Best Motor Oils: Keep Your Engine Running Smoothly
Consider these motor oils to keep your vehicle running reliably and to withstand the test of time.
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BY Zach Faulds / LAST UPDATED ON May 20, 2021
Best OverallCastrol GTX Magnatec Green 5W-20 Motor OilCheck Latest Price
Best ValueValvoline Advanced Full Synthetic SAE 5W-20 Motor OilCheck Latest Price
Premium PickLiqui Moly Premium 5W-40 Synthetic Motor OilCheck Latest Price
Longest LastingValvoline High Mileage Synthetic Blend Motor OilCheck Latest Price
Honorable MentionCastrol 03095 GTX 20W-50 Conventional Motor OilCheck Latest Price
Whether you are an avid traveler, or you only use your vehicle to get to work and run errands, one thing that's necessary to keep your vehicle running is a quality motor oil. In order to extend the life of your vehicle and prevent any long-term issues, it's important to find a reliable motor oil that is the right choice for your specific vehicle. A high-quality motor oil helps to ensure proper maintenance and that your engine operates at peak levels for extended periods of time. In addition to purchasing the right motor oil for your vehicle, make sure to familiarize yourself with properly changing your motor oil in order to prevent any problems. Whether you are looking for great value, reliability, durability, or versatility, we took a look at the best motor oils currently available on the market. Read on to see which motor oil is the best option to keep your vehicle running smoothly.
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Benefits of Motor Oil
- It's an essential fluid. Cars, trucks, SUVs and other vehicles require engine oil to properly function. Without it, you won’t be able to drive anywhere. The best motor oil for trucks and cars cleans, cools, and lubricates your engine so it operates at optimal performance levels.
- Better operation in extreme temperatures. Your vehicle's fluids are affected by extremely hot or cold temperatures. Compared to conventional oil, synthetic oil flows better in the cold and is resistant to breaking down due to heat or friction.
- Enjoy fewer oil changes. If you use synthetic oil, the change intervals are between 7,500 and 10,000 miles compared to 3,000 miles for conventional, mineral oil.
- Get better fuel economy. Certain engine configurations will experience improved fuel economy with the use of synthetic oil. In addition, this type of oil may increase the life span of your engine.
Types of Motor Oil
Conventional motor oil is generally considered inferior compared to synthetic and blended oils, but it is common on new cars. Conventional motor oil contains detergent elements as well as friction modifiers, corrosion inhibitors, viscosity modifiers, extreme pressure agents, anti-foaming additives, and dispersants. Most brands allow you to go between 3,000-5,000 miles between oil changes. The recommended conventional oil is typically 5W-20 or 5W-30 for lower temperatures or 10W-30 for higher ambient temperatures.
High-performance vehicles operate best with full synthetic oil, which is not derived from crude oil. When deciding on the best synthetic motor oil, remember that it is intended for engines with higher RPM limits, higher temperatures, and those that carry large loads. One brand of the best performance motor oil may be better at engine protection, while another may excel at keeping your engine clean.
A synthetic blend combines conventional motor oil with a synthetic base. Essentially, it's conventional oil with a boost. A synthetic blend increases performance and protects your engine more than conventional oil. One major benefit of a synthetic blend is that it is much less expensive than fully synthetic options but includes some of the same benefits.
This type of motor oil is exactly what you'd expect it to be. It's intended for vehicles that have more than 75,000 miles on the engine. Parts of the motor on vehicles with this type of mileage are more likely to have operating problems. Motor oil that is designed specifically for vehicles with high mileage take this into account and contain additives to address common types of issues.
Mobil is one of the world's largest oil and gas companies. The American company was founded in 1911 as Standard Oil Company of New York. It merged with Exxon in 1999 to form ExxonMobil. One top product is the Mobil 1 Extended Performance 5W-30 Motor Oil.
Valvoline Inc. was founded in 1866 and is one of the world's top producers of premium lubricants and automotive services. Its headquarters are in Lexington, Ky. One of its most popular motor oils is the Valvoline 10W-30 MaxLife High Mileage Motor Oil.
Castrol's headquarters are in the United Kingdom, and the company, which was founded in 1899, operates in over 40 countries. It produces lubricants for motorcycles, two-stroke and four-stroke engines, and gas and diesel engines. Two recommended products are the Castrol GTX High Mileage 5W-30 Synthetic Blend Motor Oil and Castrol EDGE 5W-20 Advanced Full Synthetic Motor Oil.
Royal Purple is located in Porter, Texas, and its mission is "to develop products that significantly outperform other synthetic and mineral based oils." The company was acquired by Calumet Specialty Products Partners in 2012. One of its most popular motor oils is the Royal Purple HMX SAE 5W-30 High-Mileage Synthetic Motor Oil.
Liqui Moly GmbH was founded in 1957 in Ulm, Germany, and produces oils, lubricants, and additives. Its products are available in over 110 countries. One popular motor oil is the Liqui Moly Premium 5W-40 Synthetic Motor Oil.
Motor Oil Pricing
- Under $20 (for 5 quarts): Less expensive motor oils tend to be conventional oil or synthetic blends. Synthetic blends are a good choice if you want some of the benefits of full synthetic oil but don't want to spend too much money.
- Over $20 (for 5 quarts): Full synthetic motor oils vary in price, and it's helpful to find the product on sale if you want a good deal. Some can be as cheap as $25, while others run as high as $60.
Vehicles are given a viscosity (thickness or consistency) rating based on several factors, including external temperatures, operating temperatures, and engine load. Most gasoline engines have a viscosity grade of 5W-30, 5W-20, and 0W-20, while diesel engines are commonly rated 15W-40 and 5W-40. The numbers refer to how resistant the motor oil is to thickening in low temperatures and thinning at high temperatures. The number before the “W” is the thickness when the oil is cold, while the number afterward is its thickness when the oil is at normal operating temperatures.
- Type of Driving. If you like driving fast, own a sports car, or frequently tow or carry heavy loads in your vehicle, you may want to use higher-quality motor oil or one that is designed specifically for these types of tasks. Engines that undergo more stress than an average car will perform better with full synthetic oil, for example.
- Additives. When you're looking for the best motor oil brands, you'll notice that they differ in the type of additives they contain. Most feature some type of anti-foaming agents, conditioners, detergents, dispersants, corrosion inhibitors, viscosity index improvers, antioxidants, and anti-wear agents. Determine which of these additives is the best combination for your vehicle.
- Compatibility. It will not hurt your engine if you top off conventional oil with a bit of synthetic oil. However, that will simply dilute the synthetic properties, which will reduce the benefits. It's critical that you are aware of your engine's needs. Some older vehicles work better with conventional oil, while modern cars generally operate better with synthetic oil.
Best Motor Oils Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- Before you choose a motor oil, read your owner's manual. It will contain specific information from the manufacturer about your vehicle's engine and the recommended motor oil specific to the model.
- You should regularly change your oil according to the manufacturer's recommendations. Also, it's advisable to use the same brand and SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) viscosity as the factory recommends.
- While you may be tempted to use the best oil brand, it's more important that you use the best oil type for your exact vehicle. This is based on the make, model, year, mileage and other requirements.
- When making a best synthetic oil comparison, check for all-purpose synthetic motor oil. This type of oil will suit your needs perfectly well if you have a vehicle that you drive for general purposes.
- While many brands tout that they are the best, must meet the same American Petroleum Institute (API) standards and properly protect your vehicle's engine. You really can't go wrong if a brand meets the manufacturer's recommendations.
- Less expensive, generic oils may meet SAE ratings, but they may not be as good quality as other brands. Generic products may not be as resistant to heat or have the same lubricating qualities.
- If your vehicle leaks oil on your garage floor, it's possibly due to the crankshaft seals, which can harden, lose flexibility, and crack. High-mileage oil has to seal conditioners that aid in restoring the strength and flexibility of this engine part.
- When changing your oil, you also need an oil filter. Be sure to check with your vehicle's manufacturer to make sure you use the proper filter because some aftermarket products are larger and may require more oil.
Q: What does the label on a motor oil container mean?
The API “donut” lets you know if the oil meets the current SL service rating as determined by laboratory and engine tests. There is also the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) star logo with the viscosity number and information on whether the oil has passed the energy conserving test.
Q: What’s the difference between oil brands?
There isn't much difference between motor oil brands. As long as you consistently use a name-brand oil, your vehicle should perform efficiently, despite some claiming to be better than others.
Q: How often should I change the oil in my car?
Check your owner's manual to determine the maintenance schedule. Most newer cars can go 5,000 to 10,000 miles between oil changes. However, if you tow heavy items, do a lot of stop-and-go driving, or go offroading frequently, you may need to change the oil more often.
Q: Is it worth it to use a specialty oil?
Some motor oils have an "extended life" feature, which purports users can wait for 15,000 miles between oil changes. However, it's crucial to check your owner's manual to determine how often you need to change your oil instead of relying on the recommendation of an oil brand.
Q: Is it okay to change my car oil from conventional to synthetic?
Be sure to check with your vehicle's manufacturer before you make the switch from conventional to synthetic oil. A trusted mechanic will also advise you about the best motor oil for your car or truck.
Q: What is a motor oil’s shelf life?
It depends on how the motor oil is stored. If the product is unopened and kept in a temperature-controlled environment, it should last for several years. If the oil is left in an open container in a garage that experiences drastic shifts in temperature, it won't last as long.
For a high-quality motor oil, consider the Castrol GTX Magnatec Green 5W-20 Motor Oil, designed to reduce engine wear and make critical engine components run a lot smoother. The Valvoline Advanced Full Synthetic SAE 5W-20 Motor Oil is a budget-friendly option, specifically formulated to protect against extreme engine stress due to stop-and-go driving, extreme temperatures, hauling, and towing.