I am sure we’ve all had an experience where you’re getting a routine oil change and you wonder why synthetic oil costs so much more than conventional. Or maybe you’ve decided to change your own oil, either from a need to display one’s independent prowess or frugality, and cannot figure out which oil to buy. 

Whichever scenario you find yourself in, knowing what oil your car takes and, in general, more about your car is never a bad thing and always beneficial. So, what is the difference between synthetic and conventional oil, and which one should you buy?

It is important to remember what job oil has inside your car. Oil lubricates pistons in your engines so that they can continue to run smoothly even at extremely high temperatures. If your car does not have enough or any oil under the hood, then the engine can seize up and ultimately end up totaling your car. 

If this has happened to you synthetic or conventional oil will not save your car. You can always try to sell your totaled car if you do find yourself in this scenario, but the best option is to prevent your car from receiving this kind of damage in the first place.

Conventional Oil

Conventional oil is the most common and longest used oil for cars, as you might have guessed from the name. It is refined directly from crude oil which is the black stuff you picture when you imagine oil derricks and black gold.

  Crude oil is useless on its own, but when taken to a refinery and heated at different temperatures, many uses come from it. From gasoline to diesel, from butane to propane, refined crude oil makes up a lot of our energy needs but it also makes up our engine lubricants as well. In fact, conventional is made up of the byproducts not wanted in gasoline or other fuels.

In the past, conventional oil was really just called oil, as there were not different types of oil we see today. Most old and simple engines will be most compatible with conventional oil as that’s what they were designed to deal with. Being simple and common, conventional oil is the least expensive of the 2 options.

Synthetic Oil

Synthetic oil has been around since 1929, mainly for aircrafts and other high-performance vehicles. Synthetic oil was not introduced into the popular motor industry until 1975 and even then, few people bought it as it was a luxury. However, as time went on motor oil became more and more popular and necessary to some vehicles and since the ’90s, almost all major motor oil companies have had their own synthetic oil.

Synthetic oil and conventional oil both have the same origins in crude oil, but synthetic oil takes the refining process up a notch. While conventional oil is full of contaminants and extra molecules, scientists refined the oil to only have the molecules that increase performance. The improvements are noteworthy as most high-performance car makers swear by synthetic oil.

The advantages that come with synthetic oil would be perfect if there wasn’t for just one drawback. It’s expensive. The science and refining process that goes into creating synthetic oil is not cheap and can even double the price when compared to conventional.

What Should I Use?

Most modern engines today will require synthetic oil. This is because as engine performance increases, higher-quality oil is needed to keep parts running smoothly, and conventional oil is slowly becoming a thing of the past. Conventional oil will leave behind sludgy deposits in a modern car that requires synthetic, which will damage your engine over time.

On the other hand, if you drive an old car, it probably uses conventional oil without much difficulty. It will be an upgrade to switch to synthetic oil, but you will have to pay much more than conventional. Some mechanics will tell not to switch as some old cars have poor seals that actually benefit from the sludge of conventional oil. Switching to synthetic will clean out the sludge and this could cause problems for your engine.

In the end, if you want the best lubrication and performance that oil could provide for your car, go synthetic. You will be paying a premium for it but most modern cars are switching to only synthetic engines so the cost will become a necessity. If you drive an old car and don’t want to spend the additional money, go with conventional, but if you want to switch don’t be afraid to ask a mechanic for their advice.