How to Insure your RV or Motorhome in Europe

Our dockside home

When we fist considered buying an RV in Europe and spending a year exploring the continent, we wondered how we’d get the rig insured without having EU residency.

For others in the same boat, here is a basic summary of European insurance requirements and an outline of options for non-EU residents. It’s an overview only…naturally you’ll need to contact individual insurers for pricing and coverage details

3rd-Party Liability Insurance

Third-party coverage is compulsory across Europe. This covers whatever you do with the camper to others or their property. However you and your camper are not covered. If the other party is liable for the accident, their insurance should cover you. It is also recommended that you have a green card.

Wait, what is a Green Card?

The Green Card is not an insurance policy; rather it’s a document that proves you have enough 3rd-party liability coverage as required by European law. Since all EU countries have the same minimum insurance requirements, the Green Card is valid throughout the EU and even for some non-EU countries. Though it’s not required, it’s good to have because it is instantly recognizable by most police and border agents. Read more about Green Cards here.

Comprehensive Insurance

Comprehensive insurance covers damage to your rig (no matter who is at fault), as well as protection in case of theft or fire. It is optional, though it may provide substantial peace of mind, especially if your RV is new and valuable.

European Motorhome Insurance for British Residents

British residents who want to take their motorhomes across the channel usually have to get additional liability coverage for driving on the continent. Many Brits insure their motorhomes and campers through the Caravan Club, which offers speciality motorhome insurance for trips to the EU. I wish we could have insured through them, because it would have been a lot cheaper, but their policies require a permanent UK address a British driver’s license, which we didn’t have.

Wherever you get your insurance, check the coverage details carefully. Age limits, maximum days in Europe, and which countries are covered for liability, territorial limits (which countries are excluded from comprehensive insurance), and ferry coverage are among the issues you need to verify before taking out EU coverage.

If your UK insurer won’t cover you for a particular non-EU country, you can often buy a green card at the border.

European Motorhome Insurance for North Americans

When it comes to insuring RVs in Europe, North Americans have the fewest options. European insurance agencies require European residency, so that’s out, and you’re not just getting extra coverage to an existing policy like the Brits are. If you are from the United States or Canada, the easiest option is to buy insurance through the dealer like we did (not all dealers offer this), so you’ll want to get your rig from a dealer who specializes in sales to foreign residents.

Technically your rig is registered through the dealer. You own it and are can legally resell it wherever you like it. But the dealer’s name is also on the registration, which allows it to be insured in Europe.

Getting your insurance this way is easy, because you don’t have to apply or provide insurance histories. You just buy it for the number of months you’ll need it. It’s simple to arrange but pricey and not that flexible, because there is no refund for unused insurance or ability to extend at a long-term rate. You take it out for a certain period, and that’s that. No refunds or extensions are possible. This means you have to plan carefully. If you decide after six months that you want to stay for an additional month, you don’t just pay the difference between 7 and 6 months. Instead you have to pay for one month of brand-new insurance, which is much more expensive.

Any motorhome dealer that offers European insurance to North Americans should offer coverage for a rig you ship from home.

How we insured our European RV

As Canadian residents, the easiest thing to do was insure our motorhome through our dealer, B&W Camper. Because we were on a budget, we bought the cheapest, oldest, cruddiest rig that would comfortably fit the three of us for a year. Then we felt comfortable skipping the dealer’s full comprehensive coverage. In our case, the comprehensive would have cost 25% of what we spent on the camper.

We made this decision carefully, after analyzing our finances and accepting the possible consequences of our decision. If our camper is stolen or totaled, we will have to buy a new one out of pocket, a sobering thought. But we are prepared to drive safely and accept the risk, so that’s what we’re doing.

How much are we saving? As foreign residents paying for the vehicle to be insured in the dealer’s name, we paid €1,430 for the liability coverage. The comprehensive insurance would have cost us € 3,245, so we saved more than €1,800. That’s assuming we don’t have any bid damages along the way that need to be covered out of pocket.

So there you go, the  nuts and bolts of getting your RV insured in Europe. If you’re coming from North America the policies are quite an investment, but once you’ve got your camper, day-to-day costs will pale compared to other forms of European travel.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 lisa November 28, 2013 at 9:42 pm

What if I am buying my camper from a private party?

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2 Renee November 29, 2013 at 10:43 am

Hi, Lisa. How exciting! We met several Australians who’d bought their rigs from private parties in England. They got permission to use the seller’s address for insurance & registration. I’m not sure how valid the coverage would have been in case of accident, but that’s what they did. Also keep in mind that you’ll need special coverage for the continent.

When are you leaving on your trip?

Renee

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