10 reasons Europe’s drivers envy America’s

2022 Chevrolet Silverado High Country Chevrolet

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

Jack Baruth Teenage With 1983 Datsun 200SX
Jack Baruth

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.

Drivers’ ed

teenager taking drivers education test
Getty Images | Tetra images RF

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

2022 GR86 Premium manual transmission three pedals

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.

Cheap gas

Vintage gas pump patina at old station
mikvivi/Getty Images

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.

Cheap cars

2020 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road SUV full drivers side
Matt Tierney

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.)

The same cars, in the same condition, would go for $153,000 and $73,800, respectively, in the United States.

*#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

1981 Mercury Lynx
1981 Mercury Lynx base model, four-speed. “It’s rusty and beat up but still a cool car. It’s got a header and a cam.” Courtesy Danny Farcas

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.

Size-appropriate parking

1974 Ford Thunderbird front three-quarter
Thomas Klockau

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.

Vanity plates

MI Vanity Plate configurator
State of Michigan

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!


U Haul truck

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

2019 Ram 1500 Big Horn

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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    Based on the difference in price between Europe and the US, why wouldn’t more people just ship their E-Types over to a US broker?

    Driving at age 15 or 16 also means kids are getting killed at age 15 or 16. And I seriously doubt that the minimal driver’s ed classes can compare with the more stringent licensing requirements in Europe. European drivers simply do a better job on the road because they’ve been taught better. I’ve driven many times in Europe–you don’t see people texting or looking at their phones while driving, which is common in the US.

    Vehicles sold in Europe have different specifications and modifications even as the “same” vehicle is sold in the US.

    Diffent displacement and different fuel engines, different “standard equipment,” different safety equipment and even different bumpers are to suit local (Euro vs. US) consumer tastes and the different rules, taxes and fees, and fuel costs and availability.

    Few will buy US-size pickups in Europe. In the US, these are rarely used for much more demanding roles than shopping for groceries and the occasional load of mulch. Unless you’re towing trailers all the time, there’s no need for one other than image.

    While Europe is a nice place to visit and they have some cool things I would not trade what I have here to live there.

    We are very blessed here with better roads, easier travel and lower costs aall the way around.

    I see these shows from England and what they have to go through to get a car on the road. They are often working small cramp garages and just do not have th3 freedom od space we take for granted too often.

    South Carolina also has no vehicle testing. I remember the 1995 inspection sticker on the family Suburban (the year they got rid of it).

    Half-tons on European roads.
    When I was in the Air Force I was stationed on a mountain top in Calabria, Italy. We had two Dodge crewcab 4WD pickups and had no problems driving anywhere in southern Italy. Even drove on pulling a small cargo trailer thru Napoli.

    About emissions testing in Illinois: Only cars in the five county area around Chicago (Lake, Cook, DuPage, McHenry and Will) and around East St. Louis need to be tested.

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