Save on Gas - buy fuel in bulk

Save on gas by filling your tank at home from cheaper bulk purchased fuel.

You can save on gas in a big way if you buy your fuel in bulk. Relatively few of us can do it and enjoy the convenience of a gas station right at the house, but I think saving 50 cents to $1 per gallon is worth the effort and expense of doing it.

And, I like filling my gas tank right at home.

Buy Fuel in Bulk

Buying cheap gas is easy if you buy in bulk in January or February when it's at its lowest price. This is how I cut down on the cost of fuel for my vehicles and equipment. It makes sense to me and is worth considering.

Gas prices go down during the winter and up during the summer. Whether you think it's price gouging or just supply and demand in action, it makes no difference. It is what it is.

Until you create marketplace alternatives, like making your own fuel, you're stuck with buying it from some outfit that does.

The point being, let’s not just complain about gas prices, let’s do something about them by trying to save on gas with bulk purchases in the off season.

Bulk fuel storage tanks help you save on gas by enabling you to buy at a low price during the winter season.

Pictured above are my two 500 gallon bulk fuel tanks for gasoline and a 300 gallon bulk fuel tank for diesel fuel. One gas tank will last me at least two years, that's how little I drive. Normally one tank stays empty because I don't want to have to store gasoline for more than two years, and I don't want to risk evaporative losses. The diesel fuel tank will last me perhaps five years or more, that's how little I use my heavy equipment. In any case, these allow me to save on gas for my car, yard equipment and heavy equipment.

Here is an example. In the winter of 2006 I purchased 1,000 gallons of mid-grade gasoline for $1.95 a gallon (delivered). In just a week or so, the price started to rise. After the price had gone about 25 cents a gallon higher than what I paid, I started using my fuel.

During that summer, we were seeing gas prices of $2.99 a gallon and higher, while I was using gas at $1 less per gallon.

You can save on gas at the pump, but you save much more when you're able to buy in bulk.

The year 2007 was similar. I saw the bottom of the market at about $2.87 a gallon for regular, so I ordered 250 gallons of mid-grade fuel at $2.91 a gallon. Only a few months later we were paying about $3.41 a gallon at the pumps, and summer gas prices were closer to $4 per gallon. My bulk fuel purchases that year saved me considerable pain at the pumps.

In January of 2012 I refilled my 500 gallon storage tank at $2.77 a gallon while gas in town was selling for $2.65 at the pumps. In the summer the price rose to $3.65 a gallon at the pumps, a savings for me of roughly 90 cents a gallon.

And, most recently in January of 2013, I wanted to save on gas with a bulk purchase but was uncertain about when the market would bottom out. Sensing a stall in the falling prices, I filled one of my gas storage tanks, topped off the other, and topped off my diesel tank. I missed the bottom of the market by about 10 cents a gallon, but just three weeks later the price began to rise very quickly. Within another week or two the price at the pumps had already jumped 50 cents a gallon from its low point. I expect much higher prices this summer, so I'll save on gas over the next couple of years for certain.

As a general rule, while I use my personal supply of cheap gas, conveniently located at the house, I save between 50 cents to one dollar per gallon. Just think, many of us get excited about a nickel difference in the price per gallon between stations. How excited would you be if you were able to save on gas to the tune of 75 cents per gallon?

So, the main benefits of having bulk fuel is to save on gas during the time of year when prices shoot through the roof, and having the convenience of never having to stop at a local gas station. You save on gas and have the ultimate in convenience.

The Cost of Bulk Fuel

Buying in bulk has costs, but I think they are worth it. First, it's a big outlay of cash to buy fuel in bulk. Second, you have to purchase a storage tank (generally 300 to 500 gallon capacity), and a stand for gravity feed filling of your vehicle(s). Tanks and stands typically come as a set. Expect to pay $700 to $850 new, and $200 to $300 used. Also, expect to pay a little more per gallon just to have it delivered, usually about 10 cents more.

The third consideration is when buying gas in bulk, you might want to stabilize the fuel to have it last those many months sitting in the storage tank. Fuel lasts a long time without stabilization, much longer with it.

Fourth, you need to put a good pressure/vacuum vent and seal on the tank to prevent loss through evaporation. This is essential. You can’t save on gas if you let it evaporate. The photo below shows an example of this device that helps you retain all of that low cost fuel you've purchased in bulk.

You can save on gas by preventing evaporative losses from your bulk storage tanks with one of these pressure and vacuum devices.

Fifth, your tank should be painted white to minimize heating from the sun that promotes evaporation. A sun shade over the top is something additional that you could employ, but it's not essential. Again, if you save on gas, you'll want to protect that gas from unnecessary evaporation.

One of my bulk storage tanks painted white. This helps save on gas by reducing evaporative losses.

Photo left shows one of my gasoline bulk fuel storage tanks relocated for better access in the winter, mounted on a new sturdy platform, and painted white to reduce evaporative losses. The color white reflects light, and so it reflects heat. When your fuel stays cooler, it expands less and doesn't evaporate nearly as much as it would if the tank were a darker color.

Combining a pressure/vacuum cap with a white tank are the two most effective things you can do to reduce evaporative losses from fuel that you keep stored for many months in the heat of summer. There's no sense trying to save on gas if you're not going to at least make a good effort to defend against losing fuel through evaporation.

Lastly, there are maintenance issues that add costs. Filters should be replaced every few years, and hoses need to be replaced as the sun tends to rot them out.

I purchased two 500 gallon tanks used, so they cost about a third of what they would have cost new. My 300 gallon diesel tank was free for the taking at a local ranch that I was helping clean up. The stand needed repair, but that was simply a little welding and some scrap angle iron.

The savings in the cost of fuel during the first year paid for the tanks, new hoses and the filler vent pressure and vacuum seals. Since then I save on gas by using these resources to stock up when prices are low.

Risks and Limitations

Protect your bulk fuel storage tanks from lightning strikes.

There is risk of fire and loss of fuel in the event of a lightning strike or other accident or theft, so you have to consider that before jumping into this. My fuel tanks are each grounded, and they are situated away from the house and trees to minimize damage should they catch fire.

If your travels take you far away from home, the cheap gas sitting back home does you no good. You can only save on gas when your travels are local such that you fill up at home.

Note: There may be restrictions on having bulk fuel stored within city limits. I live in the county, so bulk fuel in above ground tanks is common.

Let's be Realistic

One last important note: Don’t think that having hundreds of gallons of fuel in storage is going to help you in the event of a shortage of fuel due to loss of electric power, oil embargo, terrorist attack or natural disaster. You might be able to run your generator longer than others, and perhaps use it for barter, but that’s about it.

Grocery store shelves will be empty in a matter of days during an emergency, so don't keep bulk fuel with the expectation that you'll be able to go shopping while others who have run out of gas must stay home. It's just not realistic. There will be nothing on the shelves for you to go get, even after just three days.

When electricity stops, the fuel pumps stop. When fuel runs out or the pumps stop, the trucks stop running, and when trucks stop running, everything comes to a standstill.

Grocery stores are restocked continuously for a reason. If they weren’t, most food on the shelves would disappear within a few days.

So, save on gas by taking advantage of seasonal dips in the price, but don’t talk yourself into lots of cheap gas under the guise of having ample supplies of fuel for transportation to get groceries and other products. If fuel stops in this country for any reason, in less than a week there won’t be anything on the shelves to go matter how much fuel you have in your tanks.

I recognize that this is relatively difficult and somewhat costly for most people to do, but it provides perhaps the highest return on investment because you're using the lowest cost fuel all year long.

Done with Save on Gas, back to Save Gas

Like the price of gas, the interest in reducing the cost of fuel swings with the price of fuel. I think the key to success is leveling the price of fuel throughout the year by making bulk purchases...if you can.

In the event you're looking for more help than I'm offering, here are additional resources that might be of interest to you.