Are DIY Oil Changes Worth It?

May 7th 2016

Changing your car’s oil is a necessary, but often irritating, chore that many people tend to put off. Making matters worse is the rising cost of an oil change, especially on newer vehicles that are using low friction oils, which are more costly. To save money, some people prefer changing their car’s oil themselves. But is the money you save from a DIY oil change worth the effort? Before you run to the store to buy everything you need to perform your first oil change, here are a couple of things to think about:

Do You Have the Proper Tools and Experience?

If you’re a regular gearhead who loves tinkering with cars in your spare time, an oil change should be a relatively simple job that you’re well equipped for. But, if it’s your first time ever picking up a wrench, and you’re just trying to save a few bucks with a DIY oil change, it might benefit you more to leave your car’s maintenance to a professional.

  • A service shop is equipped with power tools and car lifts, making oil changes fast and efficient. There are even service shops that specialize in quick oil changes for customers who are in a rush.
  • Without the right tools and experience, a 30-minute job can wind up taking several hours, or even longer.
  • There’s always a possibility that you might end up damaging your car due to inexperience or not having the proper tools. Even worse, you can wind up hurting yourself.

Hidden Costs of Doing Your Own Oil Change

These aren’t necessarily hidden costs, but they are costs that people tend to overlook during their first oil change. Aside from the oil and oil filter, here is a list of the basic tools you’ll need to purchase before you get started:

  • Oil drip pan
  • Floor jack and jack stands
  • Oil filter wrench
  • Wrench (for the drain plug)
  • Funnel
  • Waste oil container

Another hidden cost is the waste disposal fee you’ll have to pay for properly disposing of the used oil.

Perks of Having Your Oil Changed by a Professional

While changing your car’s oil yourself can save money, there are a few free perks that come with going the dealership or service shop route:

  • Service inspection: Most service shops will perform an inspection on your car to check for other issues.
  • Car wash: Dealerships often provide a free car wash when you take your car in for servicing.
  • Tire rotation: If you bought your tires from the shop that is performing your oil change, they typically rotate your tires for free.
  • Fluid top-off: Many service shops and dealerships will top off some of your car’s fluids (e.g., washer fluid, coolant, transmission oil, power steering fluid, etc.).

Special Offers and Oil Change Coupons

If you still feel like you’d save more by doing your own oil change, don’t forget that many service shops offer discounted oil changes to their customers. A quick search online or in your local newspaper should turn up special offers and promotions being offered by auto service shops in your area. You can also search for oil change coupons online, or check out coupon sites like CouponMountain.com, where major auto service chains like Jiffy Lube usually post oil change coupons.

Bottom Line

The main difference in cost between getting your oil changed at a service shop and doing it yourself is the cost of labor. If you have the necessary tools and experience to get the job done quickly, it may be worth the effort to do your own oil change and save $15. But if you don’t want to deal with the hassle, there are plenty of places where you can get your oil changed that offer discounts.  

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