Whether you’re an American renting a car for a European road trip or a European who’s curious about foreign cars, you may have wondered – is the gas pedal on the left or right in Europe?
The location of car pedals is one of those small cross-cultural differences that can be perplexing if you’re not used to it. But have no fear – this article will answer all your questions about European gas and brake pedals and provide some interesting historical context too!
A Brief History of Car Pedal Placement
Before we look specifically at Europe, let’s take a quick walk through the history of car pedal norms around the world:
- In the early days of cars, there was no standardization whatsoever. Pedal placement varied from car to car, even within the same country.
- Eventually, some loose trends began to emerge. In Europe, the gas pedal tended to be on the right. In America, it gravitated towards the left.
- In the 1960s, global standardization started taking hold. Countries agreed on right-hand or left-hand drive to match the side of the road cars drove on. Driver’s seat and pedal placement followed suit.
- Today, about 75% of the world drives on the right side of the road with left-hand drive vehicles. The gas pedal is on the right in most cars.
- The remaining 25% (including the UK, Australia, India, and more) drive on the left with right-hand drive cars. The gas is on the left.
So in most of the world today, the gas pedal is directly under the driver’s right foot. But what about Europe?
Pedal Placement in Europe
The vast majority of cars in Europe have the gas pedal on the right, just like vehicles in North America and Asia.
There are two key reasons for this:
1. Right-Hand Drive
Most European countries drive on the right side of the road and build their cars with left-hand drive. This puts the steering wheel on the left so drivers sit closer to the center line.
The driver’s left foot operates the clutch while the right foot handles acceleration and braking. So in left-hand drive vehicles, the gas pedal naturally falls on the right.
Since the 1960s push for global auto standards, right-footed gas pedals have become the norm across Europe. It simplifies manufacturing and distribution when essential car controls are standardized internationally.
Having a single pedal convention throughout Europe also makes cross-border travel easier. Drivers don’t have to relearn how to run a car when crossing from one country to another.
The only exception is…
The UK Drives on the Left
The United Kingdom drives on the left side of the road with right-hand drive vehicles. So the steering wheel is on the right and the driver sits near the edge of the road.
This means the gas pedal is on the left in British cars. The left foot operates the clutch while the right foot accelerates and brakes.
You may notice this difference when renting a car in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. Be careful not to hit the clutch instead of the gas!
Some key facts about UK pedal placement:
- Cars drive on the left side of the road
- Steering wheels are on the right side
- Drivers sit on the right side of the vehicle
- The gas pedal is on the left under the driver’s left foot
So in summary, the gas pedal is on the right across mainland Europe. Only the UK has left-side pedals due to their unique left-hand driving.
Tips for European Road Trips
Driving in Europe for the first time? Here are some tips to make your pedal experience smooth and safe:
- Adjust your seat position. Set your seat a little left of center so your right foot can reach the gas pedal comfortably.
- Practice “pedal ballet.” Get used to transitioning between gas, brake and clutch smoothly, especially when shifting gears in a manual car.
- Drive an automatic if you’re uncomfortable with the pedal placement. Automatics don’t have a clutch so only your right foot is needed.
- Start slowly on backroads until the pedal position feels natural.
- Double check before pulling out into traffic and be prepared to brake.
- Keep emergency numbers handy in case of any dangerous mistakes.
And remember – drive on the right! Enjoy your European road trip.
More Trivia About European Cars
Now that you know about gas and brake pedal norms, here are a few more interesting facts about European automobiles:
- Many use manual transmissions instead of automatics. Only about 16% of cars sold in Europe are automatics compared to over 90% in America.
- Smaller cars are more common due to narrow roads, limited parking and high gas prices. Hatchbacks and sedans under 160 inches long dominate city driving.
- Diesel fuel is much more popular in Europe – over 50% of cars run on diesel. More torque helps power small diesel engines.
- Tiny city cars like the Smart ForTwo are a uniquely European phenomenon. These petite vehicles make parking a breeze.
- Car brands we consider luxury like Mercedes and BMW are just normal cars for middle-class families in Europe. Brands like Ford and VW are more budget friendly choices.
- Many European countries impose much higher taxes on car ownership than the US. Taxation keeps car prices high to reduce congestion and pollution.
So in addition to the gas pedal position, there are many other interesting differences between American and European car culture. With some adjustment, U.S. travelers will thrive driving around Europe.
The gas pedal location is just one of those small cross-cultural variations that makes travel exciting. And remembering whether it’s on the right or the left makes a road trip all the more memorable.
Hopefully this article has helped explain the pedal layout in European cars. Let me know if you have any other questions before your trip! I’m happy to chat more about car norms across the pond.