Changing the oil in a car used to be one of the simplest car maintenance tasks. People didn’t have to spend much time debating which type of oil to put into their cars since there weren’t very many options to choose from. But in this day and age, the synthetic vs. conventional oil conversation has changed all of that. When people change the oil in their cars themselves or pay a mechanic to do it, they have to decide whether they want to go with conventional or synthetic oil in their vehicles. And it’s not always an easy decision to make.
Are you confused about whether you should use conventional or synthetic oil in your car? If so, you should take some time to learn about both of them so that you’re able to choose the one that’s going to provide you with the biggest benefits. You should consider everything from what you’ll find in each type of oil to how much each type of oil will cost you as part of an oil change. Let’s take a look at both sides in an effort to settle the synthetic vs. conventional oil debate once and for all.
What Is Conventional Oil?
Before we begin talking about the advantages and disadvantages of using synthetic vs. conventional oil, it’s important for you to know the basic differences between the two. It’ll prevent you from having a puzzled look on your face the next time your mechanic asks if you would like them to use conventional or synthetic oil when changing the oil in your car. It’ll also help you understand which of the two types of oil might be the best choice for your specific vehicle.
We’ll kick things off by talking about conventional oil, which people were using in their cars long before people started bringing up the synthetic vs. conventional oil debate. Conventional oil is oil that has been distilled and then refined directly from crude oil. Crude oil is a fossil fuel consisting of hydrogen and carbon compounds that is found in nature. It’s most often found in places like underground reservoirs and in tar sands. The conventional oil that comes from crude oil is usually what comes to mind for most people when they think of motor oil.
What Is Synthetic Oil?
The idea of using synthetic oil in your car instead of conventional oil is still relatively new. For years, most people put conventional oil into their cars almost exclusively. But it’s worth noting that synthetic oil has been around for a long time now. In fact, it was first invented all the way back in 1929, and today, it’s used extensively in everything from jets to high-performance vehicles to passenger cars. It’s made a real splash in recent years and caused the synthetic vs. conventional oil debate to heat up.
Unlike conventional oil, synthetic oil is not found out in nature. Instead, it’s made artificially using chemical compounds that contain some of the best properties found in conventional oil. The companies that specialize in producing synthetic oil have spent a lot of time and money tinkering with their formulas to try and come up with a product that is able to outperform conventional oil when used in modern-day cars, trucks, and SUVs.
What Is Semi-Synthetic Oil?
We’re going to spend most of our time today talking about synthetic vs. conventional oil. But we do want to point out that there is a third option available for those who aren’t sure whether to go with conventional or synthetic oil. This option is called semi-synthetic oil, and it’s a blend of conventional and synthetic oil. This type of oil provides people with some of the advantages that come along with both conventional and synthetic oils.
The Pros and Cons of Conventional Oil
Now that you know a little bit more about conventional and synthetic oil and understand what makes them different, it’s time to segue into the synthetic vs. conventional oil conversation. And what better way to do it than by discussing some of the pros and cons of each option? These pros and cons should help paint a picture of which type of oil will work best in your vehicle.
To get things going, let’s begin by talking about the advantages of using conventional oil in your car. The pros associated with conventional oil are:
- It is, by nature, designed to act a reliable lubricant when you put it into your car and replace it on a regular schedule
- It’s pretty easy to produce in the grand scheme of things, and as a result, it’s readily available to those who need to obtain it
- It’s the cheaper of the two options when you’re looking at synthetic vs. conventional oil
The cons associated with conventional oil, meanwhile, are:
- It isn’t designed to last as long as synthetic oil does when it’s used in your car, which could cause you to need to have your oil changed more often
- It’s often seen as the less eco-friendly option when you compare synthetic vs. conventional oil
- It won’t always provide your car’s engine with the protection that it needs when you drive your car in certain kinds of conditions
Bottom line: People have come to love and appreciate the affordability and accessibility of conventional oil. It’s easily the more cost-effective option when you compare it to synthetic oil. But the benefits of conventional oil are sometimes offset by the fact that you’ll have to change your oil more often in most cases when you use it. This makes it worse for the environment than synthetic oil and makes some people think twice about putting it into their cars.
The Pros and Cons of Synthetic Oil
There are many people who will tell you that synthetic oil is the clear-cut choice when you put it up next to conventional oil. They’ll boast about its benefits and question why you would ever want to use conventional oil when you have synthetic oil as an option. But it’s important to remember that, just like conventional oil, synthetic oil has its advantages and disadvantages, too.
Here are some of the pros of using synthetic oil:
- It’s designed to provide your car’s engine with better all-weather protection and can stand up to almost anything you throw at it
- It doesn’t need to be changed as often as conventional oil does and can help improve your car’s fuel economy when you use it
- It can help to clean out a lot of the sludge and deposits that tend to build up inside your engine over time
And here are some of the cons that will come along with using synthetic oil:
- It costs a lot more than conventional oil does with some synthetic oils coming in at four times the price of conventional oils
- It’s not always the best choice for newer vehicles that haven’t been broken in yet
- It is often disposed of improperly and can cause a lot of pollution when people don’t take the time to figure out the right way to get rid of it
People really enjoy how effective synthetic oil is once they get it into their car. They also like how long that it tends to last compared to conventional oil. But the price tag is one of the biggest all-around differences between synthetic vs. conventional oil. You need to prepare yourself to pay a lot more money for synthetic oil than you would have to for conventional oil.
Does Synthetic Oil Really Last Longer Than Conventional Oil?
We touched on this briefly while discussing the pros and cons of synthetic vs. conventional oil, but it’s worth repeating it again and expanding on it. One of the things that people like most about synthetic oil is that it lasts longer than conventional oil. How much longer, you ask?
Generally speaking, most mechanics will tell you that you should replace conventional oil every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. This will help you avoid driving around in a car with dirty oil or less oil than you should. But with synthetic oil, they’ll usually tell you that you can get away with using it for up to 7,500 miles before it needs to be replaced. That could help you to counteract the cost that accompanies using synthetic oil in your car.
As always, you should consult the owner’s manual for your car to see how long your auto manufacturer recommends you go between oil changes. They might suggest replacing your car’s oil more often than we just mentioned, regardless of whether you use conventional or synthetic oil. But overall, you should be able to get more life out of synthetic oil in your car.
Is Synthetic Oil Better for Your Car Than Conventional Oil in Extreme Temperatures?
If you’re planning on driving your car around in a place that stays hot or cold all year round or if you have a high-performance racing car that you subject to above-average temperatures on a regular basis, you might not need to have the synthetic vs. conventional oil debate for very long. Synthetic oil is typically going to be the best option for you when your car is routinely subjected to extreme temperatures.
When placed under high levels of heat, synthetic oils can resist heat more effectively than conventional oils can. Conventional oil will break down a lot faster than synthetic oil in these conditions and have to be replaced sooner. At the same time, synthetic oil can also usually outperform conventional oil in very cold temperatures, too. It’ll flow smoother through an engine than conventional oil will and provide it with all the protection that it needs at all times. It’s what makes synthetic oil a great choice for those who are going to drive in very hot or cold climates.
Is It OK to Switch From Conventional to Synthetic Oil?
After hearing more about synthetic vs. conventional oil, do you think that synthetic oil might be the better choice for your car? If so, one of the things that might be holding you back is the mistaken belief that you can’t switch from conventional to synthetic oil on a whim. Many people are under the impression that they will do damage to their vehicle by transitioning from conventional to synthetic oil.
But this couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, you’re allowed to switch from conventional to synthetic oil if you want. You can also switch back from synthetic oil to conventional oil if you find that synthetic oil isn’t right for you for one reason or another. You might want to give your mechanic a heads-up about it and let them know that you’re changing from one to the other. But as long as your auto manufacturer doesn’t specifically say not to use synthetic oil in your car, you’re free to switch to it.
Synthetic vs. Conventional Oil: How to Choose the Right Option
As we alluded to back at the beginning, changing the oil in your car didn’t used to require much of a discussion with your mechanic. All you had to do was toss them the keys to your car and say, “Please change my oil,” and they would be on the case. But nowadays, it’s not quite that simple to have an oil change done. You end up having to go through the synthetic vs. conventional oil debate with your mechanic before picking which one you want.
When trying to choose the right oil for your car, you should weigh all the pros and cons that we talked about here. Consider how much protection your engine needs, how often you want to have to worry about changing your oil, and how much you can afford to pay for oil changes. By doing this, you’ll put yourself in a position to decide once and for all where you stand when it comes to synthetic vs. conventional oil. It’ll make changing the oil in your car a lot less stressful from now on.