When are winter tyres compulsory in Germany?

December, 3 2019

A few years ago, rules for using winter tyres in Germany were significantly tightened. You probably already knew that. But did you know that the rules changed again from 1 July 2020? So it’s time to brush up on your knowledge, especially if you are going on a winter sports holiday this year or travel frequently in Germany. What’s actually the position now? When are winter tyres compulsory in Germany, and what conditions must a winter tyre comply with in Germany?

*Last updated on 19 October 2020*

Which winter tyres, and when?

In short: only winter tyres or all-season tyres that have the Alpine symbol (a symbol that looks like a snowflake) still comply with the new rules. German law does not refer to winter tyres, but to “tyres with winter properties”. It is mandatory to use this type of tyre in winter conditions.

In winter conditions it is mandatory to use winter tyres in Germany

But what exactly do the Germans consider to be “winter conditions”? Winter conditions are defined as: ice, slippery conditions in snow, slush and slippery conditions caused by ice or frost. No fixed period is defined, so there is the possibility of winter conditions in periods other than the traditional winter months, meaning winter tyres might be compulsory then, too.

Winter tyres in Germany from 1 January 2018

The definition of a “tyre with winter properties” has been modified since 1 January 2018. The most important change is the fact that only winter or 4-season tyres with the Alpine symbol below still meet the requirements. In addition, it is a legal requirement that the minimum tread thickness of the tyre must be 1.6 millimetres. However, for safety reasons in Germany – as in Austria – a minimum of 4 millimetres is recommended.

Since 1 January 2018, only tyres with this Alpine symbol are permitted in winter conditions

Because of these new regulations, tyres that only have an M + S code are no longer sufficient. Manufacturers can decide for themselves whether to put the letters M (mud) or S (snow) on their tyres. But these terms say nothing about the performance of the tyres in winter conditions. What’s more, these symbols may appear on summer tyres. The Alpine symbol gives more assurance. To be allowed to use this symbol, the tyre must conform to a minimum standard of grip in winter conditions (snow grip index).

Transitional regulation

Does this mean the tyres you bought before 2018 were a waste of money? Thankfully, no. A transitional regulation will be in force until 30 September 2024 and winter or all-season tyres with only an M + S code can still be used, provided they were manufactured before 1 January 2018. You may be required to prove that the tyres were actually manufactured and purchased before that date. If you already have the Alpine symbol on your tyres, you’ll be fine, no matter what year they were purchased or manufactured.


 CampingCard ACSI 


The production date of the tyre can be checked using the DOT code shown on the tyre. The four numerals of the code show the production date. For example, the numerals 2416 mean that the tyre was manufactured in the 24th week of 2016. It is mandatory for all winter tyres or all-season tyres manufactured after 1 January 2018 to have an Alpine symbol. Make sure you check the production date and the symbol when buying new tyres.

Slippery road warning

Winter tyres for caravans and motorhomes from 1 July 2020

Since trailers and caravans are not self-propelled but towed, the rules do not apply to them. The car that is doing the towing, or the motorhome, must of course comply with the new regulations.

A new regulation was introduced from 1 July 2020, one to which motorhome owners in particular should pay attention. Commercial vehicles and buses weighing more than 3500 kg – so including motorhomes – must be fitted with winter tyres on both the driving axle and the steering axle when winter conditions apply. Before this date winter tyres were only compulsory on the drive axle. So take note if you are going away in your motorhome!

From 1 July 2020, motorhomes must have winter tyres on both the drive axle and the steering axle

Fines and liability when using incorrect or no winter tyres

If your tyres do not meet the new requirements during a control, there will be a €60 fine. If you are inconveniencing other road users this will be increased to €80. Moreover, if you are involved in an accident, even if it was not your fault, you may be held jointly liable. Not only if you are going on a winter sports holiday in Sauerland or Bavaria, but also for example for a trip to a flat region such at Lower Saxony. In other words, failure to use winter tyres when you should have done means you could be asked to pay damages. So make sure your tyres are right for the weather. Of course, with good 4-season tyres you won’t have to worry about anything all year!

Winter equipment

To comply with all the regulations in winter conditions, your car should be fully equipped for the winter. German law specifies that your car must be equipped for current weather conditions. In addition to the correct tyres, your car must have sufficient screen washer (containing antifreeze) in winter and properly functioning windscreen wipers.

In addition, it is also mandatory to use snow chains on some (mountain) roads, so make sure you carry a set in your car. Finally, an emergency triangle, high-visibility vests and a first aid kit are of course mandatory. If you drive a vehicle combination (for example a car with a caravan) then it is also mandatory to have two wheel chocks in the car. A portable yellow flashing light is also recommended, but is not mandatory for vehicles without a German license plate.

Campsites in Germany

These campsites are located close to winter sports regions.

Rules in other countries

Rules concerning winter tyres are not the same everywhere in Europe. For this reason, Bianca found out the rules covering winter tyres in France and Italy for you.

Bram Kuhnen
  • Author: Bram Kuhnen
  • European cities, touristy beaches and impressive landscapes and countryside. Travelling through Europe, Bram has already visited many places, and he likes to write about his experiences and share tips.

    21 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Nice article. That was so informative. We are also a Tyre care tips and guides blog.

  2. Avatar

    Hello.

    We are driving thrugh Germany and have winter tyres with studs is that ok?

    Many thanks for your answer.

    • Bram Kuhnen

      Hello Per,

      Thank you for your reaction. In Germanay, studded tires are not allowed as they could cause damage to the pavement. The only exception are routes via “Kleines Deutsches Eck“, in the southern of Germany.

      Kind regards,
      Bram

  3. Avatar

    What if I drive in the winter season, but the road conditions are not icy (e.g: warm dry day, with no snow on roads)? can I drive with normal tyres?

    • Bram Kuhnen

      Hello Amr,

      In that case, winter tyres are not obligated and you can drive with your “normal” tyres.

      Kind regards,
      Bram

  4. Avatar

    Hi, I am planning to drive to North Germany from 6th April 2019 to 14 aoril 2019 from Sweden.
    In Sweden, we can put on summer tyres on 1st April onward . How is the law in Germany? Is my car with summer typres allowed to drive in Germany on 6th April onwards ?
    Please help to reply

  5. Avatar

    We will driving from north of Sweden to Frankfurt Germany in dec. 2019 and have winter tyres with studs.
    What are the rules if I am using studded tyres?
    Is there any extra-tax that I have to pay?
    Regards

    • Avatar

      HEllo!

      Studded tyres are not allowed in Germany.

  6. Avatar

    Can I drive with normal summer tires in good condition during the winter time at the good days only? they dry days without snow on the road and when will be snow all over I will not move. I am trying to save money to change again and again tires.

    • Avatar

      Hi
      By law Is there any age limit of winter tyres I can use in Germany?
      Can I use 7-8 years old winter tyres?

  7. Avatar

    Informative article but as it is posted on EuroCampings, I expected it to also have information as to regulatory requirements for winter tyres/snow chains on caravans.

  8. Avatar

    My question is where is the best place to buy my winter tires in Germany? I have no idea where to shop for them

    • Bram Kuhnen

      Hello Michele,

      You can buy decent winter tyres at almost every garage in Germany. Winter tyres are very normal in Germany, so most sizes are stocked. Makes sure you chose winter tyres which meet the criteria I mentioned in my article.

      Kind regards,
      Bram

  9. Avatar

    We are visiting germany dec 2019 for one week do we gave to have winter tyres

    • Bram Kuhnen

      Hello Geirge,

      Odds are that you’ll need winter tyres. The moment weather conditions are described as ‘wintery’, winter tyres are obligated, even if you are just staying in Germany for a few days. My advice is to make sure your tyres meet the German standards. If you get involved in an accident, even if it’s not your fault, the tyres will be more than worth it.

      Kind regards,
      Bram

  10. Avatar

    Hi I’m traveling in Germany for Christmas this December I don’t have winter tyres jus normal tyres I’m just visiting fo couple days jus need some advice thanks

    • Bram Kuhnen

      Hello Artan,

      Odds are that you’ll need winter tyres. The moment weather conditions are described as ‘wintery’, winter tyres are obligated, even if you are just staying in Germany for a few days. My advice is to make sure your tyres meet the German standards. If you get involved in an accident, even if it’s not your fault, the tyres will be more than worth it.

      Kind regards,
      Bram

  11. Avatar

    Thank you so much for this useful advice. I’m driving to Denmark through Germany on Sunday, and have arranged for winter tyres to be fitted tomorrow. I knew they were a good idea but did not know it was mandatory. Thanks again, Nicholas

  12. Avatar

    Hello Bram,
    In a normal car, is it a requirement to have 4 winter tires or just the 2 ones in the front axle? I’m going to Germany soon and I only have 2 in the front axle (required in Italy) Thank you very much

  13. Avatar

    May I just say what a relief to discover a person that really understands what they are talking about over the internet. You actually realize how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More people have to read this and understand this side of your story. I was surprised that you are not more popular because you definitely have the gift.

  14. Avatar

    All 4 is the legal requirement if winter conditions

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