Europe spans a huge area (roughly 20% bigger than the contiguous United States), with 27 countries, vast landscapes, and different cultures spread throughout.
Driving in Europe can be a memorable experience, and it’s important to understand the driving rules and regulations, such as the minimum age you’re legally allowed to drive, or to rent a car.
The minimum age you need to be to drive in Europe is dependent on the country you’re driving in. The vast majority of countries have an unrestricted driving age of 18 for cars and 16 for motorbikes. The minimum age to rent a vehicle in Europe ranges from 18-25, and ages 21 and under often incur greater costs and restrictions.
List of minimum driving ages in Europe
Here’s a list of unrestricted diving ages for the 27 countries within the EU.
- Austria, 17 for cars, 15 for mopeds
- Belgium, 18 for cars, 16 for mopeds
- Bulgaria, 18 for cars, 16 for mopeds
- Croatia, 18
- The Republic of Cyprus, 18
- Czech Republic, 18 for cars, 16 for mopeds
- Denmark, 18 for cars, 15 for mopeds
- Estonia, 18 for cars, 14 for mopeds
- Finland, 18 for cars, 16 for mopeds
- France, 18
- Germany, 18 for cars, 16 for motorcycles
- Greece, 18 for cars
- Hungary, 18 for cars, 16 for motorcycles
- Italy, 18
- Latvia, 16 for cars, 21 for motorcycles
- Lithuania, 18 for cars, 15 for mopeds
- Luxembourg, 18 for cars, 16 for motorcycles
- Malta, 18
- Netherlands, 18 for cars, 16 for mopeds
- Poland, 18 for cars, 16 for motorcycles
- Portugal, 18 for cars, 16 for motorcycles
- Romania, 18 for cars, 16 for motorcycles
- Slovakia, 18
- Slovenia, 18 for cars, 16 for motorcycles
- Spain 18 for cars, 16 for motorcycles
- Sweden, 18 for cars, 15 for mopeds
- Ireland, 17 for cars, 16 for motorbikes
The country you’re driving in matters
The first thing to note is that whether or not you are old enough to drive in Europe will depend on the country you are driving in, not the rules in your country of origin.
An example of this would be that you have passed your driving test and achieved your license in Ireland at the age of 17. But if you want to drive in Italy or the majority of other European countries, the minimum driving age is 18, and you won’t be able to do this at 17 years of age.
Also, if you’re thinking of driving on a provisional license in another country, and being supervised by an experienced driver of 3+ years, then things can be difficult, as most licenses only apply to the issuing country.
Also, if you’re sitting next to an experienced driver, it’s probably going to be safer to let them drive the car (especially in new surroundings).
Who can drive in Europe?
If you’re from a country located within the European Economic Area (EEA), then you’re safe to drive in Europe.
If not, you may also need an international driver’s permit (IDP); to apply for this, you’ll need a driver’s license and must meet the minimum age of 18.
Driving across European countries
If you’re planning to cross land borders in Europe and drive between countries, then it’s good to know that the vast majority of countries (26 of 27) are located in the Schengen area, also known as the world’s largest visa-free zone. Here you can freely drive across land borders without checks or hard border points.
However, to drive to Ireland, you’ll need to board a car ferry to get there, and you’ll encounter a border crossing when you enter or leave, and you’ll also need to meet the requirements to drive there.
Also, make sure you carry the following with you at all times:
- Drivers license
- Vehicle ownership documents
- Vehicle insurance proof
Additional requirements for driving in Europe may include:
- You’ll need to make sure you’re insured in the countries you intend to drive in, so contact your insurance provider for further details. If you avoid this, you’ll have to purchase insurance at the border.
- If you’re planning on driving between countries, then you may need to acquire a vignette sticker for driving on roads such as motorways and highway systems, but they can be purchased at the border.
Minimum age to rent a car in Europe
Renting a car in Europe can be a great way to explore without needing to think about transporting your own vehicle there. Depending on the country and the car rental company that you’re trying to rent a car from, minimum age requirements can vary.
As the minimum unrestricted driving age is generally 18 in Europe, at this age, you’re legally allowed to rent a vehicle. Yet, car rental companies often have their own rules, such as who they rent to, what ages they accept, and additional costs for younger (and older) drivers.
Age restrictions are put in place to reduce insurance rates for rental companies. As statistics demonstrate, younger drivers are more likely to take risks, and as a result, car rentals for ages 21 and under often come with greater restrictions.
These can include being charged an additional young driver rental fee, being restricted to rent a basic category vehicle, and requiring younger drivers to buy more extensive insurance policies.
Generally, in Europe, if you’re aged 25 or over, this can be classed as the safe zone, and there will be limited vehicle restrictions or excess charges when renting a car.
What is the oldest you can drive in Europe?
In Europe, there isn’t a country that has set a legal maximum age to drive. Yet, if you’re aged 65-70+, then you’re going to be classified as a “senior driver” and, depending on your chosen country, may encounter additional requirements in order to continue driving.
For instance, in Ireland, at age 70, you’ll need to undergo a medical examination. Depending on the results, you’ll be granted either a 3-year or 1-year license, which occurs on a repeat cycle thereafter.
Yet, in other countries such as France, there are no such rules, and once your license is granted, this is for life, with no other hassles involved.
Also, for senior international drivers who require an International driving permit, as this isn’t age-restricted, you’ll be able to freely use it to drive in Europe at any age.
Renting a car as an older driver
If you’re looking to rent a car in Europe as an older driver, it’s good to be aware that rental companies are allowed to set a maximum age limit, and in some parts of Europe, you may incur restrictions or surcharges if you’re over the age of 65.
As car companies may be cautious when renting a car to older drivers, it’s best to prebook and agree on a price prior to your trip to save the stress of being rejected or having prices bumped up by the rental company.
Advice for driving in Europe
There are a number of requirements you might not be aware of when driving in Europe:
- Some countries have tolls that you need to pay in cash, so it’s important to carry cash with you to make sure you can pay for these tolls.
- Always check the rules for country vignettes, as you can incur large cash fines for using public roads without a valid and properly attached vignette sticker.
- Keep in mind that fuel costs can vastly differ in different countries.
- Before you travel, take the time to learn the road signs of the country you’re driving in.
- It’s good practice to install an app on your mobile device to assist your driving, such as letting you know the speed limits of the area you’re driving in.
Generally, the minimum driving age for cars will be 18 throughout Europe, and 16 for motorbikes. However, each country will have its own rules and regulations, and age is just one factor to consider.
So, if you’re old enough to drive in Europe, then the next step is to read as much information as possible to properly prepare and ensure your road trip is a smooth experience.
Wikipedia: List of minimum driving ages (link)