Here’s how not to have to sell everything in your backpack plus an arm and a leg and maybe even your soul to find van insurance to travel the UK and Europe.
Our research began way back when in Thailand. It really wasn’t easy, there was barely anything on Google that gave us the straightforward answer we were looking for. The answer to this question:
“How can expats get van insurance in the UK to travel Europe?”
Were we abnormal? Does nobody else do this? According to Google, we were of the minority.
We’d found this one post on a forum that semi-helped us get somewhere though. It went into detail about the European Green Card, covered length of stay in Europe and also compared buying dearer insurance in the UK where vans are cheaper or buying cheaper insurance in Germany where vans are dearer.
So what were 3 things we got from our initial research?
1. The European Green Card is pretty important to get anywhere
The Green Card offers no insurance cover but it does cover your ass when crossing borders into most countries in Europe. It basically proves that the minimum legal requirements for third party insurance in each country has been met by your insurer.
The Motor Insurers’ Beureau states that “[Green Cards] protect the interests of the victims of foreign registered vehicles.”
European countries included on the Green Card: I’m fairly sure the Green Card covers all European countries now. However, insurers will usually charge extra for cover in certain areas such as Eastern Europe.
When you begin reaching out to the “insurance mafia” (as we call it) for some quotes, you need to mention the countries you’ll be travelling to, so that they can provide you with a Green Card.
2. Only 3 months cover in Europe situation
This was something we were quite relieved to read on this forum.
If you are only after Third Party insurance, you are entitled to more than the 3 months cover most insurance companies will offer. In fact, if they won’t budge on this, you can actually take legal action if they cancel your cover after 3 months.
This is only what we’ve read, so I’d urge you to talk to a professional before doing anything drastic!
And they do have the right to deny you in the first place.
If you do succeed at getting covered for longer, a Schengen visa for Europe (26 countries) only lasts 3 months so you’d need leave the area and head to Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Romania or into Morocco for 3 months and then return.
At the same time as reading this information, we gathered that a fully comprehensive insurance policy would still only remain valid for the 3 month duration.
3. Where’s cheaper?
The case study on this particular forum we were reading was Germany vs. England.
While Germany came out a lot cheaper for insurance – like 50% cheaper or even more, a van was going to cost almost double the price of that in England.
Second hand vans are cheap cheap in England, especially Ford Transit Vans. In fact, nearly every man and his dog has a Transit in England. However, insurance isn’t so cheap cheap. It’s more like ‘holy shit expensive’.
But after comparing the 2, they came out fairly even. However, England was still in our favour as buying a van and insurance in Germany required a lot of proof of German residence (and we couldn’t fake that).
After arriving in London, sleeping in the front seats of a hire car for 4 nights and eventually finding our Transit Van, the next step was to sort out insurance and registration.
Initially, we were desperate to find insurance so we went straight to GoCompare and input all the details. Shortly after, we received a telephone call from Go Skippy, a Bristol based insurance broker.
Proof of address
After answering a load of questions to get an accurate quote, we were soon faced with the issue of residency. We’d only just arrived in London from the other side of the world and were about to live in the van we were registering.
So, did ‘Back of a Ford Transit Van, travelling Europe’ count as an address?
The best thing we could think of was to find a hostel nearby, stay a night or two and add that as our address – for the moment. Then eventually we would travel down to Devon to see my family and try to swap the address there.
So at that time, the quote was based on the van being parked in a driveway of a central London residence. Not smart. The price of insurance came back at a whopping £1600 ($3000)!! That was £500 more than we paid for the van!
The thing was, we had sealed the deal on the van and we really needed to drive it away from the house it was parked at because sleeping there would have been awkward. A couple more insurance companies had rung up in between quoting even more ridiculous prices so we thought £1600 was going to be it.
All ready to pay over the phone, credit card out for the insurance company to charge on a monthly basis, we soon found out from some sarcastic bugger on the other end that they only do monthly direct debits from bank accounts.
So what does this mean?
Well, you either need to obtain a British bank account and fast (not easy with no British credit history) or you have to pay the whole amount upfront. Yep. That ain’t happening – we’re backpackers.
$3000 was way too much for us to pay out on insurance before even getting started on the trip, so we said sorry to the man and hung up the phone. Not long after, the phone rang again. They had managed to break the payment into 3 amounts for us but it still couldn’t be paid on credit.
This meant purchasing a Travelex Cash Passport and loading our own money money onto it. It could then act as a debit card and be used to pay for things online and over the telephone.
Long process for us, but hopefully not so long for you now.
Much like the insurance, registration required an address so we did the same scenario.
Then all it took was for Dan to go for a short walk with with seller down to the post office to register the van in his name.
The later research we kicked ourselves over
A few weeks went by and we were dreading the second payment instalment. So, we did some more thorough and time consuming research which ended up potentially saving us £900 ($1800).
The cheapest insurers
This time around we were out to save ourselves some money, so we did everything properly. This meant recording every insurance company we contacted, their quoted price, the time frame in which they got back to us and their level of customer service.
Out of the 50 insurance companies we contacted, only 13 got back to us.
Nonetheless, the cheapest and best company by far was Herts Insurance. Why?
1. Their quotes were extremely flexible
The company offered 1 month, 3 month, 5 month, 6 month, 9 month and 12 month Third Party Insurance policies (and that was all we wanted). Most companies will only ever quote you for 1 year… are you really going to be travelling in a van for 1 year?
2. Their quotes were cheap cheap!
Ok, so this time around we did change our ‘residential address’ to that of a family members’ in Devon. This would have somewhat reduced the cost as the residence was not in large town or city but I can’t imagine that alone reduced the quote by almost £900!
Here are the quoted prices we asked for, including the majority of countries in Europe:
3 months: £317.71 (approx. $ 600)
6 months: £518.50 (approx. $1000)
12 months: £719.28 (approx. $1400)
Now the prices were getting a little more normal. Although we were still unable to put the policy on the credit card for monthly charges, at this price it was a lot easier to pay upfront.
Note: These prices were for an unconverted van. A camper van will cost you more.
3. Banging customer service
The customer service rep who contacted us was brilliant. He made the whole experience very easy and he wasn’t cocky like some others who had made contact. At the end of our telephone conversation, he simply gave us the cheapest deal he could find and then emailed the 3 quotes through for us to have a think about it. No pushy-ness at all, just a reminder to contact him directly if we wanted to go ahead.
That’s what we like!
Also, he gave us the option of adding Morocco and some Eastern European countries to the policy at a later date if we decided to head that way.
Understands travellers too!
Neither of us have a UK drivers licence. I’m on an Aussie license and Dan is on a Brazilian. I wasn’t game to drive a 5 metre long Transit van (it would look ridiculous) so we only insured it for Dan.
I’m not sure if this would have changed the quoted price by much really. When we were asked what sort of license it was, we answered International and that was pretty much it. Not a big issue.
Summing it all up
While I would suggest you do your research before you venture off on a road trip around Europe, there isn’t that much information on the internet for us travelling types. So hopefully I’ve given you enough of a headstart to begin figuring out how you want to go about insurance.
I’d highly recommend contacting Herts Insurance for a quote before anyone else, purely because they’re cheap, friendly and flexible. And they won’t pester you!
Insurance is a pain in the ass. No one likes it. It’s boring. But these things have to be done if you want to have an awesome adventure without worrying. Just get it out of the way as soon as possible so you don’t find yourself on the phone to sarcastic sales reps halfway through your fun!
Have you been through the same experience? Have I missed anything? How did you get around the ‘residency’ situation? Let me know below!