Motor oil pouring from a black container into an engine

Talking about motor oil types, synthetic is generally regarded as superior, but conventional costs less. When does it make a difference to your car?

Key Takeaways:

  • Conventional oil is still a big favorite
  • Synthetics are catching on more as time passes
  • Conventional oils deliver lower price points and greater availability
  • Synthetics can offer greater performance and longer life

Every vehicle owner knows how important oil changes are to maintain a healthy and efficient engine. Taking an extra step and changing the type of motor oil that goes into your engine takes a more thought.

Both conventional and synthetic oils have their fans. However, there are certain circumstances where a switch may be the right decision. Also, don’t believe the myth that you can’t successfully change back and forth if your vehicle’s condition allows. Let’s explore the pros and cons of these two motor oils and how they relate to you and your vehicle.

Conventional oil and its advantages

Conventional oil (also known as mineral oil) is derived from refined crude and is still a hugely popular choice for engines. Its basis as a fossil fuel means there’s plenty of it around, making it cheaper than alternatives. Also, its history of reliable performance means it has public faith on its side.

Of the two types of motor oil, conventional is the better choice for many older or more worn-out engines. This is because conventional flows less smoothly than synthetic, which is actually an advantage as it reduces the odds of gear grinding. The slower an oil flows, the more time it spends lubricating parts and that’s a big plus for older engines.

Brand-new cars can also benefit from using conventional oil because manufacturers. They sometimes use their own brand of oil when putting the vehicle together (typically referred to as a break-in oil). If this was the case with your model, sticking with conventional for at least a while after purchase means the new engine gets to keep running on what it was first lubricated with.

Disadvantages of conventional oil

Conventional oil is more prone to degradation via oxidation, creating common engine hazards like extreme heat, corrosion, sludge deposits, and particulate matter. Conventional oils also don’t do well in cold conditions. This is because they can start to thicken up, reducing their effectiveness by making them harder to circulate.

There is also the environmental impact of conventional oil, which can be highly toxic, posing a threat to people, wildlife, and whole ecosystems through smoke pollution and runoff into water bodies. Then there’s the big picture disadvantage: Sooner or later, conventional oil reserves will be fully depleted. Some project this scenario as coming true in this century, others say it’s a long way off. 

The harder conventional oil becomes to find and extract, the more the price will have to go up and the likelier it is that demand for it will drop (and there are signs that’s already happening). This brings us to conventional oil’s biggest competitor.

Synthetic oil and its advantages

Synthetic oil isn’t new on the block; it’s had since 1929 to establish itself. Some varieties are drawn from base oils that are themselves drawn from crude oils. Other types are purely man-made. Manufacturers are typically cagey about revealing their precise process, but the basic rule is that synthetics come from breaking down and artificially restructuring petroleum molecules for a precision result intended for a particular application.

One thing we can see clearly is that synthetics have greater chemical stability and a higher viscosity index than conventional oil, making them longer lasting and better performing at high and low temperatures. Synthetics may be perfect for certain high-performance vehicles to achieve maximum performance, making it a less attractive option for the casual driver of a standard vehicle who never needs to push their ride to the limit.

Synthetics are longer lasting than conventional. They’re also less harmful to the environment as less of the synthetic oil gets lost to the vehicle’s exhaust stream. Synthetic oil also leaves fewer deposits in the engine. This makes for a cleaner engine with a longer lifespan and performance. They also move faster around the engine; a plus wherever turbochargers are present.

As with all types of motor oil, the best time for a synthetic oil change is whenever the manufacturer’s manual recommends. Don’t get caught up in myths and rules of thumb that cite figures like 3,000, 5,000, or more miles.

Disadvantages of synthetic oil

The most common complaint with synthetic oil is the higher price since synthesizing oil is more costly than drawing it from petroleum. Whether that can be definitively classed as a disadvantage really depends on how much you’re willing to spend. There is a middle ground in synthetic blends. This is because it offers performance perks over conventional oil but aren’t as expensive as full synthetic.

Other concrete disadvantages include lower fuel economy at highway speeds. There’s also its tendency for synthetic additives to separate when in cold storage. Synthetics can also be harmful to older engines, particularly rotary engines, where it may negatively impact the apex seals. For breaking in new engines, which might benefit from a little friction to smooth out rough places, synthetic lubricants are not ideal.

Some older engines may also rely on lead in their oil. However, that’s an impossibility with synthetics because they don’t hold lead in their suspension. Synthetics are also harder to dispose of, making it essential to let any mechanic you visit know that you use it, or know how to dispose of it by yourself.

Make all the right choices with Mercury Auto Transport

Whichever oil gets your vote, an oil change will put your car in better shape before car transport. Mechanics can check everything’s in good health and locate and repair any leaks that could prove costly should your vehicle start dripping onto others while in transit.

Mercury Auto Transport offers more vehicle-related information and shipping insight via our auto transport blog. As a full-service car shipping broker specializing in connecting carriers with customers all across the country, we can help make the process reliable and transparent. You can contact us to ask any questions or get a vehicle shipping quote in minutes.


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We feel it’s important for you to know how we determined your quote. Quotes are based on what the market demands for cars to be moved at a given time. Each quote is compared with the current rates on the National Load Board before being sent to our customers and will be reviewed periodically through the process.

Other companies might offer you a lower price to obtain your business. This method is ineffective because if the car does not pay the correct amount of money, it will run the probability of not getting loaded or transported on time. You will not get this information from our competitors. Truck drivers always take the loads that pay the most first, leaving the loads that are mispriced to be moved last or not at all. We try very hard to avoid this with our customers by quoting a fair but realistic quote up front. Visit our How we determine your quote page for more information.

Understanding auto transport insurance is important and we think it’s valuable to explain how it works. As part of providing a great car transport service, it is our job to guarantee that the carrier we assign to pickup your vehicle is licensed and insured. Click here to check out our license.

When you go with Mercury to ship your vehicle, you can rest assured that the carrier assigned to move your car is fully insured and licensed with the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier and Saftey Administration).

Your vehicle is covered by the carrier’s insurance policy that is doing the shipping. Depending on the type and size of the truck/trailer that is shipping your car, the insurance policy can cover from $100,000 to $1,000,000 of damage.

We have also provided a checklist to explain what you need to do at both pickup and delivery in case there are any issues so, you can file a claim and know that everything will be taken care of.

It is rare but, time-to-time there may be accidental damage while in transit and it is good to know that your carrier’s insurance will protect your auto shipment in that event.

To view a sample BOL (Bill of Lading) and learn what to do in case of accidental damage, please check out our Condition Report and Procedure checklist.

When comparing auto transport companies, keep in mind that low-priced quotes often result in delays in getting your vehicle loaded. Choosing the right broker is vital to getting a reputable carrier for the lowest price possible.  

We feel it’s important for you to know how we determine your quote.

When you’re looking for a car shipping rate, you want to understand how auto transport works. Prices are based on seasonal market demands for cars to be moved at any given time. Each quote is prepared based on the season and the current national rates.

When comparing auto transport companies, keep in mind that low-priced quotes often result in delays in getting your vehicle loaded. Choosing the right broker is vital to getting a reputable carrier for the lowest price possible. Not all brokers are created equal in this talent.

Mercury does a thorough background check with each carrier for every shipment. We verify their ratings, references, and in addition, we obtain a certified copy of their insurance certificate, directly from the government agency that it is on file with.

You can have peace of mind knowing that the carrier shipping your vehicle is the very best and that there are no surprises guaranteed.

Mercury Auto Transport is licensed, Bonded and Insured. Our FMSCA Motor Carrier Number is MC647319.

While we do our best match your auto shipping needs with the most responsible carriers with the best track records, from time-to-time there may be accidental damage while in transit, it is good to know that the insurance of the carrier we locate for you will protect your auto shipment in that event.

Shipping a vehicle can be stressful if you don’t know what to do.  This is why we believe it is paramount to have our highly trained agents be your main point of contact from start to finish.

They will go over everything you need to know so you can relax.  In the meanwhile, we prepared this checklist.  This includes everything from pickup to delivery and how to make sure your car is ready for pickup.

When it comes to car moving, we want you to be ahead of the game!  For any questions and further assistance our agents are standing by, (800) 553-1828.  Please read our checklist to prepare your vehicle to learn more.

There are several ways you can ship a car.  The options include enclosed trailer, open carrier transport, flatbed truck, door-to-door shipping services, and to or from a terminal as well.  The most popular of the options is a 7 to 10 car open carrier.  These large trucks can accommodate almost any size vehicle including carsSUVstrucksjeeps, and vans.

Open car transport, door to door is also the best way to get the cheapest auto transport rate possible.  To learn more and see what transport method is best for you, please fill out our free quote form and one of our representatives will respond to you within minutes.  You can also call us at (800) 553-1828.

We present offers from FMCSA Licensed and Insured Carriers. When you accept an offer, we send your service agreement that guarantees the price, door-to-door service, and 100% bumper-to-bumper insurance. There are never any hidden fees or charges, guaranteed.