Driving a car in Germany

We provide you with information regarding traffic and safety regulations in Germany, such as speed limits and controls or the rescue lane on German motorways. Furthermore, numerous German cities have also set up Low Emission Zones. If you drive in one of these zones without a badge, you will be fined.

Papers

It is compulsory to carry your driver’s license, your car registration papers and your insurance documents at all times when driving a car. European international driver’s licenses are accepted.

The minimum age for driving is 18 years.

 

Speed limits and controls

If there are no other signs along the road indicating the speed limit, your speed is limited to

  • 50 km/h in built -up areas
  • 100 km/h for cars (without trailers) outside built up areas
  • 130 km/h on the motorways (Richtgeschwindigkeit  – recommended speed)
  • 80 km/h for cars with trailers (including caravans) on any road including motorways

Radar traffic detectors: In Germany there are permanently installed radar traffic detectors throughout the country. Sometimes you will see a "Radarkontrolle" sign warning you of the presence of radar control. There are also mobile radar speed checks. If you exceed the speed limit by 20 km/h or less, you may be fined from 10 to 35 EUR. Above that, the fines increase significantly and you will also receive points against your license in the German car registry. Fines amounting to 70 EUR imposed in Germany can be executed in other EU-countries.

Traffic rules and Safety

  • Vehicles from other countries which do not have a European registration plate incorporating the country code are required to display a sticker showing their country of origin.
  • A reflective vest, a warning triangle and a first aid box are mandatory for all cars.
  • Not wearing a seat belt carries a fine of 30 €.
  • Children must be at least 12 years old or 150 cm tall to sit in the front seat and/or use a regular seatbelt. Children under the age of 12 or 150 cm, must use an approved child seat. Otherwise, you may be fined up to 70 €.
  • The tyres must have a minimum tread depth of 1,6 mm. Otherwise a fine of 60 € may be imposed.
  • Winter tyres are compulsory in winter weather conditions. All season tyres are also acceptable. The fine for not conforming to this rule is at least 60 €.
  • While driving, mobile phones may only be used in conjunction with a hands free system. ( 60 € fine) . Cyclists can also be fined for using their mobile phones while cycling.
  • Priority is always given to traffic coming from the right unless there is a road sign indicating that you have priority.
  • Motorcyclists must switch on their headlights even in daylight.
  • Motorcyclists must wear helmets.

 

Alcohol and drugs

Germany has strict rules on drinking and driving. The blood alcohol limit is 0,5 per mill. If your level of alcohol is over the limit, you will be charged with a fine of at least 500 €.

However, if you behave in an unusual manner, you can be fined with a blood alcohol limit of 0,3 per mill or higher.

Beginners beware! For drivers who have had their license for less than 2 years or are under the age of 21, the blood alcohol limit is 0,0 %. The minimum fine is 250 €.

Driving under the influence of drugs is forbidden and choosing to do so will expose you to penalties. The smallest trace of illegal drugs can result in punishment. The police have the authority to order a drug test if they suspect drug abuse.

 

Toll Roads?

As it stands, there is currently no extra charge for passenger cars on any road. Trucks with more than twelve tons gross vehicle weight have to pay a toll for the use of the motorways and some highways. 

 

Petrol/Fuel

The fuel is more expensive along the autobahn than on other roads. Especially free gas stations which do not always accept credit cards.

GermanEnglish
Bleifreies BenzinUnleaded gazoline
Super oder Super Plus95 or 98
E 1095
DieselDiesel fuel
LPGLPG

 

Parking in Germany

  • The fine for parking without a parking ticket in public space is 10 €. Private parking companies may charge higher rates.
  • If a car is blocking access for the fire service or is illegally using a place reserved for disabled people, the car is usually towed away. The costs for this can be significant.

 

Rescue lane on German motorways

In Germany, the law requires drivers to pull over when there is a traffic jam on the motorways or streets outside of the cities. This is mandatory to allow police cars and ambulances to get through in  the event of an accident or emergency. Please note that you must not wait until you hear sirens, you must pull over before so that the police car or ambulance can get through quickly and without delay.

On which side of the road do I pull over?

 

Two lanes: If you are driving in the left lane (1), you must pull over to the left side of the road. If you are driving in the right lane (2), you must pull over to the right side of the road. The ambulance will then be able to pass between the left and right lane.

Three lanes: If you are driving in the far left lane (1), you must pull over to the left side of the road. If you are driving in the middle lane (2) or the right lane (3), you must pull over to the right side of your lane. The ambulance will then be able to pass between the left and the middle lane.

Four lanes: If you are driving in the far left lane (1), you must pull over to the left side of the road. If you are driving in the three right lanes (2, 3 ,4), you must pull over one lane to your right. The ambulance will then be able to pass between the left and the first right lane.

What are the consequences if I do not follow these rules?

Not respecting these rules is considered to be an offence. You may receive a fine from 200 to 320 EUR, depending on the severity of the situation. In more extreme situations, you may also be banned from driving in Germany for the duration of one month.

Low Emission Zones in Germany

Numerous German cities have established environmental zones to reduce the emission of particulate matter in these specific cities. Consumers from other countries are also expected to respect these restrictions. Within these low emission zones you are only allowed to drive with a badge that certifies the pollutant class of your car. Cars with the highest pollutant class are not entitled to the badge, and therefore, are not allowed to drive in these „Umweltzonen“. If you drive without a badge within one of the „Umweltzonen“ you will be charged a fine of 80 €. This rule is also applicable for cars which are not registered in Germany.

Which cities have low emission zones in Germany?

To see which cities have low emission zones, look at the summary table published online by the German Federal Environmental Agency.

Where can I get the badge?

You can get the required badge at the rural district offices (Landratsamt); as well as at 30.000 garages in Germany and various organisations (e.g. DEKRA, TÜV). In general, this badge is only available in Germany.

Can I also order the badge in my home country?

It is possible to order the badge online on this website.  

Here, you can file an application for an environmental zone sticker for every vehicle registered in Berlin or another German registration-office, as well as for foreign vehicles. Your application will be processed immediately after submission. Due to different mail delivery times (especially to foreign countries) you should allow for 7 to 14 days to receive the sticker.

NB: When ordering online you must include a copy of the registration papers (e.g. COC-Paper) with the technical details of the vehicle as a pdf- or jpg-file.

If your car is registered in the Netherlands you can also order the badge on this homepage.

Further information about the Environmental Badges in Germany:

By clicking on the following link, you'll find comprehensive information about the German Environmental Badge which is mandatory to obtain access to the city centres of numerous German cities. This information is provided by TÜV Nord.

Ban of pollutive Diesel vehicles from German cities

Even if you have a green badge for your car, it is still possible that your car will be banned from cities if their NOx quantity exceeds a certain limit. The highest federal administrative court in Germany ruled that cities have the right to ban the most heavily polluting diesel cars from their streets. Many other major cities including Paris, Madrid, and Copenhagen are discussing bans of diesel vehicles for the future as well. Although there are no specific dates yet, many changes are predicted for the coming years.