Driving in Germany rules & requirements

3 May 2024

10 mins read

Driving in Germany: road rules, laws, and requirements

Renowned for its magnificent castles, bustling cities, and stunning scenery, Germany is one destination that should be on everyone's travel bucket list.

Just like many other European countries, Germany has its own set of unique rules and requirements for drivers, so it is important to do your research before your trip.

While driving in another country can seem daunting, it does not have to be.

You can explore Germany with added peace of mind by taking out a standalone hire car excess insurance policy.

Our excess insurance policy ensures you are fully covered for any accidental damage caused to your vehicle, so you can continue to enjoy a worry-free holiday.

Continue reading our guide to find out all you need to know about the rules, requirements, and laws for driving in Germany.

Driving in Germany requirements

Whether you are travelling to Europe or beyond, you should always make sure you are well acquainted with your destination’s laws and driving rules ahead of time.

GOV.UK states that only 37% of people check the local driving laws of the country they are travelling to before leaving the UK.

This may be because they are under the impression that driving abroad will be the same as driving in the UK; however, this is not the case.

Some of the road rules can differ greatly from what you are used to, so failing to do your research ahead of time can put you and other road users at significant risk.

Much like other European countries, Germany has strict rules on what documentation and equipment you are required to carry.

Failure to do so will put you on the wrong side of the law, and you will be issued an on-the-spot fine.

To avoid this happening, let us delve deeper into Germany’s driving requirements.

Can I drive in Germany with a UK license?

Yes, you can legally drive in Germany with your full and valid UK driver’s license.

The legal driving age in Germany is 18 years old, and provisional licenses will not be accepted.

If you are planning to hire a car while you are in Germany, some companies will require you to be at least 21 years old.

What documents do I need to drive in Germany?

To ensure you stay on the right side of the law, you need to carry the following documentation when driving in Germany:

The rental company you have used will provide you with any necessary documentation related to your hire car.

Keep these documents secured safely and within easy reach in case you are asked to supply them.

Driving in Germany equipment checklist

Just like driving in France or Italy , German law requires you to carry the following items:

Do I need a UK sticker for driving in Germany?

If you will be driving a UK-registered vehicle in Germany, then you are required by law to display a UK sticker clearly on the rear of your vehicle.

However, if you have hired a German-registered car, a UK sticker will not be required.

Driving rules in Germany

In addition to the required documents and equipment, you should also thoroughly research the rules for driving in Germany.

Much like many other European countries, Germany does have some similar driving rules to the UK.

However, it is important to never assume that all rules will be the same, and instead, they need to be checked and understood before heading out on the road.

Which side of the road do they drive in Germany?

In Germany, road users are required to drive on the right-hand side of the road.

This can be quite an adjustment, especially when you are used to driving on the opposite side regularly.

If you have hired a car in Germany, it will already be set up for driving on the right, with the driver’s seat located on the left side.

Remember to give yourself time to adjust to this change and practise on quieter roads until you have built your confidence up.

Do I need to wear a seat belt?

Just like in the UK, it is mandatory for both drivers and passengers to wear a seat belt at all times.

This is regardless of whether they are seated in the front or rear of the vehicle.

If any passengers are under 18 years old, then it is the driver's responsibility to make sure they are suitably restrained.

Failure to comply with German seat belt laws could see you issued with a fine of €30.

Who has priority?

In Germany, drivers must always give priority to cars approaching from the right at crossroads and junctions, unless road signs state otherwise.

Road users are also required to give way to any traffic that is already on the roundabout.

On German roundabouts, drivers should not indicate as they enter the roundabout but rather before they leave it.

You are also required to give way to any emergency vehicles with blue flashing lights.

How do I overtake?

Drivers are expected to overtake other vehicles on the left-hand side of the road in Germany.

However, if traffic has built up in two or more lanes travelling in the same direction, then road users may overtake on the left.

If you are wanting to overtake a moving tram during your travels, you must overtake on the right. Unless there is not enough space to do so, in which case you can use the left-hand lane to overtake.

One of the more unique driving rules in Germany is that drivers cannot overtake a service or school bus that has stopped to let passengers off.

It is also important to look out for ‘no overtaking’ signs, which prohibit you from overtaking a vehicle with more than two wheels.

Can you turn right on a red light in Germany?

You cannot turn right on a red light unless it is accompanied by a green arrow.

If this is the case, you must continue in the direction in which the arrow is pointing.

However, you must proceed with caution when doing so and give way to other road users and pedestrians.

How do traffic lights work in France?

Just like the UK and many other European countries, Germany follows the international three-colour traffic light system.

If you are near a railway line, you may see a flashing red light. This indicates that a train is approaching and that all traffic must come to a complete stop until the train has passed.

What are the German speed limits?

Germany follows the metric system for all its road signs, distances, and speed limits.

It is always important to be aware of your speed and your surroundings, as speed limits can change depending on your location and the type of road you are driving on.

Here is a general guideline for German speed limits:

Type of Road KPH MPH
Autobahn – white sign No Speed Limit
Autobahn – red sign 130 kph 80 mph
Main roads 100 kph 60 mph
Built-up areas 50 kph 30 mph

Drivers may only use the motorway if their vehicle can reach a design speed of more than 60kph.

While the above are the standard speed limits in Germany, it is important to be aware that speed restrictions can apply to certain classes of vehicles, so it is always worth checking before you travel.

How much are German speeding fines?

Speeding in Germany is a sure way to land yourself a fine or, worse, points on your license.

The fine you will receive depends on how far over the speed limit you were and where you were driving.

If you are caught exceeding the speed limit by 10kph out of town, you can expect to receive a fine of €10.

However, if you are caught breaking the speed limit by 70kph , you can be issued a fine of up to €600, points on your license, and a driving ban for up to three months.

Regardless of whether you have hired a car for your trip, it is your responsibility to pay any fines incurred.

Fines must be paid within a week, or legal proceedings will commence.

If you fail to pay your fines, this could cause significant problems at the car hire desk and result in you being refused from hiring a car in an EU country again.

Can I find out where German speed cameras are?

German law forbids the use of any devices that can detect speed cameras.

This includes GPS systems, smartphone apps like Google Maps, and radar detection equipment that can alert you to a speed camera’s location.

If you do need to use your GPS system, you must ensure that this function is deactivated before driving.

Those found to be using this function could face a hefty fine, confiscation of the device, and points on their license.

Do children require a car seat?

Yes, any child under the age of 12 and less than 1.5m tall must be secured in an approved car seat or restraint.

If you find yourself in a situation where a suitable restraint or seat is not available, then any child under three years old must wear a seat belt.

The law prohibits any child under three years old from being transported in a moving vehicle without a form of adequate restraint.

If you are caught not complying with German child seat laws, you may be fined up to €60.

Do I need to wear a helmet when riding a bike?

No, just like in the UK, wearing a helmet is not a legal requirement for cyclists in Germany.

While it is not law, it is always best to anticipate all eventualities and wear one for your own safety.

Can I use my mobile or headphones when driving?

It is against the law to use your mobile without a hands-free set, an earpiece, or headphones while driving in Germany.

If you are caught using your mobile without hands-free, you can receive a fine of up to €100.

What is the drink-drive limit in Germany?

It can be tempting to enjoy a drink or two while exploring on holiday, especially when there are plenty of new places to try out.

However, if you are planning on drinking, it is always best to avoid getting behind the wheel and arrange alternative transport.

The legal limit for drivers who have had their license for two years or more is 0.05%, while those who have less than two years' experience or are under 21 have a limit of 0%.

Just like in other European countries, if you are caught drink-driving, the punishment you will receive will depend on your blood alcohol level.

For example, if you are caught with 0.5-1.09 g/l, you could receive a fine of up to €500, a one month driving ban, and two points on your license.

However, if you are found with 1.1 g/l or above, you could receive a hefty fine, points, and even imprisonment.

German police can ask drivers to complete breath tests if they suspect that they are under the influence of alcohol.

Drivers can refuse this, but then they will have to complete a blood test instead.

The autobahn

During your trip to Germany, you will more than likely find yourself needing to travel along the famous autobahn.

Stretching for 8,080 miles, these German highways mostly follow the same rules.

A general guideline for travelling along the autobahn is:

While driving along the autobahn may seem daunting, it can be an enjoyable experience as long as you remain calm, aware, and know the rules.

Parking in Germany

In Germany, a car that is stationary for three minutes or more is considered parked.

If you are found to be illegally parked in Germany, you could receive an on-the-spot fine or, worse, have your car towed away.

It is then your responsibility to cover any costs of impounding, fines issued for dangerous parking, or vehicle release.

To avoid parking where you should not, it is always best to research where you can and cannot park before heading out for the day.

Here are some general guidelines for where you shouldn’t park:

It is also important to be aware that any vehicles that are parked on the highway at night must be illuminated at the front and rear and visible to other drivers.

Blue badge holders can still use their UK badge to access disabled parking spaces in Germany.

Toll roads in Germany

Unlike other European countries like Spain and Portugal , Germany does not have toll roads for vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes.

So, it is unlikely you will need to pay a toll when driving a hire car in Germany.

However, vehicles with a combined weight exceeding 7.5 tonnes are required to pay a motorway tax.

If your vehicle will require you to pay a toll, you can plan ahead and find out where the toll roads are in Germany.

Availability and cost of fuel in Germany

The process of filling up your car in Germany is actually a lot simpler than you may think.

Unleaded petrol, diesel, and LPG are all readily available at gas stations throughout the country.

Stations are easily recognisable by signs stating ‘Tankstelle,’ meaning filling station.

If you are wanting to fill up your car with gasoline, you will need to identify the pump that is marked with ‘benzin.’

However, diesel could not be simpler to find as it still goes by ‘diesel,’ just like in the UK.

By doing your research ahead of time, you can make the task of filling up your car less daunting and avoid any mishaps, like misfuelling your hire car.

Much like in many other countries, fuel prices can vary throughout time and location, so it is always best to check the current prices before travelling.

Final thoughts

We want your trip to Germany to be one you will never forget, for all the right reasons.

By doing that extra bit of research and planning ahead of time, you can make sure you feel confident and well-prepared when taking to the German roads.

All that is left to do is wish you a safe and happy trip, or, as they say in German, Gute Reise!

About the author

Jon spent years travelling Europe and Asia before settling down in the UK when he met his wife.

He’s hired cars across the globe and is passionate about helping people save money with excess insurance.

Since co-founding Reduce My Excess, Jon has found that he can use the knowledge he picked up from his travels by sharing it in online guides and articles.

He hopes to save people from making the mistakes he learnt from over the years by giving them the travel information they need before they head off on their holidays.