To Change Yourself or Use a Mechanic?

May 7th 2016

Changing a car’s oil regularly is one of the most important preventive maintenance schedules to keep. It's also one of the simplest car care tasks to complete at home, but changing your own oil requires a little bit of knowledge, time and determination. There are advantages to performing an oil change at home and also advantages to taking your car to a national chain, dealer or local mechanic. Here, you'll find comparisons and contrasts of each auto shop option based on terms of cost, flexibility, time, quality and additional services.


One of the most important factors in an oil change for most drivers is the cost of the service performed. The basic parts needed for an oil change include five quarts of oil (Pennzoil is used for comparison in this article) and an oil filter.

  • The cost to change your car’s oil at home would cost around $39, when purchasing your supplies from a national chain like Pep Boys and using conventional oil. This is assuming you have an oil pan and wrenches to perform the job.
  • A conventional oil change using Pennzoil at Pep Boys service center would cost $44.99.
  • The same service at a Nissan dealership would cost about $35, and taking it to a local mechanic would cost around $40 depending on local rates.


If you are looking for a standard oil change, it may actually be cheaper to take your car to a dealer or national chain.

Flexibility and Time

Having the ability to change your car’s oil whenever you would like may also be an important factor to consider.

  • An oil change at home can be done on your own schedule when time allows. Once you are comfortable performing the service, it should only take about a half hour to complete.
  • Most dealers and local repair shops will require you to schedule an appointment during normal business hours, making it inconvenient for employed drivers. Weekend hours are typically available, but it may take longer to get your car serviced.
  • One advantage of a dealer is that many of them offer shuttle service or a car rental so you can drop off your car and still find your way home.
  • Chain auto shops employ numerous mechanics and offer walk-in service. They can typically service your car within one hour of your arrival.


Servicing your car at home probably takes the least amount of time and offers the greatest flexibility. However, many dealers and national chains have systems and mechanics that make it relatively painless to get a standard oil change performed.

Parts Quality

  • Changing your car’s oil at home allows you to have full control of the parts you buy, which can be an advantage if there is a particular oil or filter that you would like to use.
  • Your local mechanic shop will be able to tell you what brands they have in stock and could possibly offer you a variety of options to meet your car’s needs.
  • The freedom of choice goes out the window when having your car’s oil changed at a dealer or national chain. Many of them use their own brand of oil and filters with limited information about quality on the Internet. In fact, most dealers make most of their profit on service, rather than car sales.


Having the ability to choose your own oil and oil filter may give you some peace of mind when changing your car’s oil at home. Little information is typically available about the parts used in dealerships and national chains, many of which have their own brand.

Additional Services

  • While you may be able to perform some additional services for free at home — like rotating the tires — it takes an extreme amount of car knowledge to visually inspect systems like the pros.
  • Most dealers, national chains and local mechanics will visually inspect your car and might even include engine diagnostics in the price of an oil change. Some even offer 100-point inspections that monitor the overall condition of the car.


One of the main benefits of not performing your own car oil change is having it done by mechanics with the proper knowledge instead. During their complimentary inspections, they may be able to find faulty parts that could cost big money to repair if not found early on.

There are advantages and disadvantages to changing your car’s oil at home, so be sure to weigh your options wisely. The best option is the one you are most comfortable with as a driver.
File:Auto Mechanic.jpg
By User Interiot on en.wikipedia (own-work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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