Whenever the oil light flashes, mainstream consumers drive to a local shop for service. In a way, it’s a bit Pavlovian—flash, spend; flash, spend.
The frugal few, on the other hand, see the oil light as a shimmering opportunity to save. This is quite Pavlovian as well, but in a very different way—flash, save; flash, save.
Here’s a solid checklist for spending less whenever the oil light flashes on your dashboard. Feel free to print out a copy to keep handy in your glove compartment.
10 Great Ways to Save on Oil Changes
1. Avoid Dealers, Except for Special Offers
Dealers don’t often cut deals. In contrast, the competition among oil change shops is heated.
2. Ignore the Big Lie of Every Three Months or 3,000 Miles
Manufacturers now design most engines to run for 5,000 miles or more between oil changes. Follow the schedules in your owner’s manual and ignore what oil change shops might say.
3. Use Synthetic Oils
These cost more, but you save because you change oil only half as often. Check the manufacturer’s latest guidelines about which synthetics work best for your model.
5. Seek Discounts
Search online for coupons. Or join your favorite shop’s mailing list and the coupons will magically appear just in time for your next oil change. Get into the habit of stashing coupons in your glove compartment.
6. Decline Upsells
Stick to entry level services. Extras usually trigger hefty markups.
7. Decline Suggestions for Fluid Flushes and Other Extras
Follow the schedules in your owner’s manual.
8. Procure the Oil Yourself
Recently, I saved $8 by supplying the synthetic oil myself (the shop hadn’t stocked the right grade, so I shopped around and found a deal). Confirm with the shop ahead of time whether it finds this arrangement acceptable.
9. Perform Your Own Oil Changes
Well, maybe. You need heavy-duty ramps to raise your vehicle while you work underneath. You also need a plan to dispose of used oil and filters (which some national car part chain stores accept). For step-by-step instructions, visit this illustrated article at Edmunds.com. If changing your own oil seems like too much trouble, find a reliable shop.
10. Stack Savings Tactics
You can use your rewards credit card (2 percent cash back) to buy a discounted gift card (8 percent savings) to a national lube chain that issues online coupons (33 percent off). With three tiers of savings working on your behalf, after your next maintenance visit the only thing left squeaking will be your wallet.
Does this list miss any savings ideas that you like to follow? If so, please leave a comment below.
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This oil change checklist was adapted from my book Spend Less Now!—A Checklist Program for the Decidedly Unfrugal. If you found the tactics helpful, maybe you’ll like the rest of the book as well. To preview the Kindle version, which sells at Amazon for a very frugal $0.99, click here.
Photo Credit: Drew Stephens. To see original at Flickr, click here.