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When do I need winter tires in Germany?

It’s not only humans who need appropriate clothes for winter – cars need to have winter tires, too.


Would you rather read this in German?

Just got to the German version -

with a list of all the vocabulary that might be new for you.


“O to O”-rule : When is the right time for winter tires?

The O bis O – Rule is a rule of thumb meaning:

Von Oktober bis Ostern (from October to Easter): Winter tires

Von Ostern bis Oktober (From Easter to October) Summer tires (= regular tires)

O to O rule for tires

Between October and Easter there is a likeliness of sudden snowfall or icy conditions.

Summer tires are not made for those conditions.

Exception of the rule:

In some years, Easter is very early within the year. Then it’s better to keep the winter tires for another few weeks - you can take time to change your tires.

And: There are also all-season tires or all-weather tires. You don't have to change them. But they have disadvantages compared to the special tires:

  • they are not so well suited to extreme winter weather

  • the braking distance is longer in summer.

How do I recognize a winter tire?

German law does not refer to winter tires, but to “tires with winter properties”.

On older tires you will find “M+S” meaning Matsch (mud) + Schnee (snow). These tires may still be used until 30 September 2024 .

As of 2018, there is a new symbol: the Alpine symbol indicating that these tires meet certain new standards of quality and efficiency.

Alpine Symbol Winterreifen

Is there a legal requirement for winter tires in Germany?

It is mandatory to have tires that are appropriate for the weather conditions.

Under icy conditions you must not drive without winter tires on your vehicle.

Winter conditions are defined as: ice, slippery conditions in snow, slush and slippery conditions caused by ice or frost

However, there is no obligation to have winter tires for a fixed period of time.

Is there a legal requirement for winter tires in Germany?

How much is the fine for driving with summer tires in icy conditions?

If your tires do not meet the requirements during a control, you’ll get a point against you in Flensburg AND pay a fine:

60 € just for driving

80 € if you are inconveniencing other road users

100 € if you put someone into danger

120 € if you are involved in an accident.

Is my car-insurance going to pay if I cause an accident and don’t have winter tires?

KFZ- Versicherung

In any case, the motor vehicle liability insurance pays for the damage of the accident victim after an accident - even if the driver who caused the accident was on the road with summer tires in snow or slippery conditions.

The insurance cover remains in place in this case, so that the victim is protected.

But the driver usually has to repay some of the money (up to € 5,000) to the insurance company.

Voll- und Teilkaskoversicherung

(The fully and partially comprehensive insurance)

Was it clear to the driver that the summer tires were not suitable in this situation?


did it cause an accident?

Then it may be that the insurance company does not pay for everything - or that it does not pay anything at all.

If you car hasn’t got any winter tires

and there might be snow or ice on the road,

you’d better not drive.

As long as your car doesn’t take part in the traffic,

you are not obliged to have winter tires.

Do I need snow chains in Germany?

Do I need snow chains?

In alpine regions, (like in southern Germany’s mountainous regions), it is also wise to have snow chains (Schneeketten) and a snow shovel in your vehicle during the cold season especially if you are going on a winter sports holiday.

Do not forget:

Also, make sure to fill up the windscreen water. You will also need antifreeze in winter.

And finally:

Do the windscreen wipers work?

I wish you a good drive through the winter!


Would you rather read this in German?

Just got to the German version -

with a list of all the vocabulary that might be new for you.


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