Synthetic versus mineral motor oil - which is cheaper to use?

It has been observed that some car owners in an attempt to cut cost on maintenance use mineral oil in place of synthetic oils. Let's see if that really works.


What are synthetic oils?

These are man made oils. This is the type that is used in modern cars. They are formulated to withstand heat, shear and load than mineral oils. They also have additives that enhance their performance.


What are mineral oils?


This is refined oil that is found in the ground. They are the type that were used in old cars. They cannot withstand high temperature, load and shear as much as synthetic oils.

There is also semi-synthetic oil. They have mineral oil as base oil but special additives are added to improve their performance. Their performance is in-between that of mineral and synthetic oils.

Best practice when servicing automobiles is adhering to the manufacturer oil recommendation. Due to high price of synthetic oils, some users use mineral and semi-synthetic oils in vehicles that are meant to use full synthetic engine oils.

The real question is; do you really save cost when you downgrade to mineral oil instead of synthetic oil? We are going to analyze this with explanations.


Which is more cost effective between mineral and synthetic engine oils?

Mineral engine oils are by far cheaper than their synthetic counterparts and the oil change interval is lower in the mineral type when compared with the synthetic type. For example, many mineral oils have OCI of 3,000 miles while synthics go from between 5,000 miles to 20,000 miles. This implies that when mineral oil is being used to service the engine, there is going to be more frequent oil changes from around 2 to 6 times of the oil change frequency when using synthetic oil.

Below are reasons why extra cost will be added when you use synthetic oil instead of mineral oil:

1. There will be extra cost of changing oil filter. Since it is recommended to change oil filter during oil servicing, you are going to be buying oil filter at each service. Some people reuse oil filter but that depends on the quality of the filter.

2. There will be extra labor cost since the garage will be paid for services each time you carry out an oil change.

3. You will spend more on fuel to visit the workshop multiple times. Time is also valuable and can be costly. If you are the type that buy parts by yourself, you will also spend more time visiting the place where you buy oil and filter.


It should be noted that while you can use both synthetic and mineral type of oils in some engines, some others exclusively require the use of synthetic type. Some manufacturers suggest that under high ambient temperature, oil weight can be switched to a higer one of which most of the high weight oils are mineral type. Of recent, synthetics of 20W50 grade are becoming popular. This means that we can get benefit of higher viscosity and other extra protection that synthetic oils offer.

Summarily, you successfully increase cost on oil servicing and also loose the long term benefit of extra protection that synthetic oils offer when you decide to stick with using mineral oils. So, when next you will devide between using mineral and synthetic engine oil, think of long term benefit and cost.