Change your own oil and save money

I got my oil changed the other day and I got completely hosed.  It’s a simple task and I know how to do it but ever since I’ve lived in California, I haven’t had a place, the tools, or the means to do it myself.  So I’ve paid for someone else to do it for me.  As you can imagine, this eats me up inside.  This past weekend really killed me though.

I got a coupon in the mail for an oil change that would only cost $30.  Great deal if you ask me and it’s the dealership where I bought my car.  They always seemed legit so I hopped over to do it.  Before they began, I got my quote: $80.  Whoa whoa whoa, that is not what the coupon says sir.  But of course, there was a catch.  There always is.  Apparently the coupon didn’t cover synthetic oil and my car was only supposed to have that.  I negotiate the price down but still, I’m pissed.

The next day I’m talking with a friend at work and he tunes me into this ridiculous contraption: an oil extractor.

It looks simple enough, right?

It looks simple enough, right?

Apparently, you buy this thing, put the tube in where the dipstick comes out, create a vacuum with the pump and your oil drains into the container.  No need to jack up the car, no need to get underneath it and have burning oil sear your hand/face.  Simple.  If you’re just changing the oil, it would take maybe 20 minutes, top.  30 minutes if you also change the filter.  If you’re lucky (and chances are that you would be), the filter will also be on the top and you’ll be able to easily change it.

Obviously, you run into some issues with this.  You still have to buy the oil (consult your drivers manual to find out what kind is right) but that usually will only cost $25 to $30, including the oil filter.  The thing you really have to worry about is getting rid of the oil.  It’s toxic and you can’t just throw it away or pour it down the drain.  I mean you can but seriously, think about the fish.  You’re going to eat them later!

Luckily, recycling oil is actually pretty easy.  Most Jiffy Lubes or other places will actually pay you for your oil, 25 or 30 cents a gallon.  If you live in California, you can get paid up to 40 cents a gallon to recycle the used oil.  The reason for this is that it is actually easier to get usable, refined oil out of your used up oil than it is to get it out of unprocessed crude.  So, more and more companies are popping up to recycle the oil and make a few bucks on the spread between what they pay you and what they sell it for.

Overall, changing your own oil might not seem like much but it can save you some money in the long run.  If you drive your car for 200,000 miles, you’ll save over $1,000 in maintenance costs during that time period.  It might not seem like much but since you’ll be paying closer attention to your car, you’re also more likely to notice if anything is actually going wrong way before someone else might.  This will definitely come in handy down the road!

It looks like I’ll be purchasing that oil extractor up above and probably changing my own oil in the future.  I’d rather do things on my own anyway, it saves money and it would just be nice to be something I get back to! Besides oil, what else can one save money on with their car?  I’m guessing brake pads but at the same time, I don’t quite feel like dying will driving down a hill.  Let me know if you have any other money saving ideas when it comes to car maintenance!

4 thoughts on “Change your own oil and save money

  1. I started changing my own oil when I was in college. I loved doing it because I learned something new and saved money. That was on an early-90’s Honda. Now with a newer car, it seems like the manufacturers do everything they can to deter you from doing it yourself.

    The only question I have with that device is what about changing the oil filter?

    • You do still have to change your oil filter every 5000 miles or so (check the owners manual to be sure). If you’re lucky, a lot of cars today have the filter on the top, making it an easy change. If it’s underneath the car, well, you’ll have to jack it up still. But at least this way, getting the oil out was way, way easier!

  2. Great post! BUT I think this oil extractor is probably not worth getting. It probably works just as well as a siphon hand pump would, except be a lot more expensive. And neither way is appropriate for a good oil change since gravity will do a good job at leaving most of the crap that you want to get out of there at the bottom.

    I think the absolute best way to save money on your car is to pay attention to all new sounds and feelings the car gives off and to have a few handy gadgets/tools. The second something changes monitor it, attempt a diagnosis. If your check engine light (CEL) comes on, use an on board diagnostic code reader (they work on most post-1998 cars except some luxury vehicles like BMWs, but if you pay the sum of a house for a car, you don’t need to save money…) .

    A good example of how this can save money is that when my CEL came on last year, my code reader told me it was either the speed output sensor or the input sensor. I looked up the symptoms of each and with the gear shifts and noise the car had been making, I determined it was more than likely the output sensor. I ordered a sensor online, read about how to change it and in the end it only cost me $70 and an hour of my time. A few months later, the input sensor went. This is typical. But by now it was winter and this sensor is in a much less accessible place on the transmission so I went to the mechanic. In the end, this repair would come to be about 4 times more expensive that the one I did. At cost, he was charging me more than double what I paid for the output sensor because of his supplier’s high cost. When I showed him how much I paid he adjusted the charge and took a hit for the difference himself (yeah, great relationship).

    So I’d say to save money on your car you need to be aware of changes in your car, have a code reader or other diagnostic tool, a little car know-how and intuition, and it never hurts to develop a relationship with a local mom-and-pop shop mechanic.

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