Think You'll Save Money Changing Your Own Oil? Probably Not

October 11, 2010
Mechanic Shae Davis

Mechanic Shae Davis

It sounds like the perfect money-saving weekend project, especially for someone who spends all day in an office: gather the wrenches, a funnel, a basin, some old empty milk jugs, new oil and filter, and lots of rags, and change the oil yourself.

But unless you're well-versed as a mechanic, you might not end up saving money after all. Even if you can borrow all the tools, and get the oil and filter at a discount, you're possibly missing the point of taking a vehicle in for regular maintenance.

With oil changes less frequent than they used to be—now every 5,000, 7,000, or even 10,000 miles, or just once a year in some cases—that expert visual inspection an experienced mechanic usually provides as part of an oil service is more important than ever.

But don't go to a quick-change oil place; take your ride a full-service repair shop. Yes, you might pay $10, or in some cases $20, less at a quick oil-change franchise, but they're often more interested in upselling other unnecessary services, like transmission flushes, than earning your trust and repeat business.

The reason you'll save money: Good mechanics are proactive. If you have a trusted mechanic, especially either an independent who specializes in your model or brand, they'll do an inspection with the oil change and then look for other issues.

They'll also know which parts are likely to fail first, which are typically troublesome for your model, and what to do about it to avoid costly headaches. A leaky or cracked boot might be replaceable long before a CV joint or steering rack, for instance, but you might not know the difference and just think it to be road grime; they'll see a leaky gasket or a swelling coolant hose and be able to replace it blows dramatically on the side of the highway.

So consider simply leaving it to the proactive pros...and you might end up saving money in the long run.

[Edmunds, via Consumerist]

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