Why learner drivers in Germany are facing long waits for practical tests

Driving tests have been cancelled across Germany in the pandemic. Now learners are struggling to find dates to sit their practical exam - and having to shell out more money to keep their skills.

Why learner drivers in Germany are facing long waits for practical tests
Archive photo shows a learner driver and instructor in Straubing, Bavaria. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Armin Weigel

Germany shut down much of public life during previous Covid waves – resulting in many budding drivers having to cancel or postpone their driving tests. 

They focused on passing their theory tests instead. But there’s a host of learner drivers who can’t get to the last hurdle of their journey – an appointment for the practical exam. 

To work through the backlog, driving examiners are postponing their holidays, while the Technical Inspection Association (TÜV) is asking instructors to come out of retirement to help out. 


Tests backed up until 2022

Novice drivers who are dreaming of cruising down the Autobahn currently have to reckon with unusually long waiting times for a practical driving test appointment.

On average, they face a waiting time of between three and five weeks – sometimes more, managing director of the TÜV association, Joachim Bühler, told German broadcaster N-TV. He attributes the delays mainly to the restrictions in the Covid pandemic.

“If testing operations continue as they are at the moment, we expect to have worked through the high demand for driving tests in the period from the fourth quarter of 2021 to the end of the first quarter of 2022, depending on the region,” he said.

According to Bühler, the pandemic restrictions imposed by the government brought training and examination operations to a temporary standstill. At the same time, he said, theory lessons and tests continued in most states.

“The result: after the lockdowns ended, the demand for dates for the practical examination skyrocketed. This has never happened before in this form,” said Bühler.

Adding to the chaos, examiners fell ill with Covid or had to go into quarantine. “There was also an increase in applicants and driving instructors cancelling appointments due to illness,” he said.

READ ALSO: What to know if you are buying a used car in Germany

Delay costs money for learners

The delays in the testing process are likely to be felt financially by learner drivers.

“Because of the waiting times, learner drivers are taking extra lessons before the test to avoid getting out of practice,” said driving instructor Peter Hörnle from Ochsenhausen in Baden-Württemberg. He said they take two to four extra hours on average.

This makes getting a driving licence – already a very pricey business – even more expensive.

Learning to drive in Germany can cost anywhere between €1,000 and €2,000 – or even more. That’s because you have to complete a compulsory amount of theoretical and practical training hours in a driving school with an official instructor (your aunt or dad can’t teach you).

There are also various extra hurdles like first aid courses and sight exams that foreigners in Germany may not be used to. 

In order to get a grip on the waiting times problem, TÜV, together with driving instructors’ associations, are trying to get more staff on board.

“The driving examiners are working extra hours and postponing their holidays in consultation with the works council,” said Bühler. Some inspectors are even being brought back from retirement.

READ ALSO: The German rules of the road that are hard to get your head around


Learner drivers – (die) Fahrschüler 

Driving test – (die) Führerscheinprüfung

Unusual/unusually – ungewöhnlich 

Get to grips with/get a grip on – in den Griff bekommen

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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REVEALED: The most commonly asked questions about Germans and Germany

Ever wondered what the world is asking about Germany and the Germans? We looked at Google’s most searched results to find out – and help clear some of these queries up.

Hasan Salihamidzic, the sports director of FC Bayern, arrives with his wife at Oktoberfest in full traditional dress. Photo: picture alliance/dpa |

According to popular searches, Germany is the go-to place for good coffee and bread (although only if you like the hard kind) and the place to avoid if what you’re looking for is good food, good internet connection and low taxes. Of course, this is subjective; some people will travel long stretches to get a fresh, hot pretzel or a juicy Bratwurst, while others will take a hard pass.

When it comes to the question on the bad Internet – there is some truth to this. Germany is known for being behind other rich nations when it comes to connectivity. And from personal experience, the internet connection can seem a little medieval. The incoming German coalition government has, however, vowed to improve internet connectivity as part of their plans to modernise the country.

There are also frequent questions on learning the German language, and people pointing out that it is hard and complicated. This is probably due to the long compound words and its extensive grammar rules, however, as both English and German are Germanic languages with similar words in common, it’s not impossible to learn as an English-speaker.

Here’s a look at some of those questions…

Why is German called Deutsch? Whereas ‘German’ comes from the Latin, ‘Deutsch’ instead derives itself from the Indo-European root “þeudō”, meaning “people”. This slowly became “Deutsch” as we know it today. It can be a bit confusing to English-speakers, who are right to think it sounds a little more like “Dutch”, however the two languages do have the same roots which may explain it.

And why is Germany so boring? Again, probably a generalisation, especially given that Germany has a landmass of over 350,000 km² with areas ranging from high rise, industrial cities to traditional old town villages and even mountain ranges, so you’re sure to find a place that doesn’t bore you to tears.

Perhaps it is a question that comes from the stereotype that Germans are obsessed with being strict about rules, organised and analytical. Or that they have no sense of humour – all of these things being not the most exciting traits. 

Either way, from my experience I can confirm that, even though there is truth to German society enjoying order and rules, the vast majority of people are not boring, and I’m sure if you come to Germany you’ll meet many interesting, funny and exciting people. 

READ ALSO: 12 mistakes foreigners make when moving to Germany

When it comes to the German weather, most people assume a cold and cloudy climate, however this isn’t entirely true. While the autumn and winter, especially in the north, come with grey skies and sub-zero temperatures, Germany can have some beautiful summers, with temperatures frequently rising above 30C in some places.

Unsurprisingly, the power and wealth of the German nation is mentioned – Germany is the largest economy in Europe after all, with a GDP of 3.8 trillion dollars. This could be due to strong industry sectors in the country, including vehicle constructions (I was a little surprised to find no questions posed on German cars), chemical and electrical industry and engineering. There are also many strong economic cities in Germany, most notably Munich, Frankfurt am Main and Hamburg.

READ ALSO: Eight unique words and phrases that tell us something about Germany

Smart and tall?

Why are Germans so tall? They are indeed taller than many other nations, with the average German measuring a good 172.87cm (or 5 feet 8.06 inches), however this may be a question better posed to the Dutch, who make up the tallest people in the world.

Why are Germans so smart? While this is again a generalisation – as individuals have different levels of intelligence in all countries – this question may stem from Germany’s free higher education system or their seemingly efficient work ethic. Plus there does seem to be some scientific research behind this question, with a study done in 2006 finding that Germans had the highest IQ in Europe.

So, while many of the questions posed about Germany and Germans on Google stem from stereotypes, we can confirm that some aren’t entirely made up. If you’re looking to debunk some frequently asked questions about France and the French, check out this article by our sister site HERE.