close

Learning how to drive in Germany

Learning how to drive in Germany

Learning how to drive in Germany

Depending on your country of origin, as an expat wanting to drive, you may have to take the theoretical and / or practical driving test in order to obtain a German driving licence. Alternatively, you may decide to learn to drive for the first time.

What follows is an outline of the entire process of applying for a licence and learning to drive in Germany. Depending on your personal situation, you may have to complete every stage, or only some of the steps.

1. Take an eye test

To apply for almost all categories of driving licence, you will first have to pass an eye test at an optician or eye specialist (the cost of this is often covered by your health insurance). If there are any irregularities with your health, or if you are applying for a category C or D licence, you will have to submit to a medical exam as well. Anyone older than 50 has to repeat these tests every five years.

2. Complete a first aid course

All driving licence applicants are also required to attend an “instruction in life support” first aid course (Erste Hilfe Kurs). This course is usually delivered by the German Red Cross (Deutsches Rotes Kreuz), costs 40 euros and lasts around eight hours.

3. Enrol at a driving school (Fahrschule)

In Germany, the theoretical and practical driving tests are conducted through driving schools (Fahrschulen). Therefore, in order to take these tests, you will need to be enrolled at a driving school. Often you are also required to have proof that you have enrolled before you can be issued with a licence by the driving licensing authority.

If you are learning to drive for the first time, you must go to a driving school; lay instruction is not permitted (i.e. you cannot be taught by a friend or family member). German law dictates that you must attend at least 14 lessons of theory classes and 12 practical lessons of “special training rides” (Sonderfahrten). You must complete these classes before you can apply for your theory or practical tests.

If you already have a driving licence, you won’t need to start from scratch. Many driving schools offer instruction for individuals who already know how to drive, preparing them for the test in Germany. It is worth seeking this out, as it can save you a lot of money in the long run (this modified kind of instruction usually costs around 500 euros rather than the 1.500-2.000 euros required for a full-length driving course).

4. Request a licence

Once you have the required documentation, you can make an appointment to apply for your licence. This step is only necessary for those that don’t already have a driving licence (German or foreign). It will cover you while you are learning to drive.

5. Take the theory test

When you are ready to take it, your driving school will arrange for you to sit your theory test (Theorieprüfung). It is usually possible to sit this exam in English, although you might have to pay extra. The test consists of 30 multiple-choice questions, worth a total of 110 points. You are only allowed to make 10 points’ worth of mistakes. Preparing sufficiently for this test is very important, as around a third of people fail the theory exam in Germany.

6. Take the practical test

Your practical test (praktische Prüfung) will also be arranged by your driving school. You must take the practical test within 12 months of passing your theory test. Depending on the licence category you are applying for, the test usually lasts between 30 and 75 minutes. You will be accompanied by your examiner and instructor; the examiner usually sits in the back seat to assess your driving skills. The exam is generally conducted in German, so it might be worth taking a German language class to brush up on some common driving terms.

On the day of the exam, don’t forget to bring your passport (either your German passport or foreign one) or your identity card, and your glasses, if you need them.

If you pass the practical driving test, you will be issued with a temporary paper driving licence. You will need to collect your permanent one from the licensing authority office; it is usually ready within four weeks. You are not normally able to book an appointment, so be aware that you may have to wait in line when collecting it.

Note that within the first two years of passing the German driving tests, you are “on probation”, meaning that if you commit any violations during this period you run the risk of losing your licence. During the trial period, there is a total ban on alcohol consumption.

Onward steps as a newly-qualified driver

Now that you’re a fully qualified driver, you can hit the road! If you are buying a car, or importing one from abroad, remember that you need to register it with the authorities as well as taking out car insurance, paying vehicle tax and submitting to bi-annual safety inspections.

Read also

  • Driving in Germany

    Driving in Germany

    Everything about cars and driving in Germany: driver's licences, learning to drive, registering cars, taxes, insurance, inspections / TÜV & importing cars.
    read more
  • Driving licence in Germany

    Driving licence in Germany

    How long can you use foreign driving licences in Germany? How do you exchange, replace or renew your licence? All the info expats need on driver's licences.
    read more
  • Registering a vehicle in Germany

    Registering a vehicle in Germany

    All vehicles in Germany need to be registered with the local authorities. We walk you through the registration process, the required documents and costs.
    read more
  • Car insurance in Germany

    Car insurance in Germany

    Expats driving in Germany need car insurance (third-party, partial or comprehensive). Find out how to take out car insurance and get an eVB number.
    read more
  • Importing & Exporting vehicles in Germany

    Importing & Exporting vehicles in Germany

    Looking to import your car to Germany, or export your German car to a different country? There are some rules, taxes & fees you need to be aware of.
    read more
  • German motor vehicle tax & Emissions badges

    German motor vehicle tax & Emissions badges

    Vehicle taxes & emissions badges in Germany: what are they, who needs them, how do you get one and how much do they cost?
    read more
  • German periodic technical inspection (Hauptuntersuchung / TÜV)

    German periodic technical inspection (Hauptuntersuchung / TÜV)

    Make sure your car meets German safety requirements by having a technical inspection (TÜV): where to get one, the cost and what to do if your car fails.
    read more
  • Transportation in Germany

    Transportation in Germany

    A guide to the German public transportation system for expats: public transport (S- & U-Bahn, tram), taxis, trains, coaches, long-distance buses & driving.
    read more