Is expensive engine oil worth it

Engine oil replacement is a routine maintenance task for your car’s performance and lifespan. The lubricant market is full options to choose from and every manufacturer claims their’s is the best for your car. Meanwhile, our cars come with their own manufacturer recommendations in terms of oil grade, viscosity, and other technical parameters.

Whenever we go to a mechanic for an oil change, we are faced with an assortment of lubricants to choose from. Some are cheap, some are costly. Whats the difference? Is the expensive engine oil worth it?

engine oil

In this article we briefly discuss the difference between cheap and premium engine oil and conclude whether expensive engine oil is a gimmick or preferable for your car.

expensive vs cheap engine oil

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The differences between expensive and cheap engine oil are the their viscosity and ability to remain nice and thin throughout their usable life. Higher quality engine oil is thinner and less viscous compared to its cheaper counter part. Therefore, it does a better job lubricating the engine’s moving parts and wont get as thick as the cheap engine oil over the next five or ten thousand kilometers. Check out this post regarding when to change engine oil.

The improved lubrication of the expensive engine oil allows the engine to operate smoothly and not put extra effort into moving its own parts. This results in no vibrations, a smoother drive, better power delivery, less wear and tear of the engine, and better fuel economy. But how much better? Will you save so much gas that you cover the additional cost of the premium engine oil? Lets see.

Does expensive engine oil save gas

We ran a controlled experiment to see whether the premium engine oil is worth the extra money. As things like drive smoothness and engine life cannot be objectively measured, the only determining factor was the difference in fuel economy and subsequent cost savings.

The same car was used, once with cheap engine oil over a range of 5000 kilometers, and again with expensive oil over 5000 kilometers. The driver was the same, the car’s routine was the same, everything was the same. The only difference was the engine oil.

Over the course of 5000 kilometers, the car’s fuel economy was recorded in terms of kilometers per liter. With the cheap engine oil, the car performed with an average of 11 kilometers per liter, about 26 miles per gallon.

The car’s economy became 12 kilometers per liter or 28 miles per gallon with the premium engine oil.

Lets see how this improvement of 1 kilometer per liter or 2 miles per gallon translates into fuel cost savings.

The cheap engine oil giving 11 km/L made the car cover 5000 kilometers with 455 liters (120 gallons) of gas. With the expensive engine oil at 12 km/L, the same distance was covered with 417 liters (110 gallons). That is a saving of 38 liters (10 gallons) of gas.

Based on today’s USA gas prices, this fuel saving is worth about 48 dollars. For our experiment, the price difference between the expensive oil and cheap engine oil was about 7 dollars. In conclusion, we saved about 40 dollars by purchasing the expensive engine oil.

Check out this article discussing whether shifting your car to neutral at red lights saves gas.

Final Verdict: Worth it

Given the fuel savings of the expensive engine oil and the added benefits of a smoother drive and longer engine life, it is preferable to use the superior expensive engine oil for your car. It is also possible that your car may give an improved fuel economy of more than 1 kilometer per liter or 2 miles per gallon with the better engine oil.

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