The Ultimate Guide to Oil Change Costs

Consistent oil changes are essential for the health of your engine. But if you are like many people, it can be a bit overwhelming to think about all of the options you have when it comes to this seemingly simple procedure. And yet, without regular oil changes, your engine could suffer premature wear or even catastrophic failure due to poor car maintenance

So, how often should you have the oil changed? Should you choose conventional oil or synthetic oil? And how much should it cost for an oil change service?

Why is an oil change so important?

Motor oil, also referred to as “engine oil”, is a lubricant that coats all of the moving parts inside your engine. Like the pistons moving up and down in their cylinders, along with hundreds of other components. Without this liquid coating that some people refer to as the “lifeblood” of an engine, those parts would make metal-to-metal contact while moving at thousands of revolutions per minute. They would quickly wear down, heat up, and come to a catastrophic end.

Oil is stored in a sump (the oil pan) located at the base of your engine. When your engine is running, an oil pump forces the fluid through passageways inside the engine to coat all of the metal components. As a result, a thin layer of oil separates surfaces that might otherwise rub against one another, helping to prevent that metal-to-metal contact, reducing friction and heat. Special additives in the oil also help to prevent moisture, resist thermal breakdown, and keep your engine clean inside.

Eventually, however, motor oil will break down with use. The shearing forces inside an engine, along with the extreme temperatures created by friction and the combustion process, cause the oil to lose effectiveness. Moisture and other contaminants also degrade the oil over time. For these reasons, it is essential that the oil be replaced regularly as part of a routine vehicle maintenance program.

How often should I change my oil?

A common oil change question is, “How often should I change my oil?” Oil changes are considered to be “routine” or regular car maintenance procedures. That means, they should be performed periodically. Many auto service shops, especially quick oil change businesses, suggest a standard “three months or three thousand miles” interval between oil changes for everyone. That outdated mantra, however, does not take into account differences between different vehicle manufacturers and their different engines. Nor does it consider different types of oil you might use.

So, how often should you have your oil changed? The answer can be fairly simple: check your owner’s manual or maintenance guide. Every vehicle manufacturer publishes a set of specifications for the type of oil they recommend in an engine, along with the service interval between oil changes. General specifications were common in days gone by, but today there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Manufacturer’s specifications are vehicle-specific. What is recommended for one vehicle might not be appropriate for another.

For instance, oil change intervals for late model engines span anywhere from five thousand miles to fifteen thousand miles or more. It really depends on the vehicle. Many engines, such as those in some Toyota, Hyundai, and Kia models need the oil changed at the five thousand mile mark. Others, like those from GMC or Honda, recommend changing the oil every seventy-five hundred miles. And some European brands suggest waiting fifteen thousand miles for the next oil change. If, for some reason, you do not have access to the owner’s manual or maintenance schedule, you can simply search online for the information or ask at a trusted repair shop.

That said, there are times when a manufacturer will suggest something shorter than their usual recommendation. “Severe” or “special” driving conditions are those that include frequent stop-and-go traffic, dusty roads, extreme heat, hauling or towing heavy loads, and aggressive driving. If your vehicle experiences these conditions, you should change your oil more frequently than the typical recommendation of your vehicle manufacturer.

Conventional vs. synthetic oil – what’s the difference? 

The reasons for variations in oil change intervals can be related to engine design and performance. But they can also be a result of the types of oil that manufacturers use in their engines.

Motor oil comes in three general forms: conventional, synthetic, and a blend of the two. Conventional, or “regular’, oil is derived and distilled directly from crude oil. It is refined in the process, but at a molecular level, conventional oil contains irregularities and impurities. Its molecules come in different shapes and sizes that can wear against one another. Its natural contaminants can lead to engine deposits, sludge, and a somewhat shorter service life. For these reasons, conventional oil tends to break down faster than other types and needs to be changed more frequently.

Synthetic oil, on the other hand, is made artificially in a lab. It might start its life as an organic oil, but from that base, synthetic oil is engineered and manufactured to exact standards. Due to its design, synthetic motor oil is consistent, contains few if any impurities, and withstands extreme temperatures. It also resists thermal breakdown much better than conventional oil, includes higher-quality additives, and is capable of many more service miles in an engine.

With the adoption of synthetic motor oils by most manufacturers, oil change intervals have lengthened over the years in those engines that now employ synthetic oil. Three months or three thousand miles is no longer the standard. Instead, synthetic oil and synthetic blends (a mix of conventional and synthetic) have stretched out the interval so that the shortest manufacturer’s recommendation for an oil change in a vehicle today is five thousand miles.

Synthetic oil is generally considered to be a better product than conventional oil. It also comes with a bigger price tag, sometimes costing many times the price of conventional oil. Some of the cost is offset with the longer intervals between oil changes, but most of the benefit of synthetic oil is found in its advanced ability to protect your engine.

Most modern engines come with synthetic oil from the factory. But that is not always the case with older vehicles. If your engine does not call for synthetic oil, you can switch from conventional to synthetic and enjoy the benefit of longer times between oil changes, superior protection, or (in some cases) both. If the cost of full synthetic oil is too high, you might consider a semi-synthetic blend that offers a Goldilocks option between the other two.


Oil change prices for conventional, semi-synthetic, and full synthetic motor oil in Buffalo

Year, Make, Model

Grade Oil Filter Good



(Synthetic Blend)


(Full Synthetic)

2016 Ford Focus

5W-20 $8 $37 $61


2015 Chevy Malibu

5W-20 $13 $43 $56


2013 Toyota Tacoma

5W-30 $8 $48 $65


In the chart above, you can see an example of the differences in cost for an oil change between conventional, semi-synthetic, and synthetic oil on a few older vehicles. Most new vehicles come with synthetic oil from the factory. In such cases, you should not replace it with other types, otherwise you can void the manufacturer’s warranty. Older engines that came with conventional oil allow you to choose between levels of protection.

What determines the cost of an oil change?

It is clear that the type of oil that you use in your vehicle makes a difference when it is time for an oil change. When it comes to the actual cost you might pay for an oil change, consider these factors:

  • Type of oil. Whether conventional, semi-synthetic, or full synthetic – with the latter being the most expensive option for your engine. Keep in mind that most modern engines require synthetic oil to be used.
  • Grade of oil. The grade or “weight” of an oil describes its viscosity, how thick it is. Oil with low viscosity is thin and runny, whereas oil with higher viscosity is thicker. Today’s multi-weight oil (where the oil is at one viscosity when cold and another when hot) comes with a code to identify its grade. You might be familiar with symbols like 5W-30 and 0W-20, each which describes the grade of oil, and each which might come at a different cost.
  • Brand of oil. Motor oil is made by a host of companies, some of which offer an array of oil products at different price points. The brand and level of product are factors in the cost of the product you purchase and the price of your oil change.
  • Oil filter. Every engine comes with a specific oil filter that needs to be changed along with the oil. Oil filters come in two different forms – the canister type and the cartridge type – and at a range of price points. The cost of the filter also plays a role in determining the cost of an oil change.
  • Engine oil capacity. Both the size of your engine and the amount of oil it stores in its oil pan will affect the cost of an oil change. One vehicle might use 4.5 quarts of oil, while another might require 8 quarts. That can lead to a significant difference in cost.
  • Dealership vs. independent shop vs. quick lube. Another factor to consider is the type of facility you choose for your oil change. Prices will typically be the highest at a dealership, but there you benefit from brand-specific knowledge among the technicians. At the cheaper end is the quick lube store, where you might encounter lower costs but less experience with your specific vehicle.
  • Location. A look at the differences in prices between the top one thousand largest cities in the US will show something like a fourteen percent spread. What an oil change costs in Tucson, AZ, where prices tend to be five and a half percent lower than the national average, will naturally be less than they might be in some of the most expensive markets, like Newark, NJ. There, prices are eight percent more than in an average city like Buffalo, NY.


Oil Change Prices for Passenger Cars and Light SUVs

Make and Model

Engine Capacity Grade Service in Tucson  Service in Tulsa

Service in Newark

Toyota Camry

2.5L 4.8 quarts 0W-16 $74 $69


Honda CR-V

1.5L 3.7 quarts 0W-20 $73 $69


Chevy Equinox

1.5 L 4.2 quarts 0W-20 $76 $74


Ford Escape

1.5 L 5.7 quarts 5W-30 $73 $78


Chrysler 300

5.7 L 7.0 quarts 5W-20 $76 $69



Oil Change Prices for Trucks and SUVs

Make and Model

Engine Capacity Grade Service in Tucson  Service in Tulsa

Service in Newark

Ford F-150

5.0 L 7.8 quarts 5W-30 $69 $77


Chevy Silverado

5.3 L 8.0 quarts 0W-20 $105 $110


Toyota Tundra

3.5 L 7.7 quarts 0W-20 $93 $100


Dodge Durango

5.7 L 7.0 quarts 0W-20 $67 $73


Nissan Titan

5.6 L 6.9 quarts 0W-20 $79 $89 $79


Oil Change Prices for Performance Cars

Make and Model

Engine Capacity Grade Service in Tucson  Service in Tulsa

Service in Newark

Chevy Camaro ZL1

6.2 L 10.0 0W-40 $68 $78


Ford Mustang

5.0 L 8.8 quarts 5W-20 $73 $78


Mazda MX5 Miata

2.0 L 4.5 quarts 0W-20 $77 $77


Dodge Challenger

6.2 L 7.0 quarts 0W-40 $75 $76


Nissan Z

3.0 L 5.5 quarts 0W-20 $66 $73


A full-range oil change will typically include the following services:

 Note that getting a full-service oil change at every oil change interval is often unnecessary. A full-range service is typically done during every other or every third oil change. A basic service will suffice for the rest of the oil changes.

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