There’s no way around it: Owning or leasing a car requires some maintenance.
Aside from filling up the gas tank, drivers need to change the oil in their car regularly. For the many of us who might be driving less nowadays, you might not remember the last time you got an oil change. If this sounds like you, here’s what you should consider about changing the oil in your vehicle.
After how many miles should you change your oil?
You may have heard about an outdated rule that you should change the oil in your car every 3,000 miles. While that is a good benchmark, it’s not a “rule” that you should stand by. Why? Because how many miles between oil changes varies from driver to driver depending on a number of factors.
For example, how old your vehicle is, what type of oil your car uses, and driving conditions can affect how often you should change your oil.
According to AAA, many modern cars need oil changes after you’ve driven between 5,000 and 7,500 miles. If your vehicle runs on synthetic motor oil, that number can jump up to 15,000 because of the greater efficiency.
Aside from these benchmarks, a good place to look is your car’s owner’s manual. If you’re wondering, “How often should you change your oil?” the owner’s manual is the best place to look. It will also let you understand what type of oil is best for your vehicle.
When should you change the engine oil in older cars?
If you wonder how many miles for an oil change are needed, it can depend on whether you have an older car or a newer one.
If you have an older vehicle, you may have a recommended oil change schedule based on your car mileage. There may be two different types of maintenance recommendations for your car based on your driving history. For example, there is “normal” and “severe service.” What is considered severe may surprise you.
According to AAA, severe service can include:
- Short trips
- Extreme weather conditions
- Continued stop-and-go traffic
- Having your car carry heavy items such as a trailer
So, if you don’t drive much but make a lot of short trips in stop-and-go city traffic, you might require severe service and an engine oil more frequently than you expect.
Many people think their condition fits the “normal” designation, but many drivers might need to follow the severe service maintenance schedule in reality.
When should you change the engine oil in newer cars?
Though you may pay more for a new car, there are certain advantages, notably with maintenance.
Newer vehicles can have the latest technology, which monitors your driving and alerts you when it’s time to get an oil change. Instead of relying on a benchmark like mileage with an older vehicle, a new car will often have systems in place to notify you when it’s time to get an oil change or other maintenance.
The owner’s manual for a new car might not have severe service recommendations, as the vehicle may have an internal system that monitors how you drive and the conditions that will affect your oil.
When it’s time to get an oil change, you might be able to do it yourself and reset the oil monitor system, as noted in your owner’s manual. Of course, you can also have a technician do it for you while you get your car’s oil changed.
Are frequent oil changes better?
Some things are better the more times you do them. Getting an oil change isn’t necessarily one of them.
While important, getting frequent oil changes won’t help improve the performance of your vehicle. While it might not hurt your car either, it could hurt your wallet if you’re getting oil changes too frequently and beyond the schedule recommended in your car owner’s manual.
Your best bet is to seek guidance from your owner’s manual or stay on top of alerts from your car so that you have a better understanding of when it’s time for an oil change.
Something to be mindful of is that changing your oil isn’t just about how many miles you drive. Even if you are a low-mileage driver, you’ll generally need fresh oil to get the most out of your car and keep it safe and ready for optimal use.
What is long-life oil?
There are currently “long-life” oils on the market that might last for longer distances. Long-life oil may last between 5,000 and 15,000 miles, depending on the type you choose.
Remember: You’ll need to make sure it’s compatible and works for your car. When in doubt, review your car’s owner’s manual to make sure.
It’s important to understand that you may still need to change your oil filter more frequently than you change your oil. Some cars have oil filters that can last as long as long-life oil change intervals, but you should reference your owner’s manual to make sure your vehicle can handle it.
The bottom line
It’s crucial to maintain your car regularly to keep it running at its best. You’ll want to change the oil in your car regularly. Reviewing your car’s owner’s manual and regular checks of your oil filter can help your car’s health in the long run.
If you’re a low-mileage driver, you might be able to save money with fewer oil changes on your car. You can also save money on your car insurance with Metromile and pay-per-mile auto insurance.
Drivers can save 47% on average a year, according to a 2018 survey of new customers who saved with Metromile, and you can earn an additional discount of up to 40% with your safe driving during a Ride Along™ trial in select states. You can download the Metromile app for free and see if pay-per-mile auto insurance is right for you.
Melanie Lockert is a freelance writer, podcast host of the Mental Health and Wealth show, and author of Dear Debt. She’s a cat mom to two jazzy cats, Miles and Thelonious, an amateur boxer, music lover, and needs coffee to function.