Amerigas

The United States’ largest propane company is Amerigas. The company was founded in 1959 and currently provides propane to over two million customers in 50 states through its 2,100 local propane distribution facilities (650 retail locations).

Recommendation

Having a fixed pricing option, getting propane delivered automatically and spreading payments out over a year with a budget plan seems to be the best deal for residential users. Therefore, it is recommended that you enquire whether your local Amerigas office offers this possibility: you will not have to worry about fluctuating propane prices, you do not run the risk of running out of propane and you can offset the price of filling a propane tank over several months.

Amerigas summary

 

Comment

Recommendation

Services

Propane, tank installation, construction, system maintenance, appliances.

Assess your propane needs (tank, appliances, etc.) and request a detailed quote that takes them into account.

Safety record

Excellent. 24/7/365 emergency line.

Enquire as to the company’s safety history and record in your area.

Business reputation

Excellent.

Call your local Amerigas customer care number to find out how responsive they are.

Propane price

Of the three national propane companies, Amerigas is cheapest for Ohio (closest state to the national average in terms of propane prices in March 2013).

Check propane price trends in your state or region to ensure the price you are offered per gallon reflects market price as much as possible.

Delivery options

Pay-by-delivery and automatic delivery.

Decide whether you want to control when the company delivers propane or whether you would rather have peace of mind through automatic delivery.

Propane price options

Fixed pricing, market pricing and budget planning.

Assess whether you want to pay for propane in one or several installments, whether you want to plan deliveries according to market trends or whether you prefer to have a fixed price per gallon throughout the year.

Other options

System inspection, gas line maintenance, payment protection (if account holder dies).

It is recommended to have your propane system once a year and it is easier to request your propane company to maintain your system.

Fees and charges

Safety, transportation costs compensation, late payment / bounced check, excess propane removal, after-hours delivery, maintenance on customer-owned equipment.

Know what you may be billed for (e.g., out of hours delivery) and, if you own a tank, decide whether you want your propane company to maintain it for you (recommended unless you have already identified a propane technician).

 

Amerigas location map

Amerigas safety record

The company emphasizes propane safety. It boasts a 24/7/365 emergency number and extensive safety information and guidelines on its website regarding home propane systems, weather conditions, maintenance and carbon monoxide.

Amerigas is a member of the National Propane Gas Association and is involved in the Propane Research and Education Council, both of which offer information, guidelines and training on compliance with safety regulations and handling propane in general. In particular, the NPGA’s Certified Employee Training Program offers training modules on appliance installation, system maintenance and propane delivery.

Amerigas customer care

Online reports show that Amerigas has an excellent reputation. This assessment is based on complaint and dispute resolution between the company and customers on issues ranging from product services to payment solutions. About 90% of customer complaints have been dealt with adequately by Amerigas services. Random test calls show that customer service quality can vary from one Amerigas office to another to you should call the one closest to your home to establish how responsive and courteous they are.

Amerigas propane price

Even if your propane company is national, like Amerigas, propane prices depend on several factors, including region (the closer you are to a major distribution center, the cheaper the propane price), consumption (the more propane you order, the cheaper the price) and climate (the colder the climate, the higher the demand for the propane company, the higher the propane price).

Compared to its two main competitors (Suburban Propane and Ferrellgas), Amerigas seems to offer the best prices for Ohio, which is the state where propane prices are closest to the national average:

Company

First fill (dollars/gallon)

Next fill (dollars/gallon)

Amerigas

1.699

2.099

Ferrellgas

1.499

2.370

Suburban Propane

1.799

2.599

 

The table below shows propane price trends in Ohio as compared to the US average, which gives you an idea of how they evolve over the winter season.

Week

10/1

11/5

12/3

1/7

2/4

3/4

Ohio

2,1

2,17

2,23

2,29

2,38

2,43

US

2,36

2,4

2,41

2,43

2,48

2,49

Source: US Energy Information Administration

Amerigas pay-by-delivery

With Amerigas, you have the option of monitoring your own propane level by keeping an eye on the dial gauge. When it is below 30% tank capacity, you can call Amerigas and order a propane delivery. Because propane prices are not regulated by federal or state authorities, it is in your interest to ask Amerigas customer service what their propane price is before confirming the order to ensure that it reflects market prices trends.

The advantage of Amerigas pay-by-delivery is that if you have a large tank, or limited propane usage, you can order propane in the seasons when it is cheaper (for example, in summer) and avoid the winter price hikes (when demand increases and so do prices). Planning your yearly propane deliveries is therefore highly recommended if you want to pay the cheapest possible price per gallon.

The disadvantage of pay-by-delivery is that should you run out of propane, you will not only be unable to heat your home but will also need a leak test (which is required by law whenever a propane tank runs out) and pay a “Special Trip Charge” (varies depending on distance, time and local labor rates) if you want propane immediately.

Amerigas automatic delivery

If you do not want to have to monitor your tank level, Amerigas offers the possibility of estimating your propane consumption and delivering propane whenever they feel it is necessary (usually, when your level drops below 30% tank capacity). This is a convenient solution if you want to avoid running out of propane or for secondary homes: you only need to ensure the tank is accessible by road.

Amerigas uses a combination of factors to estimate your propane level and plan your next delivery: Amerigas professionals will calculate your propane usage based on the size of your home, when it was built and how many occupants it has; and they will take weather conditions into account so you do not run out of propane if it gets colder and you heat your home more.

However, given the fluctuations in propane prices it is advisable to monitor your propane gauge if possible and call Amerigas when you think they might make a delivery. This is aimed at checking the price you are being charged for each delivery and ensuring it is in line with market price trends.

Paying for Amerigas propane at a guaranteed price

Option

Description

Cost

AmeriLock

Fixed price per gallon for pay-by-delivery

$99/year

Pre-Buy

Fixed price per gallon for the year’s propane

No fee

AmeriGuard

Fixed price per gallon billed monthly

$99/year

One of the advantages of choosing Amerigas as your propane company is that they offer several guaranteed price plans. Given how much propane prices vary during the year (often by over a dollar per gallon) this can be very advantageous, financially. However, be sure to negotiate a fair guaranteed price at the onset. This is one of the reasons comparing quotes from different propane companies is essential : it enables you to see which propane dealer offers the lowest guaranteed price if this is what you are looking for.

Amerigas offers three guaranteed price plans. If you decide to go with the pay-by-delivery system (where you order propane when you need it), AmeriLock guarantees you a fixed price per gallon for $99 per year. Similarly, and at no cost, Pre-Buy enables you to plan your propane deliveries for the entire year if you know your propane usage and purchase propane at a guaranteed price per gallon. This option is particularly interesting if you purchase the year’s propane in summer, when price per gallon is lowest. Last, AmeriGuard lets you purchase propane at a guaranteed price per gallon and pay your bill on a monthly basis for a fee of $99 per year.

Paying for Amerigas propane at the market price

Of course, it is possible to order Amerigas propane at the market price. This means that depending on factors affecting propane prices (consumption, gallons ordered, weather, region, supply and demand) the price you pay will increase or decrease with market prices.

This solution can be expensive if you end up filling your tank in winter, when propane prices are highest. On the other hand, it can be the cheapest solution if you have a large tank for your propane usage and are able to fill your tank in summer, when propane prices are lowest.

Amerigas offers customers the possibility of paying for propane monthly (rather than when propane is delivered) on the basis of projected usage at market prices. Given how expensive it can be to fill a tank (especially in winter), SmartPay Budget Plan is a convenient service that enables you to spread payments out over a longer period of time.

Other Amerigas billing options

Option

Description

Price

LineGard

Gas line repairs

$18.95+tax

POWERGard

Standby generator

$79.99/year

Payment Protection

Payment insurance in case of death

$39.99-$59.99/year

The gas line links your propane tank to your home propane system. Amerigas’ LineGard program protects you from having to pay for repairs for $18.95 (+tax) per year. This option is useful if you want to avoid having to worry about maintaining a key element of your propane system.

Some homes have a standby propane generator in case there is a problem with the propane system. Amerigas’ POWERGard service ($79.99/year) includes a system inspection and check to ensure it is performing adequately.

AmeriGuard (guaranteed price paid for on a monthly basis) and SmartPay (market price propane purchases with monthly payments) are offered Payment Protection to cover remaining payments if the primary ($39.99/year) or joint account ($59.99/year) holder dies, a little like insurance.

Amerigas tanks

Amerigas only rents propane tanks out to customers. There is little possibility for propane users to purchase propane tanks from Amerigas, though the company has been known to let customers purchase Amerigas tanks that are on a property that has just been bought. The company charges around $125 per year to rent a 500-gallon aboveground tank.

The lease price for Amerigas tanks varies according to size and the local Amerigas office. It is important for you to establish what size you might need when requesting a quote from the company. Most homes using propane as a primary source of energy require a 500-gallon tank.

Amerigas fees and charges

 

Description

Price

Fuel Recovery Fee

Propane transportation

$7.76

HazMat & Safety Compliance Fee

Employee safety training

$9.59

Late Chare

Late payment

1.5% of balance or $36

Late Check Charge

Returned check.

$33

Pump-Out/Restocking Charge

Excess propane removal

35c per gallon

Special Trip Charge

After hours delivery

Labor rates

Meter Service Fee

Measuring propane consumption

$9.99

Special Dispatch Charge

Non Amerigas equipment repair

$39.99

When choosing a propane company it is crucial to understand what is included in your contract. Propane dealers charge for some services and include others. Amerigas applies the following charges, regardless of your arrangement with them:

  • Amerigas offsets vehicle fuelling and maintenance costs incurred during propane deliveries by charging a Fuel Recovery Fee of $7.76 (the fee changes monthly depending on propane prices).
  • Part of Amerigas’ efforts to implement the highest safety standards (complying with federal, state and local regulations, and training employees) involves charging a $9.59 HazMat & Safety Compliance Fee (HazMat stands for hazardous materials, of which propane is one).
  • If you are late in paying your propane bill, Amerigas will charge you a Late Charge of 1.5% of the average daily balance or $36, whichever is higher. Similarly, if your payment check bounces, you will have to pay a $33 Late Check Charge.
  • No propane tank can be moved if it is above 5% capacity. Therefore, if you return a leased tank to Amerigas, the company will charge 35c per gallon as a Pump-Out/Restocking Charge to remove excess propane from the tank.
  • Amerigas has a Special Trip Charge for after-hours or weekend deliveries but does not indicate a price since it depends on local labor rates.
  • If you would rather use an Amerigas meter to measure you propane consumption, Amerigas will charge you a $9.99 Meter Service Fee for maintenance, reading and administrative costs.
  • For maintaining customer-owned propane equipment or picking up a tank that is not Amerigas-owned, the company charges a Special Dispatch Charge of $39.99.

Amerigas community involvement

Registering a school with the Amerigas School Days Program enables this school to benefit from a $0,02 per gallon contribution (up to $2,000 per year) from the company for school-related purchases.

Similarly, registered community organizations can benefit from $0,02 per gallon through the Community Care Program that can be used for various purposes, such as offsetting energy expenses (up to $2,000 per year).

The idea is that Amerigas customers link their propane purchases to a school or an organization to enable them to benefit from Amerigas community commitments. This is also an incentive to convince people involved in a school or local organization to purchase propane from Amerigas.