THE FAST AND THE FRUGAL
Cars are not a one-time expense. They require regular maintenance, or the subsequent repairs will be costly. One of the most essential maintenance procedures is the oil change. Usually recommended every 3,000 to 5,000 miles for conventional oil, if you’re going to go any longer, you’d better check your owner’s manual. The basic oil service involves four or five quarts of oil and a new oil filter, plus the cost of labor. We compared the oil change services at seven major auto service centers, plus the advantages of going to your dealer or doing it yourself.
Always call ahead to get a full estimate on the service. Those bargain deals may be leaving out hidden charges. Read reviews of your local shop. Even highly rated national chains have a bad egg somewhere. Also be aware they’re likely going to try to sell you on additional services. If they say you need some major repairs after an oil change,consider getting a second opinion from your personal mechanic.
BEST FOR CONVENIENCE: VALVOLINE
Valvoline makes oil changes so convenient you don’t even have to leave your car. Since this is theofficial Valvoline chain, they only pour Valvoline oil. They have everything from basic conventional oil to premium Valvoline synthetics. If you prefer Valvoline, they are also best in price from $20 for conventional and $50 for synthetic.
BEST FOR COUPONS: MIDAS
Most oil service chains offer coupons to entice drivers onto their lube racks. Midas offers the biggest savings with up to $30 off a tune-up, $50 off brake services, and $100 mail-in rebate for tires. Most of their competitors offer $7-10 coupons, and maybe $20.
MOST POINTS IN AN INSPECTION: PEP BOYS
Reading the services offered by most service stations, the numbers 18 and 19 often come up. So Pep Boys’ 25 point inspection leads the pack with the most points of inspection to make sure your car passes emissions tests with every oil change. After Valvoline, Pep Boys is best in price from $25 conventional to $80 synthetic oil-change for a variety of brands.
BEST FOR ONLINE DISCOUNTS: GOODYEAR
No need to clip or print a coupon. Goodyear, the name you know from the famous blimp that flies over sporting events, offers discounts for booking online. Check their website before you make an appointment to see what your local Goodyear shop is offering, and book through the site to receive the savings.
BEST FOR SPEED: EXPRESS OIL CHANGE
Express Oil stands out from the bigger name chains by offering 10 minute oil changes, walk-ins welcome. Now, you don’t want a rush job when it comes to your car, but within those 10 minutes Express Oil also checks other fluids, belts and hoses, air filter, steering and suspension, lubricates the chassis, and checks all safety functions. They promise right on their website not to pressure you into additional services or tack on hidden fees, so if they do, you have it in writing.
BEST DAY FOR AN OIL CHANGE: FIRESTONE ON A TUESDAY OR WEDNESDAY
Firestone stood out from other auto shops with one item on their FAQ. People ask what the best day to bring their car is, and Firestone spilled the beans. So if you are free on a Tuesday or Wednesday, know that Firestone has openings for you. One red flag is their promise to have an expert technician assess a change in motor oil for your car. That sounds like an upsell to us, but if you know what you want and stick to it, Firestone will also check filters and lights and top off all fluids.
BEST FOR STAFF TRAINING: JIFFY LUBE
Probably the most famous name in oil service with advertising and shops conspicuous on many corners, Jiffy Lube has a reputation to uphold. Their Jiffy Lube University trains their technicians, so you at least know they’re not pulling in any mechanics just off the street. Since auto experts warn about inexperienced mechanics working at chains from firsthand accounts, Jiffy Lube’s industry standard is an asset.
BEST FOR WARRANTY CHECKUPS: DEALERSHIPS
If your car is under warranty, you can probably get free oil changes and regular services for the first few years at your dealership. Dealerships are also ideal because they will be following the manufacturer’s specifications. Also, dealer mechanics will be extremely familiar working with your make of car. You know what Malcolm Gladwell said about 10,000 hours of practice.
BEST FOR GEARHEADS: DO IT YOURSELF
The best and most reliable oil change is to do it yourself. Even if you’re an auto newbie, there are plenty of online guides and YouTube videos walk you through it. Your owner’s manual likely has clear instructions, too. This way, you can verify you’re using the right oil for your car, doing it right, and not getting sold on additional services you don’t need.