When DIY becomes a bad idea:
1. When it is something that must be done by an expert.
2. When it is dangerous to health, causes safety issues, or can harm the environment.
3. When it makes no monetary sense.
4. When it is too messy or too much trouble.
Why DIY car oil changes don’t make sense:
1. To do an oil change, you need an oil drain pan, filter wrench, car ramps, rubber gloves, funnel, and wiping towels. The initial investment before you do your first oil change is about $60. In addition to the cost of materials, you have to pay someone to dispose the used oil and filter properly.
2. Engine oil is toxic even when it is new. If someone accidentally inhales or swallows engine oil, or if it splashes into someone’s eyes or face, immediate medical attention is a must. Used engine oil is far more dangerous and is also a carcinogen. Any contact with used oil is bad for your health. Being a toxic substance, automotive oil poses serious environmental risk and requires careful disposal.
3. It’s risky. Engine oil can be hot and the risk of getting burned is real if you are a novice. You also must get underneath the car to do the oil change. If the car is not properly jacked, there is a risk of death or serious injury if it falls on you.
4. It’s messy. Even experts can’t do it without making a mess.
5. You must know what you are doing. If you use the wrong oil, fill too much or too little or don’t follow the right procedures, you could be looking at some hefty repair bills.
6. It is too much trouble and doesn’t make financial sense. Unlike most DIY projects, the savings are insignificant. On the other hand, it will probably cost you more if you consider the discount offers and deals that many service centers offer.
The economics of DIY oil changes:
An average oil change costs about $30. When you consider that you are going to do it only once in a year, it is not a huge amount. Even if you don’t consider the initial investment and just account for the cost of materials, your time, and the effort, you can expect to save less than $5 per oil change. Is a saving of $5 a year worth the trouble and the risks?
You are probably wondering how quick-lube outlets are making money from oil changes when the margin is so low. The reality is that they are just breaking even, or in most cases, taking a small loss on oil changes. They are doing this only to get customers into their shop. They make their money by convincing customers to buy other products or services such as a change of air filters or cabin filters, wheel balancing, spare parts, repairs, and new accessories. For these add-on services, they have healthy margins and they make up for the small negative margin for oil changes. In fact, many shops offer discounts and promotions for oil changes. You may get it for as low as $15, or they may bundle it with free services such as tire rotation or a general inspection.
Considering the above marketing strategy, the economics, risks, and the trouble, you are better off opting for a professional oil change at a service center. Just ensure that they don’t saddle unnecessary repairs or accessories on you.
Three tips to make some real savings on oil changes:
1. Change oil according to the recommendation of the manufacturer. Your oil change shop may ask you to change the oil every 3,000 miles or so, but this is not required for most modern cars.
2. Take the bait but leave the hook alone. Don’t spend money on repairs or upgrades that the shop recommends unless you are convinced that they are necessary. Even if you decide to go ahead with other add-ons, check the prices from other shops to ensure that you are not being taken for a ride.
3. Before you take your car to the shop, look for deals on the Internet. Many oil change shops offer deals and discount coupons that can result in good savings.
There are many advantages of doing things yourself, but giving your car an oil change is not one of them. If you want to go DIY with vehicle maintenance, look for things that are easy and safe. Changing the air filter is something that you can easily do in less than five minutes. It will also save you some money.