Learn more about factors that affect heating oil prices and why they fluctuate. Plus 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 – 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.
Local weather can affect the demand for heating oil, which in turn affects the price. This includes prices for delivery, too, depending on how far you are from a supplier.
How much does a litre of heating oil cost?
The average price per litre for kerosene was around 49p in April 2019* – lower than at the same time in 2018, when it was 52p, but higher than in April 2017, when it was 43p.
Are heating oil prices going up?
The average price for heating oil in April 2019 is down 6% on the same time the year before. But when compared with April 2017, it’s up 14%.
But this doesn’t necessarily mean that prices are going to continue to fall through 2019. The price rose in October in each of the last three years.
No matter what happens to the price of heating oil, there are still various things you can do to keep the costs down.
Buy ahead of time
Where possible, try to plan and buy ahead to save yourself from paying more. The prices quoted to us are for standard deliveries. If you need it more quickly, 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. For example, the average price for heating oil dropped from 43p a litre in April 2017 to 38p in July. In 2018, prices were 2p cheaper per litre in April and July than in October.
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 2018 it was cheaper in winter than in spring and summer:
- 48p in January 2018
- 52p in April and July 2018
Buying outside of the winter season 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 their 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.
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.
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.
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 can 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.
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 several things you can do to check for damage and protect against theft. See the section on heating oil tanks.
Get an efficient oil 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 annually. If you have a very old or inefficient model, getting an upgrade may save you money in the long run.
According to oil industry advice website Oilsave, 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.