Germans love their cars, and we all know that. The automotive industry is driving the German economy. But do you need a car to live in Germany or are there other ways to get around?
Germany is one of the best countries to live without a car in Europe. If you live in the city, you don’t need a car in Germany. Owning a private vehicle car is a personal choice and is a matter of convenience. Yet, many Germans own a car since they appreciate the independence and flexibility it offers.
While living in some countries without a car can be troublesome, e.g., in the US, Germany is pretty easy to navigate without a private vehicle. Germany has developed its public transport to the extent that no one is required to purchase a car to survive. You will be able to live in any part of Germany without a car. In the end, a car is just a matter of convenience.
Is a car necessary in Germany?
Unless you live in a small village that has no buses and no railway station (which is almost unheard of in Germany), you can live without a car. Generally, everything is manageable with buses, trains, and the occasional taxi, even in villages.
If you live in a large city, using a bicycle or public transport for day-to-day tasks is your best bet.
The necessity of having a car totally depends on where you live in Germany. In towns starting from around 20,000 and upwards you don’t need a car. Public transportation and bicycle will be enough to meet your traveling needs.
Yet, in smaller German towns or villages, a car will be indeed helpful. Busses go even through small villages, but you will heavily rely on their schedule. Living in such place might be even unmanageable without a private vehicle. If you live middle of nowhere and your work is miles away – you will want to have a car for sure.
Therefore, German public transportation is developed and convenient enough to get you anywhere you want. However, it might not always be the most suitable timing.
Nonetheless, having a car at your disposal is always convenient. You can go shopping, or on a spontaneous trip, visit your family or friends, etc. Car is also somewhat necessary for people with children.
Besides, there are still many villages with a population of 500 – 2,000 people, where to get any necessities, e.g., go to the supermarket, you will need a take a bus. And busses don’t go often, usually once every hour or two. Hence, you will be highly dependent if living in such a place without a car.
As a rule of thumb, you don’t need a car while living in the city, but a private vehicle might be necessary if you live in the village. Here all depend on your situation. In the end, if you only occasionally need a car, you can simply rent one.
Who needs a car in Germany?
You might need a car if:
- you live in a remote area with limited access to public transportation
- you have hobbies or interests that require a car
- you need a car to get to work
- you like to drive
- you plan to travel frequently
- you are a super spontaneous person
Who doesn’t need a car in Germany?
You don’t need a car in Germany if:
- you have access to public transportation
- you plan to drive only short distances
- you don’t plan to stay in Germany long term
- you work online/home office
- you hate driving
- you don’t have a driving license
The pros of owning a car in Germany
Car ownership brings many benefits with it but also has its downsides. Well, the obvious pro of owning a car in Germany is all flexibility and convenience it offers.
Thus, many German households still prefer to travel by car over everything. Yes, the car can be super handy if you have kids.
When owning a car, you can go on various trips on weekends which might be (and will be) inconvenient with public transport. Besides, it has a lot of benefits for outdoorsy people, because they can go anywhere with it and at any time.
- It gives you comfort and space that you won’t get on public transport.
- You can transport other people and things.
- You don’t have to rely on the city’s public transportation systems.
Besides, if you don’t want to commit and buy a car, you can also lease it.
The cons of owning a car in Germany
There are plenty of drawbacks to having a car in Germany as well, for example:
- German cities can be hard to drive, especially in old towns.
- Many areas are prohibited from driving.
- Finding parking can be tricky if you don’t want to pay for parking. In larger cities, it’s even more challenging.
- Speeding tickets are expensive.
- Parking is expensive – both on the streets and in parking garages.
- High monthly costs – car owners in Germany spend about 400 EUR per month – a monthly public transport ticket will cost you at least 4 times less.
- Unplanned expenses – you never know when your car will need a repair.
Cost of owning a car in Germany
According to the statistics, Germany’s average monthly cost for running a standard car is 520 EUR and 788 EUR for an electric vehicle.
The cost of owning a car is by far the biggest drawback of having it in Germany. Driving a car is expensive, starting from car insurance, parking fees, and fuel. Besides, a driving license is costly too.
For a small standard car, for example, VW Golf, you can expect to pay between 200 EUR and 400 EUR per month.
A smaller, more economical car will cost you less. The bigger the vehicle, the more you will pay for it. Car owners driving premium German brands spend more on repairs and services than drivers of regular cars.
So before considering buying a car in Germany, you will need to analyze all running costs that go into it. Read a detailed article about the cost of owning a car in Germany.
Here are the typical expenses you will encounter when having a car in Germany:
- Car insurance (Teilkasko): 500 EUR per year
- Car taxes: 150 EUR per year
- Fuel: 1,150 EUR per year
- Car inspection: 100 EUR every 2 years
- Garage/Parking place: 100 EUR per month
- Changing tires: 100 EUR per year
Furthermore, average spendings depend on the type and brand of the car:
- Ford Fiesta: 168 EUR per month; 2,016 EUR per year
- VW Golf: 183 EUR per month; 2,196 EUR per year
- Audi A4: 220 EUR per month; 2,640 EUR per year
- Mercedes C Class: 264 EUR per month; 3,168 EUR per year
Read about the costs of owning a car in Germany in a separate article.
Living in Germany without a car
So what your life in Germany might look like without a car? All German cities offer so many alternative transportation options there’s no need to own a car.
Getting around without a car
Biking and walking are the cheapest and most flexible options in the city. Or you can pick a convenient e-scooter.
If you live within the city center, you can go anywhere on your two. If you need a car for some particular reason, you can always rent one or order a taxi. Then there is also car sharing in most German cities.
With that said, living without a car is absolutely possible. Here are our top alternatives to a car:
1. Public transportation
For many people, buses, trains, and trams are the best choice for daily tasks and commutes. And don’t forget about the underground available in major German cities. All cities and towns will offer monthly or annual tickets for regular travelers. Various discounts apply as well.
It’s always cheaper than buying a single ticket each time.
So, have a look at public transport options and schedule in the city you live in or plan to move to. Could you reach all your destinations by bus or train? How much time would it take? Do you need to jump on another bus or train in between? How many changes are there?
In the end, you don’t want to spend hours commuting.
At the same time, when it comes to leisure time, many Germans prefer to be on their own – on a car or a bike.
German public transportation is highly developed not only within cities but also between the cities and even internationally. You can hop on a bus/train in Germany and be in Paris or Prague.
A bus is often one of the cheapest travel options in Germany. You might have heard of Flixbus and their incredibly low rates. If you don’t mind the long ride, this will be an excellent way to get to other cities or countries. Their network is extensive. Also, check out these bus companies to get around in Germany and beyond:
Riding a train is more expensive than a bus in Germany. The Deutsche Bahn is the largest train service company in Germany, with the most extensive network in Europe.
Ticket fares often can be pricey, but sometimes there are random discounts and sales where you could get a good deal. Besides, all neighboring countries have their own train services so that you can go pretty far just by train.
Walking is the best way of transportation, less stressful and full of your control. In fact, compared to the US and some other countries, Germany is a pedestrian paradise. But your distance is pretty limited here unless you are lucky enough to live close to your work and all amenities.
Or maybe you work from home and live in a vibrant neighborhood that has everything as I do? Then your two will be sufficient for daily life, and you can get away by calling a taxi or taking a bus once in a while.
Biking is another super affordable and healthy option to get around in Germany. All German cities are bike-friendly, with many bike roads and parking areas. However, you need to be aware of bike theft and keep an eye out if your bicycle is expensive.
You can also easily buy a very cheap second-hand bike in Germany and don’t worry to much.
Yet, as a bike driver in Germany, you will also need to know the rules. For example, it’s not allowed to ride drunk or with insufficient lighting.
A scooter or moped is also a great way to get around with plenty of flexibility and low costs. Plus, you don’t need a special driving license for mopeds with 50 ccm, which goes a maximum of 25 km/h. A written test from a driving school is sufficient.
A moped can be used only by one person at a time. For everything bigger and faster you will need a motorbike A license.
Lately, e-Scooters have become very popular in many countries. They give great flexibility, take minimum space, and are cheap to use (if you have your own). Besides, e-Scooters were authorized on German roads almost three years ago.
They were quickly accepted by residents and are now a perfect way of transportation for short distances. When riding an e-scooter in Germany, you must keep several rules in mind.
- You need extra liability insurance that costs about 40 EUR per year.
- An insurance sticker must be attached to the back of the scooter.
- You must use bike paths or biking trails. If either isn’t available, you can drive on the road with cars.
- Sidewalks aren’t allowed for driving e-scooters. Rule breakers pay a 70 EUR fine.
6. Carpooling and car sharing
Lastly, you can always use a very popular carpooling site BlaBlaCar if you want to go somewhere by car. It works for rides between German cities and in other countries. Carpooling is extremely affordable since the car driver sets the rate for passengers.
Sometimes you can get to very random places middle of nowhere (if you need to) just because a driver goes there.
Here are a few carpooling sites that are available in Germany:
In which cities in Germany can you live without a car?
All large and medium-sized cities in Germany have good public transportation, even some small ones. Generally, all main German cities have excellent public transport, or you can go anywhere by bicycle.
You 100% can live without a car in:
|Frankfurt am Main||667,925|
|Freiburg im Breisgau||209,628|
As you can see, there are plenty of German cities where having a car will be totally unnecessary.
Buying a car in Germany
So you have decided or considering buying a car in Germany? There are a few things to think about:
- Which car – new or used one?
- Which type of car do you want and need, benzin und diesel, automatic or manual?
- What is your budget?
- Where to buy the car? Whether privately, at the dealer, or abroad, inform yourself about the advantages and disadvantages and what you need to pay particular attention to.
- How will you pay for a car? There are several options, such as cash payment, financing, or leasing.
You also might want to lease a car for a year or two instead of buying. It’s a very popular option in Germany. Read our in-depth comparison of buying vs leasing a car in Germany.
If you want to finance a car with a loan in Germany, check this article. Factors such as mileage, age, and value play a significant role if you can get a loan for a vehicle. Auxmoney and Smava provide the best deals for foreign customers.
Places to buy a car
How to go about finding a car in Germany? The best websites for finding car dealerships in Germany are mobile.de and autoscout24.de. Luckily, they both have English versions and offer used and new cars.
There are plenty of online resources out there; however, some offer only the German version. For this reason, knowing some terminology in German will be very helpful in this process.
Here are some useful words and things that one should be looking at when selecting a car in Germany:
- Mileage (Kilometerstand)
- First registration (Erstzulassung – EZ) – the date indicates the age of the car
- Number of previous owners (Vorbesitzer)
- Fuel type (Kraftstoffart) – Petrol (Benzin) or Diesel
- Engine power (Leistung) – PS is horsepower
- The date for the next periodic technical inspection (Hauptuntersuchung – HU) – you should look for cars with at least one year until the next HU or, ideally a new HU upon purchase
- Accident-free car (Unfallfrei) –of course, you don’t want to get a car with major accidents in the past
- Gearing mechanism (Getriebe) – most cars in Germany have manual gearing (Schaltgetriebe), so be aware of that in case you only learned to drive automatic (Automatik)
- Maintenance record (Checkheft gepflegt) – only look for cars that provide a full maintenance record
- Air Conditioning (Klimaanlage) – be aware that not all car manufacturers and used cars have AC installed
- Emission sticker (Umweltplakete) – most German cities are an environmental zone, meaning that only cars with green emission stickers (Euro 4) are allowed to enter. So be sure to look for a car with a green emission sticker.
You can also download a checklist for buying a used car in Germany, with particular tips and information about what to look up to.
When buying a car, you can choose between a new or used vehicle. The used car market is huge in Germany. If you purchase a used car through a dealer, you can expect some sort of guarantee, which isn’t the case on the private market.
The key metrics to look for when choosing a privately owned car are odometer reading (mileage), date of the next inspection (TÜV), date of first registration (Erstezulassung or EZ), model year, type of catalytic converter, and the number of owners.
Things to pay attention to when buying a used car:
- Mileage – age of the car
- First registration (EZ – Erstzulassung)
- Number of owners
- Diesel fuel or Petrol (Diesel or Benzin)
- Date of the next roadworthiness check (HU/AU/TÜV).
- Engine power
- Known issues
Wonder how much do used cars cost in Germany?
If you buy a new car in Germany, you will conduct a contract with the dealership, where your vehicle comes with a 2-year warranty. The buyer must also pay VAT taxes on the purchased car (19%).
There is no bargain for new cars in Germany, however, you can still get the price a little bit down. Dealers sometimes give discounts for payment in cash. Negotiation is sometimes possible when it comes to the “extras” such as the sunroof, air conditioning, sound system, and other accessories.
Furthermore, you can get a good financing offer when buying a new car, which is rare with a used vehicle. Many manufacturers offer internal financing programs, which usually have a slightly better interest rate than a bank.
Depending on the purchase price, financing can range from 24 to 60 months. The best interest rates are offered when a 20% down payment is made.
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