Essential Tips for Renting a Car in Germany

aerial view of cars driving over Lake Sylvenstein, Bavaria, Germany

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Planning to rent a car and fly down the German Autobahn? Gather top tips here and find the best rental car for your trip through Germany. The process is very similar to that of any other Western nation, but these tips can help you get the most from your trip.

Quick Tips

  • Search for rental cars before you fly to Germany, and reserve your car in advance (14 days beforehand ideally). You will get better rates than booking upon arrival. Sign up for major company's (such as Hertz, Sixt, etc) newsletters or follow on social media for deals. As an added bonus, you will feel more relaxed knowing your car is waiting for you in Germany.
  • German cars usually come with a manual transmission (gear shift). If you prefer an automatic transmission, ask the rental company and most can accommodate you. This may - like so many things - result in an extra charge.
  • Rental cars are available at all airports and most major rail stations as well as more locations in major cities.

Driver's Requirements

  • To rent a car in Germany, you need a valid driver’s license from your home state or province.
  • Visitors may also consider getting an ​International Driving Permit which is only about $15 and accepted in many places around the world. This is a companion document to your valid country's driver's license and is valid for 1 year. However, this document is not required for Germany.
  • For U.S. drivers, if you would like to continue to drive after six months to 1 year (depending on your country of licensure) in Germany must obtain a German license. Different countries (and each US State) have individual reciprocity programs for obtaining a German license. 
  • The legal driving age in Germany is 18, but usually, drivers have to be over 21 to rent a car. Depending on the company, they may pay a premium until the age of 25.
  • A few car rentals request an international driver’s license, so check before you go; if you need an international drivers license, you can easily get it at any AAA location.


Base rates vary wildly depending on the time of year, duration of rental, the age of driver, destination, and location of rental. Shop around to find the best price. Note that charges usually do not include the 16% Value Added Tax (VAT), registration fee, or any airport fees (but do include the required third-party liability insurance). These additional fees may equal up to 25% of the daily rental.

Weather Conditions

  • Major roads are very well-maintained, but conditions can change quickly. Screens along the roadway offer updates on conditions, detours, etc.
  • Drive very carefully when it snows. Small mountain roads can be treacherous for those unfamiliar with the area. Ask your rental company about special winter tires.


  • Find your way through Germany with the help of a GPS; most rental companies offer GPS for an additional charge. The small fee is usually worth it. If you don't speak German you should ask the rental agent to switch the language settings before you depart. 
  • Planning to explore other European countries? Check first with your rental company, and make sure it is allowed to take your rental car across the border. There may be restrictions or higher premiums required for taking a vehicle into nearby Poland or other Eastern European countries. Fees normally are 20% to 30% more than regular rates, but vary by location.
  • Also, note that dropping a car off at a different location or city than pick-up may result in an extra charge.

In Case of Emergency...

Emergency phone numbers:

  • 110 for police
  • 112 for an ambulance