Driving in Europe – Keeping the cost down

With the recession cutting the amount people spend on their holidays and the cost of flights increasing, taking a car abroad is starting to look more attractive. If you are all about saving money by taking your car, what do you need to look out for? Here are a few handy tips to remember and research before you set off to help keep your costs down.

Ferry crossing

Don’t just turn up out of the blue to catch a ferry. Do your research beforehand and check the rates and times. It may be cheaper to book in advance or it may be much cheaper to get a ferry a day later, in which case you will be glad you checked! If you wish to start your travels from France then you can look at the Dover to Dunkirk ferry which is run by Norfolk Line or the Dover to Calais using P&O Ferries. Direct Ferries will compare prices and book all routes, so give them a go too.

Avoid or not to avoid Tolls?

Using the toll roads to get from Calais to Nice is just under £90 one way according to the French website www.mappy.com (the website can also calculate the cost of fuel).

If we use the example Calais to Nice, the suggested route using the toll roads would be €97.80 in fees and 762 miles would cost an estimated €157 in fuel and take 11 hours, a total of €254.80. Now, if we ask mappy.com to avoid the toll roads you save 5 miles, spend €149 on fuel and take an extra 6 hours and 44 minutes to get to the destination. The overall saving is €105.8. What you will need to consider is if the saving is worth spending an extra 6 hours in the car. Check your tolls beforehand because if there isn’t much difference in the time it takes to get you to your destination it may just be worth taking a non-toll route and put the extra money to a nice meal when you get there.

Ensure you have breakdown cover

If your car breaks down abroad it can cost quite a bit to get it repaired or recovered and it could spoil your holiday. It makes sense to buy European breakdown cover before you go. If you already have UK cover you can probably get this extended for an additional premium.

European Motor Insurance

Most UK motor insurance policies will extend cover for European use or charge an upgrade fee to do so.

Diesel instead of Petrol

If you have the choice between the two, for example if you are hiring a car, you may find it cheaper to take a diesel especially if you are doing a lot of miles. Diesel in European countries tends to be cheaper then petrol unlike in the UK and USA.

When packing the car

You will need to ensure that you carry a warning triangle just in case of a breakdown. This is compulsory in France as it is not sufficient enough just to use hazard lights. Most European countries also state that you must have a reflective jacket in the car for each passenger as well as the driver. On the spot fines can be given if these items are not in the car with you. Don’t forget your GB sticker which is required when driving in the EU. You can check out rules and regulations at the AA website.

As well as sorting out the car don’t forget to take out travel insurance to cover yourself and your family. 24/7 travel insurance for the family starts from £24.08* for a 10 day break in Europe.* Premium £24.08 includes Insurance Premium Tax based on a family policy 2 x adults aged 18-54 and 2 x children aged 3-17 taking out a ‘Standard’ Single Trip 24/7 travel insurance policy excluding personal possessions cover for 10 days in Europe. Cover details and prices are correct at time of going to press (27 July 2011) and are subject to change. You must read the policy wording to ensure you are familiar with your cover.