Expert advice: simple mistakes driving abroad

Basic errors can mean an abandoned holiday. (Picture © TyreSafe)

Basic errors can mean an abandoned holiday. (Picture © TyreSafe)

It’s frequently the simplest things that catch people out. Sam Jackson explains how many of the drivers Green Flag helps to get on the road again could have avoided the problem or minimised the impact if they hadn’t made the simplest of errors. Here are some of the most common mistakes drivers make when travelling abroad. 

Confusing insurance with breakdown cover

“A lot of people think that when they take out insurance to drive their car abroad it means they’ve automatically got breakdown cover. It doesn’t! Equally, if you take out breakdown cover it means you’ve insured yourself against your vehicle breaking down; you haven’t necessarily comprehensively covered yourself to drive abroad. Remember: not all insurance policies cover you beyond the bare minimum for driving abroad so if there’s any doubt, check before you leave.

Not taking their driving licence

“If you break down abroad in some cases European breakdown cover includes a hire car. Part of the terms and conditions with hire car companies require the hirer to be over 21, have a full driving licence and at the time of hiring the vehicle to present their driving licence. They also need a credit or debit card for the hire car company to take a security deposit. We do all we can to help our customers but if they don’t have their driving licence, the hire car company won’t accept a booking.

Forgetting their locking wheel nut key

Most cars now have alloy wheels and to prevent these being stolen they have locking wheel nuts. To be able to undo these nuts, you need the key that was supplied when you bought the car. This key enables the wheel brace to undo the locking nut. Do you know where yours is? They’re quite small and frequently, if a garage or fast fit operator has had to change a wheel they’ll have put the key back where they think it belongs rather than where you can find it. Or they may have forgotten to put it back altogether… Check before you travel.

Not checking the local laws

“You’d be surprised how local laws differ from the UK. You might be stopped by the police and then they’ll discover that you haven’t got a piece of kit you’re supposed to have in their country and suddenly your fine will have doubled. Many of the items you need are actually common sense, the kind of things we’d advise people to carry in the UK anyway, even if they don’t have to. For example, reflective jackets for all the occupants of the car plus a collapsible warning triangle. Brush up on driving laws abroad too.

Overloading the vehicle

“When you go on holiday with the car, it’s very easy to pack everything including the kitchen sink. That’s fine but you have to increase the tyre pressures accordingly. In addition to the vehicle handbook, there will be a sticker inside your car’s fuel flap or on the door pillar that will tell you the proper pressures. It’s also worth bearing in mind that breakdown cover applies to your car and the people in it but not the contents. If for example your car breaks down and you decide the most cost-effective thing is to scrap it, you will be responsible for making alternative arrangements to get your belongings back to the UK.

Not carrying spares

“When you take your car abroad, the change in humidity and temperature mean that it may use more fluids than it ordinarily would. You should check it regularly and of course it makes sense for you to have some spares with you such as oil and water – to top it up if need be. After all, you wouldn’t expect to drive all the way down to the south of France or Spain without stopping for a drink and some food. Why shouldn’t your car need some replenishment too?”

Green Flag Sam JacksonSam Jackson is Green Flag’s Rescue Claims Operations Manager

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