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What Does an Oil Change Cost?

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An oil change is required routine maintenance for your car. Neglecting to get a regular oil change can spell major disaster for your vehicle, ranging from making your car less efficient to total engine failure. Spending a few dollars now to prevent major damage to your vehicle down the road makes good financial sense and it can help make your car more fuel efficient and run cleaner.

What does an oil change cost?

While the cost of an oil change can vary widely and depend on things like the year, make and model of your car, where you get the oil change done, and the kind of oil your car requires there are a few basic costs that you can budget for. An average oil change can cost anywhere from $20 to $100 or more, according to sources such as Car and Driver and Angie’s List.

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

Oil change item Typical cost range
New oil filter $5 to $100 or more
New oil Synthetic oil: $20 to $50 per 5 quarts

Conventional oil: $28 on average per 5 quarts

Disposal fee $2 to $50
Labor costs $20 to $60 per hour
Sources: AAA, Chicago Tribune, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Slickdeals, YourMechanic.com

 

  • New oil filter: These generally cost as little as $5 to more than $100 depending on the type of filter needed for your vehicle, according to cost estimates found on O’Reilly Auto Parts.
  • 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. On average, five quarts of synthetic oil costs anywhere from $20 to $50, while conventional oil runs around $28 for five quarts, according to a 2017 report by AAA.
  • Disposal fee for old oil and old filter: 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. Depending on how stringent your area is, you can expect to pay as much as $50 or as little as $2, as reported by the Chicago Tribune. Most of the time you’ll see an added fee of around $2.50 for disposal of these items. In most places, however, used motor oil is recycled for free.
  • Labor costs: Labor costs are broken down hourly and depend largely on location. The tonier a location, the more you can expect to have to pay for labor. Labor can run anywhere between $20 per hour and $60 per hour and up, according to Slickdeals and YourMechanic.com, a mobile auto repair service.
  • 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. The price of an oil change can vary widely by the shop so it pays to do your research. For example, at Walmart, an oil change can range between $19.88 and $49.88. At Jiffy Lube, the prices range from $45 to $100.

If you’re considering putting off an oil change, here’s why getting one is an important part in maintaining your car, the other small maintenance expenses you may incur, and how to afford all these costs.

The difference between synthetic oil 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.

The increased cost of synthetic oil

Most modern day vehicles require synthetic motor oil, and in most cases you are better off opting for the full-synthetic oil over a partial or blended oil.

Because synthetic oil has those man-made additives, it will cost more per quart. According to a 2017 AAA study, the average cost of synthetic oil is around $45 for every five quarts, while conventional oil costs around $28 for every five quarts. AAA says that, based on their data, switching to a synthetic oil will cost consumers an average of $5.33 per month more, or $64 per year. That’s a minimal amount to spend to ensure that your vehicle is running in top shape.

The type of oil you decide to purchase will also impact the frequency of your needed oil changes so be sure to read your manual to find out what is right for your vehicle.

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 oils 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 you should 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.

4 benefits of getting your oil changed

The benefits of getting your oil changed are significant. They include:

  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 drastic 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.

Avoiding common oil change upsells

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.

One thing to note: 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.

Type of maintenance When to get it What it will cost
Cabin air filter replacement Every 15,000 to 25,000 miles $15 to $160
Engine air filter replacement Every 20,000 miles $20 to $160
Coolant flush Every 30,000 miles $100 to $150 and up
Tire rotation Every 5,000 to 7,500 miles or every six months $35 to $120
Brake pad replacement Every 50,000 miles $300 to $600
Brake rotor replacement Every 15,000 to 70,000 miles $400 to $1000 and up
Wiper blade replacement Once every year or when you begin to see streaking $8 to $190
Sources: Angie’s List, AutoServiceCosts.com RepairPal.com, YourMechanic.com

Cabin air filter replacement

Your air cabin filter does not need to be replaced each time you go in for an oil change, unless you live in a very dusty or polluted area (like Los Angeles). Most experts recommend changing the filter at least once every year or every 15,000 to 25,000 miles or when you notice that your vehicle’s climate control starts to run a little less efficiently.

The cost of a cabin air filter replacement can run you anywhere from $15 to $160 and up depending on the year, make and model of your car, as reported by Angie’s List and YourMechanic.com.

Engine air filter replacement

This part is also sometimes referred to as just an air filter. These filters are usually round or cylindrical and keep smaller particles like pollen and debris from getting into your engine.

AAA recommends that 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. If you live in dusty or polluted areas, it’s best to change the engine air filter a bit more frequently.

The cost of an engine air filter replacement can run you anywhere between $20 and $160, according to Angie’s List and YourMechanic.com.

Coolant flush

A coolant flush is required maintenance but not at the same intervals at which you’ll get an oil change. Coolant helps keep your vehicle running cool in higher temps and keeps it from freezing in cold temperatures. Coolant typically needs a change about once every 30,000 miles. Some vehicles don’t need a coolant flush for as many as 150,000 miles on some models.

Angie’s List estimates that the cost of a coolant flush can run you anywhere between $100 and $150 and up.

Tire rotation

A tire rotation is also part of regularly scheduled and required maintenance, but you certainly don’t need to rotate your tires every time you change your oil. Most experts recommend that tires get rotated every 5,000 to 7,500 miles or once every six months.

A tire rotation will run you anywhere from $35 to $120 depending on your vehicle and where you take it to have the work done, according to RepairPal and Auto Service Costs.

Brake replacement

Generally brake pads should be replaced every 50,000 miles. Brake rotors should be replaced anywhere from 15,000 to 70,000 miles. Both these intervals however depend heavily on how you drive, what kind of conditions you drive in, and how much time you spend in stop-and-go traffic. It’s best to have your brake system looked at when you take your car in for an oil change but you might not necessarily need to replace components on the system at the same time. Always check your owners manual to see what the recommended interval is for your car.

Auto Service Costs estimate the cost of brake pads at $100 to $300 per axle ($300 to $600 for all brake pads).

For brake rotors you can expect to have to pay between $400 and up, according to RepairPal. In some cases brake rotors replacement can cost you more than $1,000, according to YourMechanic.com.

Wiper blade replacement

A wiper blade replacement only needs to be done when you first start to see streaks appear when you run the wipers. In areas where your wipers get heavy use, your blades can wear out in as little as three months. In general however, wiper blades will last at least a year before needing to be changed.

Angie’s List and YourMechanic.com put the cost of wiper blade replacement at anywhere between $8 and $190, depending on the year, make and model of your vehicle, and how advanced the wiper system is.

5 tips to covering your car costs

According to a AAA survey, 1 in 3 American drivers could not pay for an unexpected repair without going into debt. Keeping up with your car maintenance on top of your other expenses can be difficult.

If you’re struggling to cover the costs of your car, then consider these options.

  • 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 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.

Bottom line

Although oil changes are extremely important for car maintenance, they are not the only regular maintenance you should perform on your vehicle. By scheduling regular maintenance, you can help to keep your car running smoothly for years.

You should be prepared to pay for several repairs on an annual basis for your car. Each of these maintenance costs adds to the true cost of maintaining your car. AAA estimates that the average annual cost for new car ownership is $8,849. When you factor in fuel, insurance, license and registration fees and taxes into the total, it is not surprising that it can add up quickly.

Of course, costs for maintenance can vary widely based on where you drive, how many miles you log, what environment you drive in, how hard you drive your vehicle, and the year, make and model of your car. It’s always a good idea to consult your owners manual to get a good idea of what kind of regular maintenance you will need to do, and how often it might be required. By saving up for maintenance, and getting regular oil changes you can ensure that your car will keep running for a long time to come.

 

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