How to Pick the Best Motor Oil for Your Car or Truck

  • Dec 13,2016
Technician pouring fresh motor oil into engine Technician pouring fresh motor oil into engine

We know how overwhelming picking the right motor oil for your ride can be. If you’ve ever tried to buy your own engine oil, then you’ve seen the dizzying number of options out there! Synthetic, synthetic blend, conventional, high mileage—the list goes on and on. Which motor oil is right for you? Read on to learn more about each type of oil and how to pick the best one for you.

What are the different oil types?

There are a few primary engine oil types to choose from. Before you can pick the best oil for your car or truck, you've got to understand your options.

Conventional Oil

Conventional oil is made from petroleum, or crude oil, that goes through a refinement process. This is the most common type of oil used in older passenger vehicles.

  • Pros: Typically the most affordable stuff on the market.
  • Cons: Conventional oils contain impurities and do not perform as well at extreme temperatures.

Synthetic Oil

Synthetic oil has gone through additional chemically engineered processes to create more uniform molecules with fewer impurities. Synthetic oil performs better at high and low temperature extremes. This makes synthetic oil ideal for high performance vehicles. In addition, approximately 80% of new model year 2017 vehicles are factory-filled with synthetic motor oil!

  • Pros: Performs at a wide temperature range. Ideal for engines with direct injection, variable valve timing, turbochargers, or superchargers that operate hotter.
  • Cons: It can be more expensive than conventional oil.

Synthetic Blend Oil

Synthetic blend oil is exactly what it sounds like—a mixture of conventional oil and synthetic oil (plus some additives). Using a synthetic blend is a good stepping stone if you want to make the switch from conventional oil to a full synthetic, but aren't ready to foot the bill for a synthetic oil change.

  • Pros: Can improve performance and durability over conventional oil.
  • Cons: More expensive than conventional oil. Doesn't offer the same high level of performance as a full synthetic.

High Mileage Oil

High mileage oil is specifically designed for cars with more than 75,000 miles on them, and contains additives such as seal conditioners that are designed to help older engines last longer. These additives can restore seals, prevent leaks, and enhance engine performance.

  • Pros: If your car has over 75,000 miles on it, there are definite advantages to choosing a high mileage oil. It can help reduce oil consumption, minimize leaks and oil seepage, and can also help reduce smoke and emissions in older engines.
  • Cons: Due to its unique additives, high mileage oil tends to cost more per quart than conventional oil.

Which oil type is best for you?

Now that you know a little more about the different types of motor oil out there, it’s time to think about which one is best for you. Here are some key factors to consider when making your decision.

The Age of Your Ride

Does your car have a few thousand miles on it or a few hundred thousand? The standard recommendation is that cars or trucks with more than 75,000 miles ought to use high mileage oil. However, if your ride is still running like new and you are using synthetic motor oil, don't worry about making the switch. If, on the other hand, you start noticing additional engine noise, oil spots in your driveway, or you spring an oil leak, do your engine a favor and make the switch to high mileage oil.

Driving Style

Most drivers fall into two categories. There are those who primarily make short trips within cities, and those who mostly drive longer distances at highway speeds.

City driving is tough on your engine. All that stopping and starting can really put your oil to the test. If you mostly drive short distances, your engine is often running below its optimal temperature. As a result, dirty or under-performing engine oil will be an additional concern for your engine’s health. You’ll want to pick a high performing oil that can stick it out over the long haul. Consider a synthetic oil change.


How well your engine oil performs at different temperatures depends on its viscosity, or how thick it is. The viscosity rating (you can find it on the bottle) looks something like this: SAE 5W-30. The W stands for “Winter” and the number before it is cold temperature viscosity grade. The second number indicates the viscosity of the oil at engine operating temperature. The higher the second number, the thicker the oil.

If you live in a colder climate, look for a full synthetic motor oil with the lowest possible “0W” winter rating. This will provide the best protection for cold starts.

On the contrary, warmer weather does NOT call for thicker oil -- this is a myth! Your engine gets much hotter than any summer day! Your engine was designed to operate with a specific viscosity grade, so always follow the vehicle owner’s manual to determine the proper viscosity grade, engine oil specification, and oil drain interval.

Still not positive which oil is right for you?

Choosing synthetic motor oil in the correct viscosity grade is always the best choice. Synthetics provide the best protection you can get in both extremely cold weather and extremely hot engine temperatures. Always follow the vehicle owner’s manual to determine the proper viscosity grade, engine oil specification, and oil drain interval. You can also visit a Firestone Complete Auto Care location near you to talk to one of our oil experts. We'll walk you through the various types of oil and why one may be more beneficial to your vehicle than another. If you've got questions, we've got answers. We're here everyday of the week, just for you!

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