$10.95 Oil change safe?

I need to change my 93 Toyota Pickup’s oil, but doing so myself will cost $16 with the cheapest oil/filter combo I’ve found. There are two auto shops that are advertising oil changes for considerably less (A reputable looking one for $12.95, and a shadier looking one for $10.95).

Is an oil change the same anywhere, or should I just change my own for the additional time/cost?

Well, it depends on the oil and oil filter they choose to put in your car.
There are some really cheap oil filters out there, and the fact that they buy them in bulk is what saves them money. Same applies to the oil.

For $16, you know the job was done right, however.
It just depends on how much that extra $5.05 is worth to you.


They will use bulk oil out of a 55 gallon drum and a “white box” filter…

The whole purpose is to get your truck in their shop so they can find MANY neglected service items and move that bill WAY beyond $10.95 But you can always refuse their kind offers…

I would think that the cheaper oil changes are safe, however I would ensure they use oil (which will come in 55 gal drums) that meets the the API or other certifications and the oil filter is a brand that you’ve at least heard of. Their goal by using those loss leader promotions, is to get you in the door. After that, you can bet they will try to “upsell” you services, or find things wrong with your car that they will try to sell you goods and services. They certainly can’t be making a profit with a 12 dollar oil change, so somewhere they have a plan to make up the difference.

Several years ago, I did a couple of these at two different dealers (Toyota and GM). Apparently they were intent on making up for the cheap oil change by providing a safety/filter inspection that could have resulted in some upselling of various items. I understand that these inspections for an average consumer is probably a good thing, in general, because not everyone looks at their air filters, etc at the right times.

The Toyota dealer was the most obvious, because they wanted to put in an engine oil supplment costing $35, obviously a high profit item. That recommendation also went against the owner’s manual caution to not add any supplements to the oil in Toyotas. I told them all I wanted was the oil change, no additional services, but the high pressure sales possibility is there, in these cases.

I had no problems with the quality of the work, because OEM filters and their normal bulk oil was used and was properly spec’d for my car. For an independent mechanic, I would be asking what brand of oil filter and what brand of oil they would be using, just to make sure I am getting what the car requires.

The low price is just the hook to get you in the door. Once they have your truck in their shop they will try to sell you several additional “services,” most likely flushes (engine, transmission, power steering, brake fluid, you name it), all at considerably more than $10-15 each.

If either of these “auto shops” is a national quicky-oil-change place, stay away.

To answer your question, “No, not all oil changes are the same.”

Before you start comparing prices…read the fine print of this oil change…EVERY SINGLE ONE I’ve seen has a price but then specifies the Number of Quarts. They usually quote the CHEAPEST which is the fewest number of quarts (usually 4). If your truck has more then 4 quarts the price will be higher.

A local shop advertises Lube Oil, Filter for $12.95. I brought them my '91 W-250 Dodge Ram and said have at it boyz…I had already told them I was not interested in any other services, which disappointed them…When they backed the truck out, I checked the tie-rod ends which obviously had not been greased. I went back in and said “you forgot to Lube the truck…” No they said, look closely at our ad. Lube Oil, Filter, $12.95 We changed the Lube oil. If you would like our complete 4wd Lubrication Service, that’s $14.95 extra…I smiled and walked out and loaded another cartridge in my grease gun…

We see a lot of posts about oil plugs installed poorly and stripped out threads on the oil pan. Results are a loss of oil if the plug falls out, or the cost of either a new oil pan or some sort of rethreading fix. In other words not all oil changes are equal. When you shop for oil changes on price and have many different providers do this service the chances of a screw up are increased.

Do the oil changes yourself is one method of quality control. Using the same trusted provider is the next best option if you have others do the service. The low price oil change is a “come on” and a loss leader for the shop. It gets the vehicle up on the lift and other items can be “sold” to obtain some profit for the shop. Really crooked shops can even shoot oil on your shocks or struts and bring you over to show you your struts are leaking and need to be changed.

I’d pass on the cheapie oil changes in favor of having one or two trusted shops do the service. That way if you ever have a problem you have a shop that will stand behind their work.

It is a loss leader to get you in the door.

They will want to replace your air filter for $40, suggest muffler fluid changes, flush galore likely.

The technical business term is “Loss Leader”, and it’s exactly that. Get the customer in and sell him/her everything on the shelf. All retailers do this. Grocery stores have a special on some product, and hope you will buy other things while you are there.

I once had a $3.00 oil change at Sears Automotive (long time ago) with a free underside inspection. Sure enough, they said I needed new ball joints, idler arm and tie rod ends. The car had previoulsy been inspected and needed no such things.

You get the picture.

I would take advantage of a special on oil changes at my Toyota dealer. They have well trained staff, the shop is squeaky clean and the products are good quality. Dealers have to do this regularly since they are not getting their “fair share” of the service business because of high prices.

On the “flip side” I have seen customers who’s car did not hold the entire 5qts the “special” indicated they would get the rest put into a “doggie bag” to take home.

Do it yourself. If you refuse to have extra work done, the “tech” will be in a hurry to close the hood with the fill cap off to mess you over. One guy wrote here to say the shop was in such a hurry to close the hood that he left test equipment in there and the brake fluid cap off.

Do you have any physical limitations? If so, go ahead and pay to get it done, but check the car thoroughly before you drive away. Make sure they remembered to add the right amount and the right type of oil.

If you don’t have physical limitations, do it yourself. It’s worth the extra $5 to make sure it is done right.