Monday, September 17, 2012

Mix-Up Monday: Driver's License

Recently, she has been faced with the decision to take the written and driving test in Germany to receive a German license. This has led to the discovery of some big differences between getting a license in the USA and Germany.

Age: The first major difference between getting a driver's license in the USA versus Germany is the age that you can get it. Germans are shocked when they hear that some U.S. states allow people as young as 14 to drive. She doesn't think Germans understand how empty these states are. Believe us, there is nothing you can run into in South Dakota! Most states do not let teenagers get their driver's permit until 15 or 16 years old. Others, like Wyoming,  Kansas, and Iowa, allow permits for 14 year old. Most of these states, however, do not allow teenagers to receive a restricted or full license until they are 15 or 16 years old. The exception to this is South Dakota. If you take driver's education you can receive your license at 14 and 3 months, if not, you have to wait until 14 and 6 months. Not sure if that is scary or awesome!

The latest age you can first get your permit is 16 (e.g., New York and New Jersey) and everyone who passes all the necessary tests can have at least a restricted license at 17. The latest age to receive an unrestricted license in any state is 18 (e.g., Massachusetts, New Hampshire). She grew up in California and received her permit at 15 and 6 months, her restricted license at 16 and her full license at 16 and 6 months.

He, on the other hand, grew up in Germany where you can start driving at 17 with parental supervision and 18 without. If the license is received at 17, it is after taking both the written and driving test, just like a 18 year old would. Then, for the next year, the licensed driver can only drive with a parent in the car. This option was not even available when he was younger.

Cost: Getting a driver's license is never cheap but there is cost and then there is COST. Getting a driver's license in Germany is a big expense and can easily cost over 1000 euros. A major reason for this is because you must take a class, participate in a large number of behind the wheel driving classes which are expensive, and then even rent the car (and you driving instructor) for the day of your examination. In the USA you can save money by skipping the class (although this often means you have to be a bit older to get you license) or you can take driver's education as a class in high school --> free! Additionally, because you can practice driving with your parents, you do not need to pay for many hours of driving with a driving school (she took only six hours when she got her license) and you use your own car for the examination, meaning that you do not need to rent the car from the driving school (or the instructor).

Examinations: From what it sounds like, the written and driving examinations are quite similar in the USA and Germany (she will let you know if this is really true once she takes the tests).  Two major differences are that in many U.S. states, driving tests are done on a course and not on the regular road (this is not true for California though). In Germany, all driving tests are done on the road. Additionally, In Germany, your driving instructor sits with you in the passenger seat of the driving school car (meaning he could push the break or gas if needed) and the test giver is in the back seat. In the USA, the test giver is alone with the driver and sits in the front seat (of a normal car without the option to push the gas or break if needed). Guess Americans are just a little more trusting of new drivers :p

An additional difference is that in Germany you receive a special license if you take your test in an automatic car which says that you cannot drive manual cars in Germany. In the USA, it does not matter what type of car you take you test in, all licenses are the same. This is probably because a large percentage of cars in America are automatic and it is unlikely that someone who did not learn on a manual car would ever need to drive one.

The license: People love to look at her American driver's license in Germany just as much as Americans love to look at his. Overall, they are actually are quite similar. Very basic information is listed on the license but unlike the American license there is no height or weight listed on the German license. Yes, that's right, Americans have the embarrassing fact that many U.S. state licenses have their weight on you better be careful what you put down. Both German and American licenses are the same size (size of a credit card) but every state in the USA has its own color scheme, photo placement, etc. Some states use licenses that are read vertically for those who are on a restricted license or are under 21 (not legally allowed to drink and therefore makes it easier for people checking). These are then turned horizontally when they reach a certain age. Other states, like California, are always horizontal but the picture switches sides from right to left  depending on your age. If you move to a new state in the USA you must retake at least the written driving test. Once you have your license in Germany you can move anywhere within the country and keep the license.

Hey, it is Ed McMahon's license! (
Expiration: Even though you have to wait so long and spend so much money to get a German driver's license you get a lot for the effort you put in, unless you lose your driving privileges, your license never expires and you never have to retake the examinations. This is unlike the USA where (depending on the state) you have to renew you license every so many years and retake the driving examination starting at a certain age (when they are worried you are getting to old to drive). She only has experience with California driver's licenses. There you must renew your license every four years (this can be online, in person, or by mail). Retaking the driving test is dependent on age and various conditions...she actually isn't exactly sure about it all.

We will save the differences in driving in the USA and Germany another time!

No comments:

Post a Comment