Oil Changes Are Not Created Equal

Lots of auto-repair shops offer discount oil changes to draw in customers. Dealerships and small, independent shops alike seem to think it’s a good business strategy.

The strategy is labor-intensive for the shop and won’t bring in much profit; still, it can foster a good relationship with the customer and get them to return for other services.

On the surface, it sounds like a good deal for the customer–and sometimes it is, if you’re dealing with a top-notch, honest mechanic.

So…are you really getting a good deal when you opt for those bargain-basement oil changes? The cost of parts and labor make it almost impossible for a shop to make more than two or three dollars on a $19.95 oil change if they use quality materials.

Some shops will throw in an added service–tire rotation, for example. If the price to the customer does not reflect that addition, the shop is either losing money on the oil change or using really cheap (and presumably sub-par) materials in order to break even. If that’s the case, it’s no bargain for the customer.

At Jer’s Elite Automotive in Layton, Utah, an oil change is taken very seriously. Owner Jeremy Howard has had the various oil formulas he uses checked by a chemist to ensure that he is using quality oil. He uses high-quality filters, too, even though that cuts into his profit margin.

An oil change at Jer’s includes the following:
oil change
oil replacement
new oil filter
check and adjust tire pressure
30-point checklist inspection
lubricate chassis as needed
top off fluid levels

“I won’t use low quality materials–I just won’t,” says Howard. “I don’t make much money on the oil changes but many of my customers buy an oil-change punch card with several oil changes on it. That means they get their oil changed more often and their vehicles run better. We see them more often and can help them keep everything running smoothly. My customers deserve that. I don’t ever intend to lower the quality or raise my price for an oil change.”

It’s a great deal for the customer.

Related story: The Head Mechanic Is ‘In the House’ at Jer’s Elite


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