Is the time invested on changing your own oil worth the money saved?

That’s up to you to decide, but today we’re going to go over how much money you actually save changing your own oil, as opposed to paying your local lube and filter joint to do it for you. We will also go over some of the pros and cons of changing your car’s oil yourself.

What is the least expensive way to change my own oil?

For our first example we will assume you are doing a conventional oil change, with 5 quarts of oil, and replacing the oil filter. If you go to a local Jiffy Lube for their most inexpensive conventional oil change, they will do it for $29 for 5 quarts of oil, this is actually exceptionally reasonable. Once you’ve purchased the 5 quarts of oil, along with the filter, you will probably be spending $25 dollars or more, so if you’re okay with getting the cheap stuff, the extra $5 spent might very well be worth saving the hassle of changing your own oil.

But what if I want some higher quality oil?

A full Synthetic oil change from Jiffy Lube will run you $79 dollars, over twice as much as the conventional! While you can get 5 quarts of synthetic motor oil from your local super market for less than $30, and after buying a filter you’re still under $40. So, if you’re gunning for the higher quality oil change, doing it yourself can cut the cost in half.

Given these numbers, we can estimate you will save $5 to $10 dollars on a conventional oil change, and around $40 dollars for doing a synthetic oil change yourself.

Why would I want to use synthetic oil?

Synthetic oil leaves behind less sludge, as well as helps clean some of it out. It also flows better at lower temperature, so you’re engine won’t have to work as hard when you first turn it on, especially in winter months or colder climates. Synthetic oil is also more resistant to higher temperatures, it experiences less chemical breakdown and evaporation than conventional motor oil.  Synthetic oil also has a much longer life than conventional oil, often lasting at least twice as long. All of these things work together to help extend the life of your engine, and in my opinion, is well worth the investment, especially if you are saving money by changing your own oil.

Does what kind of car I have affect the cost?

Indeed, it does. If you have a European car many locations will charge you something in the range of $5 to $10 more for your oil change. This is because European cars can often be trickier to work on, compared to American or Asian makes, for example. As a result, even if changing the oil isn’t any more difficult on your specific vehicle, you’re going to be charged extra just because it is European. Keep in mind this may be different depending on where you live and where you go to have your oil change done. Granted, if it is a hassle to change your oil, that alone may be your reason to take it somewhere to have it done and save you the headache.

If you want something done right…
Many people, myself included, follow the old adage when it comes to doing something the right way. If you want something done right, you do it yourself. Sure, the guys down at the local Jiffy Lube may have done oil changes hundreds of times, but to them its just a job, and mistakes happen. To me, that’s my car, and a very expensive fix if the oil isn’t changed properly. On the flip side of this, many people have no idea how to change their own oil and its best they leave it to the professionals (if you’d like to learn, here is an article you might find helpful).

Won’t a professional also inspect my vehicle for any upcoming maintenance?

The short answer is, yes. However, the inspections they do typically only take a few minutes and most people can do them in their own garages fairly easily. This is another item that can be a double-edged sword, because there are plenty of those who will try to sell you maintenance items you don’t really need. This in particular is what made me start changing my own oil, I frequented my local lube and filter service station (that shall remain nameless, and no, it wasn’t Jiffy Lube) and had my transmission fluid done, which is about a $200 service, one of the most expensive they offer. A few months later I go back in for an oil change and they “inspect” the rest of my fluids as well. After the oil change, the technician came up to me and showed me some dark brown fluid he claimed was my transmission fluid (transmission fluid is a bright red when new, and should last at least 50,000 miles). Now, I had checked my transmission fluid after they had done it for me and knew that it had been changed. So, this person was attempting to sell me a service I most certainly did not need. I politely declined and let him know I had that service done at this exact location just a few months prior. He apologized and was much quicker to let me go on my merry way. As a result, I no longer go to that location for oil changes, and get a second opinion on any service recommended to me.


What if I do it wrong?

You always want to be sure if you are doing the maintenance on your own vehicle, that it is done properly. Either have someone who knows what they are doing show you, or do your research and make sure the job is being done right. If you are too worried you will not do it properly, it is best to have someone else or a professional do it. Saving a few bucks is not worth causing major damage to your vehicle.

What about the cost of tools to change my own oil?

If you need to buy your own tools to change your own oil, how long will it take to break even? Well, for an in-depth look at all the tools you’ll need, click here. But if you are talking about the bare-minimum cost of tools you’ll need, you can get some ramps, oil pan, and a wrench/socket set for less than $120 if you’re frugal. So, by doing some quick math, it will either take you 24 conventional oil changes  or only 3  synthetic oil changes to save the equivalent of what you spent on tools, assuming you didn’t own any tools already.

Is there a third option?

Absolutely, if you don’t have the know-how and aren’t in learning how to change your own oil, but also don’t trust your local service station to do it properly, just ask someone you trust. Chances are, you know someone who knows a thing or two about cars and that you trust. In most cases, as long as you supply the oil and filter, and maybe give them $10 or some beer for their time, you can get a friend or neighbor to change your oil for you. In the  case of synthetic oil, a $10 upcharge to have someone you trust do it is much better than a $40 charge to have a stranger do it.

Isn’t taking it somewhere going to be faster?

Most of the time, yes. However, it depends how proficient you are at changing oil. With the right tools you can easily do the job in the time it would take you do drive down to your local Jiffy Lube to get it done, especially if they are busy. If it is your first time changing oil, it may take you well over an hour to do, just by taking the time to learn and make sure you do it right. On the up side, you will gain a life skill it seems fewer and fewer people have, and one that can save you some money down the road!

So, is changing my own oil going to save me money?

The vast majority of the time, the answer is yes. However if you are concerned you will do it improperly or is simply not worth your time, its understandable why you would have someone else do it. Paying a little extra to make sure you don’t ruin your engine is an obvious upside. It also varies from person to person, and vehicle to vehicle, how much money it will save you. Saving $20 a year may not seem like its worth the hassle, but if you would be spending hundreds extra a year on synthetic oil changes on a European car, it might be well worth the time invested to do it yourself.

At the end of the day, it is up to you to weigh all this information and determine for yourself what is the best option for you. I hope this information gave you a better perspective on if changing your own oil is the right choice.