I’ve mentioned before about how expensive German Driver Licenses are, but as I have talked more in depth to Germans about the differences, I’ve begun to realize how absolutely insane they are. I thought it would be interesting to do a direct comparison of the timeline and costs from getting a license in Missouri (my home state) to getting one here.
Missouri (Information from the MO Dept. of Revenue):
Age 15: Learner’s Permit – You must pass a vision, road sign recognition, and written test to obtain. This permit allows you to drive as long as you are accompanied by a parent, grandparent, driving instructor, or other qualified person approved in writing by your parent/guardian if you are 15. Once you are 16, you may drive while accompanied by anyone over the age of 21 who has a valid driver license.
Age 16: Intermediate License – You need to have had your Learner’s Permit for at least six months and a clean driving record for the previous six months (no alcohol related offense for a year). Your parent/guardian or grandparent has to verify that you’ve driven for at least 40 hours, at least 10 of which happened at night. You need to pass a vision, road sign recognition, and practical test.
Practical Test Requirements (From the official Driver Guide)
- Show and demonstrate all the controls in the car (turn signal, window wipers, brakes, etc.)
- Start and stop the vehicle
- Parallel park
- Turning – right at least twice, left at least twice
- Parking on a hill
- Driving through intersections
- Obeying traffic signs and signals
You need 70/100 points to pass. You will automatically fail if you break any laws or hit someone. I assumed that hitting pedestrians was covered under not breaking the law, but the guide lists it separately.
This license has curfew and passenger limit restrictions which are strictest for the first six months. It is possible to skip the Intermediate License if you wait until after you are 18 to take the practical test (like me!).
Age 18: Under 21 Full Driver License – This is a full license, but people under 21 get a special one so that it’s easier to spot if they try to buy alcohol with it. They’ve switched what the licenses look like since I got mine, but mine said “Under 21 until” with the date of my birthday in red at the top. I also believe the picture was on the other side. For this one, you have to pass a vision and road sign recognition test again and have a clean driving record for the past year. Assuming your Intermediate License is still valid, that’s all you need to do.
Age 21: Full Driver License – Once you’re 21, you can get a license that doesn’t state that you are too young to drink. As long as you have a valid license when you go in for renewal, there isn’t much else you have to do. You have to get it renewed every 3-6 years.
Cost: $10 (3 years) or $20 (6 years)
From start to finish
Total cost: $31 – $41
In Germany you are allowed to start the process at age 17, or at 16 1/2 under special circumstances. This process requires attending driving school.
Registration – Before you start, you have to submit all of your fun, German paperwork, including a passport picture and proof of an eye exam. This, of course, has a processing fee that is higher than the entire process of getting a full Missouri license.
Theoretical Lessons – For your German license you would start with theory classes, generally 12 two-hour sessions. This is to prepare students for the theoretical test. It’s harder to find a direct cost breakdown, as the school will charge differently. Autobild had a breakdown that included base price, learning materials, and introduction to theory.
Theory Test – This is similar to the test required for the Missouri Learner’s Permit, but much more difficult. The test is 30 questions of varying points, adding up to around 100. You can miss 10 points total. It’s a beast, and you pay before you take it – so if you fail, you’ve got to pay again. Also, I’m pretty sure I got scammed now by the driving school that I went through to get signed up for the lessons, because I paid 90€.
Driving Practice – Unlike Missouri, Germany is going to require a bit more than “my parents said I drove enough” for your practice requirement. You’re looking at around 20 hours (and by hours they actually mean 45 minutes somehow) of regular driving as well as 12 “hours” of driving under special circumstances such as at night or on the autobahn. Autobild put this at around 30,50 per “hour”, which makes it the most expensive part of getting the license. They also included an “Introduction to Practical Exam” section at 95€
Practical Test – This practical test is going to be a bit more intense than the Missouri one. TÜV (the German department of motor vehicles) says that the test will be around 45 minutes. Unlike the Missouri information, they do not have a specific list on the website of what you must do, but if the differences between the theory tests are any indication, it is much more intense than driving around a few blocks for 15 minutes and then parallel parking.
First Aid Course – To have a German license, you are also required to be certified in First Aid, so you can add a little bit more on top of what you are already spending. Though, I think this does contribute to safer roadways. If there is an accident, all drivers can offer basic First Aid and they are required to keep up-to-date kits in their car. Autobild also included the price for a sight test, but I didn’t include that, as I think it depends more on your doctor and insurance.
From start to finish
Total cost: 1394,10€
Right now, I’m really glad I was able to skip most of the German steps. I think it’s absurdly expensive, but that may also be why the roads are a bit safer – it’s much more difficult to get the license.