If you own your car, you know that it can only keep running with proper maintenance. An oil change is essentially the least-complicated, but most vital service you can do for your vehicle. Whether you do it yourself, or outsource it to a professional, you can expect a wildly varied number for a typical oil change cost. Depending on your location and needs, it can average between $15 and $50, plus fees and supplies.
Do It Yourself Oil Changes
There are three main components to an oil change:
The make and model of your car will determine exactly what kind of oil filter you’ll need to buy. This can cost anywhere from $3.77 from a common FRAM filter at a discount retailer like Walmart, but can be as expensive as $12 for a high-end filter designed for synthetic oils with many miles between changes. The best way to know what the right filter is for your car is to check online at an auto-parts store or at the kiosks in the aisle of most mass retailers.
The following retailers offer filters for under $10 each:
Walmart (brands include: FRAM, ACDelco, and Motorcraft)
PepBoys (brands include Mobil 1, Purolator, K&N, FRAM, Royal Purple)
Advance Auto Parts (brand include Mobil 1, FRAM, Purolator)
There are so many kinds of oils, and with them come many different prices. A typical oil change uses around 4 quarts of oil. Your vehicle may use more or less, depending on manufacturer’s guidelines. Since most oil is sold in 1 or 5-quart containers, the average oil change assumes you’ll buy 5 quarts. (In this case, you’ll always have a quart on hand if you need it.)
Synthetic oil is a popular option made from components that are chemically-made. Most experts agree that it works better to protect the engine and work in extreme temperatures than traditional petroleum oil products. To get the benefits, however, you’ll pay the price. You’ll pay about $12-16 for five quarts of traditional oil. Synthetic will run between $20 and $30 for those same five quarts.
If you’ve never changed your oil before, it can be a bit intimidating at first. Thankfully, there are lots of videos on YouTube to help you get started, and plenty of forums online with helpful hints for specific models of vehicles. Assuming you own none of the items needed for an oil change, you’ll need the following (in addition to the oil and filter), which can add on an extra $20-200 to the first time you change:
- Wrench to remove and reinstall the drain plug
- Wrench to remove and reinstall the oil filter
- Oil drain pan (to catch and store the used oil)
- Funnel (to pour in new oil)
If your car is low to the ground, you may also need a jack stand. Nice to have extras also include protective gloves and glasses, as well as shop towels or paper towels for clean-up. You shouldn’t ever have to pay a fee for used oil disposal. Most oil change chains will take your old oil for disposal (even if you don’t use their services.)
Note: Some foreign and newer model cars may use a “crush washer” with the drain plug/bolt. This is a single-use washer and needs to be replaced with every oil change. Check your manufacturer’s guide for details.
How to Change Your Own Oil
While the exact directions will vary from make and model of vehicle, there are some basic similarities. This video explains in detail how to change your own oil. This may be the best way to save on an oil change cost.
What Does a Professional Oil Change Cost?
If you have no interest in doing it yourself, there is no shortage of oil change service stations to help you. The cost for having it done for you will vary, depending on what supplies they use. Here is the average cost for a standard oil change for the most popular locations:
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Need it done quickly? One-hour oil changes add on a little more for fees. You can also expect some weekends and holidays to be more expensive, if you need your work done fast.
Ways to Save on Oil Change Cost
Not sure you can afford the prices of the service stations, but aren’t up to doing it yourself? Most of the advertised prices for oil changes are the “regular rates” and don’t take into account the dozens of coupons and promotional offers going on at any time. To save even more on your oil change cost, go to the service provider’s website, and look for a coupon or discount page. Pep Boys, for example, almost always have a coupon for an additional $10-20 off an oil change. Jiffy Lube also offers coupons; look for them in your local paper or online. Retail chains like Walmart usually don’t offer coupons, but they can bundle their oil change with other valuable services, so choose this option if you need a few different services done at once.
Beware of Upsells
One way that oil change service stations are notorious for making money is by offering add-ons. While it may not actually cost that much more to use a synthetic oil, they can charge 40% more for the upgrade. And while there are plenty of freebies included with oil changes (such as fluid level checks), if they do find that you are in need of additional servicing, parts, or supplies, they will charge a premium price.
Be sure you instruct your mechanic or technician that you only want the oil change, specific exactly which change you want, and decline additional services without approval. It’s not uncommon for someone going in for a $39 oil change to end up with a $200 bill for these extras. This is how most of these companies make the real money with a very reasonable oil change cost.