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Home & garden.

19 October 2021

Getting the best heating oil prices

Heating oil prices have risen since the cheap heating oil seen in 2020. Find out what affects heating oil prices and why they change. Plus follow our top tips to help you get the best price for your heating oil
Sarah Ingrams
Cost of energy and heating oil 451060

Heating oil prices change regularly. But you can still save money if you know how. 

Between summer 2020 and summer 2021, the price of kerosene heating oil rose by 17p per litre. But it's still cheaper than it was in summer 2018.

Heating oil prices are largely affected by the price of crude oil. This can change depending on:

  • the weather (especially if it's extreme)
  • political unrest
  • global production.

Prices can also vary depending on where you live in the UK, the time of year you buy, local demand and the amount of heating oil you buy.

How much does heating oil cost?

Country house

The average price per litre of kerosene was around 46p in September 2021*. 

This is a 5p increase since June 2021 and much higher than summer and autumn 2020, which saw the lowest heating oil prices for more than four years.

Prices in 2020 were low following the collapse in demand for heating oil owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

You'll also need to factor in delivery costs, which can vary depending on how far you live from the supplier.

Are heating oil prices going up?

Heating oil prices have gone up and down over the last five years or so. They generally rose between January 2016 and April 2018, then hovered around 50p per litre until January 2020. 

Prices dropped suddenly in spring and summer 2020 but have been creeping up again since. 

This is the result of falling oil prices across the world during the coronavirus pandemic, followed by an increased demand for oil and gas after global lockdowns relaxed. So it's tricky to predict what will happen to prices in future. 

In previous years, we've seen prices fall in summer, though this isn't something to rely on.

No matter what happens to the price of heating oil, there are still things you can do to keep the costs down. 

Make sure you're not paying more for electricity than you should. Use our independent switching site, Which? Switch, to compare electricity prices.

Compare heating oil prices

Heating oil prices vary across the UK and between companies. Compare as many quotes as possible from different 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 firms such as these 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. 

The UK and Ireland Fuel Distributors Association (UKIFDA) directory lists suppliers in your area. UKIFDA, which provides consumer information about heating oil, is the trade association for distributors of liquid fuel.

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 online, check our tips to stay safe and shop smart

If you're not sure about a supplier, contact the UKIFDA at info@ukifda.org. 

Get the best home heating oil prices

Use our tips below to avoid paying more than you need to for heating oil. 

1 Buy ahead of time

If you can plan and buy ahead, waiting longer will usually cost you less.

If you need heating oil in a hurry, express or emergency deliveries are often available but come at a premium price. 

The prices quoted to us are for standard deliveries. 

2 Buy heating oil in summer

Sunshine through trees

Prices for heating oil can be a bit lower in summer, as demand is a lot lower. 

2020's dramatic summer drop isn't typical, because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on oil prices. But to take a less exceptional year, the average price for heating oil dropped from 43p a litre in April 2017 to 38p in July. In 2019, prices fluctuated little but were at their cheapest in April. 

However, it's wise to keep an eye on heating oil prices in general, as prices fluctuate. For example, in 2018 it was cheaper in winter than in spring and summer:

  • 48p in January 2018
  • 52p in April and July 2018

Not buying in the depths of winter means you'll avoid potential delivery problems in bad weather. On average, people buy around two or three times a year – depending on the size of their tank and energy use – and order between 1,000 and 2,000 litres.

No matter when you order, it's important to keep an eye on your oil-tank gauge. Don't let it get too low before you order – less than a quarter full, for example – especially in winter.

3 Bulk buy heating oil

The size of your tank affects 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. 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. 

Citizens Advice estimates that buying this way can knock 10% off your heating oil bills. 

Search online for heating oil clubs in your area. Also check for websites that combine regional oil clubs together to increase orders even further, such as The Oil-Club. 

The UKIFDA has guidance for communities on local oil-buying groups.

4 Start a heating oil club

Alternatively, you could start your own oil club with neighbours, friends and family. Bear in mind how close together you live, and whether the volume you want to order is likely to exceed what a lorry can carry (18-20,000 litres). Above this, you’re less likely to get a further discount, as the supplier will need a second vehicle. 

You'll need to appoint a co-ordinator to call the oil companies and negotiate a price. You can use local services, such as the Post Office, village hall, or local social media sites, to advertise for more members.

Remember that the more you order, the more you have to lose if it's stolen. Find out how to protect your tank against theft, in our section on heating oil tanks.

5 Negotiate the price

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.

6 Be careful how you pay

When you set up payment for your heating oil, check carefully for the following:

  • Does the company charge extra fees for paying by credit card?
  • Will paying by direct debit lock you into a contract?

A contract isn't necessarily a bad thing. In some agreements the supplier will also monitor the amount of heating oil in your tank and automatically arrange to top it up. 

On the other hand, being locked into a contract doesn't give you the flexibility to shop around for a better price. 

Consider both of these when deciding how to pay for your heating oil.

7 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 it will protect against more costly faults.

There are several things you can do to check for damage and protect against theft. See the section on heating oil tanks.

8 Get an efficient oil boiler

The efficiency and age of your boiler affects how much money you spend, so make sure it's in working order by getting it serviced annually. If you have a very old or inefficient model, an upgrade may save you money in the long run.

According to oil industry advice, you could save £200 a year if you change to a modern condensing boiler that has up to 97% efficiency, compared with a model that's more than six years old. 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. 

Before you get a new boiler, you need to know which brands are the most reliable. We reveal the best oil boiler brands.

How to 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. Options include:

(*Average prices for a litre of 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.)