AAA: synthetic motor oil is better

New AAA research on the quality of engine oil has found that synthetic oil outperforms conventional oil by an average of nearly 50 percent, offering vehicles significantly better engine protection for five dollars more per month when following a factory-recommended oil change schedule.

To protect vehicle engines, particularly those that operate in extreme conditions, AAA urges drivers to consider a switch to synthetic oil at their next oil change service.

“AAA found that synthetic engine oils performed an average of 47 percent better than conventional oils at protecting critical engine components from damage,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “With its superior resistance to deterioration, AAA’s findings indicate that synthetic oil is particularly beneficial for newer vehicles with turbo-charged engines and for vehicles that frequently drive in stop-and-go traffic, tow heavy loads or operate in extreme hot or cold conditions.”

While only a limited number of vehicles specifically require synthetic oil, all vehicles can benefit from using synthetic oil, AAA says. At typical oil change services, drivers are offered a choice between conventional or synthetic oil. However, in a companion AAA nationwide survey of U.S. drivers, 44 percent said they are either unsure (27 percent) or do not believe (17 percent) that the more expensive synthetic oil is better for a vehicle’s engine. Reasons cited for regularly choosing the cheaper, conventional oil include feeling that synthetic oil is too expensive, offers no benefit, that the upgrade to synthetic oil is an unnecessary up-sell by a repair facility, or they are simply not offered the choice.

Switching from a conventional oil to a synthetic oil will cost the average driver $64 more per year, or an extra $5.33 per month. A survey of  facilities reveals that the average cost of a conventional oil change is $38, while a synthetic oil change is $70. For those that change their vehicle’s oil themselves, the average cost of five quarts of conventional oil is approximately $28, while synthetic oil is $45. AAA’s survey also shows that the vast majority (83 percent) of service professionals select synthetic oil for their personal vehicles.

The hesitation to select a synthetic oil may stem from American distrust in repair facilities. Another recent AAA survey found that two-thirds of U.S. drivers do not trust repair facilities, with most citing concern over the recommendation of unnecessary services.

AAA’s engine oil research focused on eight industry-standard ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) tests to evaluate the quality of synthetic and conventional engine oils in terms of stability, deposit formation, volatility, cold-temperature pumpability, oxidation resistance and oxidation-induced rheological changes.