If you’re visiting the UK from abroad and want to drive, you’ll need appropriate car insurance. Here, we explore what that means for international drivers whether you’re here on holiday or living here temporarily.
Do foreign drivers need car insurance to drive in the UK?
Yes, all drivers regardless of where they come from must have car insurance to drive on UK roads.
If you’re renting a car, the hire company usually arranges car insurance as part of the lease package so it’s not something you’ll need to worry about. Similarly, if you’re working for a UK firm that has provided you with a car, they should also arrange car insurance on your behalf or give you advice on what to do.
Can international drivers use their car insurance from home?
If you have car insurance in your home country and you’re bringing your car over, then your policy may cover you while you’re in the UK. If it does, it’s highly likely that it won’t provide you with the same level of cover that you have at home.
Instead, there’s a good chance it will only provide third party cover but ask your insurer about increasing this so that you’re covered for more risks while you’re here.
If your policy doesn’t provide you with insurance for driving in the UK, you should arrange this with an insurer in your country of origin before you leave.
For your car and insurance to be legal and valid in the UK, your car must be properly registered and taxed in your home country.
How long can I drive my car in the UK?
If you’re bringing a registered and taxed car into the UK, you can drive it as a temporary import for a total of six months. Those six months can be taken all at once or be used for several shorter visits over a 12-month period.
If you decide to stay for more than six months, you’ll need to officially register your car as an import – which you can do by following this guidance from GOV.UK. At this point, you’ll also need to arrange your own UK issued car insurance.
There are a handful of instances where you can continue to drive a car with foreign licence plates for more than six months:
- You usually live outside of the UK.
- You’re here for a limited period of time as a student or worker.
- You claim relief from VAT and duty – you’ll need an HMRC (HM Revenue and Customs) relief form and show it to police if you’re stopped in your car so it’s important to keep this handy.
Do international drivers need UK issued car insurance?
You won’t need to buy separate UK issued car insurance if all the below statements are true:
- You’re bringing your own car to the UK.
- Your car is properly registered and taxed in your country of origin.
- The car insurance issued in your home country also provides at least third party cover for the UK.
- You’re driving the car in the UK for no more than six months.
Can I buy UK car insurance for a non-UK registered car?
Cars registered outside of the UK are classed as imports. If you want UK issued car insurance for your car, you’ll need to officially register it as an import.
What is an insurance green card and do I need one?
The green card scheme is an agreement between countries so that drivers don’t have to take out separate car insurance at each country’s borders. The initiative also ensures drivers involved in road accidents are compensated for injury and damage in the country the incident happened in.
Currently, there are 47 countries that are part of the scheme, predominantly in Europe but also in neighbouring regions. You can check if your country of origin is in the green card scheme by visiting the Council of Bureaux green card system. If your car insurance was issued in any of the countries listed, ask your insurer for a green card which acts as proof of insurance.
Is car insurance more expensive for international drivers?
Yes, if you have an international driving licence and need car insurance, you’ll find premiums are considerably more expensive for you.
This is simply because as far as insurers are concerned, you’re considered a greater risk (even if you’ve never had an accident). Depending on where your driving licence was issued, you could end up paying twice as much as someone with a UK licence.
How long can I drive in the UK using my international driving licence?
If your driving licence was issued abroad, you can only drive in the UK for a limited amount of time (although the exception is if it was issued in the EU). After that, you must switch to a UK driving licence. In some instances, you might even have to take a driving test.
Driving licences issued in the European Union (EU)
If you’re originally from an EU country but are now a UK resident you can use your EU driving licence until your 70th birthday. After this, you’ll need to renew your licence, at which point it will be replaced by a UK driving licence.
If you become a UK resident after age 67, you can continue to drive using your EU licence for a further three years – after which you must renew it for a UK licence.
You can also swap your EU licence for a UK one at any other time for a fee. You won’t have to take a UK driving test.
Driving licences from designated countries
If your licence was issued by what’s called a ‘designated’ country, you can drive in the UK for up to 12 months. After that you’ll have to exchange it for a UK licence for a small fee. If you swap it within five years of coming to the UK, you won’t need to take a UK driving test.
Current designated countries are:
- British Virgin Islands
- Cayman Islands
- Falkland Islands
- Faroe Islands
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- Republic of Korea
- Republic of North Macedonia
- South Africa
- United Arab Emirates
Driving licences from other countries
If your licence was issued in another country not within the EU and not from a designated country, you can still drive in the UK using your current (valid) licence for 12 months. You’ll only be able to drive small vehicles such as cars and vans up to 3,500kg; you can also ride motorcycles.
If you want to continue driving in the UK after 12 months, you must apply for a UK licence. Unlike the other two categories, you’ll have to apply for a provisional driving licence and take a UK driving test (both theory and practical) before being granted a full UK driving licence.
How can international drivers get cheap UK car insurance?
If you have an international driving licence and want to buy a car in the UK, you can on_current="true" url="/ten-ways-save-money-car-insurance" title="save money on your premiums"save money on your premiums in much the same way as a UK licence holder, for instance, you can shop around for quotes.
But while comparing policies can help you save a few pounds here and there, it doesn’t change the fact that car insurance for international driving licence holders is simply more expensive. If you want to make significant savings, you’ll need to switch to a UK driving licence. You can find out how to do this at GOV.UK.