How broken-down cars are helped home from holiday

Getting your broken-down car home from abroad sounds like a simple matter. However, it requires mastery of local rules and languages, a host of technical details and time-consuming coordination with local partners and garages.

How do you get a wedding dress and dinner service for 24 people home from Turkey when local rules say a broken-down car must be completely emptied before it can be towed out of the country?

This is just one example of the challenges SOS International faces every day when repatriating broken-down cars from all corners of Europe after the summer holidays. This year has been exceptionally busy, as a strike at SAS and expensive airfares have meant many Danes packed their cars and took to European motorways and campsites.

A handle on the language, special rules and specific details

A specialised repatriation team coordinates efforts with local partners in all European countries. A large part of the work involves communicating with local garages and authorities, which is why it’s crucial to be able to call on colleagues who are fluent in German, French and Italian. These three countries account for the vast majority of the transports.

However, repatriation can be from any European country, which requires an understanding of the specific rules of each country. In Turkey, for example, you get your car written in your passport when you enter the country, and if it has to be transported out of the country again, it must be written out of your passport by a local notary.

Before repatriation can start, the team needs to clarify many details, explains Anette Bjørn Juncher, Operational Manager for Red Card (Rødt Kort) at SOS International's Danish alarm centre for roadside assistance:

“Otherwise, we run the risk of transports running in vain. The biggest hurdle is obtaining information from the foreign garages: When can they accept a transport? Is there payment to be made at the place? Remember that the summer holidays are a busy season for local garages and answering questions from SOS International may not be a top priority when the garage is busy.”

And then there is all the practical stuff you don’t think about, but which can have a considerable impact: Where is the key to the roof box? Are there goods subject to customs duty in the car? And does the carrier have to bring money for any parking fee?

Evaluates and follows trends closely

“During a nice sunny Danish summer, there will typically be cheaper airfares, so the pressure on our repatriation team is reduced. Conversely, this year we have seen that it can easily go the other way. Next summer or during the winter holidays, the situation might be completely different,” says Anette Bjørn Juncher.

That is why SOS International evaluates all seasons and is already looking at the next holiday season and upcoming trends:

For example, we see more and more people taking expensive bicycles on holiday, which creates a new challenge for repatriation because it is not always easy to find hire cars with tow bars for bicycle racks. This means that we must think in alternative terms if something goes wrong and the car has to be transported home
- Anette Bjørn Juncher, Operational Manager, Red Card

Contact us

Are you travelling and in need of acute assistance?

Contact SOS International's alarm centre on +45 7010 5050.

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