Heating oil explained
Getting the best heating oil price
By Liz Ransome-Croker
Article 2 of 5
Getting the best heating oil price
Learn more about what affects heating oil prices and why it fluctuates, and follow our top tips to help you get the best price for your heating oil.
Heating oil prices are subject to change, depending on a number of factors. But you can still save money on heating oil - if you know how.
Prices for heating oil, including sudden peaks and troughs, are largely affected by the price of crude oil. This can fluctuate depending on the weather, political unrest and global production.
Prices can also be affected by local weather and therefore the demand for heating oil. As will prices for delivery - depending on how far you are from a supplier.
How much is a litre of heating oil?
The average price per litre for kerosene was around 40p in October 2017* - higher than at the same time in 2016, when it was 35p.
Are heating oil prices going up?
In fact, the average price for heating oil from November 2016 to 2017 is up 24% on the same time the year before.
But this doesn't necessarily mean prices are going to sky rocket over winter. The price in October 2017 is 3p cheaper than in January 2017, while last year the price from January to October 2016 was up by 3p.
No matter what happens to the price of heating oil, there are still a number of things you can do to keep the costs down. Read on to discover the best time to buy heating oil and what you can do to make sure you get the best price.
Make sure you're not paying more for electricity than you should. Use our independent switching site, Which? Switch, to find a cheap electricity tariff.
Compare heating oil prices
Heating oil prices vary across the UK and between companies. So compare as many quotes as possible from a number of companies, and do so regularly so you can monitor when and where you can get the best prices.
You can get free estimates from online companies, such as Boiler Juice and Heating Oil. But these types of firm provide only guide prices; for precise figures it's best to check with as many local and online companies as possible once you've decided to buy.
You can use the Federation of Petroleum Suppliers (FPS) directory to find suppliers in your area.
Do a quick online search for reviews or complaints about a company before you buy.
It's a good idea to do a quick online search for reviews or complaints about a company before you buy.
If you're buying on the internet, look out for sites with premium SSL certificates (the small padlock icon in the top corner of your website bar, next to the web address, like in the image below). As these cost money, they're less likely to be used by a fraudster. Plus it means the site's secure.
If you're not sure about a supplier, contact the FPS on 01217 671321. It's also worth looking for suppliers with FPS accreditation, as this means they will have had to sign up to its code of practice.
Buy heating oil ahead of time
Where possible, try to plan and buy ahead to save yourself from paying more. The prices quoted to us were for standard deliveries, but the speed at which you get your heating oil can change the price.
Express or emergency deliveries are often available, but at a premium price. If you can plan ahead, waiting longer will cost you less.
Buy heating oil in summer
Prices for heating oil tend to be lower in the summer, as demand is a lot lower. So buying ahead will save you money. For example, the average price for heating oil dropped from 43p per litre in April 2017 to 38p in July.
However, it's wise to keep an eye on the market in general, as it's not always cheaper in summer, and can fluctuate. For example, in 2016 it was cheaper in spring:
- 30p April 2016
- 33p July 2016
Buying outside of winter means you will avoid potential delivery problems in bad weather. On average, people buy around two or three times a year - depending on the size of tank and energy use - and order between 1,000 and 2,000 litres.
Don't let your tank get too low before you order, especially in winter.
Bulk buy heating oil
The size of your tank will affect how much heating oil you can store and therefore how much you can order in one go. Generally speaking, the more you order, the cheaper it will be. The average size of domestic heating oil tanks ranges between 1,000 and 3,500 litres (although larger ones are used commercially).
It’s worth noting that a heating oil tank should only be filled up to around 80-90% of its capacity to avoid spillage.
If your tank doesn't have a large capacity, joining a heating oil club (also called a heating oil buying group) free of charge is a good way to buy cheaper heating oil. This is because your order will be clubbed together with others in your area.
The Citizens Advice Bureau estimates that buying this way can knock 10% off your heating oil bills. You can visit the Citizens Advice Bureau website to find a club in your area.
It's also worth looking at websites that combine regional oil clubs together to increase orders even further, such as The Oil-Club.
Alternatively, you could start your own oil club with neighbours, friends and family - you'd ideally need 20 or more people. You'll need to appoint a coordinator to call the oil companies and negotiate a price depending on the size of the group and time of year you order. You can use local services, such as the post office or village hall, or local social media sites to advertise for more members.
One thing to remember about bulk buying, though, is that the more you order, the more you have to lose if it's stolen. To find out how to protect your tank against theft, see our full guide to maintaining and fixing heating oil tank problems
Negotiate the price of heating oil
Whether buying in bulk with a club or on your own, don't be afraid to negotiate. The more quotes you have, the more information you will have to bargain with.
Even if you're happy with your current supplier, see if you can find a cheaper price - then talk to your usual supplier, as it may be able to match it.
Be careful how you pay for heating oil
Watch out when paying for heating oil by credit card, as some companies will charge extra fees.
If you pay by direct debit, you may be locked into a contract. In some cases, you may find this beneficial - in some agreements a supplier will monitor the amount of heating oil in your tank and automatically arrange to top it up.
However, this doesn't give you the flexibility to shop around for a better price.
Protect and maintain your tank
Heating oil is pricey, so safeguarding it against theft and leakage can save you money in the long run.
Servicing your heating oil tank and boiler once a year using an Oftec-registered technician will alert you to problems before they get worse and will protect against more costly faults.
There are also several things you can do to check for damage and protect against theft. See maintaining and fixing heating oil tank problems.
Get an efficient boiler
The efficiency and age of your boiler will affect how much money you spend, so make sure it's in working order by getting it serviced yearly. If you have a very old or inefficient model, getting an upgrade may save you money in the long run.
According to oil industry body Oftec, you could save £200 a year if you change to a modern condensing boiler that has up to 97% efficiency. But a new oil boiler will cost anywhere between around £1,300 and £3,200, and then between £2,000 and £3,000 for installation.
Cut your energy bills
As well as getting a good price for heating oil, you can minimise the amount you use (and therefore the money you spend) by cutting your energy costs. Take a look at our full guide on how to save on your energy bill.
(*Average prices for kerosene from Sutherland Tables, which collects domestic fuel pricing data from across the UK for each quarter of the year. For example, January figures are an average across November, December and January.)