Regular oil changes are an important aspect of vehicle maintenance. It ensures that the metal components/moving parts are well lubricated and helps to clean the engine from sludge.
While there are many people who choose to perform oil changes on their own, busy lifestyles often dictate that it's easier to have a mechanic/professional do it. With so many options available, it's difficult to know the best place for an oil change.
There are five main options available, we'll discuss their merits to help you make the most informed decision.
Where to Get an Oil Change
Your Dealership is likely the best, and most reliable place to go for an oil change.
The technicians are fully certified and trained for your make of car, what they don't know isn't worth knowing.
They spend all of their working days diagnosing issues on particular makes and therefore, can spot recurring faults or problems often before they become obvious to the driver.
When purchasing a car direct from a dealer you will often be given incentives. This might mean that oil changes are included with your warranty or available at a reduced cost.
You should expect expert level service. Any oils or filters used will be quality brands and work will be covered with a solid warranty.
This is probably the most expensive option for an oil change and you will have to book ahead.
Independent Service Center
Most motorists know of several service centers in their locality; often family-run small/medium-sized shops that run on the mantra that no job is too big or too small.
Technicians are often trained to Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) standards, and don't just specialize in one particular make of vehicle, but rather all makes.
Service is usually friendly and of a high standard, as they are going out of their way to draw customers in their direction and away from the dealerships and multi-national brands.
They are usually cheaper than dealerships while still using high-quality products. If you have a particular oil of choice, independent service centers are often happy to order it in for you.
You will need to book an appointment, drive-ins are usually not catered to.
Availability of the required parts may not be readily available. While they're willing to order them for you, there is a lag-time between ordering and replacement.
Examples include Goodyear, Midas, Sears Auto Service, all large, national chain shops that offer multiple services. They don't focus much on getting to know their client, instead they focus on getting the job done as quickly as possible.
Staff turnover is usually high, and for jobs such as oil changes, the least experienced technicians or trainees are often responsible. That is not always a problem, you might get the most competent technician who does an excellent job, however, you might not. It's a chance you take if you want to pay less than at dealerships.
Service centers carry a limited range of oils and filters, all of which are adequate for the job but not always industry standard.
This is the mid-range option for both pricing and products, however, they usually accept drive-ins.
They only stock limited supplies of products which might not always be the best for your vehicle.
Ringing ahead to schedule an appointment is recommended but not always necessary.
Quick Stop Oil Change Shops
As the name suggests, dedicated oil change shops suit the motorist with little time to spare. With no need for an appointment, you can pull in and have an oil and filter change and be back on the road in less than 30-minutes.
If you're looking for no-hassle convenience, this might be for you.
The best pricing is available if you choose generic oil. However, most shops such as Jiffy Oil and Lube Stop offer variable pricing options depending upon the oil grade you prefer.
Although they specialize in fast oil changes, Jiffy Lube undertakes other car maintenance tasks, including brake and battery checks, and basic optimal engine performance inspections and improvements.
Many of these franchises employ the least experienced mechanics and trainees as they pay low wages.
That's not to say that they aren't competently carrying out an oil change, but they may miss other important issues that may cause issues down the line.
They prefer to get customers in and out in the minimum amount of time, build up no rapport, and don't always have the highest quality standards.
Some of the staff are inexperienced and carry out an under-par job, whether that be filling oil to the wrong line, or over-tightening and damaging drain bolts.
They are actively encouraged to up-sell, to try and encourage customers to pay for replacement parts that they don't entirely need. Cabin air filters and radiator fluid are prime examples of products they offer to increase profits.
However, for a fast oil change at an affordable price, you may still want to consider them.
Do It Yourself (DIY)
Vehicle owners with a basic knowledge of the workings of a car should be able to carry out an effective oil change. Enthusiasts will often say it's one of the easiest maintenance tasks they do.
There are no special tools required, it should take an hour to have the car back on the road, and only costs the price of the oil and filter.
If you need to drive the car to where you're going to change the oil, you will have to wait until the engine and oil temperature cool before beginning any work.
It can be a pain disposing of used engine oil, it must be done safely and conscientiously.
How to Perform an Oil Change
Before beginning ensure the engine has had sufficient time to cool; around 30-minutes should be sufficient. Once it is safely jacked up, you can begin.
- Locate and open the drain plug
- Drain the used oil into an old tub, preferably with a secure lid
- Remove the filter cap
- Remove the old filter cartridge and seals
- Fit the new filter and seal
- Tighten the filter cap
- Reset the maintenance light on the dash if required
- Replace the drain plug bolt and new washer
- Refill with the manufacturer's engine oil (see User's Handbook)
This requires a certain level of proficiency, but if you have any doubts, leave it to the professionals.
Read More: How Long Does an Oil Change Take?
Best Place for an Oil Change - The Verdict
If you are competent and confident, the best place for an oil change is anywhere safe that you can carry it out yourself. A garage, carport, or level driveway are ideal, as long as the vehicle can be jacked up safely.
This way you are assured of the standard of workmanship and the quality of the product used.
The Best Place for a Professional Oil Change
It is hard to beat the job that the main dealer will do. They have an unrivaled knowledge of your vehicles make and model and can pre-empt any impending issues.
The products will be high-grade and the work will carry a guarantee.
Best of all, your warranty might cover the cost of an oil change for the initial several thousand miles.
If your vehicle is older, you don't have a main dealer close by, or you don't want to pay inflated costs, we recommend independent service centers.
Skilled technicians will do an equally good job and they will recommend the best oil for your car, often ordering it in if they don't have your preference in stock.
How to Find the Best Place for an Oil Change
Word of mouth is a wonderful thing. Speak to people and ask where they have received the best and most reliable service.
Look at online reviews, they're a good source of information, ratings, and feedback.
Once you find a reliable and trustworthy mechanic, stick to them, your loyalty will be rewarded. You may receive special offers first or get freebies and perks at each visit. Maybe a free wash, polish, or tire check.
The Worst Place for an Oil Change
I don't like to stereotype all Quick Oil Change shops as bad, because they aren't. Every shop has good and bad employees and working practices.
However, I would prefer to use any of the other options before I had to go to a quick lube shop. I would feel safer entrusting my vehicle into the hands of someone far more skilled and knowledgeable, even if it is just for an oil change.
To get the best out of your car you must put the best into it. High-grade oil protects the engine and extends it's running life.
Oil degrades over time and unless changed regularly, will harm the engine and its components.
Taking your car to the best place for an oil change or successfully carrying out the work at home helps to keep it running smoothly and in peak condition.
When you find a trustworthy and reliable auto shop, you can be assured your car is in safe hands.