Conventional vs Synthetic Oil: Which is Better?

Maddie Butler

by Maddi Butler

Even if you only know the basics about car maintenance, you probably still know that part of maintaining your car means getting regular oil changes. However, you may not know about the different types of oil available—or why it matters what your mechanic is putting in your car.

There are two main types of oil, conventional and synthetic, and both serve as engine lubricants, helping to prevent friction that would otherwise cause wear and tear on your engine. Conventional motor oil is made by refining crude oil, which occurs naturally. Conventional oil is also called standard oil or mineral-based oil.

Synthetic oil is refined, distilled, and contains fewer impurities than mineral oil. In addition to a high quality base oil, synthetic motor oils contain additives that make it better suited to modern engines. Because of these additives, synthetic motor oil can cost two to four times the price of standard oil.

However, these additives also have benefits. Synthetic oil:

  • Doesn’t break down as fast as standard oil
  • Better withstands high temperatures
  • Flows better in cold temperatures

If you don’t drive very far, your mineral oil may never get hot enough to burn away moisture and other impurities, meaning the oil won’t last as long. Extreme temperatures in the summer and winter will also break down mineral oil more quickly, meaning if you experience this you may be better off with synthetic oil.

Oil breakdown can cause buildup in the engine, so if you have an older car, synthetic oil may save you from expensive engine repairs caused by sludge buildup. Certain manufacturers even require synthetic oil to be used in their engines, though your manual will tell you if this is the case. Otherwise, weigh the pros and cons and talk to a trusted mechanic to figure out what oil is right for your car. And whatever you choose, be sure to keep up with regular oil changes.