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MONEY

Where German drivers are going to find cheaper fuel prices

Rising petrol and diesel costs are leading some drivers in Germany across the country - and even into neighbouring countries - to search for lower prices.

A driver fills up a car at a petrol station in Munich.
A driver fills up a car at a petrol station in Munich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

High fuel prices in Germany are resulting in more people driving across the border to fill up their tanks, the Central Association of the Petrol Station Industry (Zentralverband des Tankstellengewerbes), ZTG, said on Tuesday. 

As of Sunday, drivers of diesel cars and vans in Germany have been asked shell out an average of €1.555 per litre to refill their vehicles. The previous record price, set on August 26th, was €1.554 per litre.

Regular petrol prices are also going up, with prices per litre hitting €1.667 per litre on Sunday – 4.2 cents short of its previous record price of €1.709. 

The ZTG said that due to the spike, so-called ‘petrol tourism’ is on the rise again as drivers are desperate to save some cash. 

READ ALSO: Could Germany cut more taxes to stem fuel prices?

The association calls this a “petrol price paradox”, because the rising price of oil, which is making filling up tanks more expensive, is noticeable on both sides of the border. However, there may be differences due to taxes and duties.

People are also travelling to different parts of Germany to try and find cheaper fuel. 

The willingness to take detours or drive for a few euros in savings has increased, said Florian Hördegen from ADAC Südbayern. Since last week, the topic has gained momentum. It means queues at petrol stations – in Germany and beyond – are becoming more common.

Where are fuel prices cheaper – and more expensive?

For those looking for reasonable fuel prices in their area in Germany, this handy search tool helps you find gas stations and view the prices. 

The app Clever Taken also has a “Magic Map” that tells you where to find the petrol station with the best price. Users can also activate push notifications in the fuel app that alert you as soon as a petrol station in your vicinity offers fuel at the low price you set.

The ADAC Spritpreise app also allows people to compare prices between petrol stations in Germany and select the cheapest providers. 

In Austria and the Czech Republic, taxes on fuel are much lower. Depending on the petrol station, region and time of day, the difference can be around 20 to 30 cents.

READ ALSO: Drivers in Germany face record fuel costs

On average, diesel costs €1.23 per litre in the Czech Republic, Super petrol costs €1.32. The savings could be 33 cents for a litre of diesel and an impressive 34 cents for a litre of Super, according to German news site Focus Online. Filling up with 60 litres could result of a price difference of around €20.

In Austria, a litre of diesel costs an average of €1.34 per litre. Super is available for €1.33 and Super Plus for €1.61. The savings are 21 cents for diesel, 34 cents for Super and an impressive 33 cents for Super Plus. If you fill up with the most expensive type of fuel, drivers could save about €15 on 45 litres.

Poland is also an option. On Tuesday, a litre of diesel cost an average of €1.32 in Poland and €1.28 for super. A full tank of 60 litres of diesel would cost an average of €73.20 in Poland and €93 in Germany. That’s a saving of about €20 per fill-up.

In contrast, petrol is more expensive in the Netherlands than in Germany. However, according to ZTG, there is currently no sign of increasing fuel tourism from there.

A trip across the border is not always worthwhile, experts say. Drivers have to think about the costs depending on the car and the distance, said ADAC fuel price expert Jürgen Albrecht.

“Driving across the border just to refuel is particularly worthwhile if the price differences are high and the distances are very short,” said Albrecht.

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ENERGY

When will Germany’s fuel tax cut come into force?

As part of its package of energy relief measures, the German government is hoping to give car drivers a discount at the petrol pump. But how will it work and when will it come into force?

When will Germany's fuel tax cut come into force?

What’s going on? 

It hasn’t escaped anyone’s attention that energy prices have skyrocketed in recent months. Along with eye-wateringly high heating and electricity bills, drivers have also been feeling the pinch at the petrol pump.

Even before the Ukraine war broke out, energy supply issues were driving up prices at petrol stations – a situation that led to the absurd spectacle of Germans driving across the border to Switzerland (one of the most expensive countries in the world) to fill up their tank for less.

In the early weeks of the war, it wasn’t uncommon to pay €2.20 per litre for Super E10 petrol in Germany, while diesel could average as much as €2.29 per litre. This represents a whopping 45 cent increase on petrol prices and 65 cents on diesel prices compared to the same time last year.

To help people struggling with the price hikes, Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) initially pitched the idea of a “fuel discount” that petrol station owners could offer to customers and then claim back from the state. But there was such an intense backlash to this proposal that it essentially fell at the first hurdle and never made it into the government’s package of energy relief measures.

Instead, the government is hoping to give drivers a discount another way: by reducing the energy taxes levied on each litre of fuel for three months. It’s hoping that this will also go some way to reducing petrol prices over summer. 

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s proposals for future energy price relief

But haven’t fuel prices gone down again recently?

That’s right. But experts don’t think this amounts to a stabilisation in the long term.

Both petrol and diesel prices sunk quite significantly after the initial price shock, but are climbing up steadily again – and according to motorists’ association ADAC, both remain a little over €2 per litre

This means drivers are still paying significantly more to fill up their tanks than they were a year ago, so the upcoming tax cut will no doubt be welcome. 

How much of a discount can drivers expect?

If all of it is passed on to consumers, the cut in energy tax is expected to reduce the price of a litre of diesel by around 14 cents, while a litre of petrol will be reduced by almost 30 cents.

That’s equivalent to a saving of €15 on a 50-litre tank of E10 and €7 on a 50-litre tank of diesel. 

Of course, a lot also depends on the development of the energy market: if prices continue to go up, drivers may not feel they’re saving a great deal, but it should make a difference in the short-term.

According to ADAC, around 48 percent of the cost of a litre of fuel goes directly to the state through the CO2 tax, energy tax, value-added tax (VAT) and other fossil fuel taxes – so tax cuts can make a big difference. 

But the price of purchasing fossil fuels (which has been affected through the war and supply chain issues) and the strength of the dollar are also important factors that determine how much horror drivers experience on their visits to the petrol station. 

Fuel prices in Germany March 2022

Fuel prices at a petrol station in Cologne on March 9th, 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Oliver Berg

What’s the timeline for this? 

The government is hoping to pass its entire package of energy relief measures in the Bundestag on Thursday and get approval from the Bundesrat on Friday. This will get the ball rolling for many of the measures to launch next month. 

Much like the €9 monthly travel ticket for trains and buses, the fuel tax cut is a time-limited measure, and just like the discounted ticket, it will run from the start of June to the end of August.

Since it’s up to petrol station owners to pass their savings onto consumers, however, experts predict a lag of a few days before drivers start seeing the tax cut reflected in the fuel prices. 

At that point, ADAC is predicting that drivers will go on a manic spending spree, so they’re advising people not to drive in the early days of June with a near-empty tank. If they do, they could face some long queues at the petrol station. 

Aren’t we trying to save on energy at the moment?

Well, quite. With fears growing that Russia could turn off the taps in retaliation for Germany’s support for Ukraine, the message from the government has been all about conserving energy as much as possible in the lead-up to winter.

But by reducing the price of fuel, the same government is essentially encouraging people to use their cars more often, economists say. 

“It is counterproductive to lower petrol station prices in this situation, because then people will drive more,” economist Veronika Grimm told Tagesschau. “And that is exactly the opposite of what they want to achieve.” 

READ ALSO: Russia using energy ‘as weapon’, says Berlin

An ARAL petrol station in Leipzig.

An ARAL petrol station in Leipzig. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Jan Woitas

At this point, you might expect an uproar from the Greens – who are part of the governing traffic-light coalition along with the Social Democrats (SPD) and Free Democrats (FDP). But that uprising seems to have been headed off at the pass by the €9 public transport ticket that will run alongside the fuel discount. 

In fact, Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) has admitted that the tax cut “isn’t the most targeted measure” but says the continued high price of fuel will still put many people off driving.

“Many people are suffering from the high fuel prices,” says Habeck. “They’ll still suffer enough even if the fuel tax is lowered for three months. So in truth it’s not really cheap driving.” 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What Germany’s relief package against rising prices means for you

What else are people saying? 

The other major criticism of the fuel tax cut is that it’s likely to benefit the wrong people. 

“Typically, those who drive a lot benefit from fuel rebates,” Grimm told Tagesschau. “And those are the ones who have who have multiple cars. These are typically the higher earners.” 

This has led to criticism that the €3.15 billion that the rebate will cost is essentially a redistribution of wealth to the top of society, rather than the bottom.

READ ALSO: Who benefits the most – and least – from Germany’s energy relief measures?

Obviously, the government disagrees with this assessment. They argue that cheaper fuel will help drivers foot their bills and stimulate the economy at the same time.

The motorists’ association ADAC is also concerned that the measure may lead to queues at petrol stations, but says that drivers can still opt to save fuel of their own accord over summer.

The best way to do this is to pump up the tyres, ditch the roof rack and other unnecessary weight, and drive at a slow, steady speed to avoid accelerating and braking too much, ADAC explains. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s largest car club calls on drivers to ditch their cars

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