Many of us enjoy maintaining and repairing our vehicles, while for others, it’s an absolute nightmare to even think about.
For those of you who prefer to palm this off to someone else, we feel you! Cherry-picking what you do yourself and what you pay a pro to do is definitely a right way to approach this.
For instance, modifications to your engine or exterior are voluntary. This is money well-spent if you’re passionate about your car. On the other hand, some of you might be happy to get by with the bare minimum needed to just keep the car running properly.
Vehicle-specific components, products and maintenance tasks can vary dramatically in cost. One example of such is changing your car’s oil—there are a lot of variables that can affect how much you pay.
Having said that, how much does an oil change cost, anyways?
In this article, we’re going to walk you through how much you can expect to pay for an oil change when you go to get one, and we’ll also go through all the different factors that can either decrease or increase the price of an oil change.
Learn what popular chains charge on average, and what upsells are commonly offered. We’ll also break down the costs, so you know how fees get calculated.
Ready? Let’s get started!
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How Much Does an Oil Change Cost? The Breakdown
If there were universal prices for oil changes, you wouldn’t be reading this – and unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that.
You could feasibly pay as little as $20 to have a professional get this done for you. On the pricier end, prepare to shell out upwards of $80–$100, or maybe even more.
Of course, there are middle-ground fees between the two.
At the end of the day, many variables influence the cost, and we’ll be going through these factors in the sections that follow.
Factors that Affect the Price of an Oil Change
Get a reasonable estimate of how hard your wallet will be hit by taking into account these factors:
- Type, and quantity, of oil required.
- Filter type.
- Upsells (extra services).
- Your car’s make and model.
- The business you choose and your location.
Type of Oil
The lubricants we use in our vehicles all originate from the same source: crude oil. This fossil fuel is then refined according to what the end product will be.
This refinement process will determine whether the fluid is conventional or unconventional. Similarly, it will impact the weight and viscosity of the liquid.
Conventional brands are simpler to produce and tend to be heavier. Unconventional versions (either synthetic or blended) require more sophisticated production methods.
The latter varieties usually contain higher amounts of engine oil additives. These chemicals and compounds are added to enhance the lifespan and properties of the oil. Two common examples are anti-corrosive and detergent agents.
Knowing all this, it isn’t surprising that prices vary from brand to brand. The manufacturing process and formula will have a huge role in determining the cost of getting an oil change.
Plus, you have to calculate the quantity of oil your car needs, too. A four-cylinder engine will need less than 4 quarts, while larger motors (six or eight cylinders) will demand more.
Type of Filter
Filters are sold in a range of sizes to compensate for different vehicle builds. The filtration material and construction influence the price, too.
You want the filter to be built of high-quality, thick material to capture impurities. Flimsy, poorly-constructed units will fall apart, rendering them useless.
Ideally, this part needs replacing every time you go get an oil change.
Don’t forget to support your local recycling program and dispose of it correctly!
Anything in the lubrication system that’s damaged will need replacing. This includes failing seals, gaskets and worn pumps.
Upsells (Extra Services)
Unless your mechanic is a family member or a good friend of yours, you’re likely to be offered upsells. These are additional services the business recommends that you have done at the same time.
It’s your decision how many of these extras you want to have done, though. You’re not forced to buy any of these upsells offered to you if you don’t want to.
Know that these upsells will usually pad out your bill appreciably, so don’t let sales-talk be the basis of your purchase!
Further down this article, we cover all potential upsells you’re likely to come across. So, keep reading to get familiar with those, and use these to get your guard up before you hear the sales spiel.
Your Car’s Make and Model
Is your car rare, unusual or heavily modified? These include antique vehicles, sports models and high-end manufacturers such as Bentley.
Individual businesses charge you more for being unfamiliar with your make and model. These sorts of vehicles can be trickier to work on in general, and so you’ll be charged for the inconvenience.
If your vehicle is one they’re used to working on regularly, though, you’ll usually be charged less.
Business You Choose and Location
You have a choice between taking your car to a chain or a local business. There may be competitive discounts in it for you if you have memberships to any of these chains.
Still, don’t underestimate the importance of a stable business relationship. If you’ve been going to your mechanic for years, you may already be getting a good deal as it is right now.
The qualifications of the employees working on your vehicle might also increase expenses. Technicians who are certified with years of experience will charge more, and rightly so.
Last but not least, labor rates and taxes for automotive repairs can differ based on the state you’re in.
Price Differences Between Synthetic and Conventional Oil
Yes, there is a difference between the two: synthetics in all forms (whether full or blended) are more expensive, while conventional lubricants will always be a cheaper alternative.
To understand why these types are costlier, you have to be clear about what they are.
For one, the term “synthetic” doesn’t mean artificial. Instead, complex compounds are synthesized (constructed) from simpler ones.
Synthetic oil can be made using petroleum products or other materials. There’s a lot involved in the manufacturing process, which is what ups the price.
Blended oils are mixes of synthetic and conventional—the best of both worlds if synthetics are out of your price range. (If you’re particularly interested in this, we have a dedicated article about whether or not you can mix synthetic oil with regular oil you can check out).
Breaking Down the Costs: What You’re Paying For
The total is calculated according to these criteria:
- The cost of labor.
- Oil brand and quantity.
- Filter type.
- Replacing gaskets or seals.
- Sales tax.
Cost of Labor
Estimated Cost: Specific to the business.
The cost of labor is unavoidable when you go to a professional. As we explained earlier, this will largely depend on the business itself. Technicians may be paid at an hourly rate or fixed rates per job.
Oil Brand and Quantity
Estimated Cost: $28–$45 (for 5 quarts).
Synthetic brands are the most expensive; conventional is the least costly. Blended brands fall somewhere in the middle between the two.
Five quarts worth of conventional lubricant can be as little as $28. On the other hand, the same quantity of synthetic can be up to $45.
This might not be too bad if you only need 4 quarts or less. Those of you with more powerful vehicles demanding synthetic could spend well over $80 on lubricant alone, though.
Estimated Cost: $3–$15
Filters are considered cheap, regardless of whether you choose premium or not.
Based on the brand, size and compatibility, it can cost from anywhere from $3–$15. If you have a luxury or high-performance vehicle, this will likely cost more.
We advise prioritizing quality here. Filters play a major role in preventing contaminants from circulating your vehicle with your lubricant, and you certainly don’t want anything wrong to go on in that department down the line.
Worn-Out Gaskets or Seals
Estimated Cost: $5–$30 (based on the gasket or seal).
Any leaking, brittle or cracking seals or o-rings have to be replaced.
These rubber or plastic parts are inexpensive, but their installation is expensive if it’s time-consuming and effort-intensive, such as working on the oil pan gasket.
Estimated Cost: It depends on the type and number of upsells you choose; as well as the business’ prices.
We detail the most common upsells you’ll come across below. It’s easy to forget how each one adds up when you’re talking to a professional salesperson, so be weary of this.
Make sure you receive a set figure before agreeing to anything, and tally up every upsell you ask for before you leave. Otherwise, you may get a shocking surprise when the bill comes!
Estimated Cost: Particular to where you live.
This will be unique to your state and county.
If you’re far from home when having this service done, don’t be shocked if the taxes are higher than what you’re used to. Or, if you’re lucky, you might be in for a pleasant surprise when you realize they’re lower than what you’re used to paying in your area.
Oil Change Prices by Chains
There’s nothing wrong with shopping around for great deals. You never know when you might find one that’s too good to miss out on, and your regular mechanic or garage never has to know.
These prices are accurate as of the date this article was published. They can vary depending on your location and any coupons you may have, so please double check on your own to make sure this is still the case when you’re reading this.
|Chain||Oil Change Prices||What Else is Included?|
|Express Oil||$37.99–$74.99||20-point inspection and safety check; service completed in 10 minutes.|
|Firestone||$39.99–$89.99||19-point inspection and a top-off of all vital fluids.|
|Goodyear||$29.95–$69.95||Vital fluids top-off and engine inspection (for leaks).|
|Jiffy Lube||$39.99–$99.99||Vital fluids top-off within 3,000 miles of service; interior vacuuming; exterior window cleaning.|
|Meineke||$34.95–$69.95||Tire pressure check; vital fluid top-off; visual brake check; tire rotation; 23-point inspection.|
|Midas||$33.99–$84.99||Courtesy check with a written report.|
|Pep Boys||$31.99–$74.99||Courtesy vehicle inspection.|
|Valvoline||$41.99–$92.99||18-point maintenance check; option to stay in the vehicle during the service.|
|Walmart||$19.88–$49.88||Tire pressure adjustment; chassis lubrication; battery performance check.|
Common Oil Change Upsells
The practice of upselling isn’t necessarily malicious or an attempt to con you. On the contrary, your vehicle may be in genuine need of some of these services.
However, don’t believe everything the salesperson or technician tells you just because you’re hearing it from them.
Use your common sense (and whatever car knowledge you already have) to decide whether or not an upsell is necessary for your car at this point in time.
If you’ve recently had a particular part replaced, you’re not going to repurchase a new one.
Expect to hear all about the virtues of paying for:
- Synthetic or blended brands.
- Tire rotation and pressure check.
- Coolant change.
- Air filter replacement (in your engine, cabin or both).
- A fuel system cleaning.
- New windshield wipers.
Synthetic or Blended Brands
Do you normally use conventional oil? In that case, expect to hear all about the benefits of upgrading your lubricant to a synthetic or blended brand.
Remember that these types run more expensive. So, consider how you use your car before agreeing to this.
Lightly used, low-mileage automobiles may not reap many advantages from an upgrade.
Tire Rotation and Pressure Check
Tire rotations are generally recommended every 6,000 to 8,000 miles. This is about the same amount of time to go between oil changes.
Pressure checks are best performed every month to ensure inflation is optimal. You should be doing this yourself anyway.
Skip this upsell if you’ve had a rotation done elsewhere in the near past.
Most brands of antifreeze on the market today are made to last for a long time.
Topping off your coolant is one thing, flushing the radiator and changing it is another.
Consult your vehicle’s owner manual to know how often you should be changing it. So-called “extended life” coolant changes can be as infrequent as once every five years.
Air Filter Replacement (Engine, Cabin or Both)
How often you need to change your cabin air filter depends on both time and usage, but usually last for between 12,000 to 15,000 miles based on the brand you have.
The air filter in your engine can last up to twice as long: 15,000 to 30,000 miles. Driving on unpaved terrain or through polluted areas will shorten this estimate, though.
If either of these filters was replaced during your last change, decline this upsell.
Fuel System Cleaning
Individuals with older vehicles (e.g., with a carburetor) may warrant this service.
On the other hand, modern cars are unlikely to require a fuel system cleaning unless troublesome symptoms have appeared.
We’re talking about obvious issues like the check engine light and sluggish engine performance. Your vehicle owner’s manual indicates how often this should be done.
New Windshield Wipers
Windshield wiper blades should be replaced on average once per year. Seasonal blades that are switched out every winter and summer will last for longer.
Squeaking, dragging or streaks are all signs of worn-down blades. If you haven’t noticed anything wrong while using them, there should be no need for a change at this point in time.
How Much Does a DIY Oil Change Cost?
DIY maintenance eliminates the cost of labor fees, but you’ll still be paying for:
- The oil and filter.
- Necessary tools and equipment.
Ofcourse, not to mention that you’ll also be spending your own time and effort on this maintenance task.
Price of Oil and Filter
Estimated Cost: $3–$15 for the filter; $28–$45 for the oil.
We’ve established that filters are rarely more than $15—the type and quantity of lubricant you need impacts the price significantly.
Conventional is always the lowest-cost variety. Synthetics, blended and specialized lubricants (e.g., high mileage oil) are more expensive.
Necessary Tools and Equipment
Estimated Cost: $10–$300 for oil filter wrench or kit; $30–$40 for a drain pan.
The tools and equipment you need for the job are one-time investments. Aside from safety gear like gloves and goggles, you need an oil filter wrench and drain pan.
A wrench can be less than $10 or over $200 if you buy a professional kit. Drain pans are typically inexpensive, not more than $30–$40.
As you can probably tell by now, there isn’t a fixed answer to the question of how much an oil change costs. Go ahead and ask your friends and family; we bet that you’ll be getting different numbers all over the place!
That’s because it depends on a whole lot of different factors that might (or might not) come into play, all of which we’ve discussed in this article.
Now that you know all the factors that go into the final price, you can do your own calculations based on what you want/need, and come to a close estimate.
You’re now also prepared to fend off over-eager salespeople suggesting upsells that you might not really need or want, but might have otherwise been pressured into buying because you didn’t know any better.
If your primary goal is to save money, a DIY oil change is the most cost-effective option. You can’t really beat DIY!
However, this might not be something you’re willing to attempt, especially if you lack the time or expertise to do this yourself.
So, if you have no other choice but taking your car to a professional for an oil change, take the time to check for discounts and coupons online for local businesses and chains.
You never know what you manage to find with some digging around, and how much money you might end up saving!