Oil changes: How often should you get one?


Knowing how long to go between oil changes can be a guessing game. There was a time when 3 months or 3,000 miles was sound advice, but times have changed.

Regular oil changes are a critical maintenance item in ensuring your car's engine runs properly and will have a long life. If oil changes aren't done in a timely manner, your car's performance and fuel economy can suffer, and long-term damage can occur.

Angie's List asked highly rated auto service companies to weigh in on the frequency of oil changes.

  • For decades, 3,000 miles was the standard interval. And, although some service providers still recommend it, most manufacturers no longer believe that to be true.
  • When in doubt, follow your car's manufacturer recommendations so you don't void any existing warranty.
  • How often to go between oil changes depends on several factors. Conventional motor oil should have their oil changed between 3,000 and 5,000 miles. Those who use synthetic motor oil can go up to 7,000 to 8,000 miles. Be sure to check your owner's manual, though, as some vehicles require synthetic oil.
  • If you push your oil change interval too far, you may actually be neglecting other car maintenance issues. A regular oil change schedule can also act as a benchmark for other routine services such as tire rotation, fluid level checks and tune-ups. Oil changes also give technicians a chance to look under the hood and undercarriage to see if there are problems with the vehicle.
  • Where and how you drive your vehicle can also play a role in regards to oil changes. If you're in extreme climates or in stop and go traffic frequently, you may want to increase your oil changes to help out the engine.

Angie's List Tips: Oil Changes

  • Get in a long-term relationship: One of the biggest advantages to regular oil changes beyond keeping your engine running correctly is having your car regularly in the care of an experienced professional. Checking under the hood and underneath the vehicle during an oil change can help you catch needed repairs or services early before major work is necessary. Whether it's a dealership, an independent shop or a quick-change location, most auto service providers will keep detailed service records that will help you keep up-to-date on recommended services.
  • Know what you need: If you don't know offhand, it's a good idea to check your owner's manual for the recommended oil weight and type for your vehicle prior to getting an oil change at a new provider. You can also find the recommended oil type for your vehicle under the hood on the oil filler cap. That way you can ensure that the correct oil will be going back into your vehicle once the old oil has been drained.
  • Check the manufacturer's recommendations: Don't forget to brush up on your car's recommended services based on the mileage on your odometer, too. Many consumers' biggest complaints when dealing with oil changes are companies trying to upsell other services that may be unnecessary. You can quickly verify if you need that pricey air filter or transmission flush by checking your owner's manual recommendations.
  • Inspect the work: Prior to agreeing to a "full service" oil change, ask what's included in the price. If the company promises to vacuum your car interior, wash your windows and top off fluids like the wiper fluids, check these items before paying the invoice.
  • Keep your receipt: If something does go wrong, how can you prove it was the shop's fault and not yours? By proving the shop did the work. Keep your receipt from the oil change in the glove box or another handy location. Not only could it help you prove mistakes were made, diligently recording and documenting maintenance and service work can help you sell your car faster and for more money down the road.