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Pros and Cons of Owning a Propane Tank

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With the extreme propane pricing fluctuations during the 2013-2014 winter, Americans (especially those in the Midwest) are wondering what they can do to protect themselves from another expensive winter. Some propane suppliers may offer a fixed or ceiling rate in the summer, but if you missed that, your choices are limited for this year.

Most folks only have two choices: Buy a tank or rent it. Although rent-to-own hybrid arrangements do exist, they are rare. Let’s look at the pros and cons of owning a propane tank.

Pros of Owning a Tank:

  1. You get to shop and negotiate the best rate! Unless you own your tank, you don’t have the freedom to shop. No other supplier can fill your tank, so you are stuck with the rate that the supplier who owns your tank offers.
  2. No more minimum annual consumption fees or rental costs. When you rent or use a propane supplier’s tank, you are paying for the rental costs. Whether it’s a line item on your bill or not, the propane supplier is recouping the cost of their asset on your property. They may do this by raising their price per gallon above what you would get if you owned your tank.
  3. You can customize your tank. You can chose the color of your tank or paint it yourself.
  4. Stay within your comfort zone. When you own your propane tank, you get to choose the tank size you’re comfortable with. For many, sizing a tank so that you only need to buy in the summer when rates are low is a big incentive.
Photo courtesy everydaylady.deviantart.com
Photo courtesy everydaylady.deviantart.com

Cons of Owning a Tank:

  1. If you have a leak, that’s lost propane. I don’t think I need to elaborate here.
  2. Tanks are not cheap. Coming up with $400 to $2,000 to buy a propane tank is hard for most people. And even if that kind of money is accessible to you, you would probably much rather spend it on something fun.
  3. If you go, the tank goes. If you sell your property, you likely won’t find a buyer that understands the value of your investment. However, you can sell it or take it with you.
  4. The liability shifts to you. I would not advise owning a tank unless you have insurance. Accidents happen whether you own or rent a tank, but the owner is liable if the tank caused a mishap because of undetected repairs needed.
  5. You lose out on some perks. If you rent, propane companies are responsible for the safety of their own tanks. They should maintain the leased tanks and repair any issues with the equipment without charging you. While this isn’t always the case, they should pay close attention to required service and maintenance of the tanks and regulators for the protection of their customers. But don’t let this give you a false sense of security. I have spoken with many people who bought a house with a propane tank and they were unsure if it belongs to them or the supplier. Even the supplier doesn’t know! If a supplier’s records are that bad regarding ownership, are they really proactively keeping the equipment up to safety standards?

Ultimately, you will have to weigh your options and decide what the best decision is for you. Payback on a tank purchase takes about 3 years for the average consumer. After that payback, you’ll get $400 or more in savings each year for the life of a tank (which is at least 30 years).

Tank Monitoring

13 thoughts on “Pros and Cons of Owning a Propane Tank

  1. I grappled with the choice of owning vs renting. Here in Canada the tanks must be re-certified by our safety authority TSSA every 10 years. This is quite costly. Propane suppliers must replace or exchange the tanks as part of the rental agreement.

  2. We will need a tank for the Texas Gulf Coast which is about 7 miles from the Gulf. Would it be wise to bury a tank?

  3. I have been thinking about getting a tank to use for emergency heating in my house. I can see how it would be nice to buy my own tank because you can choose the size that you will use. I’ll have to buy one soon, that way I can have enough extra heat for the winter.

  4. Hi,

    Thank you for the information on PL tanks. We have recently bought a house up in WI and rent a 500 gal. lp. tank. The billing set up for area fill. We just got a bill for 604.92 only for the month of Dec. the gas company came twice and put 363.3 gals in the tank. Thats refill of around 80% of the tank with thermostat way down and the house id insulated. I know it has been very cold but my question is, that seems like a lot of fuel to me in such a short time. Is this normal to burn this much LP gas?

    Thank You,
    Roy

    1. You don’t specify the size of the house you are heating, but I have a 3000 sq ft house in NC with a 500 gallon tank, and I pay 500 to 700 a year for propane. Your comment implies that you were charged 604 for December alone. You don’t say what period of time the two refills covered. You’ll need to be more specific.

      1. I live in NC as well, my house is 1600 sq feet I only use it for my fireplace during winter
        my bill is 200-250 every 3 months
        not sure if I should buy a tank or rent one,
        I feel like it is a rip off to rent one,
        also, the fireplace in non vented and it only heats up living room
        so I am stumped buy or rent I need to make a choice quick as it is freezing already
        I have called a few companies already and Need to decide any options?

  5. I didn’t know that rates for buying a propane tank are lower in the summer. My husband and I are building a home this year and we’ve been debating if we want to do propane. I can see the benefits of getting one because we then wouldn’t have to rent and can save if we just had our own.

  6. My favorite part of this article is when you mentioned that owning a tank gives you the power to negotiate for the best rate. We’re a big family of five, and saving as much I can eventually translate to a better quality of life for me and my family. I’ve learned so much from your article, and I’m happy I came across this site when I did. I’d be sure to get my own propane tank now that I know how beneficial it is for me from a financial standpoint. Thanks for sharing this!

  7. I have decided to purchase my tank from the propane company I’ve been using for several years. It’s an older 320 gal tank, and I can purchase it for $500. Everyone I’ve spoken with says this is a great deal. It’s already set up, and hooked up. It’s not a DOT tank due to its size, therefore it does not have to be recertified. It’s also in great shape. I’ve never liked the control the companies have over you when you’re using their tank!

  8. I like that you mentioned that owning a propane tank can allow you to choose the size of the tank that you will feel comfortable with. This is something that I will make sure to remember because I’m interested in using propane gas, and I want to make sure that its tank can fit the size of my yard. Thanks for sharing your blog ion owning a propane tank.

  9. When you lease a 500 gallon propane tank how often does it get recertification ? I know portable tanks are good for only 12 years from manufacturer. My leased tank is 22 years old and has no indication its had recertification.
    Who is responsible for repainting a leased 500 gallon tank that has severe surface rust ?

    1. Thrre are two types of tank – DOT ans ASME. Most 500 gal tanks are ASME – but not all. ASME tanks do not usually require recertification unless they are damaged or fail a visual inspection by the filling company.

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