Since the dawn of the automobile, conventional motor oil has been the industry standard for keeping engines lubricated, but in recent years more expensive synthetic motor oil has been marketed as an alternative that provides better performance. AAA put those claims to the test not only for quality, but to determine if the difference in price is a good investment for vehicle owners.

What makes one oil better than another?

Oil quality comes down to the oil’s ability to withstand the extreme conditions that exist inside an engine. The greater the resistance to deterioration, the greater protection of vital engine components.

Is synthetic oil better than conventional oil?

Yes. In AAA’s tests, synthetic oil performed an average of 47 percent better than conventional oil. In this case, synthetic oil’s better performance translates to better engine protection.

Does this mean conventional oil could damage my vehicle’s engine?

No. Conventional oil that meets manufacturer specifications for your vehicle will not harm its engine.

Is AAA recommending that drivers switch to synthetic oil?

It’s a personal choice. If your budget allows, synthetic oils will offer additional protection for your vehicle, particularly if it frequently tows heavy loads, operates in extreme temperatures, or is driven in stop‐and‐go traffic.

Read the full AAA Research Report on Synthetic vs. Conventional Engine Oil.

Download Report

How much more does it cost to use synthetic oil?

A survey of AAA Approved Auto Repair shops shows that the average cost of a conventional oil change is $38, while a synthetic oil change is $70. This translates to an extra $64 per year, or $5.33 per month, for the average driver to switch to synthetic oil based on a 7,500-mile change interval and 15,000 miles driven per year. For those who change their vehicle’s oil themselves, the average cost of five quarts of conventional oil is approximately $28, while synthetic oil is $45.

Does using synthetic oil mean you can extend the interval between oil changes?

No. You should always follow the interval provided by your vehicle’s manufacturer in the owner’s manual or the onboard oil life system.

Exclusive Benefits for Members

AAA Members receive a free vehicle maintenance inspection, 24-month/24,000-mile guarantee on repairs and 10% off labor (up to $50) at AAA Approved Auto Repair shops.

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