Get an Oil Change Without Getting Ripped Off

This post is compliments of my sister. She says that every time she gets her oil changed, she never knows if she’s getting ripped off or not. What do you say when they say you need a new air filter? What kind of oil do you request? Should they do a radiator flush, too? Well sister and others, read on to learn how not to get ripped off when you get your oil changed.

When to Get Your Oil Changed

I get my oil changed every 3,000 miles without fail. If your car gets driven less than twice a week, then you shouldn’t wait until 3,000 miles you should get the oil changed every 3 months.

This “every 3,000 miles” rule applies no matter what kind of oil you get. Regular stuff, synthetic, God’s blend…whatever you get, change it every 3,000 miles!

Silver Car

Keep this baby purring like a kitten by changing that oil every 3,000 miles

Where to Get Your Oil Changed

If you can do it yourself, do it yourself. If you can’t then I suggest firstly getting it done at your dealership. Got a Toyota? Go to Toyota. Got a Ford? Go to Ford. (If you go to those places, take note that they’ll try to sell you extra stuff – see below).

If you can’t go to the dealership, then I suggest big, corporate places. I hate promoting corporations, but in this case, it’s the way to go. Places like Walmart, Jiffy Lube, and Sears are all good places. I actually used to work at a Walmart Tire Lube Express and can say from experience that those guys are well trained and they aren’t interested in selling you tons of extra stuff. They’re interested in a high turnover – get your car in and get it out fast.

What to Ask For

You want a “basic oil change” which should include them changing the oil and the oil filter, and nothing else.

The oil they use should be whatever the manufacturer recommends. This is very important. Most cars come with a 100,000 mile warranty, but if you’re not using the manufacturer recommended oil, your warranty gets voided. Read that again, if you don’t use the manufacturer-recommended oil, your warranty gets voided! (How can the manufacturer tell if you’ve been using their recommended oil? I have no idea).

What an Oil Change Should cost


When They Ask You to Buy Other Stuff Don’t Get Taken on a Ride

Olive Oil

Make sure they’re selling you the right kind of oil for your car (this is the wrong kind of oil for any car)

  1.  Air filters get changed every 9,000 miles. If they come out with your air filter and it looks a little brown, so what? It’s okay. When it’s black or at 9,000 miles is when you change it. Note: Don’t get pulled into buying expensive air filters that filter out more contaminants. They do filter out more, but the cost is that they restrict air flow to your engine – which is bad news. Don’t go expensive on air filters!
  2. Cabin air filters are separate sometimes in vans. Don’t get taken in with this either. My family hasn’t yet changed ours and it’s just fine.
  3. Transmission fluid should get changed every 70,000-80,000 miles. If they say you need more, say thanks but no. Go to the store, buy your own, and fill yourself. But make sure you’re past 70,000 miles, anything sooner than that and you’re being ripped off.
  4. A radiator flush should be done maybe every 50,000 miles, so when they say you need it, chances are, you don’t.
  5. Only buy new wiper blades if you’ve noticed that your blades aren’t working well in the rain.
  6. Only let them vacuum your car if you can’t do it yourself for some reason.
  7. You can buy your own window washer fluid for cheap and fill it up yourself, you don’t need to pay them to do it. It’s the easiest thing that you can do under the hood. Go ahead, pop your car’s hood, I bet you can find where the window washer fluid goes.

My truck has 140,000 miles on it and I have yet to touch the radiator or transmission fluids because they haven’t needed it, so don’t ripped off!


See the update/tune-up to this post that offers a few more tips on services you don’t need!


Thanks to the folks who suggested captions for the bathroom pic in the Blue Collar Roundup – Didn’t Make the Cut Edition. The best caption is … *annoying drum roll* … it’s a tie! Between:

“She said size doesn’t matter. She lied” from Kathleen at Frugal Portland, and

“The dividers are being removed to promote public interaction. Thank you for understanding” from Debts n Taxes.

Thanks also to Schneider, Liz from Pardon My Poppet, and Mrs. Pop at Planting Our Pennies for playing! :-)


Get an Oil Change Without Getting Ripped Off — 57 Comments

  1. We’ve been doing our own oil changes which saves us about half the price of going. If we do get it changed, we tend to go to Wal-Mart as we can shop at the same time. The other time we went to a local place we got lucky and it was a oil change and all fluids changed-but the fluid change was on the house as we were a new customer.
    bogofdebt recently posted..More wisdomy wordsMy Profile

    • New customer discount is awesome – glad you took advantage. It’s great that you change your own oil, it really does cut costs and then you can make sure that it’s done right.

  2. Yes, totally don’t put that kind of oil in your car!

    The new oil change place in town changed our oil for $70!! because my husband didn’t think to say he ONLY wanted an oil change. It was ridiculous. So, very good advice on what to ask for and what to do yourself.

    P.S. Thanks for stopping by my blog as part of the hop! It’s great to meet new people.
    Jean Oram recently posted..How Playgrounds Create Healthier KidsMy Profile

  3. I believe it was either Dateline or 20/20 who did a great undercover story on some very popular chains (ie, PEP Boys, Jiffy Lube, etc.) which were ripping customers off with oil changes, engine flushes, etc. Unfortunately, I am not mechanically inclinced enough to change the oil myself (don’t laugh…I don’t know anything about cars) or I probably would.

    • No it’s okay to not be able to do it yourself; we’ve all got things we’re good at. For you then, it sounds like the best option is to really know and learn the correct costs of things and how often different fluids should get changed, etc.

  4. I hate getting an oil change, and even I know what to expect. I find most car repair shops, and even car dealers, to be shady.

    Great example: my coworker took her car into the dealer for an oil change, and of course they do a “100 point inspection”. During this supposed inspection, they said they found that the eccentric shaft sensor gasket was loose. My coworker, having no idea what that was, asked for the repair cost – a whopping $450. She didn’t know better, but agreed.

    At lunch, she was telling me this story, and I happened to have heard of this before. The only problem is that this valve gasket is under the valve cover, and during this inspection, there is no way that they could have discovered this problem unless they removed that valve cover (which they didn’t for sure). Why the car dealer likes this part – it is a $3 part, but takes 8 hours of labor to install (because of having to remove said valve cover and replace).

    I told her to call back and ask how they discovered this problem given the information I gave her. The service manager said he would research and call her back. About 20 minutes later the dealership manager (not just the service manager) called her back and let her know the BWM will be taking care of this expense and not to worry…

    Bottom line – very shady!
    The College Investor recently posted..The 4 Laws For Investing in StocksMy Profile

    • VERY shady! And the only way she discovered the shadiness was because she had someone knowledgeable (you!) to tell her that something wasn’t right. And that just sucks. Although the fact that she told you the story means that she sensed something was wrong, but wasn’t sure. It’s too bad that that’s the way it often goes with car repairs and lots of other general contracted work — people get ripped off because they just don’t know!

  5. My husband always tells me ahead of time, “If they try to sell you windshield wiper blades, don’t get them, I’ll change them tonight” ($10 or something from Walmart) and “I already checked the air filter and it’s fine, so don’t buy that if they say you need it.”

    Well, the last time I strolled in there and proudly said, “Just the regular service, I don’t need an oil filter.” LOL – everyone got a good laugh. I had meant “air filter” so I corrected myself but it was already laughing time. :o)
    444 recently posted..Tough act to followMy Profile

    • Haha, well at least you started off with a laugh, can never go wrong when you get people laughing! It’s great that your husband sets you up so that you know exactly what it is you need and don’t. If he can change your wiper blades and knows how to check the air filter, why can’t he change the oil itself?

      • Ah, good question. I’m not sure. Don’t you need a lift or at least a jack or something? We live in an apartment and don’t have garage-type stuff. He can fix some things when he has to. I always get the Jiffy-Lube guys to put air in the tires, too. The worst thing that happened to my car ever was that it needed a serpentine belt (it’s a great car but 13 years old.) Some dudes at J.L. offered to fix it off the clock, working an hour in pouring down rain in the parking lot. I supplied the belt (only a couple of bucks for that) and they refused to name a price when they were done, they were so nice. Finally they suggested $20 for each of them ($40 total) so I went to the ATM and came back with $80 instead. The other shops in town quoted me price so outrageous for the work and the belt that it’s unprintable! Let’s just say I paid a fraction of what I would have been shaken down for because of these off-the-books workers. Sorry I told a story here on your site. LOL
        444 recently posted..Got fined $168 todayMy Profile

        • Hey, stories are always welcome…it’s funny how when people are generous with their time and work, we get generous right back. Like you bringing $80 back instead of $40, that was really cool of you. You don’t technically need a jack to change the oil on your car, but they sure are nice. When I lived in an apt complex, I tried a few times to change my oil, and succeeded, but it was a pain because lots of people are walking by and wanting to pull their cars in and out of spots. It makes sense that he doesn’t change your oil in the current situation!

  6. Good points about the extra additions – it’s like buying a TV and they offer you extended warranty…always say NO!
    I’m thankful for a reputable small-time mechanic, who I trust and does a great job, most of the time I buy the oil and he changes it for $10 and tops up any fluids and air-tire pressure.

    An oil change for a small engine 4 banger car is that much…if you drive a BMW…an oil change is $110….and that’s not the dealer price.
    Here’s my breakdown:
    6.7L of Oil – $85 or $12/liter
    BMW Oil Filter – $15
    Labor – $10
    Even with a 3.0L V6 engine, the motor still takes 6.7L or else it keeps telling you it’s low on engine motor oil.



  7. These are great! I know nothing about cars, so need a lot of help here. I have a question; what if you got your Toyota used from a different dealer? Can you still take the Toyota to the Toyota dealership then? I’ve never even thought about doing that before.
    Michelle recently posted..The Cost of Pet OwnershipMy Profile

    • I probably wouldn’t go to the dealership then, especially if the car isn’t under warranty, because they will charge more. But with dealerships you always know it’ll be done right; but the higher cost can be a downside. But it’s worth it if your car is under warranty and you don’t want that to get voided because Jiffy Lube used the wrong oil. So I guess it depends if you’re under warranty or not, but my sense here is to say no, if you didn’t get your car at the Toyota dealership, then don’t go to the dealership to get the oil changed.

  8. Good advice, but I do disagree with some points. The first would be about going to the dealership whenever possible. Dealerships are notorious for charging much higher prices than any oil change shop or mechanic. The second being changing oil every 3000 miles, you should be going based on what is recommended for your specific vehicle. With newer vehicles it is often much longer than that. Also I always let them vacuum my car since the place I go to doesn’t charge extra for that. They actually don’t charge extra to top off any of the fluids either.
    Modest Money recently posted..6 Ways to Avoid Blogger BurnoutMy Profile

    • Jeremy man, I gotta stick by my every 3000 miles advice, but if your car manual says you can go longer, than the car manual definitely trumps my advice!

      Yeah, if places don’t charge extra to vacuum your car or top off other fluids, then by all means, they certainly should, good point.

      The thing with the dealerships though is that they’ll always put the right kind of oil in your car, and so your warranty won’t ever get voided. But again, if you’ve got that owners manual you can tell any Jiffy Lube-type place what to put in exactly!
      TB recently posted..Get an Oil Change Without Getting Ripped OffMy Profile

  9. My second oldest worked at a speedy change oil place, so I’d swing in there (a mom’s duty, you know). I always let him run up my ticket a bit so he’d get a pat on the back, and he always gave me the employee discount anyway, lol.

    We lucked out w/our mechanic. Our next door neighbor went to school w/him and recommended him…because we’re neighbors w/his friend he is really, really good to us (love that!!!). :)

    Thanks for the informative post.
    Rosey recently posted..It’s NFL Time, Baby!!My Profile

    • Man, having friends or family members who are mechanics is always awesome. They tend not to rip us off… it just sucks for everyone else who isn’t so lucky. Any time my sister goes to the mechanic where she lives, she always calls me and hands the phone to the mechanic so I can talk with him. It’s sort of a funny thing, but that way I can help her be sure she’s not getting ripped off and I think it keeps them more honest because they can’t just make stuff up.

      • Ah, your sister is lucky! If we ever move, we’ll be back to square one w/that, and it does suck when you don’t have a mechanic you can trust (because you KNOW something is going to go wrong at some point).

    • That’s a great addition to the list here! If you go to the same place, lots of times they’ll send coupons in the mail — be patient and wait for one to come! Thanks Aaron!

    • Yeah, prices are always creeping up, which means that if you can, it’s always good to learn how to change your own oil, then you don’t have to worry about it!

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  11. I agree with Jeremy. My experience with dealer has been bad. They charge way more for simple oil change. Also, newer cars require oil change at 5,000 miles so always read owner’s manual to make sure.

    I agree with you about not accepting other offers like car wash or air filter change. I always buy air filter from Pep Boys for much cheaper and install it myself.

    Great advice overall!
    Shilpan recently posted..Building Wealth With Smart Financial DecisionsMy Profile

  12. The last two times I have taken the car for an oil change I have gotten suckered in. I always seem to pay for the extra fluids and lubricants. Then I go home and my husband freaks out over the bill. I never know what to do. What if I said no to one of those fluids and then the engine over heats and we spend a lot more on the car. I think I have resolved to put the responsibility on him next time.

    • Haha, well, you learn as you go, so it’s good that T is handling car maintenance; he’ll only get better with time! You should be out there too, no reason you can’t know what’s going on under the hood, too!

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  14. Bit off topic but I can’t quite figure why cars in Europe go vastly longer distances between oil changes (up to 30,000K /20,000 miles) between oil changes than ones in America. I personally can’t remember the last time I did an oil change 3000 miles

    Of course they don’t lose any money as they charge a fortune here, up to 250euros at a dealer for a full service and about 75euros at a local garage.
    Rob recently posted..Inheritance Stocks part 2My Profile

    • Up to 20K miles?! That’s a ridiculously long distance… are you sure about that? I can’t imagine that the car systems are really different between American cars and Euro cars. Got me stumped on that one, man. Do the car manuals in Europe actually say 20K miles between oil changes?

      • totally, I don’t understand it either but it’s all computerized now so click a button on the dash and it shows how far. Typical is 15,000 kilometers (10,0000 miles) but I had an Audi and they went for the full Monti 20,0000 miles!!!

        BTW the downside is nobody here checks their oil and few people ran the engines dry, ouch big time!!!!
        Rob recently posted..It’s Monday What Can I SayMy Profile

        • Oh man, running the engine dry is one of the worst things you can do to your car! Well, if your car can go that many miles without oil, do be sure to check it someimtes just to make sure! Sounds like you know what you’re talking about though.

    • I hadn’t heard about that — I like consumer reports so I don’t want to disagree with them, but I still feel pretty strong about the every 3000 miles rule. I’ve had my truck for 140K miles and no problems yet!

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    • They didn’t refill it?! Oh man, that is not cool, very not cool. I’ve heard people complain that oil places didn’t actually replace their oil filters but charged them for it and not screwing everything closed tight enough (so they leak oil until it’s all emptied),but just not refilling it at all?! They owe you about 2 years worth of free oil changes, I think!

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  18. I had a conversation just the other day about how little I know about my vehicle. I’m sure I’ve been ripped off many times because of it, so you can only imagine how glad I was to find this. I need all the help I can get. :)

    Thanks, man! I need to take my car in sometime during the next month or two, so I’ll bring your checklist with me.
    Matt Madeiro recently posted..All the Motivation You’ll Ever NeedMy Profile

    • You definietly should man, it might help you not get ripped off! When I started to learn about cars, all I did was pop the hood and start looking around in there. The rest is history!

  19. I’m sorry but I cringe when I see you recommending Jiffy Lube. My husband is an ASE certified mechanic and I can’t tell you how many times he’s had to fix Jiffy Lube’s mistakes on cars- the problem is exactly what you say is good about them- “They’re interested in a high turnover – get your car in and get it out fast.” Fast isn’t always the best solution- working too fast means making mistakes. Example? My father-in-law took his truck to Jiffy Lube (instead of to my husband) and they didn’t tighten the drain plug all the way. He lost almost half of his engine oil- he’s lucky his engine didn’t burn up. I’d rather go to a mechanic that I trust than to a place that doesn’t pay attention to detail. I think your other points in your checklist are valid- and it’s always a good idea to be wary when being offered extras, because there are people out there trying to cheat you for sure.

  20. True story. Took my car to Express Lube one morning for an oil change. After a few minutes the lady who was helping me came out and said I needed a new air filter. Problem is I had just changed it THAT MORNING!! I told her so and she said that her guys were trained to say that – like that would make me feel better! I told her to stop what they were doing that I was leaving. They finished the oil change at no charge but I will never go near an Express Lube again!

    • Awesome job, dude! A free oil change is awesome! It’s good that you know what you’re doing and it sucks that so many people get pulled in to their lies. I know a lot of people also don’t have the balls to stand up and say something when it isn’t right — good job that you did. It would be awesome if they stopped lying to people after your visit, but I’m sure they lied to the next person that walked in.

  21. Not all vehicles need oil changes every 3000 miles. Best way to know the frequency for any standard maintenance on your car is to CHECK THE OWNER’S MANUAL!!!!! New model cars can go longer between services because of new technology. I recently bought a 2012 Hyundai Elantra and the manual said 7500 miles under normal driving conditions. Some places will still try to get you in every 3000 miles, but always check your manual to be sure. And watch your tire pressure as well. My mom got her oil changes done at Jiffy Lube, and they would check the tries and add air if needed. They went with the “standard” 32psi. however, my mom’s car came with a different rim style with required low profile tires, so the psi for those tire was lower. My mom’s tire treads peeled and blew out twice because of that. From them on she told them not to touch her tires. Always check the your actual tires for the max psi and remember that tires get hot as you ride, and hot air expands, causing the psi to go up, so never fill them to max psi.

    • Right on, man! Always check the manual about when to get your oil changed, what kind of gas to use in your car, what your tire pressure should be, etc.

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