If you own a car, then regular oil changes are a must. How often you need to change your oil varies depending on your driving habits and the make, model, and year of your vehicle.
Many manufacturers recommend an oil change every 3,000 to 10,000 miles, with older cars, trucks, and SUVs typically on the lower end. If you drive an average amount, approximately 13,500 miles according to Federal Highway Administration, that means you’ll need between one and five oil changes every year.
But, the cost of an oil change at a shop can be pricey. This leads many to wonder if this is a task they are better off doing themselves.
When it comes to car maintenance, an oil change is something most car owners can tackle. But will it actually save you money?
DIY Oil Change Prices
Changing your car’s oil is actually a fairly simple process and requires only a few items. First, you need oil. How much you need depends on your vehicle, so you’ll want to check the owner’s manual to make sure you buy enough. Typically, it will be between five and eight quarts, though some smaller cars may require less.
You also need to see what weight of oil you need. For example, some cars may need 5W-30 while others take 10W-20. This is also information you can find in the owner’s manual, allowing you to make sure you buy the right one.
Then, you need a pan to catch the old oil, an oil filter, and a jug to store the old oil. Once you have all of those items, you are ready to handle your DIY oil change.
Prices May Vary Depending On Your Location
DIY oil change prices may vary somewhat depending on where you live. However, you can typically find five quarts of motor oil for between $10 and $30. An oil drain pan is usually between $4 and $10, with larger pans being more expensive.
Some pans also function as storage containers, so you may be able to save a bit by buying on that does both. Otherwise, you’ll also need a jug or a funnel. If you have a funnel, you may be able to pour the old oil into the container holding the replacement oil, suggesting you use all of it during your DIY oil change.
Oil filters are also reasonably inexpensive. In most cases, you can find one for around $5 to $10.
Even on the high-end, a DIY oil change prices out around $50. However, if you look for sales or are flexible about the brand, spending $20 or less is possible, even on a full-synthetic oil change.
When you do a DIY oil change, there typically isn’t much of a time commitment either. Once you become familiar with the process, it only takes about 15 minutes. Considering you can spend that much time talking to a shop attendant if you get your oil change at a store, let alone the additional wait time that usually accompanies an oil change, the time usually isn’t a factor.
You will need to check into oil disposal costs in your area. Motor oil is hazardous waste, so you can’t just toss it in the trash.
In some cases, cities allow you to bring oil to a solid waste disposal center for no-cost at any time. Other locations host free disposal days, but some do charge fees.
Shop Oil Change Prices
Shop oil changes prices can vary significantly from one shop to the next. Additionally, your location can play a role in the cost, as services in larger cities with higher costs of living are typically more expensive.
However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t deals available. For example, you can get a basic, conventional oil change at Walmart for as little as $19.88. If you need full-synthetic, then that will cost $49.88.
Jiffy Lube tends to be more expensive than Walmart, but they frequently offer coupons that can bring the price down, making it comparable. The same can go for Firestone Complete Auto Care, Midas, and even dealerships.
There can be additional charges on top of the base oil change prices, such as if you need more than five quarts of oil. This means it is wise to ask about any additional expenses or fees before you get the work done.
It is important to note that shop oil changes usually come with extra services. This can include topping off various fluids, inflating your tires, and checking your battery. While you can do many as DIYs, it does increase the amount of work and may require special tool.
When you’re looking to lower the cost of an oil change, you may be tempted to use a lower-grade oil. Conventional oil is cheaper than blends or synthetics, and the savings can be attractive.
However, before you purchase a lower-grade oil, you need to determine what is best for your vehicle. Some cars, trucks, and SUVs require blends or full-synthetics to run properly. Additionally, higher mileage or high-use vehicles may benefit from an upgrade.
Before you make a selection, check your owner’s manual. Your manufacturer’s recommendations in the manual will let you know which options are best based on your vehicles needs. If it says a blend or synthetic is necessary, then that’s what you need to purchase at a minimum.
Often, you can choose to buy higher quality oil if you prefer, but a lower-grade oil in a car that requires something better can lead to engine damage.
Which is Cheaper?
Which approach is most cost-effective depends on your needs. If you are getting a conventional oil change, you might not save much money doing it yourself. By heading to Walmart or finding a coupon, you can spend about the same. It will cost you in time though, so if expediency is critical, then a DIY oil change might be ideal.
But, if you’re a savvy shopper and need a blend or full-synthetic, you can come out ahead with a DIY oil change. At a shop, these services can run between $50 and $80 or more, depending on the amount of oil you need. By looking for sales and being brand-flexible, you could save $20 or more. You won’t get the extra services, like the fluid top off, but if that isn’t something you need, then consider saving the money.
However, if you have a new vehicle and are eligible for free oil changes at the dealership, then you can get these services without spending a dime. If the dealer is in your local area, then it’s hard to beat those oil change prices, which might make your time in the waiting room particularly worthwhile.
Do you use DIY oil changes or head to a shop? Let us know in the comments below.
Looking for more create articles about cars? Give these a try:
- Summer Car Maintenance Tips to Beat the Heat
- What Determines Your Car Insurance Premiums Might Surprise You
- Buying vs. Leasing: Which Option is Right for Your Next Car?
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