I used to change the oil in my car. I didn’t enjoy it per se, but I got a certain satisfaction from the accomplishment, and I felt like I was saving money. Until I ran the numbers. Here’s the breakdown on a home oil change:
On the other hand, Jiffy Lube’s “Signature Service” Oil Change total cost is $29 (including $10 online coupon). Total elapsed time is 30 minutes.
As you can see, with DIY I come out $5.25 ahead when considering out of pocket expenses, but when you add in driving around, being yelled at, and extra time, the whole exercise quickly enters the debit column.
In the basement, I still have decade-old plastic gallon milk jugs full of dirty oil that I’m too conscientious to toss out, but too lazy to recycle properly. So they sit.
The other day, Pippa went into the cellar to retrieve a DVD, accidentally brushed and ruptured an ossified jug, then unwittingly tracked ink-black oil around the carpeted basement. So I guess add another $300 for carpet cleaning, or perhaps more for carpet patching. Until we figure it out, newspapers blanket the basement.
Do-It-Yourself and Life Hacks are red hot now. Your toilet flush handle breaks – do you order a new one from Amazon.com, or 3D print one in your living room? That’s not a serious question for most people, but it gets a little more interesting when you ask about something you can’t buy off the shelf.
For me, the dollars and cents don’t usually add up, especially if you factor in opportunity cost – what else I could be doing with that time. If I could be working and making money, the opportunity cost is huge. Otherwise, the cost is tied to the relative satisfaction I get from one activity compared to the other.
If I can incorporate Pippa or Grey into an activity, my ‘DIY or not’ calculation is turned on its head. Suddenly, DIY is a combination bonding/training session. If Pippa expresses any interest in changing the car oil with me, I’m there!
Until then, I’m taking it to Jiffy Lube or one of its competitors.
Finances with Purpose says
Heh, I’ve always suspected the math works out about that way: it’s about that price for an oil change here – from a great mechanic, no less – and takes very little time (I drop my car off en route to work, pick it up en route home). Lately, I considered doing it myself, but you’ve just persuaded me. My DIY time would be better spent elsewhere I think. You’ve convinced me (financially) I have do less going forward – love it! My time ain’t worth everything, but I can do way better than $5 per hour-and-a-half (plus oil disposal) anytime.
I think oil changes are a loss leader at many garages, so even more reason to avoid DIY in this area.
Queen Mum says
One other thing you didn’t add in (or maybe subtract out) is the conscientiousness factor of your own work. Nobody cares as much about your things as you do. Assuming you know what you’re doing, If you do it yourself, it will be done right. But depending on the guy around the corner to do the job, could likely mean a few grease nipples (or whatever) get overlooked.
Good point. I got home from Jiffy Lube once, opened the hood, and discovered the oil cap was missing. They hadn’t bothered to screw it back on!
I usually take our vehicles to the oil change place too for convenience and the cost is about the same. I do use synthetic for one of our vehicles and it can be worth my while to change it myself if I buy the oil from Wal-Mart as some local places charge $20 more since I have to buy additional quarts.
The biggest thing for me is that you need to have the ramps or jacks to lift up your car (clutter in the garage) and you still need to take the time to dispose of the oil.
Yeah, if you are going to go full DIY, you definitely need to invest in the proper equipment and tools to make things go smoothly.
Adriana @MoneyJourney says
Although my boyfriend is pretty handy, we still prefer taking the car to ‘our guy’ for these things.
We trust it’s his job to take care of our car. Meanwhile we can either spend quality time together or run an errand. Besides, we always politely ask him to keep an eye out for anything that might need attention (tire pressure, coolant level, and so on).
I agree it’s good to have a 2nd set of eyes, but it cuts both ways. The lube shops also use the oil change as an opportunity to suggest fixes and upgrades that aren’t always warranted. I hate wrestling with them over those things.