Why Free Oil Changes Are Not Free

I am amazed by the number of longtime customers that fall for the “free” oil change scam after buying a new or used car. It is tough, even after many years of having a relationship, to convince them that this “free” service is in no way free. Even after over paying or having unnecessary maintenance performed on their new car they will still chose to continue their “free” service.

This is a major money maker for dealers and can bring in huge profits for their service departments.
Let’s start with the “free” oil changes. They are not free. The price of the “free” oil change has been covered within the price of the car (sales price, lower trade in, higher financing charges, or a maintenance package added to your bottom line (loan) with interest).

The obligation… by giving you a free oil change you become a hostage to them. You are captive and have no comparison on services recommended, either if they are needed or if the cost is competitive.

Are these services really needed? Dealers generate a lot of business with over servicing your vehicle. What do I mean by over servicing? This happens when a dealer makes their own maintenance list and requires or recommends more service or earlier service than required by the manufacturer.
The scare tactic… It is used to prevent you from having your vehicle serviced anywhere else. The power of fear can be overwhelming. If you miss a service, all following free service (that you have already paid for) will be void and lost. If someone else services your vehicle the factory warranty will be affected or “harder” for them to process. Remember you are protected by law and have a choice as to who services your vehicle.

Car and Driver Magazine (July 2012 issue) did a cost comparison and found “Life Time” oil change dealers oversold maintenance regularly. In some cases, the truly required services cost $618 and the oversold maintenance was billed at $2349. So after paying for your oil change in the purchase price of your vehicle, you very well could be charged an additional $1731, on average, for service that may not really be needed.

The truth is that NOTHING IS FREE. Somehow, somewhere, these free expenses are paid for.