Vehicle owner& co.who is who?

To make sure that you do everything right with your car, it is important to know what your duties are. Here you will usually find the terms "vehicle owner", "policy holder", "owner" and "driver". But where are the differences?

In the following we will explain you the differences between vehicle keeper, policy holder, owner and vehicle driver. We recommend you to read the explanations in the order in which they are given. Because that’s the best way to understand the differences.

Table of Contents

The differences in short

  • The Vehicle owner is responsible that the car is roadworthy. He takes care of all matters related to authorities, taxes and the safety of the vehicle.
  • The Owner of the car is the person who legally owns the car. Only she can sell the car. The owner is often the same as the vehicle owner, but this does not have to be the case. With leasing, for example, it is different (more on this below).
  • The Vehicle driver is the person who sits at the wheel of a car, i.e. the driver. He must have a driver’s license, fulfill his duties as a driver and comply with all traffic regulations. However, the driver and the vehicle owner do not have to be the same person: If a car is stolen, for example, the vehicle owner remains responsible for the car, but the thief is the driver once he is behind the wheel.
  • The Policyholder is usually identical with the vehicle owner. Because the vehicle owner must take out motor liability insurance for the car. However, there are exceptions, such as in the case of novice drivers: they often insure their car through their parents or grandparents.

Who is the vehicle owner?

Vehicle owner with novice driver at the wheel

The vehicle owner is responsible for the road safety of the car. © gettyimages/Sidekick

The vehicle owner is the person who has vehicle registration stands. You can also find this out at the vehicle registration office if you know the license plate number in question.

According to § 31 StVO the vehicle owner is responsible for a vehicle and his Roadworthiness responsible. He also decides who is allowed to drive the car and who is not allowed to drive it. Because the vehicle owner is responsible for the car, he is also the contact person for authorities or the police, if, for example, there are difficulties with the car. However, more than one person can be the vehicle owner. For example, a married couple can share the duties. Then they are jointly responsible for the vehicle.

To be a vehicle owner, one must not have a driving license. This means that someone who does not have a valid driving license can still be the vehicle owner of a car or motorcycle. But then he is not allowed to drive the vehicle.

Duties of the vehicle owner

A vehicle owner has various obligations that he must fulfill.

  • Road safety: The vehicle owner must ensure that the vehicle is in a roadworthy condition. This includes, for example, functioning seat belts or undamaged tires, but also keeping the dates for the general inspection and the exhaust emission test. If he does not fulfill his duties and damage occurs, the vehicle owner is considered to be the offender.
  • Driving licenseAccording to § 21 (1) StVG, the vehicle owner may only allow persons to drive the car who have a driving license and do not have any severe limitations (severe visual impairment, deafness). If someone wants to use the car who has surrendered his driver’s license, the vehicle owner must prevent him from doing so. If he does not do this, but allows driving, a prison sentence of up to half a year or a fine will be due for him according to § 21 (2) StVG. For example, if the vehicle owner lets someone drive without a license, or a person who no longer sees well, the court may impose a prison sentence of up to one year or a fine. Because he is not allowed to let anyone drive the car who poses a threat to the traffic. In such a case the vehicle can be confiscated according to § 21 (3) StVG.
  • RoadworthinessThe vehicle owner may only allow persons who are roadworthy to drive the vehicle. This means that the vehicle owner must prevent someone from using the car who has alcohol in their blood or is on drugs.
  • Operating licenseIf the vehicle does not have an operating license, the vehicle owner must ensure that no one drives the vehicle on the road.

Other duties

  • vehicle tax: The vehicle owner has to pay the vehicle tax to the main customs office. He must observe the specified time limit. In case of delays, the main customs office takes his vehicle out of service and seals it. The vehicle cannot be used again until the vehicle tax has been paid.
  • motor vehicle liability insurance: According to § 1 of the compulsory insurance law, the vehicle owner must take out a motor vehicle liability insurance policy. According to § 6 of the Compulsory Insurance Act, otherwise the owner of the vehicle may be sentenced to imprisonment for up to one year or to a fine.
  • Vehicle registration and re-registrationThe vehicle owner is responsible for registering the car. Even if he moves or his name changes (for example, due to marriage), he must re-register the car with the relevant registration authority.

When the owner of the vehicle must be liable?

In the following we explain to you when the owner of the vehicle has to pay for damages and when not.

When is the car owner liable?

According to § 31 StVZO, the vehicle owner is responsible for ensuring that the vehicle is roadworthy. This also applies to trailers. If there is an accident because the car has worn tires, for example, he must take responsibility for it according to § 7 (1) StVG. That is, he must pay for the damage caused.

According to § 7 (1) StVG, the vehicle owner must always pay for damages if a vehicle that is not roadworthy endangers or injures the health or life of a person. This is the case, for example, with non-functioning brakes, broken seat belts or worn tires.

But it can also happen that the vehicle owner has to pay for damages caused by the driver.

ExampleA vehicle was parked incorrectly. But the police cannot find out who the driver was. Because the officers have the license plate number, they can determine who the vehicle owner is. He must pay the fine. This also applies if the car owner does not want to state who the driver was.

When is the vehicle owner not liable?

  • Force majeureAccording to § 7 (2) StVG the vehicle owner does not have to take over damages if an extraordinary event is to blame (for example a sudden natural disaster). The prerequisite is that the owner of the car could not prevent the damage despite taking the utmost care.
  • Fare evasionAccording to § 7 (3) StVG the vehicle owner does not have to take over the damage if someone uses the vehicle without his knowledge and against his will (for example if the car is stolen and the thief causes an accident because of broken brakes on the vehicle). However, if the vehicle owner has made the car theft possible through misconduct (for example, he has left the key in the ignition), he is responsible for the damage incurred. Then he must participate in the compensation. How high the share is, always decides the competent court.

Who is the owner?

The owner of a vehicle is written in the vehicle registration document. Only he is allowed to sell the car. © gettyimages/nd3000

The owner of a vehicle is the Person who legally owns the car. Only they are allowed to sell the car. The owner is always written in the vehicle registration. All other owners who have owned the car up to now are also registered there.

You should keep this in mind: Having the vehicle registration is not enough to prove that you are the owner of a car. According to the German Lawyers’ Hotline, the entry only allows a so-called presumption of ownership. It is true that the legal owner keeps the vehicle title. But if it is stolen, the thief could simply claim that the car belongs to him because he can show the vehicle registration document. Important documents are therefore usually only the Contract of purchase of the vehicle and the corresponding Proof of invoice (receipt or bank statement).

But there are also exceptions: If another person is to become the owner of the vehicle, it is not enough to register the person with the insurance company. You should, according to the law firm Muggelsee in a document record in writing, who is really the owner. All persons involved must sign the document. Because the new owner must also agree to the transfer.

Example: A man buys a car and gives it to his wife as a gift. She may do with it what she wants. At some point there is a divorce and both argue about the car. Although the man has given the car to his wife, he can simply claim that the car belongs to him: because he is in the vehicle registration as the owner and has also signed the purchase contract. Without a document stating that the car was given to the woman and that they both signed it, it cannot be proven that she is the owner.

Apart from the possibility of selling the car owner has no duties concerning the vehicle, as long as he is not vehicle owner or driver at the same time is. If he is also the owner of the vehicle or the driver of the car, he must perform the duties provided for this purpose.

Who is the driver of the vehicle?

Vehicle driver is at the wheel of the car

The vehicle driver is the person sitting at the wheel: i.e. the driver. © gettyimages/metamorworks

Vehicle driver is in principle ander term for the driver. He consciously steers the vehicle by operating the drive and the brake. That is, he is driving the vehicle. While driving, there may be only one vehicle driver.

The driver is therefore also the person who "takes possession" of the vehicle while driving. Therefore, he is often referred to as the owner. Best to remember: Whoever sits at the wheel while driving is the owner of the car at that moment. But he is not necessarily identical with the owner. Because although the driver has control of the car at the wheel, it may not belong to him and he may not then decide whether the vehicle is for sale, for example.

Duties of the driver

  • The driver needs according to § 4 (1) of the FeV a driver’s license.
  • According to § 11 FZV does he have to Vehicle registration carry the car with you while driving. Because this usually means that the vehicle owner has allowed him to use the car.
  • The driver has to comply with all the requirements set out in fulfill the duties mentioned in § 23 of the StVO. This includes, for example, checking before driving whether the car is roadworthy.

When must the vehicle driver be liable?

According to § 1 StVO, the vehicle driver (i.e. the driver) must always drive carefully and considerately in the traffic. In addition, he must behave in such a way that he does not harm, endanger, harass or obstruct any other road user.

Whenever a driver does not follow the traffic rules with his behavior and causes damage, he must compensate it. This also applies, for example, to driving in public parking lots.

When is the driver liable?

All the duties that a vehicle driver (i.e. the driver) has are written in § 23 StVO. The driver must always be liable for any damage if he or she violates the specified duties and therefore the damage occurs.

Example: At the wheel, a man writes a text message while driving. Because he is distracted, he overlooks the cyclist in front of him and does not maintain the minimum distance. In the process, the cyclist is injured and breaks a leg. The driver of the car has not fulfilled his duty as the driver of the car because he did not look at the road but at the cell phone. Therefore he has overlooked the cyclist. So he must pay for the hospital and rehabilitation costs incurred. In such a case, the insurance company may reduce the benefits because the driver was operating the cell phone while driving and did not comply with the law.

You should pay attention to this: If the accident is not caused by the driver’s fault alone, but also because, for example, the brakes of the vehicle are broken, the insurance company can reduce the benefits in this case as well. Because in such a case, the vehicle is an operational risk. The exact cost shares for the driver and vehicle owner are determined by the competent court.

When is the driver not liable?

The driver of the vehicle does not have to pay for damage if he has fulfilled all his duties as a driver.

In addition, there are situations in which a driver may have an cannot prevent damage. One speaks then of the fact that the damage unavoidable was.

Example: A tree falls down because of a storm and suddenly falls on the roadway. The driver in the approaching car (car 1) is following traffic laws while driving, but he has to swerve in front of the tree. In the process, he collides with the car on the other side of the road (car 2). In such a case, the driver of car 1 must, according to § 17 par. 3 StVG prove that he could do nothing to prevent the damage. One speaks then of the fact that he has a so-called Proof of inevitability must provide: This means that the driver of the car (i.e., the driver) was driving perfectly, but he could not prevent the damage despite all the caution and care he took.

Who is the policyholder?

Man takes out insurance and becomes policyholder

The policyholder takes out the car insurance policy. © gettyimages/djiledesign

The policyholder is the person who takes out a car insurance policy. Basically, according to § 1 of the Compulsory Insurance Act, there must be every vehicle owner a motor vehicle liability take out. However, the vehicle owner is not always the same as the policyholder. Novice drivers, drivers of company cars or even life partners or spouses are an exception, for example.

Vehicle owners are only legally obligated to take out motor vehicle liability insurance. However, you can also add a partial cover insurance or an insurance for the car Comprehensive insurance choose.

Special cases: Leasing, company car& Beginner driver

Basically, there are also a few exceptions, where the responsibilities around the car are divided among different people. We explain below what you need to know.


In leasing, a company rents a car to a customer. So for the duration of the rental contract, it leaves the use of the vehicle to the customer.

  • OwnerThis is the leasing company, because it legally owns the car. Only she may sell it.
  • Vehicle owner: This is the respective customer (also called lessee). The leasing company assigns the use and maintenance of the car to him/her. This means that he can use the vehicle, but must also fulfill all the obligations of a vehicle owner.
  • Driver: This is always the person who sits at the wheel of the car. For example, if the car owner lends the car to a friend, the friend is the driver as long as he sits at the wheel. The term "owner" is also frequently used in contracts.
  • PolicyholderNormally, the person who concludes the leasing contract is the policyholder. This means: the owner of the vehicle is usually also the policyholder. It is important here: When leasing a motor vehicle liability insurance is not enough, almost all providers require a fully comprehensive insurance. However, the costs are not paid by the leasing provider, but by the lessee.

You should pay attention to this: Such distribution is provided for in most cases by leasing companies, but it does not have to be so. So, exactly what responsibilities you have in leasing always depends on your leasing contract and the rules set out in it.

company car

Employee sits at the wheel of the company car

In the case of a company car, the employee is the driver. All other responsibilities lie with the employer. © gettyimages/LuckyBusiness

  • Driver: This is you as an employee. This means: your employer allows you to drive the company car. You are not the owner of the vehicle. This means that you also do not have to fulfill the duties of the vehicle owner.
  • Owner, vehicle holder and policyholder: Your employer (company) is responsible for all three areas of responsibility. That is, your employer also takes out the car insurance. However, if you as the driver cause damage or an accident, you usually have to pay the deductible.

Which Insurance coverage the car has, you can usually find out in your Contract for the use of the company car read more.

Different keeper for novice drivers

The expression "deviating keeper" means that the Vehicle owner and the policyholder are not the same person are. Often it comes to it, if driver beginners are co-insured over the Kfz insurance of parents.

ExampleSabine, 50, has a daughter named Lisa who recently got her driver’s license. Sabine gives her daughter a car for her birthday. She insures the car through her own insurance as a second car, so that Lisa, as a novice driver, can use her mother’s no-claims bonus.

  • OwnerLisa is the owner. Because her mother has given Lisa the car as a free gift. If Lisa wants, she can sell the car.
  • DriverLisa is also the driver of the car.
  • vehicle owner: Lisa is the vehicle owner. Although Sabine registers her daughter’s car with the insurance company, Lisa uses the car and is responsible for it. Her name is on the vehicle registration document, therefore Lisa is the vehicle owner.
  • Policyholder: Because not Lisa, but her mother has taken out the insurance, Sabine is the policyholder. This means: Sabine pays the insurance premium for her own car, but Lisa’s car is also registered under her name as a second car. So Lisa can benefit from her mother’s no-claims bonus and is insured directly with a no-claims bonus class (SF class) ½. Normally, novice drivers without insurance through parents or grandparents start with SF class 0. If Lisa wants to take out her own car insurance at some point, she will be classified in SF class 0, unless her mother signs over the discount to her.

Frequently asked questions: liability, fines& Co.

In the following, we answer other relevant questions that often arise around the terms vehicle owner, policyholder and Co. pay.

Who pays in case of an accident?

In the event of damage, it depends on the exact situation to be able to say who has to pay for the damage. © gettyimages/South_agency

  • either the Vehicle driver his, i.e. the driver (if a wrong driving has led to it),
  • or the Vehicle owner (if the vehicle was not roadworthy or the vehicle owner did not keep his duties and therefore the accident happened).

If several parties involved If Lisa has caused an accident, it depends on how exactly it occurred. Then it may be Several persons have to pay the damage proportionally. This is usually judged by the competent court.

When does the car insurance pay?

Basically it depends on which car insurance you have taken out. This is because each car insurance company covers different damages.

The motor vehicle liability insurance

The Motor vehicle liability insurance pays for damage caused to the insured vehicle for other road users causes. Motor vehicle liability insures the vehicle owner, the owner and the driver (vehicle operator).

ExampleYou damage the paintwork of the car behind you when parking. Basically, motor liability pays for damage that you cause to another vehicle. Therefore, she pays the repair costs on the other vehicle. But if your car has a paint damage, you need a comprehensive insurance, because the motor liability does not pay for it. If you do not have comprehensive cover, you must pay the costs yourself.

The comprehensive insurance

The comprehensive insurances (Comprehensive insurance and Partial comprehensive insurance) pay damage caused to your own car arise. However, it depends on what kind of damage, how it was caused and which comprehensive insurance you have taken out.

Who pays the fine?

Basically: Both driver and car owner must fulfill their duties and obligations. If you do not do this, you will have to pay a fine for your violations, get points in Flensburg or even a prison sentence can be imposed.

Example: If the traffic control stops a vehicle because it violates the winter tire obligation, both the driver (60 to 120 euros) and the vehicle owner (75 euros) have to pay a fine and face a point in Flensburg. Because the owner of the vehicle had the duty to equip the vehicle with winter tires and the driver should not have used it without the winter tires. However, the double fine is incurred only if the driver and vehicle owner are not identical.

You should know that: Vehicle owners must make sure that they only let drivers with a valid driver’s license behind the wheel. According to §21 StVG, otherwise both the vehicle owner and the driver face a prison sentence of up to one year or a fine. In addition, the judge can confiscate the vehicle in individual cases. This often happens with repeat offenders.

Who gets the points in Flensburg?

Not only drivers, but also vehicle owners can be punished with a fine and points in Flensburg. © gettyimages/filmfoto

If a Driver If the driver violates the traffic regulations, he will receive points in Flensburg.

But also the Vehicle owner can get points. This is the case, for example, if the Vehicle overloaded and is still driven. Because the vehicle owner must ensure that it does not participate in traffic overloaded.

Remember: Whenever the vehicle is not roadworthy and damage occurs, the vehicle owner will also receive points in Flensburg.

Who registers, changes or deregisters the car??

When registering the car, it is useful if the vehicle owner in person appears at the vehicle registration office. But he can also be represented with a power of attorney.

Also the re-registration at the vehicle registration office takes over the Vehicle owner. However, he can be represented by another person if he issues a power of attorney. The re-registration must happen immediately. Otherwise, a fine of up to 50 euros may be incurred.

The deregistration should be done by the vehicle owner personally, but he does not have to do it. That can take over each person. No power of attorney is necessary for this. You only have to present all the necessary documents to the vehicle registration authority.

Who is in the vehicle registration?

In Vehicle registration the Vehicle owner. If the vehicle owner moves or changes his name, he must re-register the vehicle. This means that the change must be reported to the relevant vehicle registration authority without delay.

If the vehicle owner changes, anyone can do that deregister a vehicle. Prerequisite is, however, that all the necessary documents are present.

Who is in the vehicle registration?

The vehicle registration document states who the owner of the car is. This also includes all other owners the car has ever had.

You should pay attention to this: The vehicle registration is not a valid document to prove ownership. The reason: if the vehicle registration is stolen, a thief could claim to be the owner because he has the vehicle registration. But this is not correct. Who really owns the vehicle can only be proven by a document (purchase contract or a donation contract certified by a notary) that states who is allowed to sell the car. The person is the legal owner. Such a document must always be signed by all parties involved.

Who pays the vehicle tax?

The vehicle tax is paid by the vehicle owner to the main customs office. If he does not do this within the time limit and also does not comply with the reminders, the main customs office usually seals the vehicle. That is, it is taken out of service. It is not unsealed until the vehicle tax has been paid.

Comply with duties

In order for you to be properly protected, it is very important that you know your duties and responsibilities in relation to a vehicle and traffic. Because no matter whether you are the driver, vehicle owner, owner or insurance holder: Only if you fulfill your duties do you act correctly and ensure that your insurance coverage is valid.

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