Car maintenance is essential if you want to get the best performance and lifetime out of your car, and when it comes to maintenance, regular oil changing is critical. Making sure that your oil is clean will help to prolong the life of your engine, and it can even allow for smoother and better performance. If you don’t have the tools, experience, or even the space to perform oil changes at home, then you’re going to need to rely on an auto repair shop or specialist lube center to service your car at regular intervals.
With a number of options available, it can sometimes be difficult to find the right solution, so let’s take a look at three of the most popular options and find out which one would be best for your needs.
Independent Auto Repair Shops
Privately owned service and repair centers can be found virtually everywhere in America. Many of them meet or exceed the quality of work that dealers and franchise operators can provide, but that doesn’t mean that every independent shop will be able to give you the best service. If you’re choosing to go independent, then you’re going to need to do extensive research on your options. One of the best ways to find out about local shops is to ask friends and family who live within your area. They’ll be able to give you recommendations and first hand details of their experience. This might not always be possible, in which case you could also look to online reviews and testimonials.
A good place to start is the crowd sourced review website, Yelp. This site contains user reviews for local businesses large and small, and if the company you’re considering has any kind of reputation, then you’ll be able to find them here. You’ll be able to get a better idea from companies that have numerous reviews, because you’ll get a more representative average rating of customers who have reviewed their service. You can also look to social media platforms like Facebook, where many local businesses will have user reviews posted on their accounts.
An independent repair or service shop may charge up to $55 for an oil and filter change with a complementary inspection.
Franchised or Chain Service Shops and Lube Specialists
One hugely popular option is going to a local lube or service specialist for oil changes. Many of the existing companies have diversified in recent years, and even industry leaders like Jiffy Lube will provide complete automotive services at the majority of their locations. Specialist shops sometimes differentiate themselves from independent shops by advertising a faster service. Depending on the size of your local shops, this may be true, and a basic oil change could be completed in as little as 20 to 30 minutes, providing there are no issues with your vehicle.
Large shops generally use high quality oils, but they sometimes only carry a certain brand. If you want to use a specific synthetic of your preference, this won’t always be an option. However, a large franchise will ensure that the oil used meets your car requirements, matching the SAE viscosity grade to your manufacturers specification. Another advantage of choosing a large chain or franchise operation is that they have experience with numerous vehicle makes and models. This means that even if you have a relatively rare or newer model car, the technicians should be familiar with the specifications, and how to find their way around the engine bay. The same can’t be said for some independent operators that only receive a small number of vehicles through their shops.
Large franchises can charge between $30 – $40 for a basic oil change, or $50 – $70 for an oil change using synthetics. Your own requirements will depend on your car make and model. Keep in mind that high income urbanized areas will usually have higher service fees, so prices will vary depending on where you live.
Dealership Service Centers
Most car dealerships offer authorized service centers, and these are generally considered to be the best option in terms of service and quality of work. Technicians who work in these shops are usually accredited by the manufacturers that are represented at the dealership, making them the most qualified techs to work on your car. If you own a luxury vehicle, a performance car, or a car that has been purchased in the past three years, then your best choice will be visiting an authorized dealership. In some cases, you may even have complimentary services and oil changes available to you, so you’ll want to use these up while they’re still valid.
Visiting a dealership will mean that you get the exact oil that has been tested and specified by the manufacturer (usually a single brand), and you’ll also get an oil filter that is either genuine original equipment, or OEM. OEM simply refers to equipment that is manufactured in the same factory as the original on your car, but is not branded by the car manufacturer. As an example, BMW sources many of their parts from BOSCH, making BOSCH the OEM manufacturer. The downside to going to a dealership service center is that it can be costlier than both independent service centers and a franchises. For vehicles with high valuations, you may be willing to overlook the cost to get the best service.
Prices at dealership service centers can vary depending on your car make and model. Sometimes, prices will be competitive with large franchises, however, if your car is a new model that uses fully synthetic oil, then figures can quickly increase. Oil changes and any type of service on European model cars will also be higher. You can try calling around various dealers for price comparisons, or contact the manufacturer directly for a service center recommendation.
Second Opinions and Additional Work
One thing that you need to be prepared for when visiting a service center for an oil change, is hearing the news that you need additional work performed on your car. Many people will hesitate at this point. No matter how much you trust the dealership or the service center, you still might be left wondering; do I really need this work? If you trust the service center and the additional work is quoted at a reasonable price, then by all means, go ahead and approve the repairs. However, if the price is significant, or if the repairs seem unreasonable for the age or condition of your vehicle, then don’t hesitate to decline the necessary work, and seek a second opinion from another service center after your oil change has been completed.
Keep in mind that automotive technicians undergo years of training, and it’s in their best interest to ensure that they are honest and ethical with the work that they perform. If you’ve done the research to choose a trusted and highly regarded service center in your area, then you probably won’t need to worry about inflated prices or questionable repair recommendations. However, if you’re ever uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to exercise your right as a consumer to seek service and validation of the problem at an alternative establishment.
An oil change is a simple job, but finding the right place to have the work done is not as clear cut. There’s no real ‘best’ option, but there will be a best option for your needs. Established service centers and lube specialists are speedy and usually provide acceptable work. Independent operators can be high quality, but you’ll need to make sure you find a local company with a strong reputation. Finally, a dealership will often provide the best work that is approved by the manufacturer of your vehicle, but you will pay a premium for the increased quality of service and parts that are used.