By Anthony Santiago - Editor-in-Chief

November 9, 2023

Key Takeaways


  • DIY oil changes allow you to save money on oil changes and learn vehicle maintenance, but they require safety checks and knowledge to avoid the risk of injury or mistakes.
  • Professional auto shop oil changes provide convenience, peace of mind, and engine health checks, though they cost more money than doing it yourself.
  • The choice between DIY or professional oil changes depends on personal factors like time, willingness to learn vehicle oil needs, and desire for optimal engine performance.
  • As a seasoned car enthusiast, I've often been asked about the actual benefits or shortcomings of a DIY versus a professional oil change.

    After years of experience and countless oil changes, I'll break down the real-world considerations in deciding to do it yourself or paying someone to do it for you. I have a wealth of knowledge on this topic. 

    DIY Oil Changes: My Take

    1. Saving Dough: Deciding to DIY your oil change is like baking your own bread. It's cheaper and more satisfying because your wallet stays plump, given that you're not forking over the dough to the pros.
    2. Learning Curve: It's a serious rite of passage—getting under that car is definitely a new experience. You must gather your tools, cleaning supplies, and confidence with YouTube videos to master the art of the oil change and wield the dipstick (if you have one) like a samurai sword.

    You will get your hands dirty with a DIY oil change. There are significant factors to consider, including cost, time, and skill level.

    In this article, we'll delve into the nitty-gritty of both options. We'll explore the potential savings of a DIY oil change, the convenience of professional services, and the satisfaction of understanding and maintaining your vehicle. 

    Professional or Shop Oil Changes

    On the other hand, paying a shop or dealership for an oil change is VERY convenient. 

    1. Convenience is King: Opting for a professional to change your oil is like going to a restaurant. Sure, you could cook at home, but why not let the chef do it? You sit back, enjoy the air-conditioned lounge, and avoid getting up close and personal with your car's greasy underbelly.
    2. Another benefit is peace of mind. Professional auto shop oil changes provide convenience, peace of mind, and engine health checks, though they cost more money than doing it yourself. You WILL get a list of recommended auto maintenance repairs as well.

    In my 30+ years of driving and getting work done, there is a 110% chance that additional work will be suggested. It is up to you to decide if you want to have the work authorized to be done. 

    Deciding between DIY and professional oil changes is like choosing between Netflix and a movie theater. You're in control at home, but you might miss out on an important step the first time.

    Time vs. Money: It boils down to how you value your time. Are you a weekend warrior with time to spare, or are you so busy that the thought of an oil change schedule makes you clam up in a cold sweat?

    Cost Comparison

    Location

    Time

    Parts

    Labor

    Total Cost

    DIY at Home

    20 mins to 60 minutes

    $30 $50

    0

    $50

    Dealership

    2 - 4 hours

    $80 - $200

    $80 - $300

    $500

    Indie Shop

    2 hours

    $60-$80

    $80 - $100

    $150 - $180

    Express Oil Shop

    45 mins to 60 mins

    $40-$70

    0

    $70


    To get more repair estimates, you can visit our friends at RepairPal.com

    Let's explore the costs involved with fast oil changes.

    Performing an oil change service could save you money and time, but is it worth it? Well, it depends on your idea of value, time, or money. 

    Data and experiences show me that you can "technically" save $30 - $150 if you change the oil yourself. This is based on materials such as the oil and the oil filter. 

    However, I am NOT including the cost of tools, ramps, and cleaning supplies, as I already have them from purchasing them over the year.

    So friends and family can get oil changes at the cost of parts. Not too shabby, in my humble opinion.

    When doing your own oil change, key expenses include the engine oil, the oil filter, and, if you don't already have one, an oil filter wrench or oil socket. Depending on your chosen products, this could cost you anywhere between $20 and $ 80. $10 for the wrench, $10 - $15 for the filter, and $24 - $50 for the oil. 

    I use full synthetic on all my vehicles. Check your owner's manual for the type and viscosity rate. 

    What is the BEST oil to use in your vehicle?

    Answer. The one that is on sale. As an avid contributor on various automotive forums, the overall consensus is to use the right oil and whatever is on sale. 

    The cheapest place I have seen is Walmart and sometimes Costco if a rebate is available. 

    I switch oil brands ALL THE TIME. The top-tier oils are very good across the board. There are boutique oils like Amsoil and Kendall, but any good oil will do for the everyday driver.

    Cost at the Dealership and Auto Shop

    On the other hand, a professional oil change service can range from $40 to $70 at an express shop. Sometimes, it can top over $500 depending on the "Service" package you receive.

    For example, topping off the fluids, brake, and tire checks can be included. At Mercedes Benz, Service A is primarily an oil change, new wiper blades, and air filter change with a few other vehicle checks and was quoted at $550. Yes, this is basically a Mercedes Benz oil change.

    While this may seem a tad steep, remember you're also paying for peace of mind. An experienced mechanic will often spot potential issues that could save you costly repairs.

    In addition, if you are under warranty, the dealership or shop will record the oil change on the vehicle history report.

    It will show up under your CarFax or Vehicle History Report. This is important for future reference.

    Choosing a professional oil change service offers peace of mind in return for a few extra dollars. I can be sure that:

    • The right type of motor oil will be selected for my type of vehicle.
    • The oil filter will be correctly fitted, and the drain plug will be tightened just right.

    Which One Should You Choose?

    The bottom line?

    Your DIY oil change's cost-effectiveness is heavily determined by your cost of parts (You are the labor). Buying your own oil may offer some cost savings since you control the purchase price.

    Remember, you will be trading your time and energy compared to having a shop change your oil. 

    In an apples-to-apples comparison, I would say 80% of the drivers out there should have a shop change their oil. 

    However, if you are like me and have the tools, then DIY an oil change is my suggestion. 

    All things considered, isn't it all about what you value more: your time and effort or having a guarantee of a job well done? Weigh your options carefully.

    After all, oil changes might seem a simple task, but if you encounter a problem, you will have to address it immediately. Overfilling, stripped drain bolt threads, or stuck oil filters are the most common oil change problems for first-time DIYers. 

    Skill and Knowledge Required

    An oil change should be as simple as removing the drain plug and swapping the old filter with a new one. A little knowledge and experience can prevent bigger headaches.

    Please learn from my expensive mistake and avoid the brunt of costly repairs.

    The value of mastering an oil change yourself is great. But it's equally as important to consider the investment in skill and knowledge that this comes with.

    Common 3 Mistakes to Avoid During an Oil Change

    As we delve further into the complexities of oil changes, let's tackle potential errors that could dampen the efficiency of your engine. These pitfalls are apropos irrespective of the type of vehicle you own.

    Over-tightening the Oil Filter

    My first advice?

    Don't crank your oil filter wrench too much.

    Indiscreetly tightening the filter during an oil change service can lead to huge issues with your next oil change interval.

    Overtightening can also damage the o-rings as well. You should have had an idea of how tight to install the oil filter since you should have removed it in the process.

    You should torque the oil filter to the manufacturer's specifications. 

    Here are some common oil filter torque specifications. Please double-check your manual. 

    Brand

    Model

    Vehicle Class

    Recommended Oil Viscosity

    Oil Filter Torque Settings

    Honda

    Civic

    Compact Car

    0W-20 or 5W-30

    Hand-tight + 3/4 turn

    Accord

    Midsize Car

    0W-20 or 5W-30

    Hand-tight + 3/4 turn

    CR-V

    Compact SUV

    0W-20

    Hand-tight + 3/4 turn

    Toyota

    Corolla

    Compact Car

    0W-20

    Hand-tight + 3/4 turn

    Camry

    Midsize Car

    0W-20 or 5W-30

    Hand-tight + 3/4 turn

    RAV4

    Compact SUV

    0W-20

    Hand-tight + 3/4 turn

    Lexus

    RX

    Midsize Luxury SUV

    0W-20 or 5W-30

    18 to 25 ft-lbs (25-35 Nm)

    ES

    Midsize Luxury Car

    0W-20 or 5W-30

    18 to 25 ft-lbs (25-35 Nm)

    GM

    Silverado

    Full-Size Pickup

    5W-30 or 0W-20

    Hand-tight + 3/4 turn

    Ford

    F-150

    Full-Size Pickup

    5W-20 or 5W-30

    Hand-tight + 3/4 turn

    Mustang

    Sports Car

    5W-20 or 5W-30

    Hand-tight + 3/4 turn

    BMW

    3 Series

    Compact Luxury Car

    5W-30 or 5W-40

    18 to 25 ft-lbs (25-35 Nm)

    Audi

    A4

    Compact Luxury Car

    5W-40 or 5W-30

    18 to 25 ft-lbs (25-35 Nm)

    Volvo

    XC90

    Midsize Luxury SUV

    5W-30

    18 to 25 ft-lbs (25-35 Nm)

    XC60

    Compact Luxury SUV

    5W-30

    18 to 25 ft-lbs (25-35 Nm)

    Nissan

    Altima

    Midsize Car

    0W-20 or 5W-30

    Hand-tight + 3/4 turn

    Rogue

    Compact SUV

    0W-20

    Hand-tight + 3/4 turn

    Chevy

    Silverado

    Full-Size Pickup

    5W-30 or 0W-20

    Hand-tight + 3/4 turn

    Equinox

    Compact SUV

    5W-30

    Hand-tight + 3/4 turn

    To avoid these costly repairs, don't go too hard on that oil filter wrench.

    Using the Wrong Type of Oil

    Not all engine oils are created equal.

    You might need to distinguish conventional oils from synthetic blends, resulting in an efficient oil change.

    Note that thicker oils do not make older engines run better.

    That is a myth.

    Your engine should use the oil specified in its design.

    Please remember, depending on the load your vehicle carries; your engine might need motor oils tailored to handle heavy loads.

    Using the right lubricant contributes to better fuel efficiency and a better-performing vehicle.

    Forgetting to Replace the Oil Drain Plug or Washer

    Swapping the old oil might seem super simple, but don't rush.

    Sadly, in a hurry to finish the oil change service, forgetting to replace the oil drain plug or its washer is more common than you might think.

    Without the drain plug properly in its place with a new washer, new oil will seep out of your engine or can start to weep afterward.

    Improperly Disposing of Old Oil

    Oil is toxic with long exposure. It is considered a HAZARDOUS WASTE.

    The importance of correctly disposing of old oil must be stressed.

    Leaving it unattended is not good for the environment.

    The best and most convenient option is to head to your local auto parts stores that readily accept used oil.

    Autozone has a program to accept used oil.

    Next time, remember to safely store your old engine oil in a clean plastic container and dispose of it responsibly, contributing to a greener earth.

    Personal Preference

    After weighing the pros and cons of DIY and professional oil changes, it's clear that the choice ultimately boils down to personal preference.

    If you're the type who loves getting hands-on with your vehicle, learning how to change your oil can be a rewarding experience.

    It's a skill that can save you money in the long run, and a sense of pride and accomplishment comes with maintaining your vehicle.

    On the flip side, if you're not mechanically inclined or don't have the time, there's nothing wrong with paying for service. Shops and dealerships have the experience, knowledge, and tools to get the job done right and properly dispose of the old oil, saving you from potential headaches.

    Remember, there's no one-size-fits-all answer here. What matters most is that you're making an informed decision that works best for you and your vehicle. After all, a well-maintained car is a happy car.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Q: What are the common mistakes to avoid during an oil change?

    A: The common mistakes to avoid during an oil change are over-tightening the oil filter, using the wrong type of oil, forgetting to replace the oil drain plug, and improperly disposing of old oil.

    Q: Why is over-tightening the oil filter a mistake?

    A: Over-tightening the oil filter can lead to difficulty in removing it later, causing potential damage to the filter or the thread.

    Q: Why is replacing the oil drain plug important?

    A: Forgetting to replace the oil drain plug can result in oil leakage, leading to insufficient oil levels and potential engine damage. However, if you use an extractor, you don't have to remove the drain plug.

    Q: What are the risks of improper disposal of old oil?

    A: Improper disposal of old oil can harm the environment and result in fines or penalties in many areas.

    Q: Is it worth learning how to do an oil change myself?

    A: Learning how to do an oil change yourself can save money, but it is important to consider the investment in knowledge and skill required.

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    Anthony Santiago - Editor-in-Chief

    About the author

    I am a passionate car enthusiast who likes to help people save money and avoid headaches when it comes to cars. I believe that everyone can find the right car at the right price. I share my tips and experience so you can learn quickly and maximize your next SUV, truck or car purchase.

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