There is a wide variety of flood damage models in use internationally, differing substantially in their approaches and economic estimates. Since these models are being used more and more as a basis for investment and planning decisions on an increasingly large scale, there is a need to reduce the uncertainties involved and develop a harmonised European approach, in particular with respect to the EU Flood Risks Directive. In this paper we present a qualitative and quantitative assessment of seven flood damage models, using two case studies of past flood events in Germany and the United Kingdom. The qualitative analysis shows that modelling approaches vary strongly, and that current methodologies for estimating infrastructural damage are not as well developed as methodologies for the estimation of damage to buildings. The quantitative results show that the model outcomes are very sensitive to uncertainty in both vulnerability (i.e. depth-damage functions) and exposure (i.e. asset values), whereby the first has a larger effect than the latter. We conclude that care needs to be taken when using aggregated land use data for flood risk assessment, and that it is essential to adjust asset values to the regional economic situation and property characteristics. We call for the development of a flexible but consistent European framework that applies best practice from existing models while providing room for including necessary regional adjustments. © 2012 Author(s).