Getting a ride in Germany
With money now in hand, you’re going to need a car. Did you take the USAREUR driver’s exam before arriving, and already have your driver’s license? That’s great! If you didn’t, then STOP what you’re doing. You have a lot to learn before getting wheels — keep reading for the scoop on driving in Germany.
All military and dependents driving in Germany need proof of insurance, a valid U.S. Forces Certificate of License (USAREUR license) and valid U.S. driver’s license. If you are PCS’ing from within Europe, you may be able to convert your current license to a USAREUR license, though an orientation will still be necessary. If you PCS’d from anywhere else, your first step is to take the driver’s exam — don’t think you can pass without studying. The test is 100 questions, including a section on road signs; you must score at least 85 percent to pass. Contact the Driver Testing Center to schedule your exam.
- Vehicle registration.
- First aid kit, warning triangle and reflective vest.
- During winter: winter or all-season tires, designated with a snowflake or “M+S” (Mud+Snow) symbol.
GPS: Highly recommended
A GPS is a lifesaver for house hunting and traveling. If you don’t have one yet, visit your AAFES Exchange or local retailers. You can also find a used one through online yard-sale or classifieds websites.
NOTE: GPS devices that detect speed cameras are illegal in Germany; if caught, you can be fined and have your device confiscated (even if the function has been disabled).
Renting a car
On base: USAREUR license.
Off base: Though many companies will rent to you with both a U.S. license and International Driving Permit (IDP), the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) explicitly states that you need a USAREUR license to drive any vehicle. Getting your USAREUR license should be your first priority, but you’ll also need the IDP to drive outside of Germany, so don’t delay.
Get an IDP through:
- American Automobile Association (AAA)
- American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA)
- Authorized German city or state licensing offices: Ask at the Driver Testing Center.
Registering your shipped car
If you’ve transported your car from the U.S. or another NATO country, you’ll need the following:
- Check or money order payable to “USAREUR Registration Fund” (some offices now accept credit cards)
- ID card and USAREUR license
- Proof of insurance (name must match ID card)
- Application for Motor Vehicle Registration (AE Form 190-1AA)
- U.S. title/registration (name must match ID card)
- Shipping document, customs form (AE Form 550-175A) or current NATO registration
- POV waiver (if applicable)
- Warning triangle, first aid kit and reflective vest
Inspecting your shipped car
After the registration process is complete, you’ll receive temporary plates, valid for 30 days, and the vehicle must be inspected within that time frame. Be prepared for disappointment — regulations are stringent, and your car may not pass inspection the first time. For the top 10 reasons that vehicles fail inspection, visit www.ramstein.af.mil. Once your vehicle passes, you will be issued permanent plates.
Buying a used car
Finding autos for sale is easy. Check out www.stripes.com, yard-sale websites or your installation’s “lemon lot,” where servicemembers park cars for sale. Cars older than 10 years need inspection before a sale between ID cardholders. Cars newer than 10 years must have at least 60 days left on the registration at time of sale to retain the current inspection expiration date.
Required documents for vehicle registration:
Same as for shipped POV, minus U.S. title/registration and shipping document - PLUS - a Bill of Sale with name and signature of seller and buyer, as well as the vehicle’s make, model, year and chassis number (also known as VIN). Sales between ID cardholders may also require a lien release.
- European specication vehicle: Title book (Zulassungbescheinigung Teil II) and de-registration form (Zulassungbescheinigung Teil I) with “Außerbetriebsetzung” marked.
- U.S. specication vehicle: also need customs form 550-175A.
- Ask owner to complete inspection before de-registration.
- Have owner keep insurance until registration is transferred.
- Get proof of exhaust emission testing, service record, previous vehicle defects and inspection pass guarantee.
- Sales between government ID cardholders require presence of all buyers and sellers.
Buying a new car
If purchasing a new car while in Germany, consider buying from a dealer participating in the Military Auto Sales Program. Available benefits may include tax-free transactions, worldwide shipping, U.S. specifications and prices lower than U.S. MSRP prices.
Required documents for vehicle registraion:
- Same as for shipped POV, minus U.S. title/registration and shipping document.
- Bill of Sale or purchase order with name and signature of seller and buyer, as well as the vehicle’s make, model, year and chassis number.
- You’ll have 60 days to provide additional documentation, such as the German Title Book and customs form.
- Find out more at www.eur.army.mil
Duty-free fuel program
Once your vehicle is registered, sign up for the duty-free fuel program managed by AAFES. Money is added to a pre-paid card for future purchases, and all registered vehicles have a monthly ration based on the vehicle’s size and weight, as noted on your vehicle registration.
- Only available in Germany at on-base AAFES facilities and off-base Esso stations.
- Only good for one assigned vehicle and the type of fuel the car uses.
- More than one vehicle may be registered, and up to two ID holders may be assigned to a fuel card for each vehicle.
- Prepaid cash balance is shared across owners and vehicles.
- Exceeding your fuel ration allowance or prepaid balance, or buying with an expired card, will result in paying the taxed, economy fuel price.
Using the card:
On base: Use pre-paid balance or another form of payment.
Off base: Must use pre-paid balance.
- Pump gas, then take the fuel card, vehicle registration and ID card to the attendant.
- Know your 4-digit PIN.
- Amount purchased is deducted from monthly ration.
Payment for transaction:
Know your ration and card balances: odin.aafes.com/esso, toll-free number on card or last receipt.
If you are at an Esso station and the payment system goes down, the staff is trained to call a dual language system to complete the transaction. Or call the AAFES 24/7 Military Star Card center.
Add money to card: cash, check, Military Star card, debit or credit at AAFES Shoppettes/gas stations; online at odin.aafes.com/esso; by phone at the number on the back of the card; and by automatic bank transfer or payment.
Lost or stolen card: immediately call AAFES at 0800-181-9945.
Find out more about the ESSO fuel ration program at www.aafes.com.