Driving in Germany

18 Jul Driving in Germany – Top Tips and Advice

Make sure your German driving experience is amazing, by checking out all the rules and regulations before you go.

No matter what country you plan to take a motoring holiday in,  each country enforces many motoring rules and regulations to follow.  These range from speed limits, fines, traffic signs, motoring behaviours and expectations, passenger safety. compulsory equipment and many more.  So to make sure you’re prepared when driving in Germany, find out all you need to know below.

1. Driving Licence

You must be at least 18 years old to drive a temporarily imported car or motorcycle when driving in Germany.

2. Ensure you're covered before you go
summer driving
  • Your car insurance must have at least third-party cover.  So check your insurance policy before you travel. If you need to arrange your car insurance click here to get a quote and save more when you buy online.

 

  • It’s recommended to cover your car in the event of a breakdown when taking your car abroad.  With AA Europoean Breakdown Cover local garages across our European road network will be on standby should you experience any bumps on the road when driving anywhere in Europe.
3. Plan your route
Germany

 

Plan your journey before you go with  AA Routeplanner to ensure you stay on the right track when driving in Germany.

4. Fuel
Germany
  • Unleaded petrol (95 and 98 octane) and diesel are widely available.
  • LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas, also referred to as simply propane or butane) is also available from over 5,000 stations.
  • Leaded petrol is not available, as it’s being phased out through the EU and indeed globally. But you can buy a lead substitute additive.
  • You are permitted to carry up to 10 litres of petrol in a can in your vehicle. However this is not permitted on board ferries.
  • Credit cards are accepted at most service stations but you should check with your credit card company for usage in Germany before travel.
  • E10 (petrol containing 10% Ethanol) is widely available in Germany. Although the fuel pumps are clearly marked it is not suitable for all vehicles.  Check with your car manufacturer before use or refer to European Car Manufacturers’ Association list here.
5. Speed Limits

(Standard legal limits, which may be varied by signs, for private vehicles without trailers).  German speed limits operate in Kilometres per hour km/h.

  • Built-up areas 50 km/h (31 mph)
  • Outside built-up areas 100 km/h (62 mph)
  • Dual carriageways 130 km/h (80 mph) (recommended maximum)
  • Motorways/ Autobahn 130 km/h (80 mph) (recommended maximum)
  • You may only drive on German motorways if your vehicle has a design speed of more than 60 km/h (37mph).
  • In bad weather (visibility below 50m) the maximum speed limit is 50km/h (31 mph).
  • If you’ve got snow chains fitted the maximum speed limit is 50 km/h (31mph).
Germany
6. Seat Belts / Passengers / Children
  • Front and rear seat occupants must wear seat belts, if fitted.
  • All children aged under 12yrs and with a height less than 1.5m must be seated in a suitable child seat/restraint.
  • All children aged 3 years and over they must ride in the rear of the vehicle.
  • No rearward facing infant seats are allowed in the front of a vehicle which has an airbag. Check out our video on how to fit a child car seat correctly here.
  • Any child restraints/seats you use must conform to ECE 44/03 or ECE 44/04.
  • The driver is responsible for making sure that all children are safely restrained.
  • These laws also apply when riding in a taxi.

 

7. Lights
  • We recommended that you use dipped headlights during the day. However you must use dipped headlights during the day if fog, snow or rain restricts your visibility and when in tunnels.
  • Driving with parking lights alone is prohibited
  • If you see a blinking yellow light at an intersection it means stop, then proceed if the intersection is clear. If you run a red light you’ll more than likely be caught. Many German intersections have radar-controlled cameras that are hooked up to traffic lights.
8. Tyres
Germany Tyres
  • During the winter you cannot and must not use summer tyres. Standard tyres fitted in Ireland are generally considered summer tyres and are not suitable for adverse winter weather conditions such as snow and ice.
  • Winter, or all season tyres will normally be marked with ‘M+S’, a snow flake or snowy mountains symbol. As some ‘M+S’ tyres sold in the Ireland are summer tyres, and thus would not meet German requirements, we would recommend that you check with your tyre supplier or manufacturer before you purchase/travel.

Tyres M&S

  • Using summer tyres in winter could result in a €60 fine and if your vehicle obstructs traffic as a result of incorrect tyres you will receive a further increased fine of €80. And you will not be allowed continue your journey unless you purchase the correct tyres in line with German regulations.
  • You must never use spiked tyres. These are completely forbidden.
9. Drinking & Driving
drink and drive
  • The legal alcohol limit is 0.5 milligrams of alcohol per millilitre of whole blood. Just how many drinks it takes to give a person a 0.5 blood alcohol count depends on size and other factors, but two small beers, a quarter of a litre of wine or a jigger of hard liquor will probably get one close.
  • Persons exceeding this limit will be fined and face a license suspension of up to three months for the first offense.
  • If you’re under 21 or have held your licence for less than 2 years there is a zero tolerance limit and you could be fined €250 if even a small amount of alcohol is detected.
10. Fines
Germany - police
  • Fines can be on-the-spot fine or in the form of a deposit.
  • If you refuse to pay your vehicle can be confiscated.
  • You could be fined for many offences including speeding, using abusive language and making derogatory signs.
  • Wheel clamps are not used in Germany but vehicles causing obstruction can be towed away.
  • Click here for a detailed list of traffic fines and violations that apply in Germany.
11. Parking & Emission Zones

It is generally difficult to find a place to park during working hours, though in many cases you may be able to park in the evening at places where it’s barred during the day. Round signs with red borders and a blue interior and an “X” mean no parking or stopping whatsoever. Similar signs with a single diagonal line mean restricted parking, or parking for a limit of three minutes only. Signs with only a red border and white middle mean no vehicles of any type are permitted.

GermanyBe forewarned: German towing fees are very high!

Some German cities operate environmental zones in which access to some vehicles is restricted. These restricted areas are indicated by signs “Umweltzone” showing coloured vignettes (“Plakette”) – green, yellow and red.

If you intend driving in one of these restricted areas you will have to display a ‘Plakette’ (sticker) in your windscreen.  If you don’t you will be fined €80.

hu-plakette-botYou can get a ‘Plakette’ from technical inspection centres or approved garages in Germany and the colour of the ‘Plakette’ issued will depend on the type of engine and the Euro classification of the vehicle. You will have to present the vehicle registration certificate and pay a fee of 5 to 10 Euros.

The fee is a one-off charge and the ‘Plakette’ remains valid in any German City as long as it remains fixed in the vehicle. You cannot transfer it to another vehicle.

You can obtain a vignette before you travel but we recommend that allow plenty of time.  Click here to find out how to purchase one before you go.

Check out maps and detailed information of the environmental zone areas here.

If you haven’t got enough time to get the ‘Plakette’ before you travel, there are lots of testing stations throughout Germany where you can get one. You can visit the Dekra website and enter a postcode or street name to find the nearest testing station that they operate (this section of the DEKRA website is only available in German.)

12. Motorcycles
Motorbike on the road
  • Motorcyclists must wear helmets and drive with the headlight on at all times
  • You must also wear a crash helmet when riding a trike or quadbike capable of more than 20km/h unless seat belts are fitted and worn.
  • The Germans also have a complicated right of way rule. Unless otherwise posted, the driver coming from the right at an intersection has the right of way. Just because you are on what looks to be a major road, you may not be on the “priority” road. A diamond-shaped sign (yellow in the centre surrounded by a white border) tells you if you are on a priority road.)
13. Recommended equipment to carry
  • Warning triangle

Not actually compulsory for visiting motorists but we strongly recommend that you do carry one, as all drivers must signal their vehicle in case of breakdown, and it is a compulsory requirement for German residents.

Warning Triangle
  • Reflective jacket

Not actually compulsory but recommended as drivers of German-registered vehicles must carry one.

Reflective jacket
  • First aid kit

Not actually compulsory, but recommended, as they are compulsory in German registered vehicles.

Warning Triangle
14. Other rules/requirements to be aware of
  • We recommend that you carry a spare bulb kit.
  • If you are driving a slow-moving vehicle you must stop at suitable places and let others pass.
  • Motorists may not pass a bus that signals with its blinker that it is approaching one of its stops. Once the bus has stopped it’s OK to pass it, but at what the Germans call Schrittempo. This means moving so slowly that the needle on your speedometer doesn’t register.
  • You must not use radar detectors. If you have a gps or sat nav system that can show the location of speed cameras then this function must be disabled or the system must not be carried.
  • Traffic calming zones (Verkehrsberuhigungenzone), indicated by a sign showing a pedestrian and a child kicking a ball, are often found in residential areas. In them playing children may use the entire street and traffic must stop for pedestrians and move at no more than 7km/h.

Germany

  • If you’re involved in an accident, do not leave the scene. As the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident you must remain at the scene for at least 30 minutes before leaving, if alone. If you are involved in an accident with others, you must exchange personal and insurance information. Leaving the scene of an accident can lead to severe financial penalties and, depending on whether personal injury to others or extensive property damage is involved, you could be incarcerated or lose your license.
  • You must adapt your vehicle to winter weather conditions. This includes but is not limited to use of a suitable additive in windscreen washer fluid and winter tyres (as mentioned above). In extreme weather snow chains may be required too.

Image of hi-vis jacket used under Creative Commons BY SA License. Image Credit Diamond Rubber Products

Here’s some quick links to some other interesting articles about Germany you might also be interested in:

 

EBC

Mary-Lou Quinn
louisem@theaa.ie