How much does an oil change cost?

Evaldas Zabitis

Evaldas Zabitis

An oil change is an important and frequent maintenance task for any vehicle, so you want to make sure mechanics don’t overcharge you. The cost of an oil change can vary between $20 and $150, depending on various factors.

Since the difference between costs can be significant, you should learn how to evaluate the cost of an oil change for your vehicle and avoid getting scammed by shady auto shops.

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How much does an oil change cost?

Regular maintenance is crucial for your car because it prevents expensive damages in the long run. Properly maintaining a vehicle is much cheaper than repairing it, but you have to know how much everything costs to avoid getting scammed.

Here are a few key things about the value of an oil change.

What affects the cost of an oil change?

The cost of an oil change usually consists of buying some oil, a filter, maybe a new drain plug, labor and disposal. The labor cost remains mostly the same for most vehicles, but may differ when a drain plug or the oil filter is harder to access or seize.

Meanwhile, the cost of oil and the filter highly depends on a vehicle's model. For instance, while a small diesel engine may only need 4 liters of conventional oil, a V8 engine may need 8 liters or more. Moreover, modern engines usually use fully synthetic, more expensive oil.

Your repair shop also highly affects the price of an oil change. Mechanics may charge $20-$60 for the work alone, so make sure to choose well-known and respected auto shops to avoid being overcharged.

An oil change can save thousands of dollars

An internal combustion engine provides great power using a relatively small amount of fuel. However, engine wear highly depends on the condition of the oil – without oil inside, an engine would get destroyed within minutes.

The longer the intervals between oil changes, the less efficient and more contaminated the oil gets. The engine may overheat, underperform, seize up, blow a gasket, or cause other major problems that cost thousands to fix if the gears and shafts aren’t oiled properly.

Where can you get your oil changed?

While you may be tempted to choose the cheapest auto shops for the job, it’s not your best option because the risk of scams and low-quality work is higher.

Oil change price service inspection
Source: Pixabay

Look for a certified auto repair shop and avoid shady self-employed mechanics. Independent local service centers, dealerships, well-known service stations, and specialized quick oil change services are the ones to look for. You may pay an additional buck there, but you’ll be sure your engine gets treated right.

How often should you get an oil change?

Engine oil change intervals depend on various factors and vary between 3,000 miles (5,000 km) and 10,000 miles (16,000 km). There’s been a huge improvement in the lubrication of modern engines, as the recommended intervals have become much longer than they were a few decades ago, but how often should you change your oil also depends on driving conditions.

For instance, KIA recommends changing the oil every 10,000 miles (16,000 km) during regular usage, and every 5,000 miles (8,000 km) if you frequently drive short distances, excessively idle your engine, drive on rough terrain, tow trailers, drive in stop-and-go conditions, or do other things that stress your engine. Check the owner’s manual for precise instructions.

The benefits of changing your engine oil

Everyone knows that changing the motor oil is necessary to keep your car healthy and running, but not many are aware of the reasons behind this procedure. Skipping an oil change speeds up your engine wear, resulting in loss of power, poor fuel economy, and costly potential damages. An engine oil has multiple purposes:

  • Lubricates the engine parts.
  • Cools the engine by reducing friction and supplementing coolant in certain parts of the engine.
  • Cleans the engine by delivering deposits and impurities to the oil filter or settling them on the oil pan.
  • Protects the engine from corrosion thanks to special additives.
  • Covers the engine internals in a protective layer.

Oil becomes more viscous as it ages, losing its ability to lubricate vital engine parts on time, especially in lower temperatures. It also gets contaminated, releasing microscopic bits of metal inside the engine and damaging it. Each oil change renews these vital capabilities, ensuring your engine’s efficiency and longevity.

Beware of common oil change scams

You’ve probably seen cheap or even free oil change advertisements. Many shady auto shops use this approach to lure in customers and “find” other problems, like worn brake pads or bad coolant – they need to compensate for the free/unreasonably cheap oil change somehow!

You can avoid these scams by using and following your vehicle’s maintenance checklist. For instance, a new set of brake pads should last at least 30,000 miles (50,000 km), so you’ll know a mechanic is probably lying about them being worn out if you installed a new set 10,000 miles (16,000 km) ago.

Can you change the oil by yourself?

Oil change price oil inspection
Source: Pixabay

Yes, you can change the oil yourself. First-timers will have to spend some time researching the necessary tools, oil capacity, and procedures but you don’t really need much to do an oil change.

Here are a few essential tips to remember before changing your oil:

  • Check the owner’s manual. Every car manufacturer provides strict recommendations on the viscosity, type, and amount of motor oil. Follow them carefully.
  • Warm up the engine. Let your car run for a couple of minutes to warm up the oil and ensure it flows better. With that said, the engine shouldn’t be hot, so let it cool down if you drove it recently. You wouldn’t want to burn yourself!
  • Oil the seal ring on a filter. All oil filters have a rubber seal ring that you should oil before installing – a dry seal is easy to damage when tightening the filter.
  • Get a proper drain pan. You’ll need a pan to drain your old oil, so make sure its capacity exceeds the engine’s oil capacity.

Bear in mind that oil spills are very messy. The best way to get rid of them is by covering a wet stain with clay cat litter or sand and sweep up the absorbent material after it dries.

You must dispose of the used oil and filter correctly after an oil change. Most auto shops can take this off your hands, but make sure the oil is in a closed container.

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Evaldas Zabitis

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Evaldas Zabitis

Evaldas has been writing since middle school and has had a passion for cars for as long as he can remember. Right after getting his driver’s license, he spent all of his savings on shoddy cars so he could spend time fixing, driving, and selling them. Evaldas is always interested in automotive technical innovations and is an active participant in automotive community discussions.