When getting an oil change, I used to feel completely unprepared when asked whether or not I wanted conventional oil or synthetic oil. Then, when I was shown the prices, I was sure that I wanted conventional oil because it was cheaper. We have all been there but knowing the difference between them can create huge cost savings and preserve the life of your car. 

What is the difference between conventional and synthetic oil?

Conventional and synthetic oil are both mined from natural oil reserves found in the ground. Though, the refining process is what differentiates them. 

Conventional oil is pulled from the ground, refined into a viscosity that keeps most engines protected from wear in normal temperatures and environments. On a molecular level, the refining process leaves inconsistency in the size of the molecules found in the oil. This can lead to more wear on the engine as the oil is inconsistently smooth. Since conventional oil is refined only to the point of being functional, it leaves more unwanted deposits in an engine.

Synthetic oil goes through a rigorous refining process until it is effective even in the coldest and warmest of temperatures and creates the smoothest ride. On a molecular level, the molecules are all uniform which allows the oil to run smoothly through the engine at all times. There are additional additives that clean the engine from deposits and aid in decreasing friction in the engine. 

Is synthetic oil worth the cost?

Synthetic oil does cost more than conventional oil as a result of the refinement process, though cost should not be the only factor when deciding which oil to purchase. Here is a list of why synthetic is worth the cost and will benefit the life of most vehicles:

  • Need changing less often. Every 7k-10k miles, instead of every 3k to 5k miles.
  • Reduce friction between the parts of the car’s engine.
  • Should be used in vehicles that are used for towing.
  • Work well in both high and low temperatures.
  • Recommended especially for vehicles with more than 75k miles.
  • They help clear debris out of the engine.

Essentially, it is like asking whether a plastic fork is better than a metal fork. Both of them do the job, just one is more effective at it and lasts longer. The difference is that synthetic oil can save you a ton of money on engine repair by reducing friction even in the most extreme weather under stressful conditions. All with the added benefit of having an oil change less often.

Are there any reasons why conventional oil would be better?

Check the manual of your own vehicle if you have any questions about this, since there are some older vehicles that do better with conventional oil changes. For the most part, the majority of vehicles benefit from the added support of synthetic oil. 

Conventional oil does save on cost, though will need to be changed every 3k-5k miles. It is also considered “good enough” by most mechanics to get your car from A to Z. 

If cost is a major factor, consider purchasing a synthetic blend oil which is a combination of both synthetic and conventional. It will be a step up from conventional, but not as beneficial as full synthetic. You can also consider alternating between synthetic and conventional oil to keep costs lower and preserve the life of your vehicle.

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