will not accept a foreign address on renewing a UK licence.
“This causes all sorts of legal problems with insurance, because the driver effectively has no licence, and without a valid licence they have no insurance,” said a spokesman.
“Driving overseas when as a UK expat on British insurance will mean the vehicle has no cover.”
Expats also need to check traffic laws for every country they drive through – not just their destination.
Traffic rules require drivers to carry safety equipment – and motorists breaking the laws can face stiff on the spot penalties.
For instance, in France, drivers must carry a spare set of headlamp bulbs. The problem is British car parts are not available overseas as the main beam points in the opposite direction.
Most countries demand drivers carry a first aid kit, warning triangle and reflective jacket.
Specific laws for different countries are on the driving abroad section of the UK government web site.
“Drivers may not be aware that it is compulsory to carry a breathalyser in a car in France, illegal to speak on the phone with a hands-free kit in Spain and drivers who wear glasses must carry a spare pair in their vehicle in Italy and Spain,” said the spokesman.
“Drivers risk serious fines if they get behind the wheel wearing flip-flops or do not indicate on a motorway in Spain.”