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How Much Does an Oil Change Cost?

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The cost of an oil change varies depending on whether you do it yourself or hire a mechanic as well as what type of oil your car needs. For a basic oil change at regional and national retailers, you can expect to pay at least $20 to $60.

Spending money for this routine maintenance can prevent major damage to your vehicle down the road. Here’s what else you need to know.

How much does an oil change cost?

The cost of an oil change can vary widely and depend on things like:

  • The year, make and model of your car (something to keep in mind if you’re considering buying a new or used car)
  • Where you get the oil change done (or if you do it yourself)
  • The kind of oil your car requires

With that said, there are a few basic costs that you can budget for. An average oil change can cost anywhere from $20 to $60 or more, according to prices advertised by major retailers on Oct. 13, 2021.

Oil change retailer Lowest-cost oil change service
AAA-owned repair centers $19.95
BRAKEMax $19.99
Firestone $27.99
Meineke $24.95
O’Reilly $59.95
Walmart $29.88

If you take your vehicle to a shop for an oil change, they will charge you for a variety of items, including:

  • New oil filter: Cost can vary depending on your vehicle.
  • New oil: Oil can be expensive depending on the volume and the type of oil you need. There are two types of oil: Synthetic and conventional. Synthetic oil tends to be more expensive by a magnitude.
  • Disposal of old filter, oil: These fees can change based on the state and location where you are getting your oil changed. Each state, and in some cases, the locality, sets its own process for proper, environmentally-safe disposal of these items.
  • Labor costs: Labor costs are broken down hourly and depend largely on location. The more affluent a location, the more you can expect to have to pay for labor.

Any additional items and taxes

When a mechanic performs an oil change, they also check other items on your vehicle. You might need an oil gasket replaced to prevent a leak, or they may offer to change your air filter. These all come with additional costs that range widely. Be sure to go over the estimate and invoice before agreeing to any additional maintenance.

All of these costs add up. Just avoid being upsold unnecessary repairs.

What’s the difference between synthetic and conventional oil?

The basic difference between synthetic oil and conventional oil is that synthetic oil has man-made additives that improve lubrication and engine protection properties, while conventional oil does not. In most cases, synthetic oil will do a better job of protecting your engine from excess wear and tear. Still, it’s wise to check your car’s manual to determine the right oil type for your vehicle.

Cost of a Walmart oil change by type of service
Standard $29.88
For cars with 75,000 miles-plus $35.88
Part-synthetic oil $35.88
Synthetic oil $44.88
Prices as of Oct. 14, 2021

What about part-synthetic oil?

In addition to conventional and synthetic oils there is also an in-between option called a synthetic blend or part-synthetic oil. Synthetic blend oil mixes synthetic oil with mineral oils to get some of the properties of synthetic oil without the added cost.

Don’t be fooled though, part-synthetic oil doesn’t have clear-cut standards. That means that a manufacturer can blend as much or as little synthetic oil with as much mineral oil as they want.  If you choose this option be sure that you know exactly what the mix is, and check your manual to see if it will work for your car.

How often should you get an oil change?

The oil in your engine lubricates moving parts and absorbs the heat of your engine.

Depending on the vehicle and your driving demands, you typically need to change your oil between every 3,000 to 7,500 miles, with some experts even recommending 15,000, if using high-quality synthetic oil.

The best rule of thumb is to always check your vehicle manual and see what interval the manufacturer recommends. In many cases, going as long as 10,000 to 15,000 miles between oil changes can cause significant damage to your engine. As your car ages, you should expect to change the oil on a more frequent basis. Based on how many miles you drive in a given month, the number of oil changes you need on an annual basis can add up quickly.

In addition to considering the number of miles you drive, you should also consider the kind of miles you drive. When you check your manual, you may notice that it mentions two different types of driving: normal and severe. Normal conditions generally means that you drive and run your car in smooth-flowing traffic. Severe conditions generally mean that you regularly do the following things:

  • Your trips tend to be less than 10 miles each time you drive.
  • There is no extensive idling (like you’d do in stop-and-go traffic)
  • You drive your vehicle on dusty or dirt roads
  • You tow or carry a rooftop cargo bin on your vehicle
  • You use your vehicle for any kind of commercial work (i.e. Lyft or Uber, taxi, making deliveries, etc.)
  • You live and drive in an environment where you get freezing winters and/or hot summers.

In the cases where you meet the severe criteria — say, if you live in a major metropolitan area and drive to the office, just a few miles away, in stop-and-go traffic, five days a week — then you will need to follow the severe maintenance schedule. That means that you will need to perform more frequent maintenance and get your oil changed more often to keep your car running in top shape.

Benefits of getting your oil changed
  1. Improved engine efficiency: The cleaner your oil, the better lubrication it provides. That means that your engine can run more efficiently and even improve your fuel economy.
  2. Keeping your engine running cooler: The lubrication that oil provides helps to dissipate heat from the engine. Heat causes engine components to break down faster so keeping your engine running cooler is crucial to ensure that your engine remains in the best shape possible.
  3. Cleaning your engine and preventing “sludge” build-up: Sludge can build up when your oil needs changing. Dirt particles and dust can get into the engine and cause corrosion. By regularly changing your oil, those dirt particles are cleaned away, and prevent sludge build-up.
  4. Ensuring that your engine will last longer: By keeping your engine properly cleaned and lubricated, you ensure that your car will remain running for longer.

What happens if you don’t get your oil changed?

If you do not change your oil, your vehicle will eventually suffer serious consequences. At first, the engine will run too hot and cause a sharp decrease in efficiency. Over time, the components of your engine will begin to warp and wear out without lubrication. If you stretch the time between your oil changes, you will reduce the life of your engine as time goes on.

If you neglect your oil change maintenance routine for too long, then the entire engine will stop working. At this point, you will either have to replace the engine or buy a new car. New engines can cost thousands of dollars, and that is one repair that you want to avoid.

Tips to cover oil changes, other car maintenance costs
  • Learn the basics: If you’re handy with cars, then you can save hundreds of dollars on regular car maintenance by performing the maintenance yourself. Many of the parts are affordable but the added labor can bite into your budget. When money is tight, then you may consider learning how to perform basic car maintenance yourself.
  • Find the right mechanic for you: As your car ages out of the warranty, you will need to find a reliable and affordable mechanic to take care of your car. If you do not want to do any repairs yourself, then it is critical to find a mechanic that you trust. Otherwise, you may end up paying for unnecessary expensive repairs.
  • Build an emergency fund: With an emergency fund on hand, you will be more prepared for whatever life throws your way. When an unexpected car repair pops up, dip into these emergency savings to take care of it.
  • Pick up a side hustle: Take advantage of your current skills or learn something new to start earning extra money. You can use the money to fund car repairs. A few ideas include babysitting and starting a blog.
  • Sell your unused things: If you have things lying around the house, then consider selling them for cash. Not only will you be able to use that money to fund a car repair, but also declutter your home at the same time.

How can you avoid paying more for an oil change?

While getting your oil changed on a regular basis is vital to ensure the health of your vehicle there are a few common “upsells” that some mechanics and shops may try and get you to purchase.

Below are seven common items that mechanics and oil change shops might try to upsell you on when you take your car in for an oil change. By keeping the following in mind, you’ll be able to negotiate with the mechanic and find out if you really need to spend additional cash on these items.

  1. Cabin air filter replacement
  2. Engine air filter replacement
  3. Coolant flush
  4. Tire rotation
  5. Brake pad or rotor replacement
  6. Wiper blade replacement

This isn’t to say that these services are not necessary, nor that they are not recommended, but it’s best to consult your car’s manual and take into consideration the conditions under which you drive your vehicle, to get a better idea of the best intervals to perform all of these services. For example, AAA recommends that your engine air filter should be replaced every 20,000 miles if you live in the suburbs and/or non-polluted areas, but should be checked regularly to ensure that the airflow to the engine isn’t being restricted by a dirty filter.

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