Moving home or abroad: A guide to getting car insurance in Ireland
Sarah Rigney
Staff Writer

Here we explore what you need to know about car insurance if you’re moving home or abroad.

If you’re moving abroad or returning home to Ireland, you may hit a roadblock when it comes to deciding what to do about your car insurance

Should you keep paying for it while abroad? Will you lose your no-claims discount? Many questions will cross your mind. 

Whether or not you keep your car insurance while away will primarily depend on how long you’re going abroad. 

In this guide, we aim to dispel any confusion around the topic and help you decide what to do. Here’s all you need to know about your no-claims discount, suspended policies, and getting cover upon your return.

Your no-claims bonus discount

Also known as a no-claims discount, this is based on your previous driving experience in your own name and is valid for two years, from the last date your policy was active. 

So if you have been abroad for less than 2 years, your no claims discount will still apply upon your return to Ireland, even if you have cancelled your policy. This means your insurance will be cheaper.

If you’re planning on being away for less than a year and you have other named drivers on your policy who will drive your car while you’re away, you should keep your car insurance policy as it is so that they’re still insured to drive.

Your no-claims discount is not valid if it has been more than two years since your motor insurance in Ireland has lapsed or was cancelled.

As car insurance can be very expensive when returning from abroad, it’s a good idea to be added as a named driver on someone's insurance while you find the right policy for you.

Suspending your policy

You can suspend your policy instead of cancelling it if your car won’t be used for 28 days or more. Policy suspension involves putting your policy on hold by allowing you to reduce your policy cover for a period of time while your car is not being used.

Different insurers will have different ways of going about this, but usually:

  • You must return your certificate and disc to your insurer. 
  • This gives you a pro-rata refund of 75% of the premium you paid at the last renewal date for the suspension period, which is based on the amount of time your car is out of use. 
  • There could be some administration fees with this.

If you suspend your policy, you and any other named drivers on the policy will not have cover. However, the car still may be protected against fire and theft, provided it is not being driven on Irish roads. The car must be ‘laid-up’, meaning it’s not parked on any road where the Road Traffic Act applies, for example in a private garage.

When the time comes to renew your policy, you can either: 

  1. Not renew your motor policy, so there will be no cover at all on the insured car from the renewal date, or
  2. Renew the policy and request to suspend it again. 

Do insurers take my driving history abroad into account?

Every motor insurer will consider different factors when calculating a quote for returning emigrants.

Often drivers experience much higher rates after living abroad. However, as of 2017, insurers must take overseas driving experience into account, as long as you can provide proof of claims-free driving experience abroad. 

Additional documentation will likely be required to avail of a discount. We recommend contacting insurers directly to receive more information about this.

Typically, insurers will take into account your no claims history from the EEA, along with Australia, Canada, Japan, Switzerland, South Africa and the USA.

Being refused cover

Insurers can refuse to cover motorists if it would be against public interest to provide them with cover.

If you’ve returned from abroad and are struggling to find an insurer willing to offer you cover, there are options available. 

In the case that a driver has held a motor insurance policy within the previous three years, the insurance company they were with must provide a quote again.

You can find out what other options are available in our guide on reasons you could be refused car insurance

Taking your car abroad

If you want to take your car abroad, you should contact your insurer. Under normal terms and conditions, a policyholder can take their car abroad for up to 31 days to another EU member state and not have to pay any additional charges for cover.

This cover can be extended for stays of up to 60 or 90 days, but you’ll likely have to pay an additional fee.

Once your extended cover expires, you will only have the coverage required by law in the country you have visited (i.e. no comprehensive or fire and theft coverage) until your policy is due for renewal.

Exchanging your foreign licence for an Irish one

You can use a valid EU/EEA licence to drive in Ireland, but if you have a licence from elsewhere you will need to exchange it. 

Swapping a licence from a recognised state, such as Australia or the UK, is relatively straightforward. 

If you have a licence from elsewhere, you may need to pass a theory test, get a learner permit, complete Essential Driver Training, and pass your driving test in Ireland.

You can learn all about exchanging a foreign licence for an Irish one in this guide.

Check out our other expat guides

If you found this guide useful, why not take a look at our other guides for those moving abroad or returning home?

Stay up-to-date with our top tips by keeping an eye on our guide and blog pages.

Get the best value car insurance on

If you’ve recently moved home and are looking for the right car insurance cover, look no further.

Here at our car insurance service will provide you with a discounted quote in just a few clicks. 

We also have comprehensive comparison tools for other forms of insurance, and energy, broadband, and banking comparison services as well.

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