Car hire in Germany
Going by car is the perfect way of getting around Germany. The country has very good roads with a well developed road network, which makes car trips fast, easy and convenient. However, traffic jams do occur on the motorways (autobahn). The German main roads (Bundesstrassen) in the countryside are also often nice to drive on, but can be narrow and winding and often have a very small hard shoulder, so drive carefully!
Car rental is possible in all major cities in Germany. It’s also often convenient to rent a car directly at the airport upon arrival. To get the best price, it’s recommended that you book online in advance. This will not only be cheaper but also safer and ensure that the car is available when you need it.
There are a few rules and requirements for car rental in Germany:
- You need to be at least 21 years old and have held a driving licence for at least a year. The age limit may vary depending on the type of car you want to hire.
- Most car rental firms have an upper age limit of 80 years, and charge extra if you are over 70 years.
- If you are under 25 years old there is also usually an extra charge, but this will depend on your car rental company.
Add-ons at booking
If you want extra equipment in the car, e.g. a GPS or a child car seat, we recommended that you add this already when booking the car. This will ensure that the equipment is available on site.
Having a GPS in the car can be a good idea as it will facilitate when driving in the countryside, where the roads aren’t as well signposted as in the larger towns.
Also be aware that by German law, children under 12 years old and shorter than 150 centimetres (4’9”) must sit in a child car seat.
Driving on the German autobahn
Keep these things in mind when driving on the German autobahn:
- There is a common belief that there is no speed limit on the autobahn, but this isn’t entirely true. There are long sections where there technically isn’t a speed limit, but in those sections the recommended speed is 130 km/h (about 80 mph). However, most people go faster than that. You should nevertheless keep in mind that it is possible to be fined for speeding if you drive too fast under the current weather conditions.
Many sections of the autobahn have varying speed limits between 80 km/h (about 50 mph) and 130 km/h (about 80 mph). You will get information about this usually via digital signs that also tell you about traffic jams and weather and road conditions. There is usually a speed limit when the roads are wet (bei Nässe).
- You may only overtake on the right side if the cars in the left lane are going slower than 60 km/h (about 37 mph). The slowest lane should always be furthest to the right. Vehicles entering the autobahn must always give way to vehicles already on the autobahn.
- When getting off the autobahn, the exits are usually quite short. Be prepared to slow down quickly to stay on the curve.
German traffic rules
Below is a list of a few other German traffic rules to be aware of:
- Talking on the phone while driving without a handsfree or headset is illegal.
- There are no tolls in Germany, but from 2018, the country will introduce a toll for non-German registered cars.
- Pay attention to where you park. Moste places have clear parking signs. Disc parking is a commonly used system in Germany, where you’ll need a parking disc (clock disc).
- The speed limits are generally as follows: 50 km/h (about 30 mph) in urban areas, 100 km/h (about 62 mph) on main roads and 130 km/h (about 80 mph) on motorways.
- When there are temporary speed limits, speed cameras are quite common. These will not be signposted.
- When traffic is diverted, the blue signs lead to the motorway.