Whenever you discuss anything to do with price and how much a specific task will cost, you know going in that the answer is going to fluctuate. That’s just the way the world operates as virtually nothing remains stagnant regarding cost. Not surprisingly, the same goes for propane.

And one of the most commonly used propane tanks is that of the 20lb variety. So, it’s not shocking to learn that so many consumers want to know the average 20lb propane tank cost. Yet, when you want to know a specific answer to the question, that’s going to be somewhat impossible to deliver.

Talking about propane refill costs, they generally range from around $2 to $4 per gallon (this increases to $5 to $6 per gallon if talking about propane tank exchange costs). And seeing how a 20lb propane tank holds about 4.5 gallons of propane (which makes it easier to determine how much a gallon of propane weighs), if you do the math, it will cost (on average) anywhere from $9 to $18 for a refill.

That’s quite a large range and even though we’re not talking about thousands of dollars here, the price can add up if you have to refill your propane tank (or tanks) regularly. However, there’s certainly a lot more to dive into with this topic including why the cost of propane gas fluctuates so much and how long 20lb tanks generally last.

So, let’s get into it then, shall we?

Reasons why the 20lb propane tank cost can vary so much

Pink Ladies
Photo by marra / Unsplash

Before we get into the main reasons why propane itself tends to fluctuate in price (which explains most of the story), let’s also mention the fact that the cost to refill (or exchange) your propane tank is going to vary depending on your location and the retailer that you go through.

Call around your local area to see if any retailers are offering better deals (as even a dollar difference per gallon can add up quickly if you go through a lot of propane). Yet, looking at this in the broader spectrum, there are many reasons why propane itself can be cheaper and more expensive at certain times.

Reason 1: The issue of supply and demand

Propane is not alone when it comes to supply and demand as along with millions of other consumer products and goods, it suffers (and prospers) from it. The good news is the gas isn’t a seasonal gas (even though many consumers will primarily use it during the fall and winter when the time comes to supply heat).

Propane companies will extract and sell the gas all year long. Getting back to what was just pointed out, though, demand for the gas tends to rise between October and March due to the cold front that so many locations in the world experience during that time period. Subsequently, this increases the demand for propane.

Shortages can also occur when it comes to propane, as crude oil production can see outage and maintenance issues. All this wraps up to propane prices that will reflect the current state of the inventory (along with various other factors).

Reason 2: The supply location

20lb propane tank costs are affected by location, which was already established, but transportation distance, in general, will have an impact on the cost. As Fisk points out, “While the U.S. mostly sources its own natural gas, and thus its own propane, it imports a small amount of both from Canada and Mexico. After importing and processing, propane goes to storage facilities throughout the country. Then, it arrives at local suppliers to become available for purchase. This process takes time, energy, and money, which is reflected in the product’s cost.”

Reason 3: The prices of natural gas and crude oil

If you know your propane facts, then this will make more sense to you than most. Due to the fact that the gas is a byproduct of crude oil and natural gas refining, when the prices of crude oil and natural gas are impacted, so will the price of propane.

Of course, the majority of the gas is derived from natural gas. So, the circumstances that impact the production of natural gas will have a greater impact on the cost that you have to pay for propane.

Reason 4: Propane prices can also spike from time to time

Isn’t it just wonderful when something you need spikes in price? This can happen with propane too if the sudden demand for the gas increases while there’s a limited supply. Such situations can be very difficult to remedy, so prices can spike because of it. Basically, all this adds up to is that a 20lb propane tank cost (for a refill) can be a little hard to predict.

How much does a 20lb propane tank cost itself?

In order to be able to refill your tank, you kind of need one, to begin with. We thought we’d just mention what the cost of buying this common tank size would be for you. Again, the actual price will vary based on location and the retailer you go through, but most can expect an empty 20lb propane tank to cost right around $35.

How long do 20lb propane tanks last?

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Photo by KWON JUNHO / Unsplash

This right here can be very important, in the grand scheme of things, as the fewer times you have to refill your tank, the cheaper it’s going to be. Truer words have never been spoken, are we right? The question is how long do these tanks typically last? For the record, we’re referring to the propane inside of the tanks and not the tanks themselves (more on that later).

Factors such as the size of your grill (as 20lb tanks are often used for grilling) and how often you use your fireplace (as they work great for that too) can play a significant role here. A good rule of thumb, for grilling, is around two pounds of fuel (per meal) will be used with a medium-sized grill on high heat.

On a medium-sized grill, then, a 20lb propane tank would provide roughly 18 to 20 hours of cooking time. Of course, this can fluctuate based on heat. A larger grill, additionally, could probably burn through the same amount of propane in around 10 hours.

Then again, if you’re talking about 100lb tanks, it becomes a different ball game. Speaking of which, have you ever wondered how many gallons of propane are in a 100lb tank? You might be intrigued by that if you’ve made it this far in this post.

Does propane ever expire?

What’s also interesting is the idea of whether or not propane expires or not. Now, clicking on that link will take you to a post where we detail that topic in full, but we wanted to mention it here as it’s relevant. After all, if you wait too long, will the propane you currently have expire? This could make the 20lb propane tank cost dilemma even more of one, quite honestly.

Well, thankfully, most will be happy to know that propane doesn’t have an expiration date or a shelf life. Propane doesn’t have the issue of degrading over time as so many other fuel sources do. The more important factor is ensuring that the propane tank itself is maintained properly, as the propane inside will take care of itself.

But what about the tanks themselves, do they expire?

Ah, the kicker with this. While propane itself doesn’t expire, the tanks themselves can. And it’s very easy to tell if the current tank you have needs to be replaced. All you need to do is look at the date that’s stamped at the top of it as that will indicate when it was certified.

Suppliers of propane won’t refill your tank if it’s 12 years old or more (regarding the certification date). The primary reason why is due to safety. Problems such as leaks, punctures, and rust can persist on older tanks, and they’ll also want your tank to have the latest valve safety update.

If you find that your tank is too old, you have a few different options at your disposal:

  1. If you’re able to get it recertified, you’d have to check from the propane refill station you’d be using, you can extend the expiration date another five years.
  2. If not, you’ll have to get a new propane tank. Thankfully, the process of doing so isn’t difficult and the price isn’t going to be too drastic (as was mentioned earlier).

Final thoughts

That seemed like a lot of jargon to answer the simple question of the 20lb propane tank cost. The reality is most consumers can expect refilling (not exchanging) a propane tank of this size to cost anywhere from $9 to $18.

So many outside factors, such as location and chosen retailer and the various ways that propane itself can alter in price, make it virtually impossible to narrow down to a specific cost. Like we said earlier, call around your area to see what the quotes are for the different businesses allowing you to refill your propane tanks.

Yep, that pretty much wraps it up. But if you’ve read my posts before then you know I can’t leave before plugging another post. I simply can’t help myself! Anyway, on the topic of propane, you might be interested to learn the temperature at which propane will freeze. And, if you’re not interested, then no worries, and thanks for reading this post!