FAQ: Getting licensed to drive an automatic in the Czech Republic

More and more Czech driving schools offer training on automatic-gear cars – good news for those who want to ditch the third pedal.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 07.02.2022 17:00:00 (updated on 07.02.2022) Reading time: 5 minutes

According to a study by Edmunds, more than 80% of cars sold in Europe have a manual transmission, as compared to just 3% in the U.S. Why are manual transmissions more popular in European countries, including the Czech Republic?

In the past automatic cars were larger and bulkier to drive, particularly on narrow European lanes and country roads. Given that environmental regulations are stricter in Europe, standard transmission vehicles were commonly seen as more fuel-efficient and hence friendlier to the environment and a less costly option for car owners.

But a recent social shift is seeing both driving schools and transport authorities recognize the benefits of teaching young drivers, drivers with disabilities, and even older drivers who are having trouble passing the driving exam on automatic vehicles.

Pavel Greiner, owner of Prague-based driving school Autoškola KING confirms that interest among both Czechs and foreigners in becoming licensed to drive an automatic vehicle is at an all-time high.

“Before the revolution, this kind of car was practically unavailable to Czech citizens, not only in terms of price but simply buying it from abroad was not easy. Fifteen years ago automatics were seen as something like air conditioning in a new vehicle – for the ‘rich only,’ he says.

According to the Association of Driving Schools, in 2001 there was one licensed automatic teaching car in Prague – today there are about 15. Two of those belong to Autoškola KING, one of the few schools offering driving courses for this license group.

“Roughly 30 percent of our clients want training on an automatic, which is a huge number.”

Greiner, who began noticing a growing interest in automatics among students eight years ago, debunks the long-held idea that automatics consume more fuel or don’t drive well in certain conditions. “With fuel consumption, it’s really no longer the case that the automatic gear guzzles more gas. Modern automatic gears also respond better to different driving styles and road conditions.”

Griener recently spoke to about this growing trend in the Czech Republic and shared some important things every foreigner should know about getting licensed to drive an automatic car in the Czech Republic.

Why the growing interest in driving automatic cars in the Czech Republic?

In 2021 changes were introduced that now only give students three attempts each to pass their driving or written exams. If they aren't able to pass after three tries, they are allowed to retake the exams only after repeating lessons. Before the changes came into effect, students had unlimited opportunities to retake the tests. So for those who have trouble passing the driving exam an automatic is being seen as the better option for them.

Is it only your foreign clientele that is largely interested in learning on an automatic shift?

Not only. It’s about 50/50 foreigners vs. Czechs. In the past eight years there has been a huge increase in demand for people who want to drive an automatic vehicle. For older people and for managers or senior positions in employment, when they are assigned a company car. Moms with children who have to drive kids everywhere and don’t want to have peace of mind watching the traffic and not pay attention to the stick shift.

Autoškola KING has courses for both manual and automatic. Is there a major price difference between the two?

The main difference between training for an automatic license and a “full” license (done on a manual car) is the price. The price is slightly higher (consider the more expensive price of buying a car) and schools usually charge CZK 1,000-2,000 more for teaching you to drive on an automatic car.

What about the actual training? How does it differ?

The rules are the same for all students. Czech law requires that you take 28 45-minute driving lessons at a driving school before you can register for a theory exam followed by a practical exam.

What happens if you are caught driving a manual on an automatic license?

When you receive the standard Group B license, the back of the card will have a note that reads “Group B restrictions on driving vehicles with automatic transmission."  This means you’re not allowed to drive a manual car or even rent one, regardless of whether you’re actually capable of using a car with manual transmission.

If you’re stopped by the police and you happen to be driving a manual car despite your automatic license, you will be treated as if you were driving without a driver's license. In most cases, this means a heavy fine (CZK 25,000 to CZK 50,000) and potentially a suspension of your license for up to two years.

What is the process if you have an automatic license and want to become licensed for a manual gear shift or vice versa? What part of the test do you have to retake?

All you have to do is take a practical driving test. Before the exam, there is training in a manual car with a manual. Tests no longer have to be done. Only the ride.

But usually it’s the other way around: we have a lot of drivers who already have a license for the manual and are returning to us to learn on an automatic so they can drive without fear that the car will get "stuck" at the intersection or roll in reverse when going  uphill.

Do you think these regulations will change in the future?

Possibly. There’s currently a discussion taking place about allowing drivers with an automatic license to also legally sit behind the wheel of a manual car. If approved, the change will take place within the next two years and might come with additional conditions, such as requiring students to complete at least part of the lessons in cars with a manual transmission. 

Greiner explains the advantages of driving cars with automatic.

Does the license for automatics work for other types of vehicles?

Yes, electric cars for instance. There is no other or special driver's license for the electric car, the automatic gear is good enough. With this driver's license type it is also possible to ride a motorcycle legally but only a motorcycle with an automatic transmission. Again, however, it is necessary to take into account several conditions and, most importantly, to have some experience.

As a teacher do you believe the long-held idea among Czechs that “manual gear is best?”

I am a big fan of teaching on the automatic machine, we have to get rid of the conservative thinking that "the manual gear is the best" and just make the ride easier and bring people back to driving without fear. We encourage everyone to try driving automatic with us at Autoškola KING.

This article was written in association with the English-friendly driving school Autoškola KING. Founded in 2007 by Bc. Pavel Greiner the schools offer a professional approach and excellent English as well as training on automatic cars. Read more about our partner content policies here.

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