For many, this summer will be the first time they have visited Europe since Brexit, and with airports in disarray, driving via ferry or Eurotunnel is an increasingly appealing option.
If you plan to drive your car to France or further afield within the EU, there are several points to consider to ensure your vehicle is compliant with post-Brexit rules.
Licences and permits
All drivers must carry their UK driving licence while driving in the EU. If it is a photocard licence (the most common type), you do not need to request an international driving permit (IDP) to drive in the EU, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein.
However, if you have an older-style paper driving licence or a driving licence issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man, you may need an IDP. Check with the embassy of the country you are visiting.
There are three types of IDP (1926, 1949, 1968) – if one is required, you can apply at a Post Office for £5.50.
UK stickers and numberplates
Displaying a UK sticker on the rear of your vehicle is required by law if you are driving in some countries (replacing older GB stickers since September 2021), such as Spain, Cyprus and Malta.
You must also display a UK sticker if your number plate has any of the following:
- a GB identifier with the Union flag
- a Euro symbol
- a national flag of England, Scotland or Wales
- numbers and letters only – no flag or identifier
However, if your number plate includes the UK identifier with the Union flag, you do not need a UK sticker to drive in many countries, such as France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Portugal. Again, check with the relevant embassy for requirements.
You also need to take your log book (V5C) showing your most recent/current UK address and your insurance certificate.
Some hire and lease companies do not allow their vehicles to be driven outside the UK – check permissions before planning a trip abroad.
If they do allow the car to be driven outside the UK, you’ll need a VE103 certificate to prove that you have permission. This can be applied from through RAC Motoring Services and British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association and cost beteween £8-£15.
Your vehicle must be taxed in the UK, have a valid MOT and be insured in the UK, including minimum third party cover to drive in the EU (including Ireland). You do not need a Green Card to prove your insurance, just your original insurance certificate.
French driving laws
Road rules vary by country, so check the laws of your destination, from speed limits to overtaking and parking. Both the AA and RAC list up-to-date requirements.
France requires all occupants of the car to carry their passport, as well as taking a reflective jacket which must be accessible without exiting the car. A warning triangle is also compulsory for anything bigger than a motorcycle.
Certain areas of France require vehicles to display a Crit’Air vignette – a clean air windscreen sticker to identify the car’s emissions and potentially restrict access. Lower emission cars are sometimes given preferential parking and driving conditions – check the area in which you plan to drive.
Devices such as Sat Navs that can detect and alert drivers to speed cameras are illegal in France and drivers can face a fine of up to €1,500 for possession, even if not in use.
It is illegal to use headphones, ear buds or Bluetooth devices while driving, but completely hands-free mobile phone usage is allowed.
The maximum legal blood alcohol level for drivers in France is 0.05 per cent, compared to 0.08 per cent in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. There is no longer a legal requirement to carry a disposable breathalyser in the car.
Dogs must be secured by a harness or kept in a cage when being transported by car.
Many European motorways are toll roads. You can either choose lanes that allow you to pay with coins or cards (although not all foreign cards are accepted so have a supply of cash), or automated lanes that require a tag in your vehicle.
Emovis tags have a €10 application fee, €8 annual fee, €5 monthly service fee and refundable €20 security deposit, plus toll fees. They provide automatic payment for toll roads in France, Spain and Portugal. Discounts are sometimes available through providers such as Eurotunnel.
Hiring a car
The AA advises using a hire company that’s a member of the European car rental conciliation service scheme.
It is recommended to print your driving licence record and get a code – valid for 21 days – from the DVLA’s share driving licence service to give the hire company access to your driving licence record.
Watch out for charges for crossing an international border.
Road traffic accidents
If you are involved in a road traffic accident involving your own car in Europe, you should first contact your insurer, even if you don’t want to make a claim.
Contact the police and ask for a copy of the report, and a translator if necessary. As with an accident in the UK, take photographs of the incident, including details of the other vehicles involved, exchange insurance details, take names and addresses of witnesses and don’t admit liability.
In the event of an accident in a rental car you must inform the hire car supplier and local authorities within 24 hours. It’s important to understand your insurance policy and whether it covers road traffic accidents involving a vehicle, and legal costs.
Your insurance company might give you a European Accident Statement form to get an agreed statement of facts. Only sign it when you’re sure that you understand the situation and ask for a copy of the accident statement.
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