How a $14 oil change can end up almost $50

Don't Waste Your Money

Springtime means car maintenance time, and the quickest and cheapest way to maintain your car is to take it in for for a cheap oil change.

But before you grab a coupon for a $15 or $20 oil change, buyer beware. You need to know why that price may be impossible to get.

Cheaper Than Doing it Himself

Brian Chamberlin figured why bother changing his own oil, when he could get it changed cheaper at a shop?

"I went online and saw a voucher for $14.99 for an oil change," he said.

So he clipped a coupon for a $14.99 oil change and tire rotation, valid at Cincinnati-area Monro Muffler shops.

But when the shop presented the bill, he says,"it was $14.99 plus $34.99"

The total was almost $50, even with the coupon. It turns out, Chamberlin said, "there is a $34.99 additional charge for disposing of the oil" and other things.

He says the shop billed extra for:

  • Oil disposal.
  • Filter disposal.
  • Recycling fee.
  • Shop supplies.
  • Equipment costs.

The Cost of an Oil Change

So what does it really cost to change the oil in your car?

We came to an independent shop that does more than a dozen oil changes a day to find out. Todd Adams is the general manager of a Northern Kentucky family-owned repair shop, Smith Muffler in Covington.

"It can range here at my establishment anywhere from $28 to $60," Adams said, "But synthetic oil is more expensive, as are big trucks."
  
He says no shop can make money doing an oil change for much under $25 , saying the oil and filter alone, without any labor, costs "$22 to $25 if you purchased it yourself."

Read the Fine Print

What about the $14.99 coupon? Turns out the fine print says they can charge up to an additional $39 for fees.

Chamberlin says he would have liked if they had explained that first, not afterward.

 "The car's already up, they've already got the oil removed, then they show you what the real cost is gonna be," he said.

However, he says the manager agreed to remove some of the extra charges after he complained.

We contacted Munro Muffler, where a spokesman said they would look into Chamberlin's claims. However, the chain legally did nothing wrong, as the fine print on the coupon explains all the possible extra fees.

My advice? Ask what extra fees come with an the oil change cost before they pull it into the service bay, not once they have the oil drained.

That way you don't waste your money.

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