How to save money buying heating oil this winter
If you use heating oil to heat your home, then every winter bring a bit of anxiety doesn’t it? The big question is what will you be paying for heating oil this year? Heating oil prices can fluctuate quite a bit, so it can keep the consumer on pins and needles as to what their heating bill will be for this winter.
There are several ways to combat this. First will be for the consumer to shop around for the best heating oil prices. This will entail you to go over last years heating bills and to calculate how much oil you used. Bear in mind if the previous year was warmer or colder than normal, and make adjustments for that.
C.O.D or full service heating oil delivery?
With this information, you can begin to call the heating oil dealers in your area to find out what they are charging. The cheapest heating oil is usually from dealer that will deliver C.O.D. These are dealers where you have to pay for the oil when it is delivered either in cash or credit card. You are only buying oil from them. You are also free to use a different dealer for each fill up. If you need maintenance from them or if your furnace breaks down, you will be paying full cost for those repairs and maintenance. These dealers usually DO NOT offer automatic delivery, so it is up to you to monitor your usage. You should call for a delivery when your tank is at about ¼ full.
Many consumers like to use one dealer to deliver their heating oil and to do maintenance on their heating system. These dealers will charge more for the oil, but you are also getting services too. These dealers can also offer you billing and automatic delivery too. A full service dealer can offer you annual maintenance and servicing of your unit. They can also supply parts at a discount. Plus you will have someone to call when your furnace breaks down in the middle of the night of a snowstorm.
Choosing a Heating Oil Dealer
During the summer before the weather turns cold, you should take some time to shop around and compare heating oil prices and services that your local dealer will provide.
Some of these questions are as follows:
· How long has the dealer been in business? An established dealer will have a list of customers that you can call and to see if they are happy with their service. You can also check your local Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any complaints filed against them.
· What is their heating oil price per gallon? Are there other fees involved like delivery or handling fees? The total price should be disclosed to you before ordering oil.
· What type of service is included with the price? If there isn’t what would it cost to have it included?
· Do they offer any special discounts? If you pay within a certain time frame, is there a reduced price?
· Do they offer service contract? What are the terms and length of the contract? Are there penalties if you terminate the contract early?
· How did they treat you on the phone when you first called? This can be a good indication of how they will service you. If you call and you are talking to someone who is rude or acts like they are doing you a favor, hang up and cal the next number on your list. If you leave a message and no one gets back to you, you can only imagine how they will treat you when your furnace breaks down.
Heating Oil Payment Plans
Heating oil dealers offer several types of payment plans. Some will offer you a budget payment plan that will allow you to spread your payments over several months. This will help many consumers from getting hit with a large bill when they accept an oil delivery.
Another type of contract that dealers offer is a locked-in price contract. There are usually two types available. A fixed rate heating oil contract will lock you in to a fixed price all heating season. With a fixed rate contract, you will know exactly how much you will pay for heating oil per gallon. This works out nice for the consumer if prices unexpectedly go higher. However if prices drop, you will be stuck paying the higher price.
A price cap contract is a little different. The cap will set at the highest price you will pay that season. This way you know the most you will pay for heating oil per gallon. This rate is usually higher that the fixed rate. However if prices drop, you will then be charged a lower rate. This can be a good deal for you and the dealer. The oil dealer ahs a steady customer that winter, and you will know what you will be paying for that oil.
Pre-buying heating oil
Another option that some oil supplier will offer is a pre-buy plan. This is where you and the dealer estimate the amount of heating oil you will use during the contracts length. With that the dealer will charge you the full amount up front. If oil prices rise, then you will come out ahead. If they drop, then it will cost you. There is usually a penalty fee you must pay if you want to terminate the contract early.
When is the Best Time to Buy Heating Oil?
Generally speaking the best time to buy would be during the summer months. Demand for home heating oil is down during that time. However, home heating oil prices are determined buy crude oil prices, so if their is a spike in crude prices during the summer, heating oil will follow. The best time would be before the heating season begins.
Read the Contract carefully
When you enter into a contract with an oil dealer, this is legally binding. Before signing, make sure you fully understand it. Read it carefully line by line and ask questions if you don’t understand a section. All prices, fees and terms should be in writing. Do not accept verbal promises.
Look For Heating Oil Buying Groups
Heating oil groups are a great way for consumers to band together in a cooperative and to shop for discounted heating oil. By forming or joining a group, you can possibly negotiate a much better price than if you dealt with a dealer individually. Heating oil co-ops usually charge a small membership fee to join. Often times you can earn a referral fee if you have someone join the group.
Do you need help paying for your heating oil this year?
With heating oil prices being high this winter, many people are having problems paying for their heat. There are government programs set up to help those who meet certain income limits. There are also programs for he elderly and the disabled. Check with your local, county, state and federal government to see if you qualify if you are having problems affording heating fuel this winter.