10 reasons Europe’s drivers envy America’s
There’s much to love about motoring in Europe. The beating heart of Ferrari in Italy. Unlimited-speed sections of the autobahn in Germany. Twisty B-roads in Britain.
However, that’s not to say we have it all our way. Europeans do look longingly across the Atlantic at examples of how America does driving better, as you can see from the list below.
Driving at age 15
In Nevada, teens aged 15 years and 6 months can get a learner’s permit, while at 16 you can get a full license in South Dakota, North Dakota, and Nebraska.
In most European countries, the minimum legal driving age is 18. Brits can get behind the wheel from the age of 17, and in France certain quadricycles such as the Citroën Ami can be driven by 14-year-olds—as long as they don’t exceed 28 mph.
The idea of European schools teaching kids to drive in their parking lots is just inconceivable, yet it happens every day in U.S. drivers’ ed classes.
Automatics for the people
Pass your test driving a vehicle with an automatic transmission in the U.S.A., and you can swing by your local showroom and pick up a stick-shift car for three-pedal fun.
In Europe, it works in reverse. If you take your driving test in a car with an automatic gearbox, you aren’t allowed to drive one with a manual. However, if you put the hours in to learn stickshift for your test, and pass, then you can also drive an auto-equipped car.
Operating a manual transmission is a slowly dying art, mind, with the number of auto-only tests taken on the increase and new cars sold with manuals on the decline.
Even before the war in Ukraine sent energy prices soaring, gasoline has always been massively more expensive in Europe than it is in the United States. As of this writing, the average price for a liter of unleaded gas in the U.K. is £1.6107—the equivalent of $7.31 per U.S. gallon.
AAA reports that the national average in America is just $3.521 per gallon. You guys have it good.
It costs us Europeans way more to run our cars, but also costs us more to buy them. For example, an entry-level Toyota RAV4 starts at an equivalent of $42,420 here; the same car in the U.S.A is just $27,575.
On the flip side, we do seem to get a better deal on European and Japanese classics. According to U.K. Hagerty valuation tool, a #2, or Excellent, condition* 1970 Jaguar E-Type roadster with the six-cylinder engine would bring $63,212 and a Datsun 240Z from 1973, $29,475. (You’ll notice those links present prices in British pounds; we took the liberty of converting to USD for you.)
*#2-condition cars could win a local or regional show. They can be former #1 cars that have been driven or have aged. Seasoned observers will have to look closely for flaws. Seasoned observers will have to look closely for flaws but will be able to find some. The paint, chrome, glass and finishes will all appear as excellent. The vehicle drives as a new vehicle of its era would.
Freedom from bureaucracy
Drivers in the states of Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming don’t know how lucky they have it.
With no safety or emissions tests, they literally have the freedom to drive whatever they like. In Europe—and, to be fair, in other states of the Union—your car has to pass regular rigorous tests.
In the U.K., once a car reaches three years of age it will have to be tested annually, while in France and Germany, the cadence is every two years.
Cars have gotten progressively larger over recent decades, but few European architects and planners have kept up. On-street and shopping mall parking spots just aren’t big enough, and even those relatively few people who have garages are finding that they’re too small to house the family SUV.
Since America’s cars are historically larger than Europe’s, it’s a problem that U.S. drivers seldom encounter.
The combination of letters and numbers of car plates are automatically and at least partly randomly generated in Europe, and you can’t just order a personalized plate from the equivalent of the DMV.
That means there’s a booming business in trading plates with number and letters that happen to resemble names, initials, and words. The most ever paid is recorded as £518,480 for “25 0” in 2014. The current owner of “F1” is said to be asking £10 million!
Europeans moving home or hauling stuff across country or continent can, of course, rent a van or hire a moving firm, but there’s no equivalent of U-Haul that lets an individual do one-way rentals of big trucks and trailers at a reasonable rate.
Proper pickup trucks
The tradesmen and women of Europe have made do with petite pickups based on cars as small as the VW Polo for decades, with the largest available being the likes of Toyota’s Hi-Lux and Ford’s Ranger.
That’s just beginning to change, since Ford now offers the F150 in Germany and the battery-electric Lightning model is coming to Europe in 2023. It’s great news for lifestylers and businesses who need the extra space, but how the half-tons will fit on the roads of Europe remains to be seen.
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