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Two options to refill propane; one is a rip-off

It’s cold! And before long, winter’s temps will be even colder. For RVers who love to travel in the cold and snow, propane is a necessity. In warmer temps, you mainly use propane to fuel your grill and perhaps the RV’s oven/cooktop. However, in colder temps, you need propane to stay warm and comfortable. In some cases, you may need it to stay alive! The cost of propane that fuels your RV furnace has increased significantly in the past several months. That’s why it’s important to know about the propane refill rip-off. You need to know the difference between paying a flat rate for propane or paying only for the propane drawn.

Two options to refill propane

When you go to refill your large propane tanks, you have two options. It depends on the propane supplier as to how you’ll be charged.

Option 1: Flat rate

This means that you pay a flat fee regardless of how much propane may still be in your propane tanks. Most RVers do not wait until their propane tanks are completely empty before they go to refill them. After all, who wants to face a cold, winter night without propane for their RV furnace? Not me!

If you are in an area where propane is only sold at a flat rate, you’ll want to completely drain your first tank and switch to your auxiliary propane tank. Take the empty tank, pay the flat rate, and then when you’ve used all the propane in the auxiliary tank, switch back to the original (now filled) tank. Pay the flat rate to fill the auxiliary tank and repeat the procedure.

Option 2: Pay for propane drawn

This payment structure is what you’re doing when you fill your car’s fuel tank with gasoline. You pay only for the fuel you pump into your car. You do not pay a flat rate. When you pay for propane drawn, you are only paying for the propane it takes to fill your tank.

Everyone’s different

We usually get our propane tanks refilled at the local Tractor Supply Company store. The reason? TSC refills propane tanks and charges only for the gallons they pump. They do not charge a flat rate. (At least not in our area.) Our TSC store has no minimum limit to refill and does not charge for purging tanks. You can check out their website for dollars-off coupons, too.

Not every propane outlet is the same. You should ask how they charge before they fill your tank.

How do you pay for propane? In your opinion is the “flat rate” charge a rip-off? What is the propane cost per pound in your area? Let us know in the comments below, please.

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Hal Whiting
1 month ago

I purchased five refilled tanks from Walmart and for the most part I was okay with the price. But when I got them home and put them in my storage facility I thought it would be interesting to see how much they weighed. To my surprise some of them weighed 30 lb and some of them weighed 35 lb. Obviously there is a difference in the quantity of propane being sold in the tanks. I will take a luggage scale with me from now on if I buy a pre-filled tank. I have the tanks for backup cooking and generator but I am disappointed with the difference in the filled quantities. Obviously at Walmart the quality control is not too close and besides who weighs their propane tanks when they are buying.

Last edited 1 month ago by Hal Whiting
Michael C Schrader
1 month ago

I pay $2.84 per gallon of propane. Other places around like Tractor Supply are charging north of $3.50 per gallon. That’s hwy robbery!!!

Ace
1 month ago

I prefer to pay only for what I use. However, in fairness to a small business owner; it takes a certain amount of time to fill the tank, deal with the payment and paperwork and additionally pay a 3-4% credit card fee. If they are only selling a partial tank full then it begins to offset any profit they could have made.

F Galarneau
2 months ago

I paid a flat rate of $ 21.00 for a 30# tank in northern MI a couple weeks ago deer hunting .I didn’t think that was bad at all.

T willis
2 months ago

Wow where are you guys at?
I’m in California and some places are charging up to $4.50 per gallon.

Judy
1 month ago
Reply to  T willis

Sacramento $3.49 a gallon at Shell gas station.

Chuck Osborn
2 months ago

I saw one place charging a $1.93 I presume it’s a gallon up here in Sault Ste Marie Michigan

SaveAmerica
2 months ago

FLAT RATE IS AN OBVIOUS RIP OFF.
CHEAP STORES DON’T WANT TO MAKE CHANGE AND IN ALMOST ALL SITUATIONS OVER CHARGE.
PURE BS AND WE NEVER FILL AT THOSE LOCATIONS. NEVER.

Richard Hughes
2 months ago

The biggest rip off are the tank swap places. The ones outside of stores, where you trade your empty for a 60 dollar plus one with propane. I have never found one of the “filled” replacement tanks over 2/3ds full and a lot only half.

Ed Caire
2 months ago
Reply to  Richard Hughes

I think it’s the best deal in town to exchange an outdated tank. It’s much less expensive to trade an outdated tank for a current date tank than buy a new tank and fill

Haybob
2 months ago

The other problem with flat rate exchange. Check the date codes, you give them a newer tank and grap what ever. Probably and old one that r v park won’t refill. Rhino is good for that.

Cee
2 months ago

Have never experienced flat rate propane and wouldn’t use that type of service. The place I purchased my MH offers me propane for $0.99 /gal. so get it there when I’m in the states they have stores. I purchased my MH when it was 2.5 yrs old, that was 4 years ago and they haven’t raised the price. Actually anyone could buy it for $0.99 but last year when prices were rocketing they changed their policy; you had to have purchased an RV from them to get the lower price.

SaveAmerica
2 months ago
Reply to  Cee

Share the name of dealer. Is it available to everyone or obtain those who bought their rv from them. Great deal!

Admin
RV Staff
2 months ago
Reply to  SaveAmerica

Cee did mention that as of last year “you had to have purchased an RV from them to get the lower price.” Have a good night. 😀 –Diane

Cee
2 months ago
Reply to  RV Staff

Thanks for the clarification Diane. Have a good evening.

Last edited 2 months ago by Cee
Admin
RV Staff
2 months ago
Reply to  Cee

You’re welcome, Cee. Just wanted to mention that in case you didn’t see the comment. And thank you. I hope you have a good evening/night, also. 😀 –Diane

Cee
2 months ago
Reply to  SaveAmerica

The name of the dealer is Bretz RV and Marine in Montana and Idaho.

Margo Schabel
2 months ago

Just filled up our 2 30lb tanks for $50.92 at a local hardware store.

Steve
2 months ago

I always look for local propane supplier. They fill tanks full. Another option ( if you use portable tanks like 30 pounders) is to have a spare, or have a spare 20 lb. grill tank and use that as a backup. Works well.

Drew
2 months ago

I’ve never seen a flat rate place, in fact I just heard about them here. We always fill our five gallon ones at the hardware store when we get other stuff we need. The rv gets topped off at the camp ground.- They always have the cheapest prices.

Joe
2 months ago

It depends. If I have time I will go to the cheapest place and get the tank filled. U-Haul charges just as much to fill your tank as to swap it out or maybe even more. Wal-Mart tank swaps are by far the cheapest almost the same as getting it filled. If your tank is getting old, then just swap it out with a new one anywhere! Pros and cons to both.

MikeD
2 months ago
Reply to  Joe

This is important to note. Labor rates change from city to city. Pipelines bring gas around the country leading to variable pricing up to 40 cents higher depending on destination. Flat rates allow managers to fill tanks easier while the labor market is out of sorts and you’ve trained your fifth refiller this year. Due to the fact propane is moved the way it is, it’s impossible to regulate pricing. Some may say flat rate but the rate may accommodate a ‘splash’ of gas in the tank. Splash can be determined by using an average amount of gas based on experience. So many ways to skin this cat. I’d say if you go to fill only 1 gal of your 5 gal tank, then you should buy per gal. The refiller still has to mobilize an employee to attend to you, turn on the pump and go through the motions. This is why the flat rate… Because labor in many cases may be just as much or more as the cost of gas in your tank.

Irv
2 months ago
Reply to  MikeD

+1

Wolfe
2 months ago

I have about 9-10 20# tanks, and wait for CountryMax to put their flat-rate refills on sale in the Spring and Fall here — *SEVEN dollars for 19.5-20 pounds* most years. I didn’t need to refill this Fall, but I think it’s gone up to 8 or 9 this year. Still a STEAL compared to most places. They also do bulk-fill for my larger tanks at a “reasonable” but less stellar rate.

And yes, learn to use your RV’s automatic failover if you have one — I never bring them propane in the tank. In fact, if I change the cooking grill early for a party, I’ll always run the last of every tank out on my mosquito killer that uses every last drop.

Al S
2 months ago

My experience having traveled over most of the USA is where they charge a flat rate for propane. It cost is more than where they charged by the gallon. Example WTG charges 27 dollars for a 7 gallon or 30 lb. cylinder. Tractor Supply charges by the gallon and is cheaper in the same town.

Al K
2 months ago

On Labour Day weekend one of my 30lb tanks was empty. I was away from home and thought best to have it filled. Went to an Esso station and paid the flat rate. When back at the campsite I thought it was light but didn’t have a scale to weight it. Took it back to the station he scaled it and said it was 30 lbs of propane. On Google reviews there was a complaint that the station was charging for 30 lb and only filling 20 lb. I scaled the tank yes there was only 20 lb in the tank. I called Esso to complain they offered $10 I said no deal. They ended up sending a $50 voucher. There are now 2 bad reviews at that station and I would never return to buy anything there.

Don H
2 months ago

You missed option 3: the “tank exchange” where you just drop off your old tank and pick up a new, pre-filled one. This is far worse than even the flat-rate system, and is very common at grocery and hardware stores in the US. Even if the new tank is actually full (they often are not) the price/gallon of LP is double or more what you will pay at a metered propane fill station.

Frank Niehius
2 months ago
Reply to  Don H

But is a good deal if your tank is out of inspection, just turn in the old out of date and get another one that’s been inspected with a new date on it.

Tom 2424
2 months ago
Reply to  Frank Niehius

Yes! I recently did just that. Got an Amerigas tank that was only 1 year old from Home Depot. The girl was very helpful as I picked one out and had no idea the tanks were even marked with dates. Serves Amerigas right for all the “tank exchanges” I bought from them that were only 3/4 full before I figured this out. Yes, the labelling discloses that they only contain 15 lbs, so not strictly illegal, but certainly mis-leading. But that’s why they carefully call them “exchanges” and not “refills”. ‘Cuz they ain’t full…!

Jim Johnson
2 months ago
Reply to  Frank Niehius

Absolutely – so long as you are only using 20# tanks. One thing not mentioned is you don’t HAVE to continue to exchange a tank you got from the exchange service. So I go for a newer tank and bulk refill that tank until it is outdated, do another exchange and back to bulk refills.

Warren G
2 months ago
Reply to  Don H

I go to a local feed store that sells by the gallon. The last time I had a completely empty tank and it was $20. That’s the same price as the exchange tanks at our grocery store.

Steve
2 months ago
Reply to  Don H

an option but not a good idea. The exchange tanks are not completely filled. I know people who do an exchange and then have them topped off.

Rob
2 months ago
Reply to  Don H

Notice the label on the tank on a 20 tank Clearly states. 15 lb propane.

Dave Savini
2 months ago
Reply to  Don H

Tank exchange tanks are only allowed to be filled 80% , some law because they are transported

BobB
1 month ago
Reply to  Dave Savini

The 80% rule has nothing to do with the tank being an “exchange tank.” Propane tanks now have a valve that limits capacity to 80% of the tank’s volume in order to allow room for expansion of the gas in warmer temperatures. It’s a safety issue to prevent damage up to the point of possible explosion, not anything to do with exchange and transport.

Phillip Cusick
1 month ago
Reply to  BobB

Bob, you are correct, it’s a safety issue for sure. Additionally, the 20 gallon tanks have a 12 year life. After 12 years the law states they are required to be pressure tested with new seals and o rings installed. They are then stamped with the “tested” date ensuring another 12 years of use.
I’m a part timer at our local hardware where we refill at a flat rate on the 20 gallon tanks and by the gallon on motor homes. It’s an issue of cost per man hours to fill the tanks with an average of 5-10 minutes to refill a 20 gallon tank. An empty 20 lb cylinder will weigh approximately 17 lbs while full 37 lbs. It holds approximately 16 gallons of propane (equating to 80%).

Jesse Crouse
2 months ago

Pay for what you use.

Jerry
2 months ago

In our part of the country (Ontario, Canada) most charge flat rate. Costco in our city is the best price AND only charges for what you use.

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