AAA Spills the Truth on Oil Changes

Staff Report

COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 12, 2017) – New field tests reveal full synthetic oil is better for all vehicles, yet consumer research finds many drivers are hesitant to use synthetic oil. Engine oil is the lifeblood of any vehicle and essential to protecting engines, which is why AAA urges consumers to consider oil quality at their next oil change service.


Since their introduction, synthetic oils have claimed various performance benefits, such as the ability to minimize engine wear and maintain viscosity at high temperatures. To determine the validity of these claims, AAA conducted research to understand the difference between conventional and synthetic engine oils.

Key Findings:

Industry-standard tests revealed synthetic engine oils performed an average of 47 percent better than conventional oils.

“With its superior resistance to deterioration, AAA’s findings indicate that synthetic oil is particularly beneficial to newer vehicles with turbo-charged engines and for vehicles that frequently drive in stop-and-go traffic, tow heavy loads, or operate in extreme hot or cold conditions,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair.

While only a limited number of vehicles specifically require synthetic oil, all vehicles can benefit from using synthetic oil.

Consumer Survey:

A nationwide survey of U.S. drivers found 44 percent of consumers are either unsure or do not believe that synthetic oil is better for a vehicle’s engine. Reasons cited for regularly choosing conventional oil include beliefs that:

  • Synthetic oil is too expensive
  • Synthetic oil offers no benefit
  • The upgrade to synthetic oil is an unnecessary up-sell by a repair facility
  • The repair facility doesn’t offer them a choice

According to a survey of AAA Approve Auto Repair facilities, the average cost of synthetic oil is $70, compared to $38 for conventional oil. However, industry experts say prices vary drastically. Also, as synthetic oil becomes more common, prices are expected to decrease.

“While a manufacture-approved conventional oil will not harm a vehicle’s engine, the extra money per oil change could actually save money in the long run by protecting critical engine components over time.”

In addition, with synthetic oils, improved filters and modern vehicle technologies most cars can now go beyond the old 3,000 mile interval between oil changes. Some can even safely go 10,000 to 15,000 between oil changes. However, it’s always best to follow the oil change interval recommended by the vehicle manufacturer in the owner’s manual or on-board oil life system.

Staff Report