Is gasoline getting more expensive just in time for a vacation trip?

A visit to the gas station can have a bitter aftertaste towards the holidays: Is it your imagination, or is it true that petrol prices are always noticeably increased just in time for the high holiday season?

WPetrol is not really cheap at the moment. Is that related to the wave of vacation trips? The RWI business research institute presented a study on Thursday to mark the start of the holidays in Baden-Württemberg, in which the development of fuel prices in the past year was examined at the beginning of the summer, Easter and Whitsun holidays. The aim was to check whether the popular thesis that the mineral oil companies always raise the prices at the petrol stations sharply at the beginning of the holiday because the many motorists on the holiday trip stimulate demand and have few alternatives, can withstand an empirical test.

At least in 2016 that was not the case, is the result of the institute. For this purpose, data on the prices of crude oil and fuel at 14,000 petrol stations were evaluated, which were collected by the market transparency office of the Federal Cartel Office and processed by the economist Manuel Frondel in the so-called RWI petrol price index. At least in 2016 it was not the case that rising petrol prices at German petrol stations had to be expected at the beginning of the holidays, writes the RWI: March 25 and 28, 2016 or around the beginning of the Whitsun holidays on May 14, 2016 marked spikes in gasoline and diesel prices. “

The Bundeskartellamt itself dealt with the subject in a large-scale sector analysis seven years ago. The finding at the time: There are striking parallels between the start of the holiday and price increases at the petrol stations, even if no agreements were found. The beginning of the Easter holidays in 2009 was cited as a prime example. At that time, gasoline was up to 11 cents more expensive on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before Easter than two weeks before. Neither the crude oil nor the wholesale price had risen in a comparable manner. The statisticians found similar price peaks at the end of the holiday just in time for the return trip – and regularly before the weekend on Friday afternoon.

Competition does not always favor the customer

But since then there had been signs that this might have changed. The Market Transparency Unit and the many gasoline price apps may have helped make the gasoline market more transparent, but they may not have been the only factor. Apparently the strategy of the oil companies has changed. In any case, there have been several studies that have shown that the gasoline price now fluctuates more strongly during the day than it used to be, and less during the week and thus the old holiday phenomenon at the petrol stations is at least less pronounced. The ADAC published an analysis last year that supported this thesis.

Scientists from Frankfurt’s Goethe University had also dealt with the question of whether the strong daily price fluctuations were a sign of a lot or little competition. They came to the initially somewhat unusual result that the fluctuations were a sign of a lot of competition – which, however, in the special situation of this imperfect market, does not necessarily benefit consumers. Rather, the phase during the day in which motorists can refuel particularly cheaply is shifting further and further back and becoming shorter.

This summer, motorists have apparently benefited from the fact that the price of crude oil has recently fallen and prices at gas stations have fallen, even if the level is still quite decent. The ADAC had recently reported falling fuel prices for three weeks in a row, to a national average of 1.436 euros per liter for Super E10 and 1.272 euros for diesel.