Which is Better: Automatic Delivery or Will Call Delivery?

One of the first things you should do when you’re new to home heating oil is, to figure out if you want to sign up for automatic delivery or not. Automatic delivery is a contract that you sign up for with your oil distributor for at least a year. The agreement is usually pretty simple. It normally states that you will only buy heating oil from them, and they deliver to you without ordering. On the surface, this sounds like a great idea, but this could become a major financial liability. We’ll touch on that more below.

If you don’t choose automatic delivery, your other option is “will-call”. This is also referred to as call by deliveries. This is when you order oil only when you need it. There are many pros and cons to each and in this post, we’ll break those down for you!

Automatic delivery forces you to order oil from one supplier. This means that if their prices go up, then you’re unable to do anything about it. You’re locked into their premium pricing which could be a frustrating financial liability.

The Basics of Heating Oil

You will have to have heating oil delivered periodically, unlike natural gas or electric heating. But before you order your first delivery of heating oil, you’ll want to be familiar with these terms in particular:

Automatic Delivery: This is an arrangement that you make with your oil company that tends to last around a year. Your oil company will deliver you heating oil consistently by their schedule. There is a program that dealers will often use called “Degree Days” to estimate when you will need your next delivery as well as your tank’s level. You will often have to pay a premium price for these deliveries in particular.

Will-Call: The alternative to automatic delivery is will-call. By being a will-call customer, you can take advantage of the best heating oil prices. That means that you will get access to prices that are lower than what your oil dealer is offering you with the automatic delivery. However, the only downside to this is that you will have to keep track of your own oil level. Whenever you need oil, check out our FuelSnap website to get the best deals on heating oil!

Service Contract: This is a form of maintenance plan that provides you with 24/7 support. This is very useful if your heating system were to suddenly fail during the winter. Sometimes this can be included for “free” with your automatic delivery service, but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes dealers will say it’s free, but you’re actually paying an additional dollar or two per gallon of oil. That could add up to $800-$1200 extra per year! There are dozens of local service providers that are willing to service your tank in an emergency. You can also periodically inspect your own tank, to ensure that it doesn’t get to the point where you need someone to take a look at it.

Budget Payment Plan: This is a budget friendly option that spreads out your spending on heating oil over the course of a few months. This can help get rid of huge heating oil bills during the peak season by evenly distributing them across multiple smaller bills. These types of customers are typically the most profitable for oil companies. This is because they can charge very high prices for heating oil without the consumer even knowing.

Fixed-Price Agreement: This is an agreement when you sign up for automatic delivery with your heating oil company. A major benefit to this is that it locks in your pricing if major increases in price occur. Unfortunately, this does come with a price. Sometimes you will tend to pay an additional 20 cents extra per gallon for estimated usage. On top of that, if oil prices were to go down, you will still be paying your fixed price. So while yes, it does have it’s benefits, it tends to be a double edged sword.

Price-Cap: A price-cap is a plan that you make with your oil distributor for when prices fluctuate, your payments wont exceed a certain amount. This is an agreement that many homeowners fall for. A lot of homeowners believe that there is no downside to this, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. There’s a saying, “If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is!”. When oil prices on the market drop, dealers are not obligated to lower their prices for their consumers. While you’re protected incase prices shoot through the roof, you’ll be paying extra if the price drops. This is a situation that’s similar to the Fixed-Price Agreement.

Choosing Between Automatic Delivery and Will-Call

In the past, those were the only two options to go with, when it comes to ordering heating oil. You could either pay the premium price of automatic delivery, or order your oil every so often as a “will-call” customer. Even in today’s day and age, dealers are still charging up to 50 cents more per gallon of oil with automatic delivery. Some even charging up to an extra dollar per gallon! Keep a close eye out for this so that you don’t get roped into buying the premium prices for oil with automatic delivery. Even if they promise you a cheap first fill, the price will continue to go up afterwards!

With the will-call option, you’ll avoid over-paying for heating oil. You’ll be able to price shop before settling down on one price. Additionally, make sure your oil gauge is working properly! The last thing you want is for your gauge to be reading incorrectly! If you need to replace your gauge, make sure to read our detailed guide on how to replace your oil tank gauge.

As a will-call customer, having a working tank gauge is crucial to be able to know what your oil level is and when it’s time to buy more oil

There is some good news. There are no longer only two options. A third option has been added which combines the cheap oil prices and ease of having automatic delivery. That third option is the Smart Oil Gauge. The Smart Oil Gauge is a gauge that you install onto your tank that connects to your WIFI. It will keep track of how much oil is currently in your tank and will alert you if the oil is low and remind you to order! The app also gives you the ability to order directly from it! That makes ordering oil incredibly convenient!

With the smart oil gauge, you’ll receive some peace of mind when it comes to ordering oil. You’ll get the best prices in your area! Ordering oil and the your tank’s status will be at the tip of your fingers! You can monitor your tank and order oil from anywhere!

What is the Best Heating Oil Delivery Option for You?

So what’s the best option? We’ve compiled the three options together and have rated them against each other for your convenience.

While automatic delivery is more convenient than the others, it comes with a lot of restrictions compared to Will-Call with and without the smart oil gauge. You’ll more often than not pay 40-50 cents per gallon more with automatic delivery compared to will-call.

3rd Place: Automatic Delivery

If you don’t want to think about your heating oil, then this form of delivery is for you! You can sign up for automatic delivery at the beginning of the season and you will get billed at the beginning of every month. This is definitely the more expensive choice, but if money isn’t an issue for you then we recommend it! Alternatively, you will be able to choose a budget option if you prefer, which can spread out your payments more throughout the season! However, it’s only possible with automatic delivery. Just keep in mind that you will begin to slowly pay more as time goes on.

Despite the convenience of automatic delivery, there is still risk of a runout. So you can ask your heating oil company to install some kind of tank monitor, or you can buy one of your own to keep an eye on your oil level!

2nd Place: Will-Call

Will-call delivery is a great way to save money when it comes to ordering. It will save you hundred of dollars per year and thousands of dollars over a long period of time. However, all of those savings will be for nothing if you run out of oil while you aren’t home. Frozen pipes are a real issue and can cost several thousands of dollars to fix the damages.

If your tank is located in a convenient position, will-call is the easiest way to go! You’ll also have complete flexibility when it comes to choosing who you want to order oil from. You’ll also be able to shop around and get the best prices available to you! Just be sure that you check your tank regularly to ensure that you don’t run out of oil!

1st Place: Will-Call with The Smart Oil Gauge

The best way to save money with a delivery of oil is by using The Smart Oil Gauge alongside will call. For the low price of $150 the Smart Oil Gauge will give you the peace of mind that you get with automatic delivery. It will tell you how much oil is currently in your tank and will notify you when it’s time to order more!

With the inclusion of the app, you’ll be able to check oil prices for local dealers in your area. The app allows you to order oil from it by connecting to our FuelSnap website. With just the press of a button, you can pay online with a Credit or Debit card and have oil delivered to your home through the use of the app!

Is a Service Contract Worth It?

A handful of oil dealers will tell you that a service contract is a MUST and that automatic delivery is a requirement for a service contract. If your dealer says something along those lines, we recommend finding a new dealer. There are a lot of dealers that will provide you with a service contract without requiring you to buy an automatic delivery plan. DollarWise Oil is one of the few companies that offer a multitude of maintenance options. Ryan Anthony’s Heating Service Inc is another company that offers maintenance plans for your oil tanks! In the future, if your oil dealer is telling you that you are required to buy an automatic delivery plan to get maintenance, take a look elsewhere!


With all the technology that we have at our disposal, you’re bound to be able to take advantage of the best oil prices. By implementing the Smart Oil Gauge, you’ll be able to keep an eye on your tank’s oil level wherever you go! You’ll be able to have the peace of mind of automatic delivery, with the flexibility of will-call delivery. You can set your alerts to be able to send you notifications when it’s time to fill and when you get a delivery. You’ll also be able to order oil through the app to make sure you’re on top of your tank’s oil level.

Happy Heating,