/ Home & Energy

Heating oil – can the cost be justified?

About 3.6 million UK households are off the gas grid, of which about 1.5 million use heating oil. Are you one of them, and if so, how are you coping with the price increases this winter?

In the 2010 winter, the average price of heating oil went up by more than 70% in only three months – from 41p per litre to 73p per litre.

This is ten times the rate of increase endured by normal gas customers. And yet, the cost of crude oil only went up by 19% in the same period.

What’s wrong with the heating oil market?

Many of our members have raised their concerns about rising heating oil costs as well as other concerns, such as the fluctuation of heating oil prices, security of supply, theft and the lack of competition and transparency.

We’ve fed these concerns to the Office for Fair Trading (OFT) which was conducting a study into the off-grid energy market. But in October 2011 the OFT found that competition works well in this sector and that regulation is not needed. It did, however, identify problems with consumer protection.

So is everything OK in the heating oil market? One member wrote to us to share his recent experience after getting an oil delivery:

‘The price was marked as 79.51p a litre plus VAT. A quick trawl revealed that others were charging between 56 to 58p. I was furious – this was profiteering on a grand scale. I contacted the company and asked them to take it back. They countered by immediately offering it to me for 58p. There was no explanation as to why I had been so grossly overcharged.’

The price quoted by this member and the average on BoilerJuice’s website (see graph below) seem to indicate that heating oil prices are at about 60p/L this winter.

Graph of heating oil costs

Cutting the cost of heating oil

Do you use heating oil and what has your experience been this winter? In a recent Conversation, Malcolm Fry told us how he cuts costs:

‘It is generally much cheaper to buy heating oil in bulk, in the summer, rather than to have several, small top-ups, in the depths of the winter. This is particularly true of remote, rural locations. By increasing one’s storage capacity (a bigger, or additional, tank), it is possible to substantially reduce annual costs.’

Have you got any cost-saving tips on how to find the best deal? Are you tied in with one heating oil company or perhaps you take part in a community/group buying scheme?

Comments
Profile photo of ramondo
Member

We have no control over the price of our heating oil, they always charge what they want.

Member
Mitch says:
9 August 2013

Hi,

Have you Ever Thought about getting a heat pump to remove oil bills forever ?

[We don’t allow contact details on Which? Conversation. Thanks, mods.]

Member
Mike Stroud says:
20 January 2012

I live in Gloucestershire and have just filled the tank with 800l of heating oil.They will not deliver less than 500l at a time. This year I used the web site “boiler juice” to buy the oil which saved me 3.5 p per litre at 58.5p. My usual supplier quoted 61p per litre in a take it or leave it attitude so I left it.

Profile photo of Bill S
Member

It is certainly worth shopping around but if you find a good local supplier they may even beat Boilerjuice.
I have an 1800lt tank – the 1000lt+ price is often quite a large saving over smaller quantities so I would guess that Boilerjuice may be more worthwhile if you are only getting small deliveries.
I find the best prices are usually in March – could be that lots of people think its cheaper to buy in the Summer.

Member
deed says:
15 May 2012

Hi having had to come back to oil for the last 3 years have seen fluctuations from 38p to 82p and shop round 6 local oil companies each time,often they will drop their price to come in line or below the other guy.I have dumped the local village bulk delivery as I subsequently saw better price ellsewhere and they wont take a payment up front and wont say what the price will be on the delivery day! Has anyone any doubt that the delivery guy actually delivers the right amount?Have seen his dial at 2 and end at 5 for a 500L delivery but the printout says 500L[my watchman went from reading 4 to reading7 [previous 500 was 4 and read f for full ]have my doubts as it hasn’t lasted as long either .Could he offload oil elsewhere and start the printout then?

Member

Brought 900 Lts end of October 2015, had a very mild winter pre Christmas, watchman now reading empty Feb 2016 – 900 lts has previously lasted one year for last 3 years – very suspicious of delivery now! And what to do/ prove. Any one else experienced this, seems strange as prices so low but not lasting as long, views please .

Member
James Hanbury says:
29 June 2012

Hundreds of members in Devon and North West Somerset order their heating oil through our cooperative on set dates to take advantage of the great prices that we consistently achieve.

[We’ve edited your comment as we don’t allow advertising. Thanks, mods.]

Member
Jess says:
8 August 2012

I’ve been using Rix for years and found them competive on price and also a company who really cares about your needs.

Member

I don’t understand why petrol stations display current prices but oil delivery companies do not. This makes it much harder to shop around and is less transparent than it should be. The OFT should make it compulsory for all oil delivery companies to clearly show the daily price of their oil.

My own experience of having heating oil is miserable. I had a signalman fitted for no charge but this year they wanted to make an annual charge for it – I disconnected it and told them politely where to go.

Member

WHY OH WHY doesn’t the govenment insist the gas companies increase the size of their network, so everybody can have gas central heating?? I have oil in a village in Gloucestershire, but 3 miles down the road is gas for a larger village. I have NEVER seen any gas mains being laid EXCEPT for new housing estates. If they can give them gas, why not the rest of the country?

Member
tony says:
4 November 2012

I was told that boiler juice are an Irish conglomerate and only compare prices within their own companies. I can always beat their quote by shopping around. Every penny saved on 1000 litres is £10., so its worth half an hour on the phone.