Conventional versus Synthetic Oil – Is It Worth the Cost?

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The choice between synthetic oil and regular oil has been around since 1929 when synthetic oil was first developed. Since then there has existed a cost–benefit analysis in most every driver’s mind. Do I spend more for synthetic oil at my next oil change or do I follow conventional wisdom?

Synthetic oil is a fabricated oil that is 6–10 times more expensive than traditional oil, because they fabricate it from base oil. It has powder additives and a carrier that ensures proper distribution among engine parts. Conventional oil is “straight out of the ground” protection for your engine, but with a few additives such as a detergent.

When synthetic oil was first developed, it was rudimentary. Technology and resources have made it useful for jet airplanes and high-performance vehicles. In World War 2, the Nazis wanted synthetic oil to keep their military going. In the energy crisis of the 1970s, people tried to better fuel economy by introducing better synthetic oils.

Visually, you cannot distinguish between conventional and synthetic oil. Two major differences include production techniques and how your car will run when used. Synthetic oil protects your car’s engine better because of lower friction levels. Industry tests show that synthetic oils perform better than conventional oils. Benefits include better fuel economy, longer times between oil changes, better all-weather performance, and fewer emissions.

One of the biggest reasons that you might not switch to synthetic oil is the cost of synthetic oil. The average cost for 5 quarts of oil is around $28, but synthetic oil is $45. In a survey from AAA, most professionals chose synthetic oil for their own vehicles. Another reason for resisting the change to synthetic oil lies in distrust of mechanics and places that change oil. Another AAA survey found that 67 percent of U.S. drivers do not trust car repair facilities or the mechanic who works there.

Each person who drives a vehicle must decide whether switching from conventional oil to synthetic oil makes sense to them and their wallet/pocketbook. When making this decision, remember:
1. The improved gas mileage will not affect your short-term budget.
2. Added engine protection will show up only in the long run.
3. Synthetic oil costs up to 10 times more than traditional oil.
4. Once you switch, that decision is not “written in stone”–you can switch back and forth with no harmful consequences.

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