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Paying up front saves on oil bills

By GEORGE GOMBOSSY

Publication: The Day

Published April 21. 2013 4:00AM

It's not the flashiest website you have ever seen, but CashHeatingOil.com can save you a lot of time and hassle and possibly get you the cheapest price for home heating oil. The website is only for those who can pay cash on delivery or pay with a credit card.

Instead of trying to find out which oil companies service your town and then contact each one to get the best price, CashHeatingOil.com does it for you.

It is easy to navigate. You just put in your zip code and one or more boxes of information come up showing the exact price you would pay for cash or credit card delivery.

It is broken down by the amount of oil you wish to purchase - from 50 gallons to 300 gallons. The more you want to buy the less you normally pay per gallon.

It also tells you whether delivery can be made today or if the earliest delivery is next day. Prices are updated daily by the dealers.

The names of the dealers are withheld until the actual order is placed online. But with each offer there are testimonials about the quality of service from that company. Many of the testimonials have full identification of the customer.

For instance, if you live in Windsor, you type in your zip code of 06095 and hit enter and four boxes will appear, each containing information from different dealers.

On April 11, the first box happened to have the lowest prices for those ordering at least 100 gallons of oil. It was $3.34 for cash per gallon and $3.38 per gallon if you want to pay by credit card. By the way, cash for this company means cash, not checks. For between 50 and 99 gallons the price was $3.99 for cash and $4.03 for credit card.

There were at least three dozen testimonials, most of which included first and last names of satisfied customers.

The website is the brainchild of Peter Renehan of Madison, who launched CashHeatingOil.com in Connecticut about 30 months ago. He has since expanded to Long Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland and New York counties close to New York City.

"We try to have the lowest price dealers with great service," he said in a telephone interview. "It's such a mess trying to find the lowest price without the hidden fees on your own."

Renehan said that about 45 oil companies use his site in Connecticut with the most popular being in New Haven, Fairfield and Hartford counties.

The companies, he said, pay a fee to be included on the site and he also has paid advertisers on the sides of the pages.

During the middle of winter about 2,500 Connecticut consumers were using his site each day.

Many of the firms are small businesses with one or two trucks, Renehan said. Because they are small they can quickly fill orders. He said it is not unusual to have an oil delivery made within 20 minutes after an online order is placed.

His website, Renehan said, can have a major impact for a small business. Two companies that only had one truck were able to add a second truck after being on his site, he said.

"That kind of thing is pretty rewarding, to help people out," he said. "It is a win-win. A win for the homeowner and a win for small businesses. I guess the only losers are those that charge higher prices."

When he launched his business two and a half years ago, it was slow going at first with dealers reluctant to sign up and list their prices, he said. However, the mild winter a year ago helped convince many dealers to make use of his marketing platform.

Renehan said dealers don't want to have their names listed next to their prices for two reasons: they would rather just take orders over the Internet instead of getting phone calls, or they are full-service firms that charge a higher amount to their full-service customers.

That is why Renehan says his firm requests reviews from customers to make up for not listing the identities of the heating oil companies.

george@ctwatchdog.com; www.ctwatchdog.com

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