Tire laws in Germany

This page contains following topics:

  1. General tire laws in Germany
  2. German winter tire laws
    1. Violation of winter tire obligation
    2. Vehicles that do not require winter tires
  3. Installation of mixed tires on a vehicle

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1. General tire laws in Germany

2. German winter tire laws

In winter weather conditions, “winter tires” or “snow tires” are mandatory. This mandatory winter tire requirement is only considered fulfilled if winter tires are fitted on all wheel positions in a vehicle. In a passenger car, for example, all four wheels must be fitted with winter tires.

Contrary to some neighboring countries, there is no official date or month to install and uninstall winter tires in Germany. In Austria for example, there is a fixed period from November 15 to March 15, in which winter tires are mandatory for any vehicle traveling on public roads.

In Germany, the installation of winter tires depends upon the weather situation and road conditions in the winter months. That means under conditions of black ice, snow, slush/sludge, and frost, vehicles must be fitted with winter tires.

A local rule of thumb for winter tires is “O bis O (Oktober bis Ostern)”. This indicates October to Easter is the time for winter tires. However, this saying has no legal value and is only a rough guide. Another guide can be when the temperature starts going below 7°C, it’s time to install winter tires. As road surfaces can get slippery during nights and early mornings.

All winter tires are marked with the Alpine symbol, a mountain pictogram with a snowflake.

Alpine symbol. All winter tires from September 30, 2024 must have this symbol. Otherwise, they would not be considered winter tires.

For the time being, all-weather tires with M + S (Mud + Snow) marking are also considered suitable for winter months.

The average of accidents is much higher in the winter months than in summer, and the main culprit for these accidents are cheap M + S tires. M + S tires remained under criticism by experts in Germany and eventually their final date as winter tires was decided. Therefore, all-weather M + S tires are valid winter tires until the 30th of September 2024, if they were manufactured before December 31, 2017.

Mandatory profile depth for winter tires is at least 1.6 mm but the recommended profile depth is at least 4 mm. The recommended winter tires changing period is 6 years, even if they have enough profile depth left on treads. When the rubber becomes harder it loses grip in low temperatures.

The situational winter tire obligation also applies to foreign visitors with vehicles of foreign registrations.

There are a few hilly areas where snow chains are required. It's indicated by sign 268.

Sign 268

This sign belongs to mandatory signs. It means only vehicles with snow chains are allowed to proceed. The speed limit on roads marked by this sign is 50 km/h (31 m/h).

2.1 Violation of situational winter tire obligation

  1. If a vehicle is driven in winter road conditions without winter tires, this can result in a fine of 60 Euros. Also, a point is entered in the driver's license register in Flensburg.
  2. Any obstruction or hindrance to a third party (other road users or property) caused by the violation of winter tire obligation, the fine can increase to 80 Euros.
  3. If a third party is endangered by this violation, the fine can increase to 100 Euros.
  4. If an accident is caused by the winter tire violation, the guilty must pay a 120 Euro fine in addition to other applicable allegations of the accident.
    This can also lead to a considerable reduction in benefits from all three types of vehicle insurances. To read more about car insurance in Germany, please visit the page Car insurance in Germany.
  5. If the owner and driver of a vehicle are different persons, the owner who allows the driver to drive in winter conditions without winter tires must also pay a 75 Euros fine, and a penalty point is marked in the Flensburg register.
  6. Winter tires are legally allowed to be used in the summer months. However, there are other mechanical and economical disadvantages of using winter tires in summer. All-weather M + S tires can be used around the year till September 30, 2024.

2.2 Vehicles that do not require winter tires

Following vehicles are free from winter tire obligation. However, they are not allowed to travel over the speed of 50 km/h in winter road conditions.

3. Installation of mixed tires on a vehicle

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