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Question DetailsAsked on 12/16/2013

why are synthetic oil changes SO much more expensive than regular? Oil cost only accounts for small % of increase.

My regular oil changes with standard oil used to cost $25 - $35 for a 5 qt. oil & filter change. I switched to synthetic oil, and now the typical cost is ~ $80 - $90! The difference in the cost of the oil is only a few dollars/quart (I sometimes buy it at the store), so this could account for at most, $10 - $20 more for an oil change, not $50+!!!

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5 Answers


It is likely a function of both the cost of the materials and the premium mark up.

Synthetic oils will normally run about $7-8 per quart so you have roughly $40 in oil for that vehicle change. Throw in another $7-10 for a good filter and you are at $50 in materials.

$30 - $40 for the labor and disposal of the used oil is not bad if they are a good shop.

I don't know if it is so much of a function of the synthetic oil change being more expensive as it was that the conventional oil change was that cheap.

Oil changes are most times sold as lost leaders to attempt to sell other preventative or repair services.

$80 - 90 seems like a fair deal to me and I am certainly a believer in synthetic oils.

I like AMSoil for my vehicles and you can purchase their materials and probably bring it to your shop if they will let you bring your own materials and keep your price down. Most folks don't want to bother with that hastle though.

Answered 6 years ago by WoWHomeSolutions


Responding to last answer...

I figure regular oil is ~ $4/quart, so synthetic is and extra $3 - $4/quart, or up to $20 more for 5 quarts. Filter and labor are the same for either. So the oil change shouldn't be more than ~ $20 extra. The $35 is at places like Jiffy Lube and Valvoline, though they usually have coupons for less, and it's same at other places. So I don't see why it would be more than ~ $55 max.

Answered 6 years ago by Guest_95374501


Not sure why you gave me the negative point on the answer but allow me to expand on my previous answer.

I don't think you even need to look at the numbers for the conventional oil as a comparative.

At the $25 - $35 oil change number, even on the cheapest oil and filter they can put in and on the car (and even at that number), they are loosing money on the proposition by the time they figure on labor, overhead, and insurance. Using that as the baseline for the upgrade to the synthetic oil change askews the math because the baseline number is unrealistic.

Oil changes at that $25 - $35 number are lost leaders. They are designed to get the car on the lift and sell you additional services and upgrades.

If you opt for the synthetic oil change, that previous math goes out the door and they are going to sell you that package at what they probably need to charge in order to keep the margin at a point where they can keep the doors open.

At $50 in materials, lets assume that leaves $40 if you go with the higher number of $90. Even if they are paying close to minimum wage to an employee(s), figure on 1 hour of total time at effectively $10 - $12 per hour. Now we are down to $28. You probably need to figure on at least another $12 - $15 in overhead and utilities for the space. Figure on another $1 - $2 for disposal of the oil and filter (its free at other places but they do pay for it).

Now we are down to $15 in "profit" at best. Most companies cannot come anywhere close to operating at a 16% margin and stay in business.

Like I said in the previous answer: I don't know if it is so much of a function of the synthetic oil change being more expensive as it was that the conventional oil change was that cheap and probably sold at a loss in an effort to get cars on the rack and over the pit.

I do think synthetic is worth the premium if you ask me given the temps and tolerances that these newer engines run at and with. Depending on the application and mileage intervals, you might even save that much money in fuel economy improvements over conventional oil.

Thanks and take care.

Answered 6 years ago by WoWHomeSolutions


So I have been wrestling with this one as well. I used to change my oil (full synthetic) and it cost me $17 for a gallon of FULL SYNTHETIC at WAL-MART and a $3 FRAM oil filter. The process of changing the synthetic oil is no different than with conventional oil.

A regular conventional oil change at a quick lube is around $25 to $35. Nobody disputes that folks need to make money in business so a fair upcharge for materials and labor is expected.

Synthetic is being marketed and sold like it's comprised of plutonium and special training is required to change it. The other thing that the quick lubes don't tell you is that cars don't need to have the oil changed at 3000 miles anymore but they put the 3000 miles on the sticker regardless. That bangs the cost of using synthetics up even higher when they are perfectly capable of going double the distance, hence the savings and rationale to use if you're using synthetics. You get to skip an oil change. Now you're in the $35-40 per oil change range. Of course, always consult your owners manuals and ask your dealer what they recommend so you don't screw up any manufacturers warranties, but it's worth the ask.

Answered 2 years ago by DaveM0828


I agree with Dave about oil prices, even 5 qt of Mobil-1 0w20 shouldn't cost more than $30 and shop time is the same. I found out that prices in less urban areas can be a lot lower. A 15 mile drive gets me to a Honda dealer that charges $46 for a synthetic oil and filter change. Their cost breakdown shows $10 oil, $10 parts, $22 labor. The place is really crowded. I think they still make some money.

Answered 2 years ago by peter0707

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