Want to save money? Don’t change your oil so often

The 3,000 mile per oil change mantra might have been true in the good ol’ days, but it doesn’t seem to ring as true anymore.

At that rate, the typical American driver, who on average drives more than 13,000 miles, would change their oil about four times a year. But California is leading a push to tell drivers to cut back on the number of oil changes per year.

The reason is pretty simple. You’ll save money. It’ll cut down on the amount of oil wasted by unnecessary oil changes and help the environment.

On top of that, most automakers don’t advise oil changes every 3,000 miles anymore. Most car makers recommend oil changes at 5,000, 7,000 or 10,000 miles for certain vehicle models.

But Americans have been told 3,000 miles that it’s all they know. (It also probably doesn’t help that quick-oil change stores put stickers that suggesting an oil change every 3,000 miles. Or at least the place I go does.)

“It’s been built up in the consciousness of people over generations that 3,000 miles is the standard, and they’ve accepted that with such certainty that they check their manuals for everything but that,” Jeff Danzinger, an agency spokesman, told The New York Times in a telephone interview. “They don’t check it because they know it’s 3,000 because that’s all they’ve ever heard.”

CheckYourNumber.org, a site launched by the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, lets drivers check your number with a few mouse clicks. However, it only shows the recommendation for cars made after 2000, but cars owners can also check their manuals to get the manufacturers’ recommendation. (For example, Hyundai suggests I change my oil every 7,500 miles).

The reason the 3,000 mantra isn’t true anymore is because of advancements in oil production and the quality of seals and engines in modern cars. As a result, oil has a longer life than it used to.

The bonus by changing your oil less is you’ll save money. If Americans get four oil changes per year, you are spending around $120 per year (based on my rough guess of $30 per oil change) on getting your oil changed. If you cut back, you could cut that amount in half.