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DRIVING

Driving in Germany: What are the offences that can cost you points on your licence?

In this article we take a look at the road-based misdemeanours which can cost you a lot of money and/or points on your licence.

Driving in Germany: What are the offences that can cost you points on your licence?
Source: ZB

Punkte in Flensburg

You may have heard German people talking about “Punkte in Flensburg” (points in Flensburg) and wondered what and where on earth Flensburg is.

The northern city is the home of the Federal Motor Transport Authority and of the nationwide database of motoring infractions. 

READ ALSO: 'Not always polite but they follow the rules': The verdict on German drivers

The current points system is used for driving violations which endanger road safety which, relative to the severity of the offence, are punishable with 1, 2 or 3 points. Once you get to 8 you can say Tschüss to your driving license.

However, points for individual violations expire automatically, regardless of new entries, with different expiry periods depending on the seriousness of the violation:

  • 1 point lasts 2.5 years
  • 2 points lasts 5 years
  • 3 points lasts 10 years

Speeding

Germany is known for having speed-limit free Autobahns, but, with around 4.600 Blitzer (speed cameras) throughout the country, speeding is still taken seriously as a driving offence.

READ ALSO: Is Germany set for another showdown on Autobahn speed limits?

Not every German road will be clearly signposted with the speed limit, and there are certain rules which drivers are expected to know. On Landstraße (country roads), for example, the speed limit is 100km/h for cars and 80km/h for lorries and cars with trailers under 7.5 tonnes.

If you are exiting the Autobahn or coming to the end of a country road and see a yellow Ortseingangschild (town name sign), make sure you slow down to 50km/h, the general speed limit within built up areas.

Beware of the Blitzer. Source: DPA

If you are entering a 30km/h zone, make sure to be cautious at every junction, as you are obliged to follow the Rechts vor Links (right before left) rule and give way to traffic – including bicycles – coming from the right.

The level of fine you will have to pay for a speeding offence is dependent on how far over the speed limit you were driving and whether you were within or outside a built-up area. In general, you will not get a point on your license unless you have gone 21km/h over the speed limit. For a full breakdown of speeding fines, see here.

In Germany you can also be fined for driving too slowly. If you drive so slowly without good reason that you are hindering the smooth flow of traffic, you may be subject to a €20 fine.

Drinking

Like most other European countries, the blood alcohol content limit in Germany is 0.5g/l, which is roughly equivalent to one glass of wine or one beer, depending on BMI.

If you are caught driving over the limit you can expect a hefty fine of at least €500 and a driving ban starting at one month. The fine, length of ban and number of points increase with higher blood alcohol levels or with repetition of the offence.

READ ALSO: Drunk driving cases plummet after fines hiked

Drunkenness is not only punishable behind the wheel, but if you are caught riding your bike in a heavily intoxicated state (over 1,6g/l) you can get 3 points on your driving license, a fine and be forced to undertake a medical-psychological assessment (MPU).

German parking signs can be confusing. Source: DPA

Parking

Once you have arrived at your destination you may think you are out of the danger zone of incurring fines or points. But you still need to be careful, as parking or stopping in a prohibited way can be a costly business.  

In big cities, paid or restricted parking zones are common and should always be signposted. But if you don’t know what the signs mean, you can be in trouble, as ignorance is not an excuse. For a helpful explanation of all of the parking signs to look out for, see here.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about changes to German driving laws in 2020

Most stopping or parking fines are between €10 and €30 and include common offences such as stopping in restricted spaces, in the zweite Reihe (second row) and up to five meters before or after a junction.

However, if you park in such a way that you are blocking an entrance or exit, your car can be abgeschleppt (towed away) which can cost up to €200.

A full list of parking infractions and their related costs can be found here.

Rechtsfahrgebot

The Rechtsfahrgebot is a special rule laid down in Paragraph 2, of the Road Traffic Act, which states that traffic should keep as far to the right as possible, in order to maintain the steady flow of traffic and to help avoid accidents.

The right-hand drive requirement generally also applies to three- or multi-lane motorways and motorists may only deviate from this if the traffic density justifies it, meaning you can drive through the middle lane continuously if there are vehicles on the right of it every now and then. But unjustified continuous driving in the left or middle lane can land you an €80 fine and 1 point in Flensburg.

Special Rules for beginners

If you pass your driving test in Germany, the first two years act as Probezeit (probation period), during which punishments are harsher and you can be at risk of being sent back to driving school, having the probation period extended or losing your license.

The Probezeit rule was introduced in 1986 as a way to help combat the high number of accidents involving 18 to 25 year olds.  

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DRIVING

How much does it cost to get a driving licence in Germany?

When it comes to getting behind the wheel, Germany has a reputation for being outrageously expensive. Here's a breakdown of the costs you can expect to get hold of a driver's licence in the Bundesrepublik.

How much does it cost to get a driving licence in Germany?

We’ve heard it said that when young Germans want to learn to drive, they usually book a flight to New Zealand first. Apparently, the cost of a round-trip to one of the furthest corners of the earth and a course of lessons down under still ends up being pretty much on-par with what they might pay for lessons at home – and they get the added bonus of an exotic trip. 

Now, while we can’t currently verify how many people are heading to Auckland to get behind the wheel, we can tot up some of the costs of getting a driving licence here in the Bundesrepublik.

Obviously, if you’re simply exchanging a licence from another country for a German one or renewing an old one, the costs will be minimal. But learning to drive from scratch and taking both a theory and practical test can add up pretty quickly.

Here’s a rough overview of the costs you’ll need to budget for when getting your first driving licence in Germany. Bear in mind that there are a lot of variables here though, depending on your natural skill as a driver, the size of city you live in and the federal state. 

What type of licence do I need?

There are a huge range of possible driving licences to apply for in Germany, ranging from a scooter to an HGV and everything in between. The vast majority of people will want to apply for a Class B licence, however, as this entitles them to drive an ordinary car. 

The cost of getting a Class B licence

  • Basic tuition fee

This fee generally covers both admin costs and theory lessons. According to financescout24, the average basic fee in Germany is €200

  • Mandatory ‘special trips’

Before you take your test, you’ll need to rack up at least twelve driving hours of so-called ‘special trips’ designed to help you develop all the required skills you’ll need as a driver. These include five hours ‘over land’, which basically means trips through various rural areas, four hours on the motorway and three hours of nighttime driving. 

Special trips tend to cost a little more than ordinary lessons, so you’ll need to budget around €45-60 for each of these, depending on where you live. 

  • Ordinary driving lessons

Of course, learning to drive is about more than just a few trips on the motorway or driving in the dark. You’ll also need to learn everyday driving skills and practice these with a qualified instructor. Unlike in other countries, like the UK, in Germany, you are not allowed to practice with an experienced driver and therefore have to pay an instructor every time you want to drive before you get your licence.

How many lessons you need will of course depend on how quickly you pick up the skills needed. According to Verkehrswacht e.V., an association of driving instructors, people tend to need a minimum of 30 hours of general lessons split into fifteen two-hour lessons.

(Confusingly, a driving ‘hour’ is only 45 minutes, so this would equate to 15 lessons lasting 1.5 hours each.) 

The prices for these ordinary lessons once again vary greatly from state to state and in the major cities, but expect to budget anywhere from €20-€45 per 45-minute session. 

  • Practice materials 

To help you pass your theory test, you’ll need access to learning materials such as apps, books and online practice tests. Handelsblatt estimates that these will set you back between €60 and €80

  • Theory and practice exams 

According to a recent study by price comparison site Compare the Market, Germany is one of the most expensive places in the world to take your driving tests, coming sixth in a survey of 25 different countries around the world. (New Zealand is #21 – just sayin’.) 

For the German theory test, you can expect to pay €22.49 and for the actual driving test, you’ll have to shell out €116.93. That brings the total for both tests to around €140. 

  • Eye tests

For obvious reasons, German law specifies that applicants for most types of driving licence need to get their vision checked by a professional. Luckily, this is one of the more reasonable outlays when learning to drive: the price for this kind of eye test is currently set at a rather random €6.43 and you can find the test at any optician’s. 

READ ALSO: What you need to know about getting a German driving licence

  • First-aid course 

Another mandatory part of getting a driving licence in Germany is taking a specific type of first-aid course. This course is called “life-saving measures at the scene of an accident” and can be booked as a package alongside the eye test.

Since these courses are generally offered privately, the prices do vary, but you should budget anywhere from €14.50 to €50 for this. 

  • Getting the licence

Once you’ve passed your tests and ticked all the other boxes, the only thing left is to get your licence. First, you’ll need a passport photo, which will cost around €5 from an official photo booth, and then you’ll need to apply for the licence at your local Road Traffic Authority, which can cost anywhere between €40 and €70

READ ALSO: Starting (nearly) from scratch: learning how to drive stick shift in Germany

So, how much should I budget overall?

According to business daily Handelsblatt, most people learning to drive in 2022 should budget anywhere between €1,500 and €2,400 for a Class B licence. But there is some disagreement on this. 

Rainer Zeltwanger, chairman of the Driving School Association, says the costs could be even higher due to the additional hygiene measures necessitated by Covid-19. 

“We advise our customers to reckon with €2800 and €3500 for Class B – including external costs,” he told Handelsblatt. Another reason for this is that driving schools have been hiking their costs in recent years. 

What are the cheapest and most expensive places to learn to drive?  

According to insurance company ERGO, Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg are the most expensive states to get a driving licence, while Berlin, Brandenburg and Saxony-Anhalt are the cheapest. You can expect to budget about €700 extra to learn to drive in a pricier state than you would in the cheaper regions.

The Moving International Road Safety Association conducted a survey of the prices of various different driving schools back in 2020 and concluded that the average cost of obtaining a licence was €2,182. 

Woman learning to drive

A driving instructor tutors a student in Hamburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

However, they found distinct differences between medium-sized cities and major metropoles. In a medium-sized town or city, learner drivers could expect to pay an average of €2,237 for their licence, while in bigger cities the average was €2,121. This is undoubtedly due to the increased competition in bigger urban areas.

Combining these factors, a place like Berlin that is both a large city and a cheap state would probably be one of the cheaper places to learn to drive. 

READ ALSO: ‘A year-long ordeal’: What I learned from getting my driving licence in Berlin

What happens if I fail my test? 

If you fail either test, you can easily retake it – but you’ll have to pay another €22.49 for each additional theory test or €116.93 for each additional practical test. You’ll probably also want to refresh one or two skills with a driving instructor, so you should also budget some money for additional lessons.

Until 2008, people who failed their test three times were subject to a three-month ban on retakes, after which they had three additional chances to take the test. People who failed the three tests a second time were forced to take a medical and psychological check-up to see whether they were fit to drive.

This legislation has now been scrapped, meaning you can retake as many times as you need to. However, if your driving instructor thinks there may be physical or psychological issues that make you unfit to drive, you may still have to take the medical and psychological check-up. This could set you back anywhere between €350 and €750. 

Can I do my driving test in English? 

Your theory test can be taken in English, but your actual driving lesson can’t – and it also isn’t possible to hire an interpreter as they may offer you assistance without the driving instructor knowing. 

Is it actually cheaper to go to New Zealand? 

According to Jetcost.de, the cheapest return flights available from Frankfurt to Auckland are currently around €1,200. Apparently, getting a driving licence there could cost anywhere between €1,400 and €2,600.

So, at the cheaper end, flights and a driver’s licence in New Zealand could set you back about the same as lessons and a licence in Germany – especially if you live in one of the more expensive states. 

A word to the wise, however: if you do take the ‘down under’ route, you will need to exchange the licence when you get back, so be sure to budget around €35 to €42,60 for that! 

READ ALSO: How do I convert my foreign driver’s licence into a German one?

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