Most people know that it’s important to get their vehicle’s oil changed on a regular basis. The exact number of miles between those appointments can vary on a case by case basis. It usually takes around 3,000 to 7,500 miles of use before a vehicle’s oil starts to degrade. By that time, oil will have collected enough debris, clumps and other issues to pose a real risk to the vehicle’s health and safety.
There’s no question that people need to change their oil on a regular basis, but there is some debate regarding what kind of oil to use. Both synthetic and conventional oil have their pros and cons, so which one is the best option? To understand that, it’s important to first consider some definitions.
What Is Conventional Oil?
Conventional oil is probably what you think of when the topic of an oil change comes up. Conventional oil is the refined form of the crude oil that’s extracted from the ground. After crude oil is extracted, it’s then further refined into a usable product. Conventional oil is a time-tested option that vehicles have been using almost since the beginning of the automotive industry.
What Is Synthetic Oil?
People often assume that synthetic oil is created from scratch in a lab, but it can instead be thought of as another step along the same process which creates conventional oil. Crude oil from the ground is refined to create conventional oil. That conventional oil can be further refined and purified into what we call synthetic oil. The higher level of processing produces oil which is more uniform and predictable in its overall structure. This generally leads to better performance in most vehicles, and some high-performance vehicles are specifically designed around synthetic oils.
There’s also a third option that quite literally mixes both of these options together. Synthetic blends are a mixture of both synthetic and conventional oil. These blends are less expensive than a full synthetic oil while still providing a higher level of performance than standard conventional oil.
Directly Comparing Synthetic and Conventional Oil
The fact that synthetic oil is a more refined form of conventional oil highlights why synthetic will usually come out ahead in direct comparisons. Synthetic oil builds on top of the already strong foundation provided by conventional oil.
Synthetic oil typically lasts longer than conventional oil. In some cases, synthetic will only need changing every 15,000 miles. Synthetic oil is also more resistant to heat and cold. Neither high engine temperatures nor freezing weather will pose much of a problem for synthetic oil.
The one area where synthetic doesn’t come out ahead is price. The extra processing required to make synthetic oil makes it more expensive, although this extra cost does come with extra performance. The price point is why many people prefer a blend. Synthetic blends provide better performance than conventional oil while still remaining more competitively priced than synthetic oil.
Which Oil Comes Out Ahead?
Synthetic oil or a synthetic blend will usually provide the most benefits for your vehicle. Synthetic wins out in both performance and endurance when compared to conventional oil. The higher cost of synthetic is often balanced out by the fact that you won’t need oil changes as often, and the cost of synthetic oil can be lowered even more by going with a synthetic blend.
The Best Oil and the Best Care
In the end, all oils which meet a vehicle’s specifications are a solid option. Choosing a type of oil is more about considering different benefits than it is accepting a deficit. What’s more, you can even switch between synthetic and conventional oil as desired as long as your vehicle doesn’t specifically require synthetic oil. The most important point to remember about oil is simply that it needs to be changed on a regular basis no matter which type you’re using.