Thousands of European drivers living in the UK are escaping soaring insurance, parking fines and congestion charges by registering their cars overseas.
A legal loophole lets drivers with cars registered in other European countries drive in the UK with their home state insurance cover, and because these foreign databases aren’t accessible from the UK, drivers can also evade driving penalties.
According to statistics from the Association of British Insurers, around one in 12 of drivers have no insurance, but this is thought to represent the tip of an iceberg when foreign drivers are included in the figures.
Many drivers show valid car insurance certificates from European Union states like Slovakia, Poland and Romania when challenged by police, which are perfectly legal in the UK for six months at a time.
When the six months is up, the drivers simply take their cars on a day trip across the Channel. If the driver can prove the car left the UK, the six month period of grace starts again.
Motorists save £700 a year or more on car insurance
Running a British vehicle registered in Romania costs as little as £100 a year for car insurance – and even when factoring an off-peak ferry trip every six months, is cheaper to insure than the average UK cost of around £850 for comprehensive cover for the same driver and the same vehicle.
Police in Kent are hoping to combat the problem by taking digital images of every vehicle entering and leaving the UK with number plate reading software at the Channel ferry ports of Margate, Dover and Folkestone. This will not solve the problem while drivers can enter and leave the country to reset their registrations.
Councils and police forces want to chase foreign offenders evading parking, congestion and other driving penalties, like speeding, but admit tracking them down with the help of overseas authorities is difficult.
However with great deals on car insurance from Quoteline Direct – The Insurance Blogger asks: is it really worth all the effort?