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TECH TALK

Best places to buy motor oil

Auto parts store, big-box retailer, or online?

Published: July 07, 2015 09:00 AM

It’s a bad sign when you have to start buying oil by the gallon. But if your car is consuming oil regularly, it’s a good idea to have some on hand.  

You can buy oil online at big-box retailers such as WalMart, Kmart, Sears, and Costco; at  auto parts stores such as Advanced Auto Parts, AutoZone, O’Reilly Auto Parts, or Pep Boys; or at almost any service station. You can even find a few common types of oil at many corner drugstores and convenience stores.

The devil in the details is the selection. Many modern cars use lightweight and synthetic oils that aren’t in wide circulation. You may not find the right oil at a 7-11. So unless your car uses common 5W30 weight oil, you’re better off going to a dedicated auto parts store or a big box store known for carrying auto parts, such as WalMart.

We examined the availability and pricing of four brands of 5W30 weight motor oil at WalMart, auto parts stores, and online retailers. We found that big-box stores often have the best prices. But auto parts stores generally have a wider selection. Beware if you’re buying online: Oil is a heavy liquid and shipping costs can more than double the price. Kmart sometimes offers free shipping, however.  

Once you decide on the type and retailer, you have to determine how much to get. If you have the space, buying a 12-bottle case is more affordable than picking up a bottle or two at a time. Generally, the least-expensive way to buy oil is in one-gallon jugs, although they are unwieldy to carry and challenging to pour into your car’s engine. You can transfer the oil into old single-use containers, or just buy a big funnel to get the oil into your engine and not all over it.

For more insights, read our special report on excessive oil consumption.

Share your experiences in the comments below.

Eric Evarts

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