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DRIVING

Drivers in Germany face higher fuel prices in the morning

Drivers in Germany have to pay significantly higher costs for petrol and diesel if they fill up their tank in the morning rather than the evening, a report has found.

A car being filled up with fuel in Berlin on June 1st.
A car being filled up with fuel in Berlin on June 1st. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christophe Gateau

German automobile club, the ADAC, compared the cost of filling up on fuel at different times of the day in a study conducted in May. 

And the car experts found that an evening trip to the gas station can save a lot of money in the long run.  They found that fuel was much pricier in the morning compared to later on in the day.

During May, the difference between the price peak in rush hour and the low in the evening for diesel was more than 16 cents, the ADAC said.

This is more than twice as much as a year ago – and the highest figure ever recorded by the transport club in its analysis, which has been carried out annually since 2015.

For Super E10 petrol, the price difference between the high and low was around 10 cents – which is also an increase compared to the previous year.

Driving experts slammed the large price differences.

“In the morning rush hour, there was once again an attempt to charge particularly high prices to some customers,” said ADAC expert Jürgen Albrecht.

According to the study, the price was highest in the morning at around 7am. At this time diesel was on average 12 cents and Super E10 more than 6 cents above the daily average. In the late evening, on the other hand, diesel was around 5 cents below the daily average, and E10 just under 4 cents.

The ADAC found that the first price rises for fuel at the pumps arrive shortly before 5am and last until 7am. Prices then fall sharply until 9am, only to rise again at around 10am. From there, the price gradually drops throughout the day in a wave movement.

According to the ADAC, the cheapest times to fill up at the pumps in May were between 6 and 7pm, and between 8 and 10pm. This was also the case in previous years. Experts say prices remain fairly stable during the night. 

As The Local has been reporting, Germany brought in a fuel tax cut for the months of June, July and August as part of a raft of measures aimed at providing some financial relief during the energy crisis. 

But there have been concerns that oil companies are not passing on the tax cut to customers. 

READ ALSO: Has Germany’s fuel tax cut failed?

Nevertheless, ADAC says it’s still likely that evening is the best time to fill up tanks – but urged motorists to think carefully about how they get fuel. 

“In June, the cards have been reshuffled by the current shifts,” said Albrecht, referring to the tax cut which has shaken up the fuel market. 

“The periods from 6 to 7pm and from 8 to 10pm will probably remain particularly favourable,” he added. “However. In addition, motorists should keep their eyes open and consciously promote competition through their refuelling behaviour. And if you do have to fill up in the morning, smaller quantities are often enough.”

The ADAC said its analysis included prices from almost all petrol stations in Germany.

Vocabulary

Fuel – (der) Sprit

To fill up/to refuel – Tanken 

Much more expensive – viel teurer

The difference between – der Unterschied zwischen

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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MONEY

‘€10-€15 more for groceries’: How price hikes are hitting consumers in Germany

Russia's war in Ukraine is driving up energy and food prices. While the German government mulls new measures to protect consumers, buyers are increasingly feeling the price hikes, reports Cecilia Filas.

'€10-€15 more for groceries': How price hikes are hitting consumers in Germany

Consumer prices are rising in Germany – and people are noticing it in their wallets. In May, inflation rose by nearly 8 percent year-on-year, the highest level since the country’s reunification in 1990. First, it was the pandemic and the resulting disruption of global supply chains that pushed up prices, now, it is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that is driving energy and food prices to record high levels. 

Olaf Scholz’s coalition government launched a €30 billion plan to help German consumers, especially the most vulnerable. The measures included the €9 monthly ticket over summer; fuel tax cuts; energy subsidies; and a one-off €300 payout for all taxpayers, plus a €100 ‘Kinderbonus’ for children.

But while the measures provided temporary relief – in June inflation fell to 7.6 percent – experts fear another surge is around the corner. The numbers could get significantly worse in the coming months when some of the measures end and Germany will face the winter with a reduced amount of Russian gas – or none at all. 

READ ALSO: Who gets Germany’s €300 payout – and when?

Thinking carefully about bigger purchases

People living in Germany are feeling the pinch.

At the supermarket, a shopping bill that used to be between €70-€80 is “now €10 or €15 extra,” says Nicolás, an Argentine expat in his 30s who lives in Berlin.

Unlike in Argentina, where consumers are used to offers and different forms of financing to cover themselves against inflation, Nicolás says he has no strategy and has not reduced his consumption because of the rising prices, although it is impacting him. “You don’t need to pay in instalments (for items), but you do feel the difference. You save less,” he says.

Federico, another Argentina native who has been living in Germany for more than 10 years, agrees.

“It’s not that you have problems making ends meet, but that you save a little less,” he says. “Or if you have to make a big purchase, you might think about it a little bit more.”

He says everyday food products in Berlin have also noticeably gone up. 

“The most classic thing – to buy a kebab which is something everyone eats – you can see how much it has increased,” he adds.

“There is a lot of advertising on TV and radio showing you ways to save, and years ago there was no advertising or products with so many promos. Now, this has become more visible, as there is a much greater variety of bargains and people tend to go after that a little bit more than they used to.”

Fruit and veg being sold at a market in Oldenburg.

Fruit and veg being sold at a market in Oldenburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hauke-Christian Dittrich

‘Price shocks’

Chancellor Scholz has promised more measures in the coming months to cushion the burden, especially on lower-income families. The Chancellor plans to meet with employers, trade unions and the Bundesbank team in September.

Bundesbank President, Joachim Nagel, said recently that there is a risk of inflation remaining high in the medium term, and the German central bank is forecasting an average rate above 7 percent for 2022.

“For this year, we think that we can really manage the inflation headwinds we see on the energy side but also on the salary side,” Bettina Orlopp, CFO of Commerzbank told Bloomberg TV.  “Next years – 2023, 2024 – the story will be different, becoming more difficult”, she said.

But is Germany really experiencing an inflationary process? Dr. Silke Tober of the Hans Boeckler Foundation’s Macroeconomic Policy Institute (IMK) doesn’t think so.

“The inflation we are experiencing in Germany at the moment, and in the euro area as a whole, is not inflation in the real sense. What we have are price shocks”, she tells The Local. “What really makes an inflationary process is that wages and prices rise, and then you get persistent inflation.

“We are not at that stage. What we are really seeing instead is that the energy price hikes and the increase in food prices are pushing up prices.”

READ ALSO: When will Germany’s rising cost of living slow down?

Tober adds that there are assistance measures which make a difference.

“The government has put in place several transfer payments to households, especially low-income households, and other measures that reduce the burden of inflation,” Tober says.

She expects price rises to come down “substantially” next year, provided the war in Ukraine does not escalate.

However, Tober says: “If we have a gas embargo and no more gas from Russia, we will have another jump in energy prices, and then inflation will stay high next year as well. And then we have the problem that there may be second-round effects, meaning wage increases might be excessive and then will have persistent inflation.”

The expert from IMK says that rising prices are especially affecting lower-income households, who must “cut back on other expenses to pay for food and energy” because they tend to have fewer savings to fall back on.  

“Households with higher incomes tend to have wealth and a high savings rate, so they cope with it by reducing their savings rate or maybe even reducing their savings,” Tober says.

“But low-income households usually, in Germany at least, they don’t have a positive savings rate – that means they’ve already spent all of their money or most of it – and have very little wealth, so what they have to do is actually reduce consumption to deal with the current [price] shocks.”

READ ALSO: What is Germany’s new gas ‘tax’ and who will pay it?

Money lies on a radiator.

Money lies on a radiator. People with gas heating will face much higher costs. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Patrick Pleul

Ongoing concerns about price hikes

Indeed, June retail sales plunged 8.8 percent year-on-year, the biggest drop since 1994, according to Destatis. Non-essential items such as furniture, household appliances, clothing and shoes were the hardest hit.

On the other hand, to avoid passing on cost increases to customers and remain competitive, several companies are maintaining prices (or raising them at a very low rate) but reducing the content of their products, warned Verbrauchenzentrale Hamburg, a consumer advice centre. These are hidden price increases, generally referred to as ‘shrinkflation’.

With an interest rate of just 0.5 percent, credit or financing purchases in instalments might seem an attractive option to protect from inflation.  However, Verbrauchenzentrale Nordrhein Westfalen, the consumer protection association in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, says that there hasn’t been, at the moment at least, “increasing demand in our debt counselling service as a result of the current inflation, although we notice ongoing concerns about the price increases”.

“Normally excessive debts and consumer insolvency are not seen immediately but with a time gap -they follow a crisis,” the agency told The Local. “Therefore, it is just possible that in the end, we will see more consumer insolvencies due to these general price increases.”

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