A black engine cap is shown.

Convenience at What Cost: The Dangers of the Quick Lube Shop

When it comes to vehicle ownership, there are many things that, at times, can seem like chores. Not only do you have to make payments on the vehicle and make payments for car insurance, but you also have to pay for things like gasoline and perform regular vehicle maintenance. From preventative measures to full-on replacements, there is an overwhelming amount of potential repairs and services that your vehicle could require at a moment’s notice. When it comes to the little things like a quick lube or an inspection, many people will opt to bring their vehicle to a quick lube shop.

While this may be the most convenient option available to the average vehicle owner, it may not be the smartest. There are many different aspects of quick lube shops that can be both beneficial and also negative. Vehicles while amazing and insanely useful can also be extremely dangerous if not properly cared for. Safety is something that should always be prioritized when it comes to dealing with your vehicle, and quick lube shops will not always prioritize safety when it comes to servicing a vehicle.

When deciding where to bring your vehicle, it is important to research all of your options available. When you look into quick lube shops, you will quickly see that there are much better choices available. While they certainly are convenient, that convenience comes at a cost, and here we will analyze a few of the reasons why you should avoid them.

Reasons to Avoid a Quick Lube Shop

  1. They may turn down some oil changes if it takes too long. Quick lube shops operate on a quick in and quick out philosophy, and typically have a set length of time that an oil change should take. Due to this sort of philosophy, if they see a car with an oil filter that is difficult to get to (like on a BMW), they’ll say that they can’t do it. This, coming from companies which supposedly specialize in oil changes.
  2. They may sometimes charge you for a fluid top-off even if they only add a few ounces of fluid. Many auto shops will add the phrase “top off your fluids” onto package deals like they’re doing you a huge service. In reality, that “top-off” is probably nothing but a few ounces that are costing them about 20 cents. That top-off is probably adding $5-10 to your total payment. An amount that could buy you an entire bottle of said fluids by simply going to an auto parts store and picking it up yourself.
  3. New hires require no prior automotive experience. The entire reason you’re might be taking your car to a garage for an oil change is because you don’t have the means to do one yourself or you just don’t know how to do one. So why would you leave your car with somebody who has the exact same amount of experience that you do? While this is certainly not a bad thing, as everyone needs to start out somewhere, you would probably want someone who is experienced servicing vehicles to handle any major repairs. Read more on Chron about what licensed mechanics need in your state.
  4. They will try to sell you services that you do not need. The employees are more akin to salespeople than mechanics. They have to reach a general average cost per car every day (around $60-70), so they are constantly trying to upsell you or trying to charge you with things you didn’t originally agree to. If they aren’t reaching the amount, they risk being written up.
  5. They may try to cover up any damage that they inflict on your vehicle. Have you ever noticed the three letters “PTS” on your receipt? That stands for “prior to service,” which is basically trying to rid the company of any responsibility that the company broke the part. In reality, it was them, and they’re just lying. The employees are not the most experienced mechanics by any stretch of the phrase, and a lack of experience can lead to some serious issues when it comes to automotive repairs. Some of the particularly devious places will try to sell you on a repair for something that they caused themselves.
  6. They tend to overtighten most bolts while servicing, which can lead to the bolts being stripped. Going back to the entire mantra of doing work in as little time as humanly possible, the technician is mostly worried about getting that car out and moving to the next customer, not about how gently he’s tightening the screws. That’s why so many of the drain plugs and oil filters end up stripped, loose, or tightened so hard that the gaskets are destroyed. This can lead to some serious issues, which can result in even more costly repairs.
  7. They tend to use the cheapest available parts/fluids while charging a premium price. It is not necessarily a well-kept secret that quick lube shops tend to overcharge for their services. When you are paying top dollar, you would expect top quality in return. That is unfortunately not the case with quick lube shops, who frequently stock cheaper aftermarket parts and fluids. While typically, aftermarket parts are cheaper than their OEM counterparts, quick lube shops do not take this in to account and will charge a steep bill while using generic equipment. Here are 5 things about oil from Consumer Reports, that can help you.
  8. They utilize predatory practices to take advantage of their customers. All of the things listed above funnel into the most negative aspect of quick lube shops. Quick lube shops exist for the convenience of the customer, and they very frequently take advantage of that. They know that because they are performing basic servicing, their customers are not exactly well-versed in automotive maintenance. A good mechanic will not only provide the best service possible at the most agreeable price but will strive to inform their customers exactly what they are doing and why. This runs directly afoul with the philosophy of quick lube shops, who prioritize the quickest service possible at the highest price. Many quick lube shops have legitimate price requirements that the employees must strive to charge, lest they face punitive action. These are simply anti-consumer policies, and they are the foundation of these companies.

A mechanic is looking at a car engine while doing a quick lube service with a check list in his hand.

Put Value on Your Safety

When it comes to vehicle repairs, while a low price is certainly nice, your personal safety is something that you cannot place a monetary value on. For many things in life, you can frequently choose the easiest option without fear of negative consequences. An automobile is something different entirely, as there are many different parts which can fail at a moment’s notice, and when these parts fail, it can lead to an automotive accident. Many people believe that they get a good deal when they visit their local quick lube shops, but that is rarely the case.

These companies have carved out a nice niche in the automotive repair market by offering insanely quick and convenient service. As with most things, that convenience comes at a cost. Most of these places operate on a quick in and out philosophy, which prioritizes being quick over accurate. Couple that with specific pricing requirements per vehicle, and you can quickly find yourself overpaying for subpar services that you do not actually require.

They typically do not require much, if any, prior automotive experience for their technicians, which can be quite alarming if your vehicle requires anything substantial for servicing. When it comes to quick lube shops, convenience is the name of the game. They can be quite nice if you are simply looking for an oil change or a vehicle inspection. Just be wary of the final bill, and make sure you document any damage your vehicle has sustained, as these places have developed a particular reputation when it comes to handling vehicles with care.