Frequntly Asked Questions
- Where is the dealer list?
- Who will my dealer be?
- Can I keep my current dealer?
- How are prices set?
- What is bio heating oil? How does it work?
- Can I lock, fix, cap or pre-buy?
- How do the budget plans work?
- Why can we offer a better price?
- Cost of service policies? How are they set? What are the requirements?
- Why do you ask for Social Security number? Why credit check? Other options for credit check (credit card)
- Do the Discount Heating Oil Service dealers provide full service?
- Do I need a tune-up?
- How can I sign up? Any fees to join?
- How do I get verified for fuel assistance?
We do not post a dealer list, because our dealers require us not to use their names in our marketing. While they are willing to offer discount prices to our members, they have their own full-price customers. We understand their need to not undercut their own business when they sign up with us. But we also understand your need to be sure you are signing up with a quality dealer. So we work hard to make sure our dealers are delivering good service. When we add a new one, we check with the Better Business Bureau and the Attorney General’s office to see if they have a history of consumer complaints. We work with them directly if any issues arise, leveraging our members’ group buying power to demand quality. Many of our more than 30 dealers have had long term associations with our group, and we don’t continue with dealers who aren’t treating members fairly.
We assign new members to dealers as follows:
- If you are already using one of our dealers, we assign you back to them, but at our discount price.
- If someone referred you, we’ll try to assign you to their dealer as a reward to the dealer for keeping a member happy.
- If we only have one dealer in your area, then that will be the choice. We are constantly working on adding depth to our program in terms of dealer options.
- If we have choices, we have a computer mapping program where we generally try to assign your account to the appropriate dealer that has another member in your neighborhood, to improve efficiency of delivery.
Yes, if they are one of our dealers. If not, you will have to terminate your old account. It is best to write a letter to your dealer closing your account. Often when called, a dealer will offer you an inducement to remain with them. That may bring immediate savings to you, but over time the dealer will be looking to return your account to full retail.
We negotiate the margin a dealer may charge over the wholesale price. We also establish a local wholesale location that we receive quotes from each day. We post our average price and price range of all our dealers. Members may sign up for our Members Only Site and see their dealers’ prices for any day of the season.
Currently we have some dealers offering a B-20 (20% biodiesel) blend. The B stands for biodiesel. The number is the percentage that is blended with regular heating oil. We have one dealer that also offers a B-20 with ultra-low sulfur heating oil. Reducing the sulfur from 1300 parts per million (ppm) to 15 ppm (before the blend) makes it environmentally friendlier and less expensive, as it’s easier on your heating system.
We do not offer cap prices because consumers win if they pay the price of the day without the added expense of the insurance built into a locked-in price or buying oil up front. The dealers cap prices are designed to make a profit no matter what happens to the wholesale price. Consumers who chose a cap end up paying extra for that service over time. Our members don’t.
Statistically over time, spreading your purchases over the year (typically 5-6 deliveries) is proven to be the cheapest way to buy your oil. Certainly in some years when the spot price of oil spikes, locking in may pay that one year. However, over time (you don’t buy oil for just one year) our program will bring the most savings.
Dealers will be encouraging customers to enter into budget plans. Without a fixed price, dealers generally estimate what the expected average for the upcoming year will be. They often use the fixed price level they have been selling to their full retail customers. Then they take that number and multiply by the number of gallons you are expected to use. Once they have that figure, they divide by the number of months in their budget plan. The months of the plan may vary from 9 to 12. If you sign up after June or July, dealers may ask for 2 months (or you may negotiate to pay 3 months over the first two months) in order to build up a balance before you begin to take deliveries.
If the price estimate proves wrong (up or down) or your consumption varies, dealers have the option of changing your budget rate twice during the season. Often this happens in December or February is when they review their budgets. When you receive a delivery, you will be charged the Mass Energy budget price for that dealer on the day of the delivery. Typically this price works out cheaper and you may end up with a credit with the dealer.
Our prices aren’t always the absolute lowest, but typically the margins we negotiate are significantly lower than the levels charged by regular full service dealers. There may always be one dealer somewhere that would operate at prices the same or less than our program. However, since 1982 our members have been operating on the same premise of fixing the dealers margins and paying the price on the day with great success. We’ve grown to 17,000 households in Massachusetts and Rhode Island as a result.
We negotiate the price of service policies. Generally we insure our members aren’t paying anymore than a dealer’s regular customers. Occasionally our members pay less as our long-term negotiated levels are outstripped by dealers’ choices for their policy costs. Dealers require you to be on automatic delivery. Many also require an inspection as well. Some require that you pay for a tune up prior to them accepting your system for a service policy. This is especially true if your system hasn’t been receiving regular maintenance. If your system has been serviced by another full service dealer, there should be a card near your system describing the service history of the system. A dealer should be able to evaluate your system and the risks involved in issuing a policy from the information on that card.
Dealers are increasingly vigilant regarding members’ creditworthiness (and all customers for that matter). Especially with their margins restricted by our program, if someone doesn’t pay a dealer it takes a long time for them to make up that loss. The cost of oil is well over 80% of the cost (even more at today’s prices). The final 20% (or less) is for the dealer to pay for his truck, driver, office staff, insurance and other overhead before they can net a profit. So, dealers are keen not to lose any money to bad debts.
Increasingly dealers will insist on members and customers to lodge a credit card for payment in case you fail to make a timely payment. A credit card is a good option for consumers as paying immediately with a credit card gets the COD price and you still have 30 days to pay. If you can’t pay it all this month, you can pay as much as possible and the credit card will still work and you will still get an oil delivery. Over time you can pay off the credit card with just the interest charges adding to the expense.
All but a few of our dealers are full service. Those that aren’t have contracts with service companies or other oil service technicians. Most offer service policies. Those that don’t offer policies often have a fixed rate for a tune-up.
We highly recommend every member get a tune-up for their oil burner annually, before the start of the heating season.
You can join online now. You have the option of joining for $20 for 1 year or $45 for 3 years. We offer a discounted membership fee for senior citizens ($10 for 1 year and $30 for 3 years). We also waive the fee for people who receive fuel assistance upon verification of your fuel assistance status. Please note that membership dues are non-refundable and not tax-deductible.
First of all, if you don’t have fuel assistance, but need the help, check with your CAP agency to see if you qualify. If you do, the CAP will provide you with a fuel assistance approval letter.