We bought my vehicle, a 2008 Ford Escape, brand new. That’s her below, right before driving it off the lot.

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It came with the first year of oil changes and like a dutiful new car owner, I took it into the dealership right on the mark. I would still get a receipt from the dealer, with the cost marked down to $0.00. But the $34.99 cost of the oil change they were charging got me wondering if I should be doing it myself.

Let me back up a little (while). My dad used to own his own service station – that’s what we call a gas station today. Back then they would provide service for any needs your car had, including maintenance. My dad was a mechanic for many years. Growing up I can remember spending time with him in the garage or in the driveway watching and *helping* him when he was working cars. It didn’t seem like much at the time, but as I got older I realized that taught me quite a bit about how to work on a vehicle. I can thank him and those learning experiences for my knowledge and appreciation I have of cars today. There aren’t too many auto repairs where I feel intimidated and won’t at least try it myself.

Back to the oil change. I stick to the same type of oil for each change, which is important. Switching back and forth between types (synthetic, semi-synthetic, and conventional) can damage your engine. Your car can use any of these types, but once you choose the type, it’s best to stick to it moving forward. Fortunately, the Valvoline oil I like has frequent coupons and is already a good deal from Walmart. My SUV takes 6 quarts of oil, so here’s the material cost breakdown.

    $ 15.00 – 5 quart Valvoline oil
    $ 3.00 – 1 quart of Valvoile oil
    $ 4.00 – Fram oil filter
    $22.00 – Total Cost

That’s the regular cost, however, without any discounts. I typically only buy oil when I have a coupon. Valvoline regularly puts out $4/off coupons so I stock up when I get them. That reduces the cost to $18.00/oil change. Not a bad deal.

To be fair, I priced out oil changes at a few places around town (including the extra quart of oil needed, which is an extra charge). The best price was $24.31. Basically, I am saving $6.31 on each oil change. Multiply that times the number of oil changes I’ve done over the 120k miles I’ve put on my Escape after that first year of free changes and that adds up to 24 oil changes, or a savings of $151.44. Not huge, but that does cover the cost of a couple of trips to Target for groceries!

Considering the work takes me less than a half hour, is it worth the effort? Many people would say no, but I say yes, just not so much on the money side of things. Being able to say I can do the work myself and understand how a car operates and is maintained is, in my option, priceless.

I’ve already had my son sit with me during a few oil changes so he can see the process. I’m looking forward to him getting his first car so I can show him on his own car how rewarding it can be to do the repairs yourself.



2 Thoughts on “DIY Oil Change – Is It Worth It?

  1. It’s so great that you can do it yourself and are teaching your son. How old is he?

    My ex taught our sons how to change the oil on their cars so I’ve been playing with the idea of asking them to change it in my 2007 Expedition because the local places are charging me upwards from $70 for a synthetic oil change. I don’t drive much anymore since I try to keep the errands to just once a week so the oil changes aren’t needed as often (in terms of how many times a year) as they used to, but if I could get it done for much less, it would be great. The problem is that even though we live in flat Florida, we live in the one county that has hills and our house (hence our driveway) in on a hill. The street is way too narrow for us to park the SUV there safely for any length of time, plus it’s slanted as well anyway. So that’s a problem. Greg, my current husband, isn’t a car guy and would rather pay to get it done than bother with it. I could learn, certainly… *cricket, cricket*. I think I’ll just pay the garage to do it. As a matter of fact, I’m due for some maintenance anyway.

  2. My “little guy” is 18 now and just got his own car thanks to some help from his grandma.

    I’m not familiar enough with synthetic to know the prices of picking it up the supplies at Walmart and DIY. I would have to think it’s cheaper, just how much I’m not sure. But as long as the oil filter is reasonable and easy to get to on your car, it should be easy. Plus, the feeling of a good DIY and confidence it builds is a huge plus.

    Of course, if you don’t have an area conducive to doing the work, it may be easier and cheaper to take it in.

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