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25 June 2008

Buying Polish Car Insurance

I have never quite understood how Polish car insurance works, but now that the policy that came with my car is about to run out I have had to go and find out about it...

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 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.

Happy motoring...


Martin said...

Thanks for that good information. Normally my wife (she is Polish) does these things, but it helps to know.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ben,

I just found your blog via google. Found it extremely helpful, as I (German) am going to study at the uni in Warsaw for about 10 months, starting in october, and there's so much legal stuff involved.
I'm thinking of bringing my (500cc) motorcycle with me. Would you recommend registering it in Poland? I read your posts and it seems hardly worth the effort and costs (currently paying about 200 Euro p.a. for insurence and registration).
Also, is it 1 year I can live in PL without registering the vehicle (like it is in Germany and apparently in the UK too)?
Are there any downsides to driving with German plates, i.e. are the cops more likely to give me a hard time, bike more prone to theft?

Please forgive me for pestering you with these questions, but any help would be much appreciated. I'm somewhat lost here, as my Polish is still very rudimentary.


BritInPoland said...

Hi Julian

No problem - guess it depends on if you can be bothered with the hassle more than anything. It cost me just over 500 zloty to import my bike, which is about 155 euros. After that you only need insurance each year which probably will only be about 40 euros. So if you are going to keep the bike in Poland for a couple of years you are going to save some money by registering it there as that's a lot cheaper than the 200 euros your paying each year in Germany...
I believe it is 1 year you can be in Poland on foreign plates but how does anyone know how long you have been here? They can't check it so I wouldn't worry about it. I know people who have had British cars here for years and no one has cared. Anyway you will probably be riding back to Germany now and then won't you? The clock starts each time you cross the border.
Regarding theft or Police hassle I don't think the plates will make any difference. It's just as easy to steal a German bike as it is to steal and sell on a Polish one, so I don't think there are any downsides. In fact you have an upside because you are more likely to avoid speeding/parking tickets etc.. on foreign plates....
Only other thing is that you will need to have your Polish anmeldung (see my posts on zameldowanie) to register your bike there but you probably know that already. If you are only melded for 3 months then your bike is only registered for 3 mths too so each time you get your anmeldung extended you have to go and get your bike registration certificate updated too (but that isn't so painful). Good luck.

Julian said...

Thanks a lot. I guess I'll keep the German plates then, since I will move back after about a year.

David said...

Great post,

Thanks for sharing this useful information and hope to read more from you.


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