Does this make me a cheapskate? A tightwad? You decide

Hi Tom, Ray, and everyone else!

My car is a 2004 Honda Civic sedan, EX. I love this thing. It’s got over 230k miles on it and it’s still going strong, although it smells funny (partly my fault) and two of the windows don’t go down (not my fault).

Here’s my question, and I’ll be honest- I’m a little embarassed to ask. Ever since I started changing my own oil a few years ago, I started paying attention to advertised oil change price specials. They’re all usually about the same – something like “Bring in your car for an oil and filter change for $19.99”. And then, the fine print always says something like “Synthetic is extra, disposal included, price includes up to five quarts.” That last part is what caught my attention, because as I learned from my owners manual (yeah, I actually READ IT!), my car only takes 3.5 quarters of oil (and yes, that’s WITH a filter change)!

Soo… (here comes my question) what about that extra quart and a half I’m paying for but not getting? I do an oil change about once a month. So if I’m essentially paying for up to five quarts per month, that’s 60 quarts per year – when in fact, my car only needs 42 quarts per year at that rate. The way I see it, that’s a lot of ‘free’ oil I’m missing out on! And since I use a full synthetic in my car, that’s also a lot of $$$.

I’d like to ask my mechanic the next time I go in for an oil change to, well, GIMME MY 1.5 QUARTS! Would they laugh? Would they refuse to serve me? Would they think I’m the biggest cheapskate tightwad that ever walked the face of the Earth? Or would they see it my way, and give me what I’m paying for? After all, my car is starting to burn oil so having some extra on hand sure would be helpful.

Don’t drive like either of the brothers, or like any other Italians for that matter.

Well, as the text usually says, “UP TO 5 qts.”, so while you may be technically correct about paying for something that you don’t receive, I don’t think that you should embarrass yourself by asking, simply because that $19.95 price is a loss leader, and they are not making any money at that price to begin with.

And, because their oil is undoubtedly purchased in bulk (55 gallon drums?) there wouldn’t even be a way for them to “give you” the extra oil to take home.

If you are looking to save money, I would suggest that you focus on something else, namely, “I do an oil change about once a month”. Even the most rigorous oil change schedules call for oil changes every 3 months/3k miles, and with modern oils your engine will not suffer any ill effects if you go 5k miles/6 months between changes.

Just out of curiosity…How many miles do you typically drive in one month?

I would recommend that you get 3.5 quarts for the car and 1.5.quarts for you. Then both you and your car will be well oiled.

Thanks for the response, VDCdriver.

In terms of actually getting the oil, I had that figured out in my head. I have several empty oil jugs that I could use for them to fill up.

Oil changes are a sticky situation with my car. This is going off-topic, but I might learn something here. Like I said, my car burns oil. It also leaks a little. I have to add a quart about once every two weeks. I drive about 2,000 mi per month. Sometimes less, rarely more. And when I think about it, I don’t really get an oil change every month. I guess it just seems that way! I’ll typically take it to the shop about every 3k-4k miles. I know some people who say that because they have to add oil to their oil-burning car so often, they never have to do an oil change, but … I’m not so sure that’s the way to go. For one thing, that’s neglecting the filter. For another, oil may burn off, but I don’t believe that it burns off completely and without leaving anything behind – which is why changing out all of the oil on a regular basis is still a good idea. I just wish I wouldn’t have switched to synthetic back at 60k. Looking back, it seems like a big, totally unnecessary expense now.

Thanks again.

2004 civic with the 1.7L engine uses 4L including the filter. Yes, it seems rather cheap to imply you are being cheated because you don’t require the entire 5L. Nowadays it’s nearly impossible to DIY for that $19.99 price and you don’t have to get dirty or properly dispose of the used engine oil.

I’m confused. I’m guessing your owner’s manual calls for an oil change every 7,500 miles with regular oil. Is that correct? If so, why are you changing it so often and why are you using synthetic oil?

It makes you business uninformed is all.
Loss leader…cost averaging…one-price-for-all service…price paid for a job done…
Whatever you call it , you’re NOT getting any take home oil, that’s not how it works.

When they buy the high priced synthetic in bottles that is NOT part of the coupon special, and there’s half a quart left…THAT you can take home .

I agree with Ken and others. This is the part that threw me off at first-

“Ever since I started changing my own oil a few years ago, I started paying attention to advertised oil change price specials”

If you’re changing your own oil, what does the price of an oil change and the amount of oil consumed at the service center have to do with it?

@kengreen Yes, I just came back from the barber. I have a full head of hair and paid the same amount as a guy who is nearly bald!! The average person with a full head has about 40,000 hairs. A half bald person could ask for a PRORATED fee of 1/2. However, that’s not the way the real world works.

@DirtieHippieBrian Putting expensive synthetic oil in an old car that using and leaking oil is a complete waste of money. I had an older car in the sixties that used a quart every 1000 miles, not unusual then. I bought 10W40 by the case of 24 for summer use and 5W30 for winter use. That came to about $0.35 cents a quart in those days.

Synthetic oil does not prevent leaks and it does not prevent a car from using oil as it ages. It just lets it happen a little slower.

What you are really missing out on here is the conventional wisdom of car care.

Actually the owner’s manual of my '03 Civic says to change the oil every 10K in normal driving and it is either every 5K or 7.5K in severe service conditions. I don’t recommend the 10K interval, but if the OP is changing every 3 months or so with full synthetic at 3-6K miles then he is certainly giving his car plenty more oil changes than Honda called for. With full synthetic and driving those 2K miles per month I think he could go 7.5K up to 10K without damage to his '04 Civic. If saving money is the issue, I’d suggest longer intervals between changes, or using conventional oil and sticking to his current time and mileage interval.

I’d leave my spare oil can at home, as the oil change places aren’t going to give him the difference between 3.5 and 5 qts.

@Uncle Turbo That’s conventional wisdom or also known as common sense.

Cheapskate does not apply, agree with above you are wasting money on synthetic, and would my self add oil until the change recommendation. Cheaper by far.

I don’t think it makes you a cheapskate or a tightwad. Just that you don’t understand the pricing of itemized parts and labor vs. a one-price procedural charge.

Some cars have grease fittings that require lubrication, part of the “lube,oil,filter” service. Yours doesn’t. Would you ask for the tablespoon of grease that the last truck used but your car didn’t? Another car required a pint of washer fluid to top-off the reservoir. Yours didn’t. Would you like to bring in an empty bottle and take some washer fluid with you?

The price of an oil change service includes “up to X quarts installed”, not “X quarts installed or carry-out.”

You drive too much to change oil every 2000 miles. Maybe you should change it ever 3 months and use regular old mineral oil.

Why not be a smart cheapskate and change your own oil. For 3/1/2 quarts plus a 4 dollar filter you will have almost enough money left from a 20 dollar bill to buy a good 6-pack. I can change my oil in less time than it takes to drive to the oil change place and back plus I don’t need to waste my time waiting; might as well be working to do it myself. You also save some some gasoline. A bonus is that you don’t need to worry if a newby overtightened or undertightened your drain plug and oil filter, nor do you need to wonder if they used the correct oil, nor do you need to wonder if they failed to replace the oil, all of which can happen once in a while.

I change my own oil as well. It saves me money, plus I don’t worry about what those who are working on it will do to my car.

@DirtyHippieBrian - you’re lucky that it only takes 3.5 quarts. Mine takes 7.5 quarts.

You do an oil change once a month? That’s a lot of miles every year. If you changed every 3,000 miles, that would be 36,000 miles per year. It takes me three or four years to drive that far.

When you say you change your own oil, do you mean you actually jack up the car in your driveway and do it yourself, or do you mean you drive it to one of those quick oil change places and they do it? I’m confused b/c if you do it in your driveway, wouldn’t you just buy the oil by the case and use what you need? I’m assuming you use one of the quick changes places …

To your question, being a frugalite myself, I don’t see any harm asking for that 1.5 quarts of extra oil you aren’t getting b/c your car only holds 3.5 quarts instead of 5. I don’t think they’ll laugh, but I’d surprised if they agreed, and offered it up. They probably rely on a simplified pricing system, where everybody pays the same, but some get a little more, and some a little less. It’s sort of the same idea as a buffet restaurant. But there’s no harm asking.

Yep, I agree, just change your own oil and don’t worry about it. Lots of services are averaged to reduce miniscule differences. When you take a small car to a car wash, it costs the same as a larger car. They don’t charge by the square foot. Buy a plane ticket, they don’t charge by the pound, up to 350 pounds-although I’d be happy if they did.

I’ve heard once you go synthetic, you can’t go back to conventional. Is that true? I’d love to switch back to conventional to save money, but I don’t want to damage my engine.