Synthetic or regular? Save money or get better performance? Save money or save the planet? Making an informed choice about oil changes just got easier, thanks to new research by AAA on the quality of engine oil.
AAA found that synthetic oil outperformed conventional oil by an average of nearly 50 percent. That translates to significantly better engine protection for just $5 more per month when you follow the factory-recommended oil change schedule. That’s the price of a couple of gallons of gas, more or less, depending on where you live and what octane you use.
It’s also good news for companies which market synthetic oil, including Valvoline and Penzoil.
AAA found that synthetic oil is especially beneficial in newer vehicles with turbo-charged engines, and for vehicles which drive frequently in stop-and-go traffic, tow heavy loads or operate in extreme hot or cold conditions, because synthetics resist deterioration better than conventional oil products.
While only a limited number of vehicles specifically require synthetic oil, AAA says all vehicles can benefit from using synthetic oil.
Another AAA study shows that most drivers are completely confused by competing claims of synthetic and conventional oil companies. That nationwide survey shows that 44 percent of drivers are either unsure (27 percent) or do not believe (17 percent) that the more expensive synthetic oil is better for a vehicle’s engine.
Reasons cited for regularly choosing the cheaper, conventional oil include feeling that synthetic oil is too expensive, offers no benefit, that the upgrade to synthetic oil is an unnecessary up-sell by a repair facility, or they are simply not offered the choice. Wrong.
To protect vehicle engines, particularly those that operate in extreme conditions, AAA urges drivers to consider switching to synthetic oil at the next oil change service. It is also critical to check your owner’s manual to make sure that the oil meets the exact specifications for that particular engine.
Switching from a conventional oil to a synthetic oil will cost the average driver $64 more per year, or an extra $5.33 per month.
A survey of AAA’s Approved Auto Repair facilities reveals that the average cost of a conventional oil change is $38, while a synthetic oil change is $70. For those who change their vehicle’s oil themselves, the average cost of 5 quarts of conventional oil is approximately $28, vs. $45 for synthetic oil.
See also: AAA fuel cost calculator
AAA’s survey also shows that vast majority (83 percent) of service professionals select synthetic oil for their personal vehicles. If the pros chose it for themselves, that’s a good guideline you should, too.
“While a manufacturer-approved conventional oil will not harm a vehicle’s engine, the extra $30 per oil change could actually save money in the long run by protecting critical engine components over time,”says AAA’s Nielson, who adds that the hesitation to select a synthetic oil may be rooted in our widespread distrust of repair facilities.
Yet another recent AAA survey found that two-thirds of U.S. drivers do not trust repair facilities, with most citing concern over the recommendation of unnecessary services.
AAA’s engine oil research focused on eight industry-standard ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) tests to evaluate the quality of both synthetic and conventional engine oils in terms of shear stability, deposit formation, volatility, cold-temperature pumpability, oxidation resistance and oxidation-induced rheological changes. At the time of testing, all tested oils were licensed by the American Petroleum Institute and advertised to meet the International Lubricants Standardization and Approval Committee’s GF-5 specifications.