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Synthetic vs Conventional Oil

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By Madeline Klein on February 2, 2022 in Life Hacks

Have you ever taken time to really understand what you’re putting in your car? If you’re like most drivers, you bring your car to the dealership or your favorite auto repair shop and request “an oil change”. They fill you up and you’re on your merry way – no questions asked.

Let’s learn the difference between synthetic and conventional oil to ensure you’re fueling your engine with the best stuff.

Synthetic vs Conventional Oil – What’s the Difference?

So, what’s the difference between synthetic and conventional oil?

Synthetic oil is, “a man-made lubricant that consists of artificially made chemical compounds.” When it was developed in 1929, this oil was mainly used for jet engines and supercharged vehicles. Since then, it’s expanded its use to almost all common vehicles. Wondering what goes into the synthetic oil to make it “synthetic”? Car and Driver explains, “Synthetic oils are typically chemically modified materials such as petroleum components, but the base material is almost always distilled crude oil.”

Conventional oil is, “the cheapest option when it comes to keeping your engine lubricated…it’s generally recommended for simple, low mileage engines and moderate driving styles.”

Although to the naked eye the oils look almost identical, many sources say synthetic oil is better for your ride than conventional oil. The reasons for this include more time between oil changes, better protection of your engine, a wider range of weather performance, and more.

Synthetic Oil vs Conventional Oil Cost

Now, let’s talk dollars. NerdWallet reports, “Auto shops typically charge $38 for a conventional oil change, while a synthetic oil change averages around $70.” You might be wondering if the difference in oil is worth nearly two times as much money. Will you even notice a difference between the two? Likely, no. The reasons why synthetic oil can be better for the car are internal, so you shouldn’t expect increased performance or super speedy starts after changing the oil.

Synthetic Oil vs Conventional Oil and Gas Mileage

So, we covered the cost, but which oil gives you the most bang for your buck, AKA gas mileage? This is a tricky one, because gas mileage is affected by numerous factors including weather, driving style, towing, idling, use of electrical accessories, and more. For this reason, the jury is still out on which one is best for optimizing gas mileage. Conventional oil does tend to perform better here, but overall engine performance and protection is better with synthetic.

Synthetic Oil vs Conventional for Older Cars

Despite most of the previous information leaning toward synthetic oil, Drive Safe Online says that conventional oil “offers more protection to older engines…since conventional oil flows slower than synthetic oils.” At the end of the day, whether you have a fancy vintage show car, a snazzy sports car, or an average Joe minivan – your mechanic can and should help you decide which oil is the right choice for your vehicle.


Our conclusion for all drivers is similar to our note for drivers with older cars. Ultimately, if you’re unsure which oil is best for your ride and driving habits, just ask your mechanic. They’re trained professionals and can determine the perfect fit for you.

Do you have more questions about cars, driving, or auto insurance? Send ‘em our way at!

Madeline Klein is Say's Digital Content Producer. She graduated from the University of Missouri with a Bachelor of Journalism, emphasis in Strategic Communication. Her experience is in writing and digital media. Madeline loves using her creativity to write and design new and exciting pieces of work for Say!