May 11, 2014

Avoid Buying Extra Services With An Oil Change

 I got my oil changed on my car today.   I pay to have the oil changed simply because I prefer not to do it myself and paying for it is generally almost as cheap as buying the oil.    However... the reason they're so cheap on the basic oil change is that those oil change places generally hard pitch extra services with a steep profit markup.    You can go in for an oil change and then they'll try to sell you an automatic transmission flush, new windshield wipers, cabin air filter change, a new kitchen sink, etc.

Don't Pay $40 for this
Lets look at one example.   The place I went to today wanted to change my cabin air filter.    They like to show you the dirty filter to help pitch the sale.   I asked him to check it, mostly out of curiosity.  He opened my glove compartment and pulled it out and showed it to me.   And yes it was pretty dirty.   I should probably change it.  But I knew from experience that filters are fairly cheap and easy to replace.   He confirmed how easy it is by pulling out the old one right in front of me.   I could do the same thing and pop in a replacement in probably 5 minutes total.    The price they quote for a new cabin air filter is "starting at $39.99".    I would hope my basic Toyota Camry wouldn't be more than the basic price but theres a possibility of spending over $40 on a filter replacement.

I found a FRAM CF10132 Fresh Breeze Cabin Air Filter for $11.75 plus $5 shipping on Amazon.   I found the same filter for about $8 with free shipping in a new opened box product on eBay.   I bought the $8 one from eBay with the intention of changing it sometime later when I've got a few minutes.

Wiper blades are another example.   I can install a pair of wiper blades in a couple minutes.   They wanted to charge $12.99 each and up  but I can find blades on Amazon for as little as $6.49 each like the ANCO 31-Series Wiper Blade.

They want $24.99 and up to do headlight restoration which is $50 or more for both lights.    You can use a DIY 3M 39008 Headlight Lens Restoration System kit for $15.18 and do it yourself.     Thats a savings of about $35 or more.  However the DIY work in doing it yourself can take a while.    Reports from users of the 3M kit on Amazon claim it takes 30-60 minutes each lens.  So thats 1-2 hours of work plus you need to own a drill to use the kit.

What about spark plug replacement?   Thats a big job isn't it?   Well the oil change guys want $59.99 and up to replace spark plugs.   This 6 minute Youtube video shows how to do it on my Toyota Camry and it looks fairly easy really.    You could do the 4 plugs in a 4 cylinder Camry engine in under a half hour.   The spark plugs run $2-6 each.   If you don't have the tools to do the job already you can buy those too for under $30.   The tools mentioned in the video are : 3/8-Inch Drive by 5/8-Inch Spark Plug Socket for $4.58,10mm Shallow Socket for $3.99, 3/8-Inch Ratchet for $14.95 and 6-Inch Extension Bar  for $6.04    All together you can buy the tools and the spark plugs for under $40 total and do the job in a half hour.

To sum up looking at the four examples above the costs that the oil change place wanted versus the parts cost on Amazon are :

oil change Amazon savings
Air filter $39.99 $16.75 $23.24
wiper blade $12.99 $6.49 $6.50
lens restore $49.98 $15.18 $34.80
spark plugs $59.99 $40 $19.99

Now to be fair if you went to the auto dealer and asked for these services you'd probably pay even more than the oil change places charge.  Its not as if they're the worst deal in the world.  Some of the services aren't too badly charged.   A few bucks to install wiper blades isn't that bad really.   But the worse oil change places will use dirty tricks to con you into services.    I've heard of examples of places that will show you a dirty filter that didn't come out of your car.  One place I used to go to would try and sell me services that my own cars manual said were not necessary.   I'm not saying that this is normal but you should be on the alert for scams.

Bottom line :   If you should generally decline any added services pitched at an oil change and can usually handle such tasks with minimal DIY effort.

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