I would really like to learn how to eo my own oil changes. I think I will once we reach FI and I have the time and space to do them. For now, we still need to get our oil changed by a mechanic. As the frugal family that we are, we always try to find the best deal on an oil change. As much as a good deal on an oil change is important, the time component of getting the service is also very important.
We really have 3 main choices for an oil change. I rank them in order of how much I like that option.
1. Go to a quick lube service (Mr. Lube, Pennzoil, Jiffy Lube, Oil Changers etc.):
These typically don’t require any appointment and are really good at getting you in and out very quickly. The catch is that they are more expensive than most places (normally starting at $50). Plus they will try to sell you everything and anything. And what they do sell you (cabin air filter, new wipers, better oil, engine flush) is overpriced with the company making huge margins.
2. Make an appointment at a standard repair garage (i.e. Canadian Tire, Midas, local garage etc.)
You typically have to make an appointment at these places but they are generally pretty competitively priced. Normally from $30-$40. They generally are good at service and do stay on time for appointments (from my experience).
72. Make an appointment at a dealership
No, that was not a typo. I can’t consider going to a dealership as a top 3 option. That is why they are #72 on this imaginary list. In summary, I hate dealerships. We used to get our regular service done at the dealership back when we owned a new car and it was horrible. Appointments were always late. You would expect to be there 1 hour but end up being there for 3 or 4 hours. They always tried to upsell everything and were quite aggressive on these sales tactics. This is just my experience but I’ve heard and read horror stories from many people.
What we normally do
We normally get an appointment at a garage such as Canadian Tire or a local shop around here. They always make some suggestions on service and are never overly trying to sell us anything. Anyhow, I don’t take all their recommendations. Last year they recommended I change my brake pads and they quoted a very reasonable price. After looking at my service history, it made sense and I was due so we got it done. They also recommended that I needed new summer tires in the Spring. I declined their offer to install new ones that day and I shopped around. I found a great deal on kijiji from somebody selling almost new tires that fit my car perfectly for a fraction of the price.
We also tend to only get oil changes twice per year or every 7000-9000 km. There is probably some debate on what is required/recommended but I think the dealership 5000km recommendation is a little excessive.
I always try to go for my oil change before or after the rush of Winter tires start. So before or after November. In November, most garages are booked for weeks and the quick lube places have 1 hour lineups. This year I got my oil changed in April and just now in September.
So how did I get a deal on an oil change today?
I try to get one oil change per year done at a standard garage and get an trustworthy opinion on the state of the car. The other oil change during the year, I do like I did today. In the months leading up to the Winter tire change season, I look for promotions and coupons. This week Mr. Lube had a very good deal. With their coupon (print it online or look in your mailbox), you get a free set of Michelin wiper blades installed with any oil change package. This is a great deal if done the right way.
The wipers are the Michelin Stealth Pro Series. Mr. Lube says this is a $30 value. Normally this is inflated but I looked around online and they are approximately $30. Now obviously these are sort of a loss leader for Mr. Lube. They are using these to get you in the door and hope you will spend more than the absolute minimum. They don’t plan to have a million RJs coming in. If they did, they certainly would go out of business.
So today, I drove up and there was no lineup. They gave me a newspaper to read and asked what package I wanted. Right away I gave them the coupon and chose the standard package ($49.99). As I was sitting in my car waiting I got the following upsells (some of them were kind of tempting):
1. Mechanic: You have a bit of rust under your hood. You know we can do an undercoating today and it’s $20 off.
Me: No thanks, I don’t really care all that much about the appearance of my car. It’s 6 years old and I expect it to start rusting a little sooner or later.
2. Mechanic: Your cabin air filter is really dirty, you should probably get it changed. We have them in stock for $348.87 (that’s an exaggeration).
Me: No thanks, last time I came here you recommended I needed a new one so I went to Canadian Tire and bought one for $9.99 and changed it myself. I will look at it myself after I leave here to see if it is actually dirty. But I assume you just tell 99% of drivers that their cabin air filter is dirty because cmon… who would have a perfectly clean cabin air filter?
3. Mechanic: Based on our records, you’re due for an engine flush. We can do that today and it wouldn’t take any longer.
Me: I’ve never even heard of an engine flush. Is it sorta like flushing my toilet?
**Check out this link to see that apparently 99% of cars will never require an “engine flush” in their lifetime.
I actually really needed new wipers since we haven’t changed ours since we bought our car (6 years ago). So my thrifty self would have probably found a deal somewhere on decent quality wipers for about $20. So in the end this oil change cost $30 (plus tax). Which is pretty competitive price and I got it all done including the installation of the wipers in less than 15 minutes.
So, if you need an oil change in the month of October, I recommend taking advantage of this promotion as it does offer a good deal on an oil change. But make sure you go with your NO face on. The mechanics are very good at selling and make it very tempting sometimes. I recommend you take notes and then you can either just do the recommendations yourself after (if they are legit) or do like me and go to your local mechanic for every second oil change and to get an honest opinion on the state of your car.
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