Best Motor Oils: Ensure Smooth and Reliable Performance

Keep your car running smoothly and reliably with one of these top-shelf options.

Best Overall

Mobil 1 Advanced Full Synthetic 5W-20 Motor Oil

Best Value

Valvoline Advanced Full Synthetic 5W-20 Motor Oil

Honorable Mention

Liqui Moly Premium 5W-40 Synthetic Motor Oil

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Whether you’re a road warrior who stacks up the mileage every year or you only use your vehicle for A-to-B-type stuff, having quality motor oil coursing through your vehicle’s engine is an excellent way to keep it running in peak condition and ensure proper maintenance. And while you can just go down to your local auto-lube spot, why not opt for the best? Whether you are looking for great value, reliability, durability, or versatility, we’ve assembled a list of some of the best motor oils currently available on the market. Let’s chat!

Summary List

Our Methodology

Surprisingly, it’s not terribly easy selecting a solid list of the top motor oils on the market, even for old automotive hands like the author. There are so many to choose from and many different brands, all of whom use the same lingo to boast about how their oil is better than the others. We came to our choices by looking over more than 20 oils, taking current oil technology into consideration, and weighing out a well-rounded list that will benefit a wide range of consumers. Value came into play quite a bit as well, but the links we’ve included have the best prices online.

Best Motor Oils: Reviews & Recommendations

Best Overall: Mobil 1 Advanced Full Synthetic Motor Oil 5W-30

Mobil’s 5W-20 full-synthetic motor oil is designed to reduce engine wear and make critical engine components run a lot smoother. It’s designed to adhere to important engine components when the oil drains down and provides a layer of protection when you warm up your vehicle. The oil works great if you frequently drive in heavy traffic or take several short trips during the week and it can make your engine quieter, smoother, and create a noticeable improvement on high-mileage vehicles compared to standard oil blends. 

This oil is a quality above run-of-the-mill crude oils and has great cleaning power,. That said, bottles of Mobil 1 have been known to arrive with dents and small leaks. Also, vehicles with old, brittle seals may not take to the stuff as well as others.

Best Value: Valvoline Advanced Full Synthetic SAE 5W-20 Motor Oil

As far as high bang-for-your-buck motor oil goes, it’s tough to beat Valvoline’s Advanced Full Synthetic SAE 5W-20 Motor Oil. This oil is specially designed to provide excellent protection for your car, truck, or SUV, yet for a noticeably lower price than others. It’s specifically formulated to protect against extreme engine stress due to stop-and-go driving, extreme temperatures, hauling, and towing, too. 

This motor oil includes anti-wear additives, which provide 50-percent more wear protection than industry standards and this full synthetic formula is designed to withstand both high and low temperatures. Extra detergents can be found in this motor oil to assist with fighting against sludge and other deposits. High-quality antioxidants help to resist motor oil breakdown in extreme weather conditions. It isn’t without its issues, though, as the 5-quart jug can be a pain to pour, leaks during shipping are known to occur, and dents to the bottles are common. None are deal-breakers, but you should have all the facts.

Best Premium: Liqui Moly 2041 Premium 5W-40 Synthetic Motor Oil

Best Premium

Liqui Moly Premium 5W-40 Synthetic Motor Oil

This oil offers a high level of protection against wear that really helps prolong the life of the engine. It fosters rapid oil delivery at low temperatures as well as high lubrication reliability in high and low temperatures. It also keeps your engine clean. Liqui Moly is used by many mechanics who work on German vehicles, and it has a rather strange-yet-interesting grayish color due to its robust additives. 

This oil is rated to go further than most oil-change intervals, looking almost unused at the 5,000-mile mark, but you should still follow your manufacturer’s recommended interval. It also cuts down on oil consumption, which is especially crucial in modern turbocharged direct-injection engines and has a conveniently designed spout that makes filling easy.

Best High-Mileage: Valvoline High Mileage with MaxLife Technology SAE 5W-30 Synthetic Blend Motor Oil

This synthetic blend oil from Valvoline contains seal conditioners that restore aging engine seals to help stop and prevent oil leaks. Extra protection prevents engine wear, and extra detergents remove sludge and deposits to keep high-mileage engines cleaner. In addition, antioxidants help prevent the oil from breaking down and clogging the engine with sludge and deposits. The quality of this motor oil is excellent for the price, and it has some of the benefits of full-synthetic oil at a much cheaper price.
It does a great job at stopping and reducing leaks thanks to its various seal-renewing additives. It holds up well over time and makes the engine run quiet, smooth, and happy. Valvoline says it does a great job at suspending debris and engine deposits, allowing them to be flushed out at its next change interval. But this motor oil won’t improve performance on severely worn engines, nor does it meet General Motors’ Dexos standard, and it features a slightly higher price than some of its competitors.

Best High Performance: Motul 109776 8100 X-Cess Gen2 5W-40

Motul’s 100% synthetic oil takes the top spot when it comes to performance. The brand boasts that it’s been a top name for a long time, as well as that its 8100 X-Cess Gen2 is specially formulated to far exceed manufacturers’ requirements. This high-end formula is well-regarded among the motorsports community, and offers excellent protection during prolonged high-heat conditions.

Best for Hybrids: Valvoline Hybrid Vehicle Full Synthetic SAE 0W-20 Motor Oil

Hybrid vehicles are not the same as normal combustion-only ones. These vehicles feature different engine tolerances, operating cycles and conditions, and require different maintenance intervals. Valvoline understands that and is the reasoning behind its full synthetic motor oil designed specifically for hybrid vehicles.

Aimed at reducing the time between cold start and at operating temperature, the fully synthetic oil is meant to keep your ride humming along and happy even when the gasoline-driven engine turns off, then on, then off again. And it shields your engine from heat, friction, and other issues that can plague hybrid cars, trucks, and SUVs. This specific oil is 0W-20 but comes in a variety of different oil weights to satisfy your vehicle’s predetermined weight requirements.

Our Verdict on the Best Motor Oils

For high-quality motor oil, consider Mobil 1 Advanced Full Synthetic 5W-20 Motor Oil, which is designed to reduce engine wear and make critical engine components run a lot smoother. 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, track driving, hauling, and towing. Liqui Moly Premium 5W-40 Synthetic Motor Oil is a premium oil that stands up to the high power output and heat of high-performance engines. It’s an excellent choice for modified engines with more-than-stock power.


You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers!

Q: What are some tips and tricks for selecting the right oil and performing this kind of maintenance?

A: 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, including the same SAE viscosity and possibly even the brand that 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 vehicle. This is based on the make, model, year, mileage, and other requirements.

Q: What does the label on a motor oil container mean?

A: The API label lets you know if the oil meets the current service rating as determined by laboratory and engine tests. There is also the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) star logo with the viscosity number and information on whether the oil has passed the energy-conserving test.

Q: How often should I change the oil in my car?

A: Check your owner’s manual to determine the best 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, drive your car on a racetrack, or go off-roading frequently, it’s a good idea to change your oil more often, as the engine is working harder than usual.

Q: Is it worth it to use specialty oil?

A: 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 OK to change my car oil from conventional to synthetic? 

A: 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.


Peter Nelson Avatar

Peter Nelson


Peter Nelson is a former staff writer at The Drive. He often finds himself blogging about all-things motorsports and off-roading as he’s thoroughly infatuated with having fun behind the wheel.