It’s one of the great questions everyone asks at one time or another, “Is it really cheaper to change your own oil?” Every time we take our car into the garage for an oil change, it seems we ask ourselves this question when it comes time to pay the bill. Most people have a friend or family member who swears by changing their oil and insists that it is a simple operation that anyone can learn how to do. The truth is, most people can change their oil, and it will save money in the long run, although the initial investment in the tools you need to get the job done will cost a little extra. If you are considering learning to perform an oil change on your car, consider how it can take a few dollars off your budget—and give you a new skill to add to your repertoire.
Oil Change Essentials and Related Costs
If you want to learn to change your oil, you can always call on that friend or relative who knows how to do it to show you, or you can watch a few of the many YouTube tutorials on the subject. Once you know the process, you will need to consider various factors before you embark on the endeavor. For one, you must weigh the cost of the initial investment against the amount of money you will save over time by changing your oil yourself.
Some of the tools you will need to perform an oil change include:
If you don’t already own a jack, you will need to buy one to be able to get underneath your car for the oil change. This can be a hefty investment at around $250 for a quality jack. Whether it is worth it depends on your perspective. You will use your jack when changing your oil, but you may need it for other maintenance tasks and repairs that you may choose to do yourself. That, of course, depends on your level of mechanical ability.
There are a variety of options and price ranges. These two jacks look similar, but vary greatly in price, so consider how often you will use it, how long it should last and how many tons your vehicle is when making the decision.
Safety is one thing you want to be sure of when you are working under your car. You don’t simply want to jack it up and rely on the jack to keep the car from falling on you while you work, so you will need jack stands to support the car. A good set of jack stands will typically cost around $35.
Oil drain pan
Once you begin the job of changing your oil, you will need a pan to drain the old, dirty oil from your engine before adding your new oil. These pans are reusable and cost about $20.
The last few items you will need to perform your oil change are things you may already have around the house or garage. You will need rubber gloves to protect your hands, towels to keep everything clean, and a funnel. If you don’t have these items, the cost is minimal, but you’ll want to keep it in mind.
If you have all the tools you need to change your oil, you still need to consider several other factors before committing to the job.
There are various things that DIYers don’t think about before getting into changing their own oil, such as:
- Your satisfaction in completing the job is more about knowing that you did something on your own to save money than the excitement you get from other DIY jobs that you can show off—such as hanging your own wallpaper or refinishing furniture.
- If you make a mistake during the process, you may end up creating a problem that will cost you much more than it would have cost to go to a garage. You could use the wrong levels of oil, improperly attach the filter, buy the wrong filter, or use the wrong oil.
- This is a messy job. No matter how many times you have changed your oil, you will inevitably make a mess every time you do the job.
- Safety is always a concern. In addition to the potentially fatal safety issue of the vehicle falling on you while you work, there are other dangers to consider. You are also exposing yourself, and possibly your pets and the environment to oil, and you could be burned by the oil you are changing.
Is It Cheaper to Change Your Own Oil?
Now that you have established the upfront costs of doing your own oil changes, the best way to answer this question is to look at the oil change cost at a typical garage versus what you would pay to get the oil and filter to do the job yourself. Of course, the price varies, depending on the specific products you use and where you buy them, but in general, the supplies will cost in the neighborhood of $35-$50.
Many garages offer deals where you get one free oil change after paying for so many, and dealerships sometimes offer deals on oil changes after buying a car from them. They may ask you to keep a license plate on the front of your vehicle, advertising that you bought it at their dealership in exchange for a reduced oil change price or something else along those lines. You always have options when it comes to getting your oil changed at a garage. You can take your car to the dealership, use your favorite mom-and-pop shop, or even take your car to a commercial “oil and lube” type business. However, no matter which you choose, you will likely find that the price is about the same as what you would pay for supplies to do it yourself.
So, now that we have answered the question of “How much does it cost to change your own oil?” and come to the conclusion that the savings aren’t worth the time and effort, you may wonder why anyone would bother. The truth is, many people truly enjoy doing everything they can to take care of their own vehicles, even if they aren’t very mechanically inclined. Learning to perform an oil change gives these individuals something else to do in their own garage.
The other remaining question is why garages don’t charge more and why DIYing oil changes became popular. Professional oil changes weren’t always as cost-effective as they are now. As people increasingly started changing their own oil, garages noticed the loss in business and took a new approach. The fact is, they probably lose money on oil changes because the cost of labor is more than they take in. By performing this task at a reasonable price, however, they increase the chances that customers will return to them with other jobs they can make money on. In business terms, it is called a loss leader. If they can sell you on other services or get you to come back for more lucrative work, it was worth the small loss they took on the oil change.
Now that you are informed of the pros and cons of doing your own oil change, it is up to you which option you choose. Ultimately, it seems to come down to whether you enjoy working on your car as a leisure activity or not.