How to Get an Oil Change So Cheap It's Nearly Free

Changing the oil in your car can be done for little to no money if you know where to shop or do it yourself.

Getty Images

Article QuickTakes:

Oil changes are one of the easiest ways for a car owner to become a frugal one. Why? For a start, it’s pretty convenient to pay someone else to do an oil change on your vehicle, and there are plenty of shops that are happy to make a buck off car owners looking for the easiest option. Yet, if you’re the do-it-yourself type or just a conscientious consumer, you can save thousands of dollars over a lifetime by being mindful of your car’s maintenance.

Here’s how I’ve gotten dozens of oil changes over the years and paid almost nothing for them.

Work with an Independent Repair Shop

A well-run auto repair shop can keep your car on the road beyond the national average of 12 years. My only new car, a 1994 Toyota Camry, is still on the road with over 400,000 miles because I had the nerve to ask a gentleman who owned an auto shop the following, “if I bring my car in every time it needs service, how much would you charge me if I supplied the oil and filter?”

I first built a relationship with the shop owner over many years before asking that question. I also trusted the gentleman and his work. As I write this, I’m selling his Cadillac. Thanks to his mentorship, I now own a car dealership near Atlanta.

Always Take Advantage of a Free Oil Change

Dealerships and other auto repair businesses will sometimes offer cheap or free oil changes. They typically charge a "shop fee" of a few dollars, and a few will try to upsell you. You're ahead of the game if you kindly say "no" to the upsell and stick to getting just the oil changed.

Junk mail can also help keep your oil change costs to a fraction of regular retail rates. Keep an eye out for bargains in local coupon mailers. Groupon often has deals in the $20 to $25 range, and Walmart features a Pit Crew Oil Change for only $20.

If You Can Change Your Own Oil, Do It

It took about 60,000 miles driving the Camry before I worked up the courage to spend $75 and buy the wrenches, oil filter removal tool, oil container, and a tarp needed to change my oil. But once that happened, my oil changes cost me about $5 in the late 1990s—about $10 in today’s money.

Know Where to Find Discounted Oil

I’ve since figured out how to do it cheaper than that, and with better fluids and filters!

There is a special section of the forums called Product Rebates, Sales, And Promotions that tracks oil change deals and closeouts. That site has yielded me hundreds of gallons of cheap to free motor oil thanks to the opportunity to combine sales and clearance deals with manufacturer rebates. This website is also how I get affordable and well-designed filters, spark plugs, fluids, and other parts that keep my vehicle on the road.

Any money spent on an oil change is money well spent, as this maintenance task is key to making your car last. But spending more money doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting a better oil change. Keep your eye out for the deals, and you can save a big chunk of money on the cost of car ownership.

This site is for educational purposes only. The third parties listed are not affiliated with Capital One and are solely responsible for their opinions, products and services. Capital One does not provide, endorse or guarantee any third-party product, service, information or recommendation listed above. The information presented in this article is believed to be accurate at the time of publication, but is subject to change. The images shown are for illustration purposes only and may not be an exact representation of the product. The material provided on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice or to indicate the availability or suitability of any Capital One product or service to your unique circumstances. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.
author photo
Steven Lang
Steven Lang is a special contributor to Capital One with nearly two decades of experience as an auto auctioneer, car dealer, and part owner of an auto auction. Some of the best-known auto publications turn to him for his expert insight. He is also the co-developer of the Long-Term Quality Index, a survey of vehicle reliability featuring over two million vehicles that have been inspected by professional mechanics.