Tank tourism – what is legal and when is the trip to cheap fuel worthwhile?

High fuel prices
Tank tourism: what is legal and when is the trip to cheap fuel worthwhile

Poland market plus cheap petrol stations, this combination attracts Germans.

© Jörg Carstensen / / Picture Alliance

In Germany, fuel prices are reaching a record high and Germans are already storming gas stations in cheaper foreign countries. Poland in particular is overrun by tank tourists. But mostly the trip to the foreign petrol pump is not worthwhile.

First of all, fuel tourism is a nuisance, but completely legal. If private individuals do it, the excitement is great. The practice of filling up in countries where fuel is cheap is common practice among truckers and coaches, and this is ignored. Some of the tanks are specially designed to only fill up in cheap fuel regions. The largest filling stations in the EU are in small Luxembourg. Here the trucks between the high-price countries France and Germany are filled up cheaply.

Compared to Germany, you can currently save a lot in several neighboring countries. With diesel it is up to 30 cents a liter if you fill up the tank in Austria, Luxembourg, Poland or the Czech Republic. A trip to the other countries is not worthwhile.

Ideal for travelers passing through

And whether anything is left at all is questionable. Anyone who is already out and about in the neighboring fuel-saving country can, of course, fill up their tanks on the occasion. He has no additional effort. Everyone else should do the math, even if they live in the border area.

Unfortunately, a car does not consume as much fuel as a heating oil tank. This limits the savings potential. A larger mid-range car has a tank size of around 65 liters, while a small car like the VW Polo only has 40. Assuming you reach the gas station with 5 liters in the tank, which is a little more than a reserve, in one case you can use 60 liters fill up in the other only 35. That results in a generous saving of 18 or 10.50 euros. If you drive only 15 kilometers to the gas station, assuming costs of 30 cents per kilometer, travel costs of 9 euros arise. This means that the excursion in a small car is not worth it, unless you live right next to the border fence. In the case of a mid-range car, a saving of 9 euros remains – if you do not take into account the additional time required. If you come from an area that is 20 kilometers or more away from the border, you will certainly not save anything.

The canister idea

The 9 euros for the mid-range car are not really much. Therefore, bargain hunters come up with the idea of ​​taking gasoline or diesel in “containers”. For safety reasons alone, it must be a canister with reserve fuel canister approval (RKK), filling and transport in other containers is not permitted for safety reasons. However, the amount of canisters is limited in two ways.

Only the usual quantities are duty-free in order to have a reserve on board. So you can’t fill the trunk with a dozen 20-liter canisters. Only 20 liters of reserve are tax-free when crossing the border. But be careful: For safety reasons, fuel in the car is limited in almost all countries. In Poland you can take 20 liters with you, so the customs border fits. But if you pack more, you have two problems. On the one hand, he has to pay additional taxes, on the other hand he has to pay a fine because of the safety regulations. Unlike cigarettes, the customs limit is 20 liters per vehicle and not per person. Tip: You should be very careful when refueling the canister and under no circumstances should it make a mess. Otherwise, diesel in particular will vaporize the entire vehicle.

Is the regulation fair? One can argue about it. Anyone who has a car with a 100 liter tank can import 120 liters tax-free, with a 30 liter tank it is only 50.


Tank tourism is not worthwhile if you only go to the neighboring country to refuel. It looks different if you take the cheap fuel with you on the way. Or if you combine the trip to Poland with other cheap errands and then add up the savings. However, real bargain hunters will hardly stop these objections. They enjoy the illusion of savings, even if they end up paying extra.

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