Cheapism surveyed prices across five of the most popular places to get an oil change: Valvoline Instant Oil Change, Firestone Complete Auto Care, Jiffy Lube, Pep Boys, and Walmart (through its Auto Care centers). We also considered convenience, savings opportunities, and other maintenance services offered at these top shops. For comparison, we gathered oil change quotes from a local car dealership and mechanic and priced out how much it would cost to do it yourself.
The Winner: Walmart
While not all oil changes include the same services (tire pressure check, etc.), Walmart is the cheapest place for a basic oil change, with prices comparable to DIY — minus the supply costs, time, and grime.
If you're willing to pay a tad bit more than Walmart’s bargain basement prices, a trusted local mechanic may be your next best bet. The independent shop's quotes were lower than prices for the quick change services we consulted, and many reviews from both experts and consumers suggest that, while you may sacrifice some of the convenience of the chains, the best local mechanics more than make up for it with the quality of their service.
Full-Service Oil Change Prices
Of course, an oil change is just the main course on the menu at most of these shops. Each offers a host of other services, as well, ranging from basic maintenance to full auto repair. Costs can vary greatly, however, as can the quality of the additional work. So unless it's a mechanic or service center you know and trust — Jiffy Lube, for example, requires all technicians to undergo intensive training at Jiffy Lube University and is said to set a high standard within the industry — think twice before agreeing to extra services. And if you feel pressured in any way, consider taking your business elsewhere.
Outlets that are primarily parts stores (including Pep Boys and Walmart) typically quote service prices based on the assumption that you've purchased replacement parts from them. (They'll add an upcharge or decline service altogether if that's not the case.) In addition, many offer free installation with purchase for items like batteries, wiper blades, and more.
Pricing at outlets that are primarily service-oriented (like Jiffy Lube and Valvoline) usually includes the price of the part, but keep in mind that the quote is almost always just the starting price. Buying upgraded parts or owning a car that requires more time for servicing will result in a bigger, sometimes quite hefty, bill.
|Engine Air Filter Replacement||$20|
|Cabin Air Filter Replacement||$55|
|Headlight Bulb Replacement||$12 ea.|
|Wiper Blade Replacement||$16 ea.|
|Engine Air Filter Replacement||$25|
|Cabin Air Filter Replacement||$50|
|Headlight Bulb Replacement||$13 ea.|
|Wiper Blade Replacement||$15 ea.|
|Engine Air Filter Replacement||$27|
|Cabin Air Filter Replacement||$18 + parts|
|Headlight Bulb Replacement||$3 ea. + parts|
|Wiper Blade Replacement||Free w/ purchase|
|Battery Replacement||$15 + parts|
|Engine Air Filter Replacement||$20|
|Cabin Air Filter Replacement||$21 + parts|
|Headlight Bulb Replacement||$13 ea. + parts|
|Wiper Blade Replacement||$3 ea. + parts|
|Battery Replacement||$28 + parts|
|Engine Air Filter Replacement||Free w/ purchase|
|Cabin Air Filter Replacement||$10 + parts|
|Headlight Bulb Replacement||$8 ea. + parts|
|Wiper Blade Replacement||$10 ea.|
|Battery Replacement||Free w/ purchase or $10|
* Oil and filter only; not including the cost of startup supplies
Walmart offers the same prices nationwide for its cheaper Pit Crew service or a Lube Services package more comparable to competitors' services. Other quotes are sourced from auto service centers in western Ohio, a fairly representative market. Our sample vehicles were a 2015 Honda Civic and a 2016 Ford Escape. Prices may vary in your area, as well as across franchises and based on car model.
What You Need to Know Before You Go
Getting an oil change used to be simple. Service options were limited, and $20 to $25 every three months or so covered the costs for pretty much any car. Today, things are much more complicated. For car owners who don't want to roll up their sleeves and do it themselves, there's an almost endless array of choice. Aside from your local mechanic or car dealership, a slew of popular national and regional chains offer quick oil changes. Some auto-parts stores go beyond selling supplies to provide basic maintenance services, and even some big-box retailers, such as Walmart, have gotten into the oil change game.
Before getting an oil change, it pays to call ahead to get a full estimate for your specific vehicle (among the chains we surveyed, only Walmart posts national pricing online). Prices can vary significantly based on the type of car and the type of oil required. For example, certain European cars and many exotic models can be a particular pain to service, with panels and dozens of screws and bolts that need to be removed to perform even basic maintenance, so it may cost more. If, instead of the steel canister ”spin-on” oil filters more commonly installed, your car has a cartridge filter — also referred to as an “eco oil filters” because they’re metal-free and more easily disposed of — you may also pay more for service, as working with these filters requires additional tools, parts, and (ideally) technicians who’ve had special training.
Keep in mind, as well, that while a "standard" oil change typically includes up to 5 quarts of oil, larger vehicles demand more: 8 quarts in a late-model Chevy Silverado, for example. Expect to pay extra if your vehicle requires additional oil. At Valvoline, for example, you'll pay $5 to $10 per quart, depending on the oil used. (And don't expect to get a discount on your service if your car needs less than the allotted 5 quarts.)
Synthetic oil, synthetic blends, and high-mileage oil, which may be necessary to meet car-specific needs or manufacturers' recommendations, also cost more than conventional, "organic" motor oil. (Most new and late-model cars now come from the factory with full synthetic oil. While some manufacturers say you can use any oil that meets recommendations for oil weight and viscosity, others stipulate the continued use of synthetics only. Use of non-factory-specified oils can potentially void your car’s warranty.) The good news is that full synthetic oils have higher resistance to breaking down, extending their useful life from the typical 3,000 miles to 7,500 miles or even 15,000 miles between changes. Over time, then, synthetics can prove more cost effective — or at least not any more costly — than conventional oil.
Finally, when changing a vehicle's oil, changing the oil filter at the same time is a must. Filters come in a variety of grades. A basic oil filter is fine for a conventional oil change, but for synthetic oil — especially if you plan to push the boundaries of those change intervals — a higher-quality filter, with finer filtration, is the better choice.
In addition to changing the oil and swapping out the filter, most oil change services also include a chassis lube, and usually a fluid and tire-pressure check, although that varies. Some even top off fluids where needed, rotate tires, clean exterior windows, and vacuum floors.
How Much Is an Oil Change?
While coupons and special offers can often reduce the price of services, on average you can expect to pay between about $20 and $100 or so depending on the vehicle and the oil selected. In our survey, Walmart came out on top as the best place for a cheap oil change. With an everyday price of few pennies under $20, Walmart's Pit Crew oil change supplies up to 5 quarts of Quaker State Advanced Durability conventional motor oil (5W-20, 5W-30, or 10W-30), an oil filter, a chassis lube, a battery performance check, and tire pressure adjustment. For $10 more, Walmart's Lube Services oil change package substitutes a "featured" conventional oil for Quaker State and adds some function and fluid checks, along with top-offs and vacuuming, etc. This service is more comparable to a conventional oil change at the major chains but still cheaper than most: While Firestone manages to match this price, you'll pay between $40 and $50 at the other places.
Prices for Walmart oil changes using full synthetic motor oil ($45) and synthetic blend/high-mileage oil ($36) fall well below the retail prices at the other outlets, especially for the full synthetic change. Its most expensive competitors, Jiffy Lube and Valvoline, charge more than twice as much for that service ($94 and $100, respectively). Firestone also handily undercuts the other chains for the pricier oil option, charging $70 for its basic “Gold” full-synthetic service ($100 for the “Premium” option), but Walmart still charges about 36% less.
Oil change prices we were given by a local garage definitely fell toward the lower end of the spectrum, and the $35 quoted for a conventional oil change beat all but the cheapest of the national chains. We could get a high-mileage oil change for the same $35, which would even edge out bargain-basement Walmart. While our mechanic couldn't undercut Walmart for a full-synthetic oil change, charging $20 more, the cost still came in $5 less than next-cheapest chain Firestone’s relatively low-priced Gold service.
While the dealership was more expensive than the local mechanic and many of the chains we consulted — and you may not find the option for a conventional oil change there, as was the case with the Honda dealership we spoke with — it was still competitive. The $59 we were quoted for a high-mileage/synthetic blend oil change bested both Jiffy Lube and Valvoline.
Of course, mechanics and dealerships often keep their oil change prices low hoping to get consumers in the door, so they'll return when something major needs to be done. Oil changes are a loss leader, if you will. At the same time, a dealership may be the preferred choice for consumers who want to be certain they're following the manufacturers' specifications. A dealership mechanic will be extremely familiar with your particular make of car — cutting the risk of snafus that could lead to serious problems later on. Chain service centers are notorious for hiring workers who may or may not have extensive prior experience in automotive maintenance and repair, and in our research, we read stories of oil spills, overfills, leaks, and worse due to poorly replaced or forgotten plugs.
Also, if your car is under warranty, you may be eligible to get free oil changes and regular maintenance from the dealership for the first few years. Just watch out for potential upsells, especially in the current landscape where many dealers have had lower sales due to inventory shortages during the pandemic and may be even more inclined than usual to push additional services. (Note: A manufacturer cannot void a warranty because you've gotten a vehicle serviced outside a dealership. Just be sure to save receipts to prove that regular recommended maintenance was performed.)
Oil Change Coupons and Deals
While Walmart appears to be the clear winner in our survey based on its walk-up pricing, determining where consumers will get the best deal every time is nearly impossible. Discounting is the norm in the oil-change industry, and virtually every outlet from the largest national chain to the local mechanic usually offers some type of special deal to lure customers. For example, we saw coupons and special offers from chains like Pep Boys, where customers could get 25% off conventional and high-mileage/synthetic blend oil change packages, and Firestone had a coupon for a $25 standard oil change. Over the phone, Jiffy Lube told us we could get half off the price of an oil change for a second vehicle. The local dealership actually had one of the best deals around, with a special on a full synthetic oil change for just $50, dropping its price by more than half, to within $5 of the cost at Walmart.
Gauging prices at specialty chains is a bit more complicated. For example, Jiffy Lube is exclusively a franchise operation, while Valvoline has a mix of company-owned locations and franchises. Both companies give their outlets a bit of latitude in setting prices based on costs and competition in the areas where they operate. As a result, while our survey prices are representative of the local market, and pulled from multiple locations, we saw quite a bit of price variation among stores. In addition, chains sometimes offer specials both on the national level — we found a Valvoline oil change coupon for $7 off a full-service full synthetic or synthetic blend change — and from specific franchise holders. One Jiffy Lube oil change coupon promised a $10 discount on its Signature Service, but it was good only at participating locations. Pep Boys' Carlife Rewards program used to offer some money-saving perks to loyal customers, but the program is currently undergoing a revamp and has been on hiatus since September 2020. Keep an eye out, however, as the company promises new programs in 2021.
Don't forget to check the mail for circulars and search online coupon sites for promotions.
Locations and Convenience
In many instances, aside from the quality of the work and whatever specials might be on offer, proximity can be the determining factor in deciding the best place to get an oil change. While not every Walmart store has an auto center attached, a majority do, and there are over 2,500 throughout the country. Jiffy Lube is the next most ubiquitous, with over 2,000 shops nationwide. Firestone Complete Auto Care is not far behind, with more than 1,700 locations. Valvoline Instant Auto Change and Pep Boys are a little fewer and farther between. Valvoline has fewer than 1,200 stores, but it's represented in 47 states, while Pep Boys has fewer than 1,000 and operates in only 36 states.
Many chains, and even many dealerships, will let you drive in for an oil change without an appointment. At a local mechanic, you'll most likely need to make an appointment for an oil change ahead of time. Some places, such as Pep Boys and Firestone, recommend an appointment but let you schedule one online. (Pro tip from Firestone: The best days to bring your car in are Tuesdays and Wednesdays.)
If you're really pressed for time, Express Oil & Tire Engineers may be the oil change service for you. With only about 301 locations, it wasn't included in our survey of national chains, but it's extremely popular in the South and promises 10-minute oil changes; walk-ins welcome. Of the chains we reviewed, Valvoline Instant Oil Change is likely the quickest. Not only can customers walk in, but the chain offers a drive-thru oil change: You don't even have to leave your car, and the complete service should take only about 15 minutes.
Finally, if the COVID-19 pandemic is a pressing concern for you these days, Pep Boys has introduced a new, completely contactless service option. Customers taking advantage of Pep Boys’ Touchless Drop-Offs can make appointments online and leave keys in designated drop boxes. When service is done, they're contacted to pick up their vehicle and keys — which are returned sanitized and in a plastic bag. Crew members even disinfect door handles and other surfaces in the car, and bills can be settled remotely using mobile pay. This sort of peace of mind may be priceless to some.
How Much Does It Cost to Change Your Oil Yourself?
Still considering doing an oil change on your own? Even if you're a newbie, there are plenty of online guides and YouTube videos to walk you through it. Your owner's manual likely has clear instructions, too. But aside from earning you weekend warrior credentials, is the DIY route worth it? It depends on the value of your time and the quality of the products you'll be putting into your car.
For comparison, take the least-expensive conventional oil change: just under $20 at Walmart. The specific oil used in that service, Quaker State Advanced Durability 5W-20, costs about $16 for 5 quarts (other viscosities are a little pricier). Add to that about $4 for a basic oil filter, such as a FRAM Extra Guard, and you'd land at right around the same cost, give or take a dollar, as having Walmart's "pit crew" do the job for you. And with the many discounts that are often available, you can do nearly as well with a host of other oil change services.
On the other hand, considering the hefty upcharges many services ask for synthetic and synthetic-blend oil changes, if your car requires one of those, it might make sense to do the shopping and regular maintenance yourself. A vehicle like a 2015 Honda Civic, which comes from the factory with 0W-20 full synthetic motor oil, would require around 3.9 quarts of an oil such as Mobil 1 Extended Performance 0W-20 (about $27 for a 5-quart bottle) and an oil filter such as the Mobil 1 Extended Performance M1-110A (about $10). This puts the DIY cost for that oil change around $36. A synthetic blend change would cost about $10 less. Those are prices most service outlets would be hard-pressed to match. But, again, were you to take your vehicle to the pros — at a dealership, especially — they most likely would perform other maintenance checks that you'd be responsible for or have to purchase a la carte. For example, tire rotation, included free in the price of an oil change at Pep Boys, would cost $10 ($2.50 per tire) as an a la carte service at Walmart.
If you've never changed your oil before, there are some additional supplies you also need to purchase. The most expensive is a pair of purpose-specific ramps to raise your car so you can get underneath to drain the old oil. Most are made of plastic these days, although steel ramps still can be found. A set of RhinoGear RhinoRamps (a popular brand) rated for vehicles up to 12,000 pounds gross weight will set you back around $50. You also need to spring for an oil-filter wrench, a funnel, an oil pan (to collect the drained oil), and, if you don't already have one, an adjustable wrench or socket set to remove the oil drain plug — all told, around $25 to $35 for typical options; more for better-quality tools. This amounts to a total upfront investment of about $65 to $75 and up.
Finally, should you decide that it's worth it to roll up your sleeves and wrench it, don't forget to recycle the old oil and oil filter. Many areas have recycling programs that accept these items, and some auto-parts stores and service centers do as well. But be sure you look into the options before you dive in, because in many areas, failing to recycle old oil can leave you subject to a hefty fine.