Keeping your car maintained and working well is crucial to saving money in the long run. After all, if you don’t take your car into the shop from time to time, it’ll eventually break down and require much more costly fixes — or a replacement.
One of the most important regular maintenance tasks is changing your car’s oil. But if you’ve never done this before, you might wonder how much an oil change costs. Read on for the answer to this question and more.
Why do you need to change your vehicle’s oil?
Simply put, the oil for your vehicle’s engine is a lubricant that prevents all metallic and mechanical parts from grinding against one another, causing corrosion, damage and malfunctions. Without engine oil, your vehicle wouldn’t run very smoothly, if at all.
However, your engine oil gradually accumulates debris, grit, dirt and other bits of matter. Furthermore, your engine oil loses some of its lubricity or its state of slipperiness. This can accelerate wear and tear on the internal components of your engines.
When you replace your vehicle’s oil, the fresh oil minimizes friction and allows all the mechanical parts inside the engine to spin around without issues. In addition, new oil helps fuel economy by allowing your vehicle to run more efficiently (thus expending less gasoline per mile driven).
So, in summary, you must change your vehicle’s oil regularly to avoid engine wear and tear and ensure your vehicle runs as smoothly as possible. It’s about car care, engine protection and a healthy automotive maintenance schedule.
What does an oil change service include?
An oil change service may include a variety of specific actions or services depending on who you hire and what’s involved.
At a bare minimum, an oil change involves:
- Removing the drain plug from the bottom of your vehicle’s oil pan.
- Allowing gravity to drain oil completely into another pan called a catch pan. This old oil is then discarded in a legal, environmentally safe way.
- Replacing the drain plug.
- Changing the oil filter.
- Replacing the old oil with new oil. The majority of car engines take about 5 quarts of oil.
As you can see, a conventional oil change service is relatively straightforward. That said, it’s not a good idea to do this crucial maintenance task if you are unprepared for it or if you don’t have any experience.
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How much is an oil change?
There’s no universal price for an oil change service. Your oil change will typically cost anywhere between $30 to $100 if you take it into a lubricant shop or a car dealership. Alternatively, it will typically cost anywhere between $30 and $50 if you change your oil yourself.
Generally, the higher cost of an oil change will come from a higher cost of labor (which is dependent on where you live), differences in filter quality and any additional services being performed (tire rotation, etc.). For the most part, oil costs won’t differ between locations for the same vehicle.
Factors that affect oil change cost
The price of an oil change can vary depending on several important factors:
First, the type of oil used will affect how much it costs to change your oil, whether you take it to an expert or do it yourself.
There are two basic types of oil used for most oil changes:
- Conventional oil is standard and more affordable but is more common for older vehicles. It’s the traditional type of oil used to lubricate engines and mechanical components.
- Synthetic oil is required by most modern vehicles and is more expensive. A synthetic blend oil is typically seen as better than conventional motor oil because it is specially formulated to improve lubricity and engine quality over time. You can get a full synthetic oil change at most service centers, and it’s also included in many car warranties.
If your car does not explicitly require synthetic oil, you can pick between them when you take your vehicle into the shop or change your oil personally.
Synthetic oil is almost always better for your car, however. It wears down your engine less harshly and lasts longer. Therefore, depending on how often you need your oil changed in the first place, paying a little extra for synthetic oil could save you more money in aggregate.
The most significant price difference between conventional and synthetic high-mileage oil is about $32, so it doesn’t break the bank. What should you do? Go synthetic whenever possible, and read your vehicle’s owner’s manual to know which type of oil your car needs.
Vehicle type can also impact the cost of an oil change. Some vehicle models require a specific type of oil to be used, such as a particular brand of synthetic oil. This is more frequent with luxury vehicles.
In addition, your car type can impact how much oil you need for a full oil change. For instance, a large truck that drives hundreds of miles daily will need much more oil per change than a small sedan that only goes a few miles daily.
Lastly, the location where you get your oil changed can impact its cost. If you live in a more expensive area, an oil change will also be more significant since the car dealership or lube shop service has to pay more for its rent and related costs.
Note that if you change your oil yourself, location is unlikely to affect the overall price you’ll pay.
Quick lube shops vs. dealerships
When you need professional help to change your oil (recommended if you don’t have any experience doing this), you have two options: Take your car to a lube shop or a dealership.
A dealership may know more about your vehicle’s make or model, mainly if you take it to a dealership for your vehicle’s brand. Therefore, it could be wise to take your car to the dealership to get its oil changed.
As a side benefit, the dealership can look at other aspects of your car and tell you whether you need to change your tires or other replacement parts. It may be wise to go to the dealership for a biannual checkup on the health of your vehicle in general.
In contrast, a quick lube shop might be a more cost-effective, fast solution. You can find quick lube shops in most major metropolitan areas; some are even mobile.
These don’t specialize in any specific type of vehicle, but they can change your car’s oil in a matter of minutes if you come at the right time.
A quick lube shop might be the best solution if you need your oil changed more frequently due to long commutes or other factors. Many quick lube shops also sell the right oil you need for your vehicle, but you should call ahead to check just to be sure.
How often should you change your oil?
That depends on the make and model of your vehicle, as well as the type of oil you have. Generally, better oil varieties allow you to change your oil less frequently. But it’s still a good idea to change your oil after about 5,000 to 7,000 miles, depending on your vehicle’s manufacturer recommendations.
You should get your oil changed twice yearly, assuming you drive your car daily. If you drive your vehicle many miles daily, you’ll need the oil changed more frequently.
When in doubt, speak to the local dealership or oil change expert you hired to do this service. Based on the oil they provide and the make and model of your vehicle, they should know how often you need to change your oil to prevent significant issues.
How to lower the cost of an oil change
Although an oil change shouldn’t be too much of a burden on your wallet, you can lower the cost of that oil change with a few smart tips and strategies.
Firstly, look up coupons or discounts in your local area, particularly if you just need an oil change and don’t need all the bells and whistles from a related car maintenance service. If a quick lube shop has a discount, you can visit that shop and get your oil changed on the cheap.
Secondly, look into learning how to change your oil yourself. Knowing how to change your oil is an important life skill and will help you get back on the road if your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere.
Furthermore, it’s not very difficult; once you learn how to do it, you can save yourself $50 or more by changing your own oil instead of taking your car to a shop or dealership.
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Thirdly, take care of your vehicle in general. If you run your vehicle all the time or don’t take care of it, the oil will need to be changed more frequently.
But if you take care of your vehicle, get it inspected by a maintenance technician regularly, and practice good driving habits, your oil will only need to be changed once in a while, saving you money.
Ultimately, an oil change will cost you anywhere from $20-$100 or more, depending on the quality you expect, the type of oil you need, and a handful of other factors.
Even if it is an inconvenient expense, get your car’s oil changed when needed; otherwise, you’ll set your car up for a more expensive fix later down the road.
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