Fuel Oil – FAQs
Purchasing fuel oil can be confusing. There are many programs and pricing structures. Let HB McClure help. Below are our most frequently asked questions. For additional assistance, contact us or call 717-232-4328. Click here to request an appointment.
Q. Is your fuel oil price the “best price in town?”
A. That depends on how you define “best price.” We always urge our customers to compare prices exactly when reviewing competitive prices. What are the hidden fees, if any? What are the enrollment or service charges? Most importantly – and something people often miss – is the price being quoted a special deal designed to secure your business? Will the price expire after a certain time period? When reviewing prices, ask questions, read the fine print and be sure to compare one proposal to another exactly. As for our specific price: we tend to be middle of the road. It’s our service and guarantees that encourage people to order fuel oil from HB McClure.
Q. How can I tell a good fuel oil provider from one that might leave me shivering on a cold night?
A. This goes along with the answer above. There is more to consider than just price when signing an oil contract. Does the provider offer service in addition to fuel oil delivery? (This is important to know. You don’t want your equipment to break on a cold winter night, and find yourself without a contracted repair source.) Can the provider guarantee a steady supply of oil all winter? (This goes to reputation and buying power.) What is the “service order” of the provider? (Are there “rules” that allow some customers to enjoy guaranteed service while others wait their turn?)
Service is a huge issue to consider. What service hours does a provider have? And what program do you need to enroll in to get service after hours, weekends or holidays if you need it? Is equipment maintenance included in my price – or not?
Q. What is a fuel oil price cap?
A. A price cap protects you from changes in oil pricing. When you use a price cap to purchase your home heating oil, you will not pay higher prices if the market soars. Better still, if the price of oil drops, we charge you the lower rate. It’s a win/win.
Q. How does HB McClure set price caps?
A. We analyze pricing trends and conduct market research all year long. HB McClure has been delivering oil to central Pennsylvanians since 1914 – longer than any other oil provider around. Our experience relates directly to our ability to understand the market, properly supply our company in support of real and projected customer needs and evaluate market conditions to establish fair prices. We know when to buy oil in bulk, thus impacting our cost. We use all our data to establish a cap based on our wholesale price and other factors such as insurance.
Q. Is there a fee for price cap protection?
A. Yes…BUT price caps are not profit for your local oil provider. Price caps are established by the actual oil supplier. In order to offer our customers a price cap (and the protection that comes along with it), we purchase insurance from the supplier. This allows us to protect you from soaring prices (and lets us pass lower prices along to you when the market dips). But this protection comes with a cost (a fee) from the original supplier. We do absorb part of this cost. But we can’t absorb all of it. And that is what is reflected in the fee if you choose price cap protection.
Q. Will prices be high this year? What will happen?
A. We wish we could answer this kind of pricing question, but we can’t. Predicting the cost of any commodity, particularly one as volatile as oil, is difficult (if not impossible). Because we don’t want to mislead our customers, we won’t risk making price predictions that are inaccurate.
Q. Your price cap programs allow you to pass along lower prices. How can you do this?
A. This occurs because of the way we negotiate our oil purchases. We buy options that allow us to sell the fuel back to our supplier when necessary.
Q. Oil companies use different names for their programs. How many price protection options exist?
A. Local companies can be creative in naming their programs: EZ Pay, Smart Pay, etc. Primarily, these are marketing terms. But really, there are only two kinds of price protection: locking in prices and capping prices. Locking in (or fixing) the price establishes a set amount that you will pay during a season. Capping a price establishes a maximum price that you will pay during a season, but the price you pay will fluctuate, or change, during the season.
It’s as important to carefully research your local oil company just as you would research your program options. We’ve all learned one way or another that not all companies are honorable and trustworthy. Selecting the wrong oil provider can leave you out in the cold when you need comfort the most.
Do your research before selecting an oil provider. Ask friends and family for referrals. Ask suppliers for references. Ask about licensing. Ask any question that helps you make an informed decision.
Q. You talk about helping customers reduce spending on heating and cooling costs. Can you guarantee that your price protection plan will save me money?
A. Reducing your heating and cooling costs differs from helping you protect and predict your fuel oil price. No, we can’t guarantee that you’ll save money on oil. We can help you understand and budget for your oil.
Q. If there are no guarantees about the market price, or my potential savings, do I need price protection?
A. This answer really depends on you and what you want to spend to protect your budget from market fluctuations. Some of our customers buy oil using the day to day market price without any negative consequences. This can be a risky strategy because the market can change so rapidly. Going with the daily market price gives you flexibility, but no protection if costs soar.
Remember, we lower your price if the cost of oil drops when you use one of our price protection programs. So one of the key benefits of using the daily oil price – buying when the price is low – is still given to you when you are in one of our programs. You don’t miss out on low prices by being in a program. Passing low prices along to you is a guarantee that we make and keep.
If you have questions about whether or not you “need” price protection, please contact us at 717-232-4328 or click here to read more about our plans.
Q. Are there “hidden costs?” What if I want to end my oil contract with you?
A. Good question. Yes, we do charge an early termination fee. When you sign up for a Price Protection plan, we are entering into a contract that triggers our purchasing of oil – and insurance designed to protect your price – on your behalf. We are held responsible for your contract with our oil supplier. As a result, we need to charge a termination fee if you decide to end your contract with us.
Q. Is there a deadline to sign up for your Programs?
A. Our programs are available while supplies last. Prices may also change, depending on market prices.
Q. I like the idea of spreading my payments over several months. How do you calculate my payments?
A. We review your fuel usage from previous years (delivery records). This lets us calculate your likely usage. We calculate the total likely amount for the upcoming season and divide it over the number of months in our payment schedule. This results in equal monthly payments. We can also include your service contract costs if you choose to add service to your fuel oil purchase.
Q. Will this monthly amount ever change?
A. It might but it’s rare that you would see a dramatic change. Sometimes weather and market changes require us to make adjustments. If you have a price cap, the cost cannot rise above this cap. If prices fall, your monthly payment will go down. If you are buying using the daily market rate, you will also see a change in your monthly payments – either up or down.