By Claire West

Lack of guidance means company car owners could be in for a shock this summer

Company drivers heading for sunnier climes during the holiday season need to make sure they are fully covered — and not just in terms of sun protection, warns leading fleet company Masterlease.

Motorists need to factor in more than sun cream as driving on the continent could cost millions of drivers more than they had bargained for due to confusion about where the responsibility lies for their breakdown and foreign insurance cover.

Company vehicles tend to come with breakdown cover, but only for UK roads, additional cover is required before heading to the ferry port, says Masterlease which advises drivers to check with their fleet managers, breakdown providers and insurance companies.

The number of British drivers taking their car to Europe on holiday has doubled in the last 10 years to approximately 3.5 million and around a quarter of drivers who take their car abroad could experience a breakdown. A significant number of these are company car drivers who are often tempted to jump into their vehicle without thinking about what could happen if they broke down or had an accident abroad.

Many drivers fail to take out European breakdown cover for their company car drivers, because they are unaware of the fact that it could cost between £600 and £1,000 to have one vehicle repatriated.

Equally, insurance has to be checked to make sure they are legal to drive on European roads.

Anthony Dowdall, head of operations at Masterlease, says: “Often, because they don’t own the car, company car drivers assume that their company car warranty and breakdown cover will assist them in Europe. However, even if the business feels it is the driver’s responsibility to make sure they have the right cover; the car is the company’s property and therefore the company’s responsibility.”

Fleet managers need to get this message across before people go away for the summer or risk starting the autumn with hefty bills to pay. Roadside assistance on the continent can cost over €100 and bringing home a stranded vehicle can cost much more. As well as ensuring drivers have adequate insurance and breakdown cover, businesses should have a policy in place for driving overseas and make sure drivers have information about what to do if they break down or have an accident abroad. Drivers should also be aware of which compulsory documents and equipment must be carried when driving on the continent,” adds Dowdall.

Those drivers who do not have any roadside assistance entitlement could face average costs of around €100 (approx £67) in Germany, while in neighbouring Austria the call out figure is higher at €110 (approx £74). Breaking down in France could also set them back around £60.

Masterlease gives the following advice:

· Drivers should check with their company that they are authorised to take the car out of the UK

· In certain countries specific equipment has to be carried by drivers or risk a roadside fine. In France, for example, a hazard triangle, spare light bulbs and high-visibility jackets are required. Always check in relation to the country of destination

· Warranty cover may not have the same conditions in other countries

· Company car drivers abroad must also carry a letter of authority from the owner and proper identification. Where cars are on lease a ‘Vehicle on Hire’ certificate (VE103) must be obtained from the leasing company and carried by the driver

· Drivers should check with their company that the vehicle is insured to drive abroad. Although the company covers drivers at home, this does not necessarily mean drivers are protected abroad

· Businesses should check the roadside cover of their drivers, as it may need to be upgraded to include Europe.