Car insurance for foreign drivers in the UK – Uswitch

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The rules around driving in the UK on a foreign licence can be confusing, and getting car insurance can make matters even more complicated. 
Read on to understand when you can drive on a non-UK licence and how to go about getting car insurance for foreign and international drivers in the UK.
Yes, you can drive on a full international licence in the UK for at least 12 months as long as you meet the minimum age requirements. This means you must be at least 17 years old to drive a car or motorcycle, and at least 21 years old to drive a bus or lorry.
Whether you can keep driving on an international licence in the UK for longer than 12 months and the action you need to take depends on where your driving licence was issued.
You can keep driving in the UK until you’re 70 years old. If you become a UK resident, the good news is you can simply swap your EU/EEC licence for a UK one – you won’t need to take the UK driving test.
You can drive in the UK for up to 12 months on a licence issued in Gibraltar, Jersey, Guernsey, Isle of Man or a ‘designated country.’
The designated countries include: Australia, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland and Zimbabwe.
Once the 12-month grace period is up, you’ll need to exchange your licence for a UK driving licence. As long as you make the swap within five years, you won’t have to take the UK driving test.
It can be a bit tricky if your licence was issued in a non-EU/EEC or non-designated country, including the US.
If you want to keep driving on an international licence in the UK for more than 12 months, you’ll need to get a provisional driving licence and pass the UK driving test.
You don’t need an international driving permit in addition to your licence, but it may come in useful for proving validity if your licence is not printed in English.
If you don’t have a full licence yet and want to drive in the UK, you must apply for a provisional UK licence. You can take a UK driving test once you’ve been in the country for 185 days (six months).
Yes, you’ll need car insurance for driving on an international licence in the UK even if you only intend to drive occasionally or for a short period.
There are three levels of car insurance available in the UK:
Third party only (TPO) cover: this is the minimum legal requirement and only covers damage to other vehicles and property. It doesn't cover damage to your own car
Third party, fire and theft (TPFT): this gives you TPO cover but also protects your car against fire damage or theft
Comprehensive cover: this includes everything you get with TPFT as well as covering you and your car if you're involved in an accident.
You may expect third party only cover to be more affordable, as your insurer would only have to pay out for the other party’s repair costs if there's a claim.
But over the years, insurers raised prices after realising that third party only cover was being used as a cost-saving tactic by risky drivers. It means you could actually save money by taking out fully comprehensive car insurance while being better protected.
It is possible to get UK car insurance with a foreign driving licence, but it is often more expensive. International drivers are generally considered to be at higher risk of an accident and are therefore more likely to make a claim. 
As with all insurance policies, there are three levels of insurance cover available: Third party only (TPO) cover, third party, fire and theft (TPFT) and comprehensive cover.
If you’re bringing your own car to the UK, your existing insurance policy should cover you for third party damage, but make sure you check. You may want to extend this cover to ensure your own vehicle would be protected if you were involved in an accident.
If you are buying a car in this country, however, you will need to take out a UK car insurance policy
You may be asked to provide evidence of your insurance cover, and your insurer may issue you a ‘green card’ document for this purpose
Find out more about car insurance for temporary imports.
You will not need to take out your own insurance cover for a hire car, as this will be included in the cost of the rental.
You might want to consider buying a separate excess insurance product, which might be cheaper than taking the excess insurance provided by the hire car company.
Car insurance for non-UK licence holders can be extremely expensive. Even if you have many years’ experience driving in your own country, holding a foreign licence could still affect your insurance costs in the UK. 
Insurers base their premiums on perceived risk and often consider international drivers to be at a higher risk of making a claim as they are not experienced on UK roads.
Many insurers will also ignore any no-claims years accrued on your foreign licence. With a no-claims bonus being worth up to 75% discount, starting from scratch once you start driving in the UK can push your premiums up.
Thankfully, there are ways to save on your car insurance if you’re a non-UK licence holder.
For a start, it pays to shop around with specialist insurers. A number of these will welcome foreign licence holders, and some will even transfer your no-claims years, so you get a discount straight away.
You should also consider the level of insurance cover. You may expect third party only cover to be more affordable, as your insurer would only have to pay out for the other party’s repair costs in the event of a claim. 
However, over the years insurers have noted that third party only cover was increasingly being used as a cost-saving tactic by risky drivers. As a result, some have raised their prices accordingly. By considering a higher level of cover, such as comprehensive, you could save money while being better protected.
Temporary car insurance may be worth considering as it typically offers cover for one to 30 days (some policies offer cover up to 90 days). This can be particularly handy if you’re borrowing someone else’s car while you’re visiting. 
How easy it is to get temporary insurance will depend on the country you’re coming from. You’ll find it easier if you are arriving from:
The EU
New Zealand
South Africa
You can drive a foreign car in the UK for up to six months within any 12-month period. If you want to drive the car for longer, you’ll need to register it in the UK and pay road tax.
Yes, car insurance for non-UK residents is available. If you’re visiting the UK for a short period, temporary car insurance might work out cheaper – temporary cover is available from one hour to 28 days.
Yes, if you have an international driving licence, you can still get insurance to drive on UK roads.
You can drive on UK roads with an international driving licence for at least 12 months. If you have a full EU/EEC licence, you can continue driving in the UK until you’re 70 years old. If you have an exchangeable international licence, from Gibraltar, Jersey, Guernsey, Isle of Man or a so-called designated country, you can keep driving in the UK past the 12-month grace period by simply swapping your licence for a UK one.
It depends, so it’s worth shopping around. Some insurers will recognise no-claims bonus you’ve built up outside the UK but others won’t.
If you have a European licence or an exchangeable international licence, you can swap this for a UK licence once you’ve been resident in the UK for six months. 
Many insurance providers will offer better deals to drivers with UK licences, so you may benefit from exchanging your licence as soon as you are able to (if you know you plan to stay in the UK for the long term).
To exchange your licence you’ll need to fill in a form on the website and pay a £43 fee.  
If you are currently driving on a non-exchangeable foreign licence you will eventually have to take a test to gain your full UK licence. 
Once you have your full UK licence, your insurance premiums should be lower, so you may benefit from taking your driving test sooner rather than later if you plan to drive in the UK  long term. You can apply for a provisional licence and take your test once you’ve been resident in the UK for six months.
While you can legally drive a company car on a non-UK licence (with the conditions listed above), it's important to note that not all companies will permit this. Many company cars are covered by fleet insurance which excludes non-UK licences.
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