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Best Synthetic Oils: Invest in Your Engine’s Long-Term Health

Find out which synthetic oil is best for your ride.

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BY/ LAST UPDATED ON January 26, 2022

Gone are the days when drivers solely relied on conventional motor oils for their vehicles. Their unpredictability, impurities, and in some cases, toxicity necessitated the need for synthetic oils as a game changer in the industry. Synthetic oils were introduced to drivers in 1997, and although more expensive than the alternative, synthetic oils quickly gained a large following due to their consistency and superior performance.


Generally, most synthetic oils are better than conventional oils, but some synthetic oils perform better than others. This is because synthetic oil manufacturers have different formulations tailored for different operating conditions and engine configurations.

Best Overall

Mobil 1 Advanced Full Synthetic Motor Oil

Summary

This motor oil is a formulation designed to offer maximum protection to your engine for about 10,000 miles.

Pros
  • Promotes fast cold weather starts 
  • Improves fuel economy
  • Lubricates the engine to reduce wear and tear 
  • Resists deposits and sludge build-up
Cons
  • Not approved for some vehicle brands, such as Audi 
Best Value

Valvoline Advanced Full Synthetic Motor Oil

Summary

This motor oil offers about 40 percent more wear protection than most motor oils. It can be used on cars, SUVs, and trucks.

Pros
  • Great high- and low-temperature protection
  • Compatible with most conventional and synthetic oils 
  • Improves fuel efficiency 
  • Promotes faster oil flow for quicker cold starts
Cons
• Bottle has a fragile cap that should be handled with care
Honorable Mention

Pennzoil Ultra Platinum Full Synthetic Motor Oil

Summary

Recommended for gas engines, this synthetic oil offers optimal wear protection to your engine. It works on almost all types of vehicles, including ones with turbocharged engines. 

Pros
  • Promotes better fuel economy so you can drive an extra 550 miles per year
  • Keeps your pistons cleaner for longer
  • Lubricates and protects your engine 
  • Maintains efficiency and flow in both cold and extreme heat environments 
Cons
  • On the expensive side 
  • Doesn’t condition older seals 
Best Synthetic Oils: Invest in Your Engine’s Long-Term Health

Best Synthetic Oils Reviews & Recommendations 2022

This SAE 5W-30 formulation is designed to protect your engine for up to 10,000 miles by lubricating the metal components to minimize wear. It also reduces impurities by resisting sludge and deposit build-up to restrict oil flow and gradually reduce horsepower. Since engines operate in both hot and cold temperature conditions, the motor oil maintains its thermal and oxidation stability up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent heat damage. It also maintains its viscosity even when temperatures dip to -30 degrees Fahrenheit for quicker cold weather starts. When this oil starts to turn slightly dark brown, that’s when you know it’s time for an oil change. 


While it may not be the best choice for old engines, this oil is an excellent choice for almost all types of modern vehicles, including high-performance, turbocharged, supercharged gas, and diesel engines.

Valvoline is known to provide top-notch car care products. This particular synthetic oil is very efficient and comes at an attractive price. It's able to enhance the overall engine performance right after the application, making your vehicle smooth and quiet. The oil works to reduce wear and protect the engine parts from sludge and varnish. It also offers high-temperature protection in demanding driving conditions as well as cold-temperature protection for quick start-ups. You'll find it quite handy in maintaining fuel efficiency, too. The product is compatible with all conventional and leading synthetic motor oils, and you get to pick the bottle size that works the best for you. 


What could bother you the most with this product is the cap design. It's fragile and might break easily, so you need to handle it carefully. Some buyers even complained about the bottle leaking straight from the package. However, the manufacturer is quick to resolve the issue. 

Pennzoil synthetic oil is one of the best products within the category. With the help of the revolutionary PurePlus Technology, the oil is converted from pure natural gas. Therefore, it's a high-quality oil that contains fewer impurities than products made from crude oils. Overall, the oil is made for extreme performance and demanding road situations. It cleans and protects the engine, reducing wear, and increasing gas mileage. With this oil, you'll have cleaner pistons, better fuel economy, and overall better engine performance. Your vehicle will drive smoothly and quietly at all times, regardless of the weather and road conditions. Also, you get to use this synthetic oil on all kinds of cars, SUVs, vans, trucks, and other vehicles.


The main drawback of this product is the price. Although you can get an excellent deal for a pack of three and six bottles, Pennzoil is still not the best option for those who are on a limited budget.

Our Verdict

Why Trust Us

Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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From our review, we concluded that the Mobil 1 Advanced Full Synthetic Motor Oil is the best synthetic oil for engines that demand maximum protection. It retains its protective characteristics through thousands of miles of hard driving. If you are looking for a more budget-friendly option to keep your engine in top shape, then consider the Valvoline Advanced Full Synthetic Motor Oil.

Types of Synthetic Oil

Full Synthetic

Full synthetic motor oil is created in a laboratory with a unique molecular structure and is infused with additives to deliver optimal wear protection and performance for your engine. Unlike conventional oil, it is not derived from whole crude oil, so it’s formulated without any of the impurities that you’d find in conventional oil. The best synthetic engine oil brands use a proprietary blend of anti-wear and cleaning additives to make your motor run at its best.

Synthetic Blend

As the name implies, a synthetic blend motor oil is a mix of conventional oil and a brand’s synthetic base oil. Think of synthetic blend oil as a conventional oil fortified with synthetic supplements for better engine protection and performance. However, it’s worth mentioning that synthetic blends do not deliver the same caliber of performance and protection that a best-rated synthetic oil does. Still, if you choose not to spend a little more for full synthetic oil during your next oil change, you can rest assured knowing that a synthetic blend provides more benefits than conventional oil.  

Key Features

Viscosity

Viscosity grade is the most important factor in selecting the right synthetic motor oil for your needs. If you operate your car in a hotter climate or ring your engine out often, a viscosity of 10W-40 is best. For commuting in most warm or cold climates, a 5W-30 synthetic oil fits the bill. Finally, if you drive in conditions that could be described as arctic, a 5W-20 or even 0W-20 synthetic oil is advisable. 

Application

The labels on all types of synthetic oil list the specific application that the oil is designed for. Some common synthetic oil applications include higher mileage, extended performance, diesel engines, and motorcycles. Do your homework on your vehicle’s condition before you purchase the best synthetic oil for your needs.

Compatibility with Existing Oil

Before you add full synthetic engine oil to your ride, it’s important to note if the brand is compatible with other types of oil. If it isn’t, you’ll have to drain the existing oil before filling it up with the synthetic stuff. It’s also crucial to consult your owner’s manual to verify which type of oil your vehicle requires. For instance, most vintage vehicles were engineered to run best on conventional oil. 

Additives

Each synthetic motor oil brand adds its proprietary blend of additives to enhance certain properties. For instance, viscosity-index improvers work extremely well in ensuring that oil doesn’t get too thin at higher temperatures. Other additives like detergents are efficient cleaning agents designed to remove deposits and sludge from your engine. Determine which additives would provide the benefits you need the most before purchasing a synthetic engine oil.

 Pricing

  • Under $30: You’ll find a few options for under $30 for a 5-quart container, though most of these products are synthetic blends. Not all value-priced synthetic and synthetic blend motor oil brands are created equally, so make sure you scour our synthetic motor oil reviews to see which one fits your needs.
  • $30-$39: The majority of synthetic motor oil products fall within this price range. You’ll find everything here, from high-performance motor oil to high-mileage oil. These options typically deliver a great mix of performance, efficiency, and value.
  • $40 and up: Some of the best engine oil in the world resides at this lofty price point. These premium synthetic oil products promise the best engine protection, performance, and efficiency.

Tips

  • If you are upgrading to synthetic oil, also consider upgrading to a high-quality oil filter so you can better protect your engine from small metal flakes and other microscopic by-products of combustion that can accelerate engine wear.  
  • It’s important to carefully read the label of synthetic motor oil containers. These labels list essential information about the synthetic oil viscosity rating, application, and, sometimes, the additives it contains.
  • Look for an American Petroleum Institute (API) rating donut somewhere on the synthetic oil container label. This seal of approval means that the synthetic engine oil has passed the API’s rigorous quality standards. To learn more about the API oil categories, click here
  • Before switching over to full synthetic oil, consult your vehicle’s owner manual to see if there are any break-in instructions to prep for the switchover. Also, make sure that the synthetic oil you intend on using is compatible with other types of oil. If it’s not, you’ll have to completely drain your existing oil before going full synthetic.

FAQs

Q: What does API SM/CF and SL, SJ, SH, SG mean on my oil container?

API sets industry-recognized standards for oil and petroleum products for passenger and commercial vehicles. The letters after API, like SM or SL, denote the quality of motor oil. Currently, the highest standard for passenger vehicles is SN. The CF denotes a diesel engine or commercial vehicle standard, and the highest standard is CJ-4.

Q: Will I damage my engine if I switch from synthetic to conventional oil?

No, although you may experience a perceivable loss in protection, performance, fuel mileage, and longevity if you switch back to conventional oil. Be aware that some synthetic oil types aren’t engineered to be mixed with other oil types, so in this circumstance, you’ll have to drain your existing synthetic oil before adding any conventional oil. 

Q: Do unopened bottles of synthetic oil have an expiration date?

This largely depends on the individual manufacturer of synthetic engine oil. Some brands claim that unopened containers of their synthetic motor oil have a virtually unlimited shelf life if stored under ideal conditions. Alternatively, other brands like Mobil 1 claim that unopened containers of their oil last up to five years. Read the label of your synthetic oil container for this information and always follow the manufacturer’s expiration date.

Q: Will synthetic oil cause my engine to consume more oil?

This is another commonly-cited myth about synthetic motor oil, and it’s also false. Synthetic engine oil in no way causes your engine to consume more oil compared to conventional oil. 

Q: Is it true that some synthetic oil brands can last up to 15,000 miles?

Thanks to the innovative additives and other properties of modern synthetic motor oil, you really can follow the manufacturer’s recommended oil change interval without inflicting any harm on your engine. Note that the exact oil change interval may vary depending on your particular vehicle, so always consult your owner’s manual to make sure it doesn’t have a different recommended oil change interval. 

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