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Would-be expats urged to consider cars

Property on the continent still costs less than housing in Britain. With this in mind, it is perhaps not surprising that more people are considering a move to Europe to take advantage of the weather, change of scenery and, of course, the cheaper accommodation costs.

In a recent interview, Amanda Lamb of Channel 4's A Place in the Sun said now is the best chance to buy foreign property at a good rate, despite any credit crunch concerns. Amanda, who has established numerous expats in her presenting role on her TV show, said: "To be honest, everywhere is a good investment at the moment because the prices are just dropping, as long as you are prepared to ride out this storm, because it will get better." However, there is a lot which needs to be taken into consideration by those hoping to make a fresh start on the continent, one of which is their driving arrangements.

Driving on and around the continent has been recommended by an international property specialist. Nubricks.com said driving is preferable to flying in Europe, as motoring provided a wider scope for discovery, meaning that people were not restricted to the "same old resorts" when travelling from place to place.

Before addressing the finer details of driving, an expat needs to buy insurance as it is illegal to use a car either at home or abroad without it. Expert Car Directory offered advice to prospective movers, stating that British companies could only offer limited cover for those driving abroad for a period usually lasting 30 days. Despite this, international car insurance is available for such people as diplomats, international charity workers and those in religious orders.

The organisation explained: "Some countries will require you to be insured by local companies because a loss or damage car insurance policy may not include third party liability. This is because it needs to be arranged locally to comply with the laws and regulations of the country where the car is being used." It encouraged people to make sure their policies cover such situations as accidental damage, fire, riot protection, armed robbery, fitted accessory cover and purchase price payments for cars under the age of 12 months.

Expats may find driving in Europe is cheaper than back at home. A Post Office survey in the summer said that using a car abroad is still a cost-effective venture, with Spain and Switzerland providing the cheapest petrol prices in Europe. The AA recently noted that the trend for the summer showed more motorists heading out to Europe by car due to its cost-effectiveness. The correct choice of car is also important, it added, with smaller cars giving better fuel efficiency but larger cars being more suitable to a big move or longer trip.

Continuing the money-saving advice, the AA asserted: "If taking your car on holiday, give the car a check over, make sure your tyre pressure is correct for the load you are carrying, stick to speed limits and use your air-conditioning sparingly - this will make a big difference to how much you spend on fuel," and much the same can be said for expatriates who wish to get the most out of their move.

Still, it is perhaps good to remember that a money-saving driving style abroad does not come down to petrol prices and the Highway Code alone. In Britain, it may be a lot easier to find a way around to the destination. However, taking a wrong turn and burning 50 miles worth of petrol is an easy way to reverse this in one move. Which? recently asserted that one solution is to invest in an effective satellite navigation unit to keep on track in the countryside as well as towns and cities. Satnav, an increasingly popular technology, offers a lot of choices through systems and optional extras. Which? added that expatriates need to make sure of was that the one they buy has European maps, noting that upgrades could also cost more.

Expats also need to make sure they know the law of the road in the country they move to, as it may have different requirements to the UK. Certain road safety laws differ to those found inside the UK, with motorists in France required to carry two warning triangles as well as reflective vests for the driver and passengers in the event of a breakdown. The rule, brought into play this summer, can incur a 90 euro penalty against the car owner should drivers fail to adhere to it. However, P&O Ferries highlights this continental necessity by providing travellers with guidance on driving in Europe and the opportunity to buy these items when travelling over for their fresh start.

Many things have not changed, however - the GB plate is still required to indicate the country of registration. Getting hold of headlamp adaptors is also a top priority to adjust the dazzle of UK cars, which are designed to work on the left-hand side of the road and not the right. Replacement bulbs are also necessary, as a faulty light could land a person with a fine.

Whether an expat is feeling in a helpful mood or not, the European Good Samaritan Law means that passing motorists are required to help out their fellow human being should they become stranded on the road. As a result of this, it is perhaps a good idea to include a fire extinguisher and first aid kit as they could provide support in some of the stickier situations. People venturing overseas to live need to ensure they have considered every aspect, not just motoring, thoroughly before heading off to start their new lives.


Posted 13Nov2008