Suburban Propane

Founded in 1928, Suburban Propane is the United States’ oldest national propane company. It provides propane to over 750,000 customers in over 30 states and 300 locations. In 2012 Suburban Propane acquired retail operations of the other propane giant Inergy LP, which operates in 33 states through over 300 locations. Therefore, Suburban Propane now serves over a million customers and has greatly increased its distribution network.

Recommendation

Check whether Suburban Propane offers a combination of pre-buy/fixed pricing, automatic delivery and budget planning for your home. This way, you will offset the cost of filling a propane tank over several months, never worry about running out of propane, and not have to worry about fluctuating propane prices.

Suburban Propane summary

 

Description

What to ask

Suburban Propane services

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

What are your propane needs? Request that your quote takes them into account in as much detail as possible.

Suburban Propane safety record

Excellent. 24/7/365 emergency line.

What is the company’s safety history and record in your area? Ask when requesting a quote.

Suburban Propane business reputation

Excellent.

How responsive is your local customer care number? Call to find out.

Suburban Propane propane price

Of the three national propane companies, Suburban Propane is the most expensive for Ohio -state closest to the national average in terms of propane prices in March 2013.

What price are you being offered per gallon? Compare it with market price trends.

Suburban Propane delivery options

Pay-by-delivery and automatic delivery.

Would you rather decide when propane is delivered or rely on the company to assess your needs for you and delivery automatically?

Suburban Propane pricing options

Fixed pricing, market pricing and budget planning.

Would you prefer to pay for propane is one or several installments? Would you rather follow propane market price trends or pay a fixed price that is negotiated beforehand for the entire year?

Suburban propane fees and charges

Safety, transportation, tank rent, installation, minimum purchase, off-route delivery, emergency delivery, repair assessments, excess propane removal, tank removal, early termination, reconnect, late payment / bounced check.

Do you know exactly what you may be billed for? Do you want to maintain your own propane tank or have your propane company do it for you?

Suburban Propane location map

Suburban Propane safety record

Suburban Propane underlines the importance of propane safety. Like most large propane companies, it has a 24/7/365 emergency toll-free number for customers. The company offers simple, reader-friendly safety tips online on a variety of safety topics, from general propane safety, to gas leaks, gas equipment and carbon monoxide.

The company is a member of the National Propane Gas Association. It participates in the Propane Research and Education Council. Both those organizations place heavy emphasis on consumer safety and employee safety training, particularly in complying with federal, state and local regulations (for example, Suburban Propane’s Safety Practices and Training Fee aims to keep employees up to date with the industry’s latest safety methods and experience).

Suburban Propane customer care

Online consumer feedback indicates that Suburban Propane has an exemplary reputation. Over 90% of customer complaints filed against Suburban Propane have been resolved in a satisfactory way, from services to billing issues. However, customer care quality depends on the people at your local Suburban Propane office so you should call them to find out how courteous and responsive they are.

Suburban Propane propane price

Suburban Propane does not publish its propane prices, which depend on various elements, and in particular region (proximity to a major distribution center decreases propane price), propane usage (the higher the consumption, the lower the propane price) and climate (warmer climates have less impact on demand so prices tend to be lower).

With regards to its two main competitors (Suburban Propane and Ferrellgas), Suburban Propane appears to have the highest prices for Ohio, which is 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

Suburban Propane Will-Call

The Will-Call option allows you to pay for propane at the market price each time you order a propane delivery. This way, you monitor your float gauge, which measures the level of propane in your tank. When the gauge goes below 30%, you should consider calling Suburban Propane and ordering a gas delivery. As you do this, you should ask Suburban Propane what their price is and compare it to the regional average and general price trends to ensure the price you are quoted reflects them.

Will-Call propane orders are advantageous if you have a large propane tank or use limited amounts of propane. In this case, you can order propane when it is cheapest, usually in summer, and stay clear of winter price hikes (because demand increases in winter since a lot of home owners use propane for heating). The best way to pay the cheapest propane price is to know your propane usage (Suburban Propane can give you an estimate) and figure out when you will need your tank filled.

However, the Will-Call service from Suburban Propane also means that if you risk running out of propane if you forget to plan a delivery. This is inconvenient for three reasons: First, your propane appliances will stop working; second, you will be required by law to have a leak test (compulsory when gas supply is interrupted), which can cost more than $100; third, if you want propane immediately, Suburban Propane will charge you an Emergency/Special Delivery Fee. Moreover, if you are off route and on Will-Call, Suburban Propane may charge you a Will-Call Fee.

Suburban Propane Automatic Delivery

Suburban Propane encourages clients to select automatic propane deliveries. On the basis of your usage estimate (home size, number of occupants, propane appliances, etc.) and weather conditions, Suburban Propane will plan deliveries when their calculations indicate that your tank capacity is likely to fall under 30%. If you want to ensure that you do not run out of propane or if you need propane for a secondary home that you do not use regularly, automatic delivery can be very convenient.

Automatic delivery has one drawback: often, customers do not check what price they are being charged for propane at each delivery. To avoid unpleasant billing surprises, it is recommended that you keep an eye on your tank gauge and call Suburban Propane around the time you expect a delivery to check what price they are asking per gallon of propane and ensure the price reflects market trends.

Suburban Propane billing

Suburban Propane lets customers choose between two billing options. If they wish to do so, Suburban Propane customers can pay their propane bill in one go. However, because filling a propane tank can be a costly business (the US average yearly propane expenditure in 2012 was $973) Suburban Propane enables customers to pay their propane bills over 12 months.

The company offers a convenient online payment system that enables clients to register to avoid having to fill in their customer details every time. For customers who prefer not to have their details stored online, Suburban Propane offers a One-Time Payment solution for bill payments.

Suburban Propane tanks

Suburban Propane offers customers both underground and aboveground tanks in all sizes. It is possible to rent your tank from the company or purchase it from them. Suburban Propane encourages customers to order underground tanks given that they fit in with the landscape more easily (whereas aboveground tanks tend to be an eye-sore). They offer free expert advice to determine what size tank your home requires.

Suburban Propane may charge a yearly tank rent fee. For example, one of its outlets it Ohio requires customers to pay $24 per year to rent a 500-gallon propane tank. This varies from one Suburban Propane office to another so ask what the fee might be when you request a quote from the company.

It is important to remember that aboveground tanks are cheapest to purchase and rent but that underground tanks are practically invisible. It is also crucial to realize to choose the right size tank for your needs: a larger tank may be more expensive but it allows you to plan your propane deliveries better and might save you money in the long run if you order propane when it is cheapest. It is recommended that you take some time establishing what your propane needs might be and give your criteria to the Suburban Propane consultants when requesting a quote.

Suburban Propane fees and charges

 

Description

Price

Safety Practices & Training Fee

Employee safety training.

$9.62

Transportation Fuel Surcharge

Petrol price hikes

< $10

Tank Rent Fee

Renting a company tank

Variable

Installation Fee

Installing/fitting a propane tank

Hourly rate

Minimum Monthly Purchase Requirement

Minimum propane order

Around $150

System Leak Test Fee

Testing a system for gas leaks

Around $100

Will Call Fee

Off-route propane order

Around $100

Emergency/Special Delivery Fee

After hours propane order

Around $200

Diagnostic Fee

Customer-owned appliance assessment

Hourly rate

Restocking Fee

Excess propane removal

Variable

Closeout Fee

Account termination and tank removal

$30

Early Termination Fee

Early account termination

Around $150

Reconnect Fee

Reconnecting propane supply

Around $100

Late Charge

Late payment

1.5%/month

Returned Check Fee

Bounced check

Around $30

Suburban Propane charges a Safety Practices & Training Fee to help it comply with federal, state and local safety regulations. This is included in your propane bill and offsets costs associated to inspections and training related to the company’s vehicles and staff. The fee is not related to the amount of propane ordered (it is the same for every customer).

Suburban Propane’s Transportation Fuel Surcharge defrays costs associated with the crude oil price volatility. A significant part of your propane price per gallon is calculated to include transportation costs (so it increases with distance). The fuel surcharge helps the company resist petrol price hikes so it varies with the cost of fuel.

Customers who rent a Suburban Propane tank (as opposed to customers who own their own propane tank) are charged a Tank Rent Fee to compensate for tank maintenance and upkeep done by Suburban Propane employees. Paying this yearly fee means that Suburban Propane customers are not charged for each tank maintenance operation or inspection.

For some customers, Suburban Propane charges a tank Installation Fee when installing a propane tank or a propane system. This covers materials and labor costs. Indeed, not only does the system need to be connected properly but it involves fittings that the company will not recover, such as valves, regulators and piping.

Customers who order fewer gallons of propane over a year than indicated in their contract are asked to pay a Minimum Monthly Purchase Requirement fee. The price of propane per gallon depends in part on how much propane you intend to use (and order; the higher the amount, the lower the price) so it is in your interest to rightly assess your yearly propane consumption to avoid having to pay this fee.

When installing a new gas system, when connecting a gas system or if your tank has run out of propane (interruption of supply), a leak test is required. Leaks are the most common safety issue with propane installations and every precaution is taken by companies to test the system before it starts operating. Therefore, Suburban Propane charges a System Leak Test Fee to offset labor costs. In this regard, it is important to keep an eye on your tank level and ensure you do not run out of propane to avoid having to pay this fee.

Suburban Propane sometimes charges a Will Call Fee to customers who are off-route and who need propane more quickly than usual (but who are not on automatic delivery). This helps the company cover extra transportation and administrative costs incurred by the delivery.

Ordering a propane delivery after-hours or on weekends implies that the company has to pay its drivers a higher labor rate. This is why Suburban Propane charges an Emergency/Special Delivery Fee if you suddenly realize you are about to run out of propane and need a delivery immediately. The best way to avoid having to pay this fee is to keep an eye on your tank capacity and order a delivery whenever the gauge reads between 20% and 30%. Alternatively, you could ask for automatic delivery.

Customers often want the simplicity of having their propane company not only provide them with propane but also inspect and maintain their propane installation. Suburban Propane offers such services but charges a Diagnostic Fee to assess potential repairs required on customer-owned propane systems and appliances.

Propane tanks cannot be moved if they are above 5% capacity. Therefore, Suburban Propane needs to pick up a tank because a customer is moving but there is still propane in the tank, the company charges a Restocking Fee (also called a Pump Out Fee) to empty and disconnect the tank. The fee varies with location at it is determined by local labor costs. It is worthwhile to check what Suburban Propane what they will pay for your excess propane, as well.

Suburban Propane charges a Closeout Fee (also known as a Tank Pickup Fee) if you do not renew your propane supply agreement with them or need to close your account. The fee covers administrative costs and offsets the labor and transportation costs of having the Suburban Propane-owned tank removed. The fee also varies with local labor costs.

Suburban Propane charges an Early Termination Fee when customers who signed a propane supply agreement for a certain amount of time (typically, between 18 and 36 months) wish to end it before the agreement stipulates. To an extent, this is because when entering into an agreement with Suburban Propane, the company calculated the business customers bring them and early termination affects this forecast. Suburban Propane Early Termination fees vary from customer to customer but are generally between $100 and $200.

If a customer has not paid their propane bill, their propane tank will be disconnected and locked. Reconnecting propane supply from the tank to the home system requires paying a Reconnect Fee to Suburban Propane as well as settling past dues.

Suburban Propane requires customers to pay a Late Charge if they pay for propane deliveries later than agreed upon. Propane delivery payment deadlines are usually indicated in your propane supply agreement. Similarly, to cover bank charges associated with processing a customer check with insufficient funds, Suburban Propane charges a Returned Check Fee.

Suburban Propane services

Suburban Propane’s advantage is that it offers a wide range of services beyond propane deliveries and tank installation.

The company sells and installs propane equipment and appliances, from heaters, to humidifiers and hearth products. This means that you can contact Suburban Propane from the moment you have decided on your home configuration (what type of appliances you want, for example) and request a global quote.

Even if you decide not to use Suburban Propane appliances, the company offers repair services, annual heating check-ups and heating comfort service plans (heating system maintenance). It can be convenient to have Suburban Propane experts give you advice on how to save energy (and reduce propane usage) and having a single company to call for propane deliveries and appliance maintenance can be reassuring.

Furthermore, Suburban Propane customers who refer new clients to the company are eligible for 35 gallons of free propane. At December 2012 average national propane prices ($2.413/gal), this is worth $84.

Suburban Propane community involvement

Suburban Propane sponsors the American Red Cross and proudly advertises strong community involvement from its local offices ranging from propane awareness-raising in local communities to sponsoring local hot-air balloon festivals.