How much fuel can you carry from abroad to Germany in a private car?

Fuel prices are breaking all records. Gasoline and diesel now cost more than 2 euros in Germany. The obvious reason for the price explosion is the huge increase in oil prices caused by the war in Ukraine.

In Germany, the state earns crores on fuel

But why is gasoline usually cheaper in neighboring countries? Take Austria, for example: at the beginning of the week, gasoline there cost 1.69 euros. This is due to a lower tax. The differences with Poland are even greater, because Warsaw has reduced VAT on fuel from 23 to 8 percent.

In Germany, the state still earns a huge amount of money on petrol. At a petrol price of more than 2 euros per liter, more than half goes to the tax coffers.

The result of the huge price differences is fuel tourism. Many people wonder, when does it become profitable to buy petrol in a neighbouring country? And what is actually allowed? We answer these questions below!

How much fuel in canisters can I carry in my car on German territory?

Within Germany, the total amount of fuel transported in private vehicles may not exceed 60 liters per canister and a maximum of 240 liters. The spare canister must be airtight and unbreakable. There are fixed standards for containers, which you will read more about below.

How much fuel am I allowed to carry across the border into Germany?

Different rules apply when crossing the German border: From neighboring EU countries, you can come to Germany with a full tank and an additional 20 liters in the canister. Anyone carrying more than that commits a tax offence. In addition, all the fuel in the canisters, including the permitted 20 liters, is confiscated in the event of an inspection.

ATTENTION: In some countries it is forbidden to transport fuel in canisters. This is the case, for example, in Luxembourg – there, the maximum tank that can be transported is a full tank of fuel. In other countries directly neighbouring Germany there are no problems.

From non-EU countries (e.g. Switzerland), in addition to a full tank, 10 liters in a spare canister is exempt from duty if it is imported by car.

When does it start to pay to go to a neighboring country for fuel?

The more gasoline costs in Germany, the more attractive it is to drive to a gas station abroad. Whether it actually pays off depends on several factors, of course:

▶︎ Price difference at home and abroad
▶︎ Distance to a gas station abroad
▶︎ Amount of fuel to be purchased
▶︎ The fuel consumption of the car

Basically, the calculation is simple: the savings on the purchase must in each case be greater than the fuel costs incurred when refueling.

Below is an example calculation:
The price difference is 50 cents (2 euros in Germany and 1.50 euros abroad).
60 liters purchased abroad saves 30 euros (0.50 euros times 60).

If the distance to the gas station abroad is 50 km, the purchaser drives 100 km on the way there and back. Using 7 liters per 100 kilometers, the cost is seven times the price of a liter of gasoline.

Assuming that the gasoline in the tank cost 2 euros, this means 3.5 times 2 euros for the trip there, or 7 euros. The return trip (with cheaper gasoline) costs 3.5 times 1.50 euros, or 5.25 euros.

The fuel cost for the trip is therefore €12.25. The trip thus saves €17.75.

NOTE: However, the cost of running the car per kilometer is slightly higher than the cost of pure fuel. This price calculation does not take into account wear and tear, loss of value of the car, etc.

What is the maximum amount of fuel that can be stored in a garage in Germany?

A distinction must be made here between gasoline and diesel fuel. For example, Section 17 of the Bavarian Garage Ordinance deals with the storage of gasoline in garages. It states:

“In medium and large garages, flammable substances other than motor vehicles may be stored only in insignificant quantities. In small garages, up to 200 liters of diesel fuel and up to 20 liters of gasoline may be stored in sealed, shatterproof containers.”

Diesel is allowed much more than gasoline because it is not as flammable and therefore not as dangerous. Regulations in other federal states are probably comparable, but in any case, check with the authorities where you live.

NOTE: Storing fuel in your home can be life-threatening – it contains highly flammable vapors that can easily escape from reserve tanks.

If you want to store fuel in your garage, you should be especially careful with plastic canisters, as they are not 100 percent airtight. The properties of the fuel can change. There is also a risk of poisoning.

How long is the shelf life of fuel?

Christian Küchen, managing director of the German Petroleum Industry Association, explains, “There is no set minimum or final shelf life for gasoline, diesel, and also heating oil. It can last for many months and years if it is tightly sealed, stored in a cool and dark place in tanks or canisters. However, there are differences between summer fuel and winter fuel. In particular, “winter fuel” with its higher vapor pressure may cause a warmed-up engine to fail to start at higher temperatures.”

What containers can you store fuel in?

Not all plastics are suitable for filling with fuel – contact with petrol can cause them to dissolve. Therefore, only containers with special properties and appropriate labeling (RKK approval – also for metal containers) should be used.

The material of plastic containers deteriorates after a few years. The year of manufacture is stamped on the canisters; they should be replaced after about ten years. Check for rust stains on metal canisters!

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