Here is what I know. If anyone has anything to add please leave a comment as always - I hope this article can be a work in progress.
The insurance is 'with the car', not 'with the person' as in the UK
What does this mean? Well in the UK the policy normally allows you and only you to drive your car unless you add specific named drivers. As a bonus you can normally drive other people's cars on 3rd party cover too. In Poland it is the other way around - anyone can drive your car if you bought a policy for it.
This is a bit confusing because in both cases the policies specify both the driver and the car.
The net result for us Brits though is two nice bonuses:
- Anyone can drive anyone's car in Poland (presuming the car is legal of course)
- You can take out insurance in your father-in-law's name to get a cheaper price (just like we used to do in the UK 20 years ago when we were 17 years old)
The vehicle must be insured continuously
In the UK your vehicle needs to be insured if it is on the road. If you don't have insurance there is nothing wrong with leaving the car in your garage for example. This is not the case in Poland!
IN POLAND YOUR VEHICLE MUST HAVE INSURANCE CONTINUOUSLY regardless of whether it is road-worthy or not or even if it's parked up on private property.
This means that the day you buy a Polish vehicle you have to make sure it has insurance. If a policy didn't come with the vehicle for some reason (e.g. because you imported the vehicle) then you have to go and buy insurance THE SAME DAY. I got bitten by this rule. The powers that be have 5 years to check and apparently they can fine you for it.
European Union Harmonisation
There are a number of directives to harmonise car insurance and driving across the EU. See the official Europa website for details. The basics are that any policy you buy in any EU country automatically gives you the minimum required cover in any other EU country (including Iceland, Norway and Switzerland). Green cards are no longer necessary inside the EU.
Levels of cover
In the UK we have 3 levels - 3rd party only, 3rd party fire and theft and fully comprehensive. In Poland from what I have seen they only have the compulsory minimum level of 3rd party (called "OC" which means Odpowiedzialności Cywilnej - civil liability) and fully comp (called "AC" - Autocasco). You can bundle into the package add-ons such as breakdown cover as they do in the UK.
Insurance that comes with the car when you buy it
This is the bit that I still don't fully understand. In the UK because the cover is with the driver the situation is clear cut - you have your policy, I have mine. Because as mentioned the cover in Poland is with the car, this means that when you buy a car from someone the policy is transferred to you. Well sort of. From what I can work out you have 30 days from when you buy the car to contact the insurance company and change the policy in to your name.
I didn't change my policy within 30 days and that caused me the following problems:
- I was then not able to change the insurance company until the policy expired. Luckily for me the previous owner had used a cheap company
- I had to keep the sale contract in the car with me when I drove so that I could show that the name on the insurance policy was the seller and that I had bought the vehicle.
Taking out a new policy
Like in the UK 20 years ago (presumably before people started buying their insurance directly or via the phone and then online) everyone in Poland buys their insurance from agents. You will see them everywhere. They seem almost as prevalent as "Apteka"s in the town centres... Just look for the big sign that says "Ubezpieczenie" (insurance) or the names/logos of the big insurance companies (PZU, Warta).
Recently some companies have been advertising on TV where you can buy direct. Examples include Link 4 and LibertyDirect. Fire up google.pl and you'll find them easily enough.
No claims-bonus - "zniżki"
In the UK we count how many years of NCB we have, in Poland they ask what percentage you have (e.g. 10, 20, 30%..). Otherwise it works as you would expect - you gain your NCB the longer you have a policy without accidents and you can transfer your NCB if you change your insurance company. You can normally also transfer your NCB from the UK if you produce an NCB certificate translated into Polish. Worth checking if you have a lot of NCB from the UK.
Worth knowing - the GOTCHAs
- You must carry your insurance certificate with you all the time
- A policy will auto-renew if you do nothing unlike in the UK where it's up to you to renew it. If you want to change your company make sure you write to them in good time
- You must have insurance even if your car is not on the road
Like in the UK the price varies a lot depending on each case. The two biggest factors in Poland appear to be the engine size and how much NCB (zniżki - "reduction") you have. But a pleasant suprise is that car insurance seems to be very cheap compared to the UK, especially for motorbikes.
For my Suzuki GSF1200 I paid £600/year in the UK for 3rd, F&T (including my UK NCB). In Poland I paid 135 złoty for OC and didn't even bother to tell them I had any NCB at all.
Remember too that they still haven't wised up to the trick of taking the insurance out in some else's name such as a parent or parent-in-law (choose someone old with a lot of NCB). But to do that the vehicle needs to have this other person listed as a co-owner on the registration document. I did that this morning with my father-in-law so will cover that in my next blog post.