Is Changing Your Own Oil Worth It?

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should you change your own oil
Yesterday I wrote about how Valvoline messed up my oil change. They screwed on an oil filter canister too tightly and it cost me $15 to get a new one. I could have gone back to their oil change location to try and get them to foot the bill and replace the part, but I…

Yesterday I wrote about how Valvoline messed up my oil change. They screwed on an oil filter canister too tightly and it cost me $15 to get a new one. I could have gone back to their oil change location to try and get them to foot the bill and replace the part, but I decided it wasn’t worth the hassle.

should you change your own oil

I figure it would have taken me at least half an hour of arguing my point to try and get them to replace the part and I determined that it wasn’t worth $15 for me to deal with the time and heartache. Instead they have lost my business and I will be sure to warn my friends before going to that franchise.

There were many different viewpoints left in the comments of that article. Some people mentioned they would have done the same thing as me, while others mentioned they would have gone back to Valvoline out of principle. Some people mentioned they change their own oil to avoid circumstances like this.

While changing your own oil is an excellent way to ensure that something like this doesn’t happen, that doesn’t mean that everyone should start changing their own oil. If you think about changing your own oil every type that you have to fork over that $30-ish to have someone else do, then this post is for you.

Should you change your own oil?

I take my car to the mechanic to get the oil changed. I know how to do it and I’ve done it before. I was also an aircraft mechanic in the USAF, so I know my way around tools, and I am not afraid to get dirty.

But I don’t change my oil anymore for several reasons:

  • The savings isn’t very much – $5 at best.
  • You still need to dispose of the used oil and filter and pay the disposal fee.
  • I don’t have the specialized tools and equipment (special wrench for my car, oil pans, ramps, etc).
  • I get my tires rotated for free where I normally get my oil change (I bought my tires there). This is important for the tire warranty.
  • Included extras like the 22 point inspection and fluid top off. Mechanics are trained to look for abnormalities and can catch some problems before they become big (read: expensive) problems.

Benefits of changing your own oil. There are some benefits to changing your car’s oil yourself – such as saving a few dollars, knowing the job was done correctly, and the satisfaction of getting your hands dirty. But for me, those aren’t enough – not when I can take a few minutes out of my day and pay a couple extra dollars to have it done for me.

Reader Poll: Do you change your car’s oil yourself, or take it to the mechanic?

  • I take it to a mechanic (44%, 622 Votes)
  • I change it myself (39%, 557 Votes)
  • Sometimes both (17%, 249 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,428 (poll closed – thanks for participating!)

If you enjoy doing minor work on your car, then it can be worth it to save that money. For anyone that has a car that’s very low to the ground that requires a lot of work to get under, it’s going to take longer.

If you have an auto repair shop or a mechanic that you trust that does oil changes for $20, I would suggest having a professional do it. Not only can they check the oil, but they can also look for any other problems as well. While you might have a lot of mechanical knowledge, I don’t. Sure, I had a bad experience with a Valvoline, but that doesn’t mean that I’ll start changing my own oil.

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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of Cash Money Life. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the IL Air National Guard.

Ryan started Cash Money Life in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about military money topics and military and veterans benefits at The Military Wallet.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free account here.

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  1. David Allans says

    I’ve recently contemplated doing my own oil changes. If I manage to get a 5 L jug of conventional oil on sale, and an oil filter, the savings are approximately $5 – 7 maximum, pre-tax. This is as of November 2012 in SW-Ontario,Canada.

    In terms of oil and filter quality, I’m sure what I would use is slightly better, yet by how much I’m not sure. Besides, I still get my oil changed every 6,000 KM, so the oil and filter, even if sub-par quality are going to last. The oil life indicator in the car is overly generous in my opinion.

    More importantly as Ryan illustrated, it gives your mechanic a chance to look over the car for anything that should be brought to your attention. I don’t have the skill sets, let alone hoist to properly look over a vehicle, so I’m happy to pay an extra $20-28 / year + tax, to have a professional do the work (+ those essential extras). Of course, then there’s the disposal fee…no idea.

    Of course, I carry around some essential fluids in the trunk just to be on the safe side, if the need arises to top up oil, pwr.steering,coolant,brake/clutch fluids etc.

    I realize this is redundant but just wanted to chime in with my similar reasoning for not doing it myself.

  2. Chris Jacobs says

    Changing you own oil is better.
    1. You can control the quality of oil you put in, i.e. using better synthetic (lasts 15,000 miles) over cheap regular oil you get from cheap oil change shops.
    2. You can control the quality of oil filter you buy for the vehicle, which can vary by a lot.
    3. It only involves removing one screw under the passenger side of the car, and a pan to catch the oil, and a funnel to put oil in. Maybe a jack if you cant get under there.
    4. You don’t need to make appointments. Cost is generally under $30 even for all of the good stuff.
    5. Once you do it once, most will see that it is amazingly easy. Getting oil changes at a mechanic is equivalent to having an attendant fill up your car with gas.

  3. Brian Phipps says

    Well…. I’m a bit skeptical here. Let me ask a question.

    Under what circumstances did you realize that your oil filter was too tight? I mean there is generally only one time the filter is removed, unless it is compromised anyways (i.e. damaged). Typically, on most vehicles, the filter only gets removed when it is to be changed anyways. So, what is there to achieve by having Valvoline replace the filter. Isn’t it headed for disposal anyways?

    The threads on any engine are made of a much harder metal than any canister or cartridge housing. So even if it was over torqued to the point of component failure, it still cannot damage the engine. The fail point will always be on the filter side.\

    I cannot fathom any situation where the filter would have otherwise been spent. Not that I have any reason to take any establishments side. I personally enjoy doing my own oil changes. Your scenario you propose in the body of this article, which by the way I feel is written well, does not match the title question. You have an example of poor customer service. Not their competency in performing the oil change.

    To answer the title question better: It does not matter who does the oil change, whether it be done by an establishment or an individual private party. The point is to achieve the objective goal behind the oil change. The engine was engineered to a certain specifications, which has a prescribed recommended oil service guideline. This includes oil type, viscosity, blend, API, filter, procedure, technique, etc. Which, regardless of who the owner or authorized operator of the vehicle elects to perform this, does this in accordance with it, should achieve the life which the engineers had expected.

    “Any engine will last forever, or until it gets its mouthful of dirt. Whichever comes first.” -Briggs and Stratton Corporation

    Again, it follows customer service. If you buy a car, which matters most, what you paid, or if you feel you got a good deal? Don’t get me wrong, I love saving a buck here and there just as much as anyone, but in the end, if you and satisfied, it sucks. Such is the case you refer to with Valvoline. If you do it yourself, you have no one to blame about shortcomings, but yourself. If you trust a mechanic to do it, I hope it works out. It probably will be fine. But if not, your next question ought to be: Am I setting myself up to be duped? That’s the disclaimer.

    There’s 2 types of guys out there (okay sorry, girls too):
    1. The classic type – the guy out there who is willing to go out and do the things which is required for everyday life to continue, and doesn’t rely on others to do what is necessary. This person either has the means to accomplish this, or is able to obtain the means to do these things. Also referred to as the traditional type.

    2. The romantic type – the guy which realizes that there is the guy out there who has capitalized on the fact that not everyone wants to do everything which is traditional and therefore relies on others. The romantics realize that the people that do these tasks have families to feed too and need the business. Don’t get carried away and try convincing your wife that paying the man makes you romantic, that ‘s not what I am getting at.

  4. Dan says

    It’s not an extreme example if it’s your actual experience. I arrived here because I am contemplating changing my own oil after being charged $115 for an oil change after taxes at Jiffy Lube for fully synthetic oil in a Volkswagen Jetta. I can get the oil and the filter for about $38. Buying the tools, ramps included, with the oil and filter is about the $115. So the second time I do it I’m saving money. My wife has a car that takes conventional and can get an oil change for <$20. I agree in that case why change your own? But it's much different with synthetic and more and more cars require it.

    • Ryan Guina says

      This is a very good example, Dan. I would probably change my own oil in that situation, or shop around for other shops. My vehicles both use conventional motor oil, so I take them to the same shop each time. I also bought my tires there, so there is free lifetime balance and rotation. An oil change is the perfect opportunity to have those routine maintenance items done. I also bought a lifetime alignment on both vehicles, so I get that done about once a year, or any time it seems like it’s pulling (which is rare). I’m generally able to get all of that maintenance accomplished for less than $30. They also double check air pressure in the tires, top up fluids, check the brakes, and give the car a general once-over. That’s a lot of work for less than $30!

      But the situation would be different if my car required a $115 oil change that I could do for about $40. I’d handle the oil change on my own and just take the car in every few months to have the other maintenance done. Thanks for sharing!

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