For that Summer Road Trip, Here’s How to Save on Oil and Tires

With Memorial Day behind us, the American Automobile Association reports that 79 percent of families planning summer vacations this year say they are going on road trips (10 percent more than last year).

Road trips are also an attractive way to travel for millennials, who are more likely to jump in their car than on an airliner as they seek that “authentic,” less costly vacation adventure worthy of social media posts. According to Fortune, young adults are the fastest growing segment in the $2 trillion U.S. travel industry and their tastes trend more towards roadside motels than Hiltons or Marriotts.

Rising Gas Prices

While planned road trips on the rise, so are gasoline prices. As reported in U.S. News, AAA says the nationwide average price at the pump in May was $2.38 a gallon for regular, up about 6 cents from April and up 17 cents from a year ago. “As gas prices continue to reach new heights and hit an all-time high for the year, the summer demand has not kicked in, meaning consumers can expect the price at the pump to continue to rise for coming weeks,” according to the organization.

With this in mind, oil and tires are two great ways to save money on those extended road trips.

Different Oil for Different Cars

Is it true that oil is oil and that it’s more economical to buy the least expensive oil since it’s all the same? Maybe some years ago, but not today with the more sophisticated, computer-controlled engines. Still, the price of the oil you put in your car depends on what kind of vehicle you drive.

There are four primary types of motor oil produced for today’s cars, each of which has specific properties. The types from most to least expensive are:

  • Synthetic motor oil that offers a higher level of lubrication and protects high performance engines.
  • Synthetic blend motor oil that resists corrosion and is recommended for vehicles such as trucks that are used to haul trailers and other equipment.
  • High-mileage motor oil for older cars or those with more than 100,000 miles that contains special additives.
  • Conventional motor oil that is most frequently used in older cars, or vehicles used for daily commuting since it has excellent resistance to breakdown.

According to the experts, different cars require different types of motor oil, so one-size doesn’t fit all. For example, standard passenger vehicles such as a Chevrolet or Toyota probably don’t need high priced synthetic oil. However, high performance cars such as a Corvette, Ferrari or Jaguar may require this type of oil to run at their best.

Consult Your Owner’s Manual

To be safe, it’s best to consult your owner’s manual and also discuss it with the oil change facility if you choose not to do it yourself (doing it on your own or having a friend/significant other handle it is also of course a cost saving method).

Finally, how often should you change your oil and filter – 3,000, 5,000 or 10,000 miles? For most of us driving a newer car today, an oil change every 7,500 miles is usually recommended due to advancements in engine and oil technology – 3,000 miles is not necessary or even advised. In fact, according to, changing oil every 3,000 miles is probably wasting money, and in addition, environmental experts say it adds to the glut of used oil that must be recycled or disposed.

What About Tires?

When researching new tires for a full-sized SUV at a major auto service chain recently, we were surprised at the major difference in prices. The least expensive was $71 a tire with no warranty, and the most expensive was $209 a tire with a 60,000-mile warranty. You could buy a good, brand name tire for $108 a tire with a 60,000-mile warranty, and reviews from owners show that they have been very pleased with its performance.

The manufacture of tires is also regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation under its Uniform Tire Quality Grading standards that measure a tire’s tread weartemperature resistance and traction.

Whatever the rating, you should expect at least 50,000 miles from a new tire designed for your vehicle, but the reality can be quite different depending on many different factors such as tire pressure and alignment. Driving on underinflated tires for extended periods shortens their lifespan, as will driving a vehicle whose wheels are out of alignment. If you never or seldom have your tires rotated, that also can accelerate wear.

When all is said and done, you don’t have to spend lavishly on tires if you take good care of them. And for both tires and oil, it pays to do your research as the highest priced product does not always equal higher quality.