Last Updated on March 30, 2020 by Team TRA
When it’s time for an oil change, it’s also time to make a big decision. Here’s what you need to know to pick the best motor oil AKA engine oil for your car or truck.
When your oil change interval comes around, you’ve got no shortage of options for the best motor oil to feed your engine. The hard part is deciding between so many great names and features. What’s the best motor oil you ask? That depends on your vehicle’s characteristics and mileage. Most folks would say a full synthetic is best, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t great products in each motor oil category.
Before you make your pick, you’re going to want to keep certain items in mind:
- Consult your owner’s manual for important notes from the manufacturer about the engine and it’s oil change procedures
- The manufacturer has a particular viscosity recommendation, decided by people who should be trusted
- The mileage of your vehicle will affect the type of oil formula is best suited for the task: conventional, synthetic, or a blend
After taking all of these items into account, choosing the best engine oil for your vehicle will be a task you’re ready to tackle.
Top 10 Best Motor Oils: Comparison Table
In our comparison table of the best motor oils, we’ve got a variety of brands, quality, and prices. We’ve ordered them from lowest price to highest- just like in our product roundup in the next section.
|STP PRO Formula||Conventional||5W-30; 5W-20; 10W-30||$3.26/Quart|
|AmazonBasics Conventional Motor Oil||Conventional||5W-20; 5W-30; 10W-30; 10W-40; 20W-50||$3.40/Quart|
|Castrol GTX Synthetic Blend||Blend||5W-30||$3.78/Quart|
|Pennzoil Motor Oil||Conventional||5W-30; 5W-20; 10W-30||$3.80/Quart|
|Castrol GTX MAGNATEC||Synthetic||20W-50||$3.86/Quart|
|Formula Shell Motor Oil||Conventional||10W-40; 20W-50; 5W-20; 10W-30||$4/Quart|
|Valvoline Premium Conventional||Conventional||5W-20; 5W-30; 10W-30; 10W-40||$5.20/Quart|
|Quaker State Advanced Durability Oil||Conventional||5W-30||$5.75/Quart|
|Mobil 1 Extended Performance||Synthetic||5W-30||$7.27/Quart|
|Royal Purple HMX||Synthetic||5W-30||$7.99/Quart|
10 Best Motor Oil Products of 2020
Here’s Twelfth Round Auto’s top best car oil picks for this year with a bit more information about each choice. Make sure you triple check your cars manual before ordering your oil to make sure it’s compatible.
We’ve got a combination of conventional, synthetic, and blended oils in our list. Many of these motor oils are available in multiple configurations.
Best Conventional Motor Oil for a Neglected Vehicle
- Cost: $3.26/Quart
- Viscosity: 5W-30; 5W-20; 10W-30
- API: SN; all previous API standards
Another great motor oil for gasoline engines comes from STP- which stands for “Scientifically Treated Protection”. The brand has made great lengths in producing a formula that controls sludge, and cleans whilst protecting your engine against corrosion or rust.
- Cost: $3.40/Quart
- Viscosity: 5W-20; 5W-30; 10W-30; 10W-40; 20W-50
- API: SN Plus
Amazon Basics has been into making essentials for your life- and breaking into the automobile maintenance field just makes sense. They make their Conventional Oil in a variety of viscosity configurations. The consumer feedback is through the roof- probably in part because of the price. But if you’re here vetting through options you are probably concerned with quality. As far as conventional oil goes, Amazon Basics seems to have their bases covered. Keep in mind, part of the lower cost is because Amazon is manufacturing and selling- cutting their upfront investment cost as well.
The Best Synthetic Blend
- Cost: $3.78/Quart
- Viscosity: 5W-30
- API: SN
Castrol GTX Synthetic Blend is a sure-fire choice for those looking for a great mix of serious performance benefits. Castrol motor oils are the recommended choice for such prestigious European car brands as BMW, Audi, Volkswagen, Jaguar, and Land Rover.
- Cost: $3.80/Quart
- Viscosity: 5W-30; 5W-20; 10W-30
- API: SN, SM, SL, SJ
If you are looking for a motor oil that can help clean out the engine, Pennzoil will help clean out your engine up to 40% in just one change. The sludge in your motor will dissolve in this formula with ease. The price of this conventional oil is pretty average, but we are impressed with the customer feedback.
Best 0W-20 Synthetic Oil
- Cost: $3.86/Quart
- Viscosity: 20W-50
- API: SN
Castrol’s latest MAGNATEC technology has created quite the buzz in the auto industry. MAGNATEC is a fancy term to describe the way their ‘intelligent’ molecules in their formula stick or ‘cling’ to all parts of the engine. The point they make is that most engine wear happens during those first 10-20 minutes of the engine warming up — when the oil has lubricated all the critical components. MAGNATEC ensures oil stays wherever your engine needs it, doing a better job preventing oil from draining to central locations where it would need to recirculate upon startup. Is all that a marketing gimmick? We don’t think so, the Sequence IVA Test Method on this oil showed positive results.
Best Conventional Motor Oil for the Cost
- Cost: $4/Quart
- Viscosity: 10W-40; 20W-50; 5W-20; 10W-30
- API: SN, SM SJ
Formula Shell offers a versatile conventional motor oil that encourages better fuel economy. It’s available in a small handful of different viscosities. One of its best features is the price. It’s a low cost motor oil with high performing aspects.
The Best Premium Conventional Oil
- Cost: $5.20/Quart
- Viscosity: 5W-20; 5W-30; 10W-30; 10W-40
- API: SN Plus
Valvoline Premium Conventional, a trusted name in oil for over 150 years, tops our list for the best engine oil with a conventional formula. Valvoline has done a great job of preparing a recipe here that exceeds the acceptable standards in all markets, both with turbocharged and non-turbo engines. This is an impressive feat for them to achieve and one their customers benefit from greatly. We’re super pleased with their results and believe you will be too!
- Cost: $5.75/Quart
- Viscosity: 5W-30
- API: SN and all previous categories
Stop-and-go driving in your daily commute can actually cause a lot of damage. Quaker State designed this conventional motor oil with this in mind. Tried and true is an understatement for Quaker State. Their 5W-30 motor oil has been sold to vehicle owners for over 100 years. That’s a century of durable oil changes that help protect engines against wear, and increase the the quality of driving you have in your day-to-day driving.
The Best Full Synthetic
- Cost: $7.27/Quart
- Viscosity: 5W-30
- API: SN
Mobil 1 Extended Performance, with over 400 reviews (91% of which provided a 5-star rating!), comes in as our choice for a Full Synthetic. This oil only contains additives meant to improve the life of your engine and all it’s moving pieces. With a wide range of operating temperatures and impressive track record, this is a great choice for owners who depend upon their vehicle to perform in a wide array of environments and demands.
The Best High-Mileage
- Cost: $7.99/Quart
- Viscosity: 5W-30
- API: SL
Royal Purple HMX is our choice for preserving your engine for a long and healthy life above 75,000 miles. We feel like this is a no-brainer, thanks to RP’s focus on minimizing the oxidation inside your engine block. More technology was mixed in to provide a larger amount of ionic attraction to metal surfaces and it’s important that your oil clings strong. Keeping the customer’s best interest in mind, features like this will ensure your motor moves freely and efficiently for longer.
Royal Purple has done a great job here, with this one earning more than 250 reviews, with 92% of reviews giving it a 5-star rating!
What to Look for When Buying Motor Oil
Here’s a few things to keep your eye on before dropping that dough. Many folks have dubbed their brand as the best oil brand, claiming their Castrol is the “best engine oil in the world”. While Castrol makes a great oil, there are many competing brands who also make excellent products. More important than finding the best car oil brand is finding the best oil for your car. The best motor oil is going to vary based on your specific make, model, year, mileage, and the requirements in your vehicle owner’s manual.
The car, truck, or SUV you’re driving went through a significant investment of time and money by teams of design and development staff before it found its way to the showroom floor. “Most designs take 3-5 years to go from initial concept to consumer-ready production units.” – TorqueNews, 2012
Within that span of time, we assume hundreds of people were a part of the process, and every one of them was extremely well-qualified to do so. That being said, the recommendations those people made regarding how to care for the vehicle long-term are not something to take lightly.
Let’s Talk Engine Oil Viscosity
The oil you put in your vehicle’s engine is going to be put through extreme conditions. Motors are subjected to high operating speeds, high operating temperatures, and long hours of use.
Your choice of oil needs to be API-approved and it needs to be the right viscosity. The viscosity determined by your manufacturer as the best oil for your engine was a choice which included many different factors:
- External temperatures. If you live somewhere extremely hot or cold, you may need a special kind of oil.
- Operating temperatures. The average temperatures the engine of your vehicle runs at.
- Engine load. How much stress the engine is subjected to. For example large trucks will be exposed to more engine stress.
After considering all these factors and the range of operation, your engine was assigned an approved viscosity rating. The most common ratings for a gasoline engine are 5W-30, 5W-20, and 0W-20. The most common ratings for a diesel engine are 15W-40 and 5W-40.
Let’s Talk Oil Formulas
Conventional Oil is the usual recommendation for new cars. When using conventional oil, a good rule to follow is to change your oil in intervals of 3,000-4,000 miles. Full synthetic oil is the best engine oil for high-performance vehicles. You’ll find that this recommended in motors that spin to higher RPM limits, higher temperatures, or are intended to operate under a higher load more often. Synthetic blend is a good option for walking the line between the two listed above. If Full Synthetic is too expensive, but you’d like for your engine to enjoy some of the benefits, this is the choice for you.
High-mileage oil is designed from the start to serve an engine with more than 75,000 miles on its clock. Components are more likely to experience operating issues above this mileage, so oil brands offer product lines specifically intended for use in these vehicles.
Other Factors to Keep in Mind When Shopping for Motor Oil:
- Driving style. For those of you who with lead foot syndrome, have a performance sports car you like to have fun with, or like to tow/haul heavy things around it may be worth considering higher quality or specially designed oil. Engines subjected regularly to higher stress levels may be happier gulping down a full synthetic.
- Additives. This is where there’s some big differences between brands. Most products are going to use a unique combination of anti foaming agents, conditioners, corrosion inhibitors, detergents, dispersal, antioxidants, and anti-wear agents.
Further Reading We Recommend:
If you’re sold on using a full synthetic or synthetic blend oil, checkout our 10 Best Synthetic Motor Oils. You came to us hoping to find how to choose the best engine oil for your vehicle, so here are our top recommendations for you! Nevertheless, you can skip the read and go with the Mobil 1 or Castrol GTX options in this list. These are both designed to help prevent sludge build-up on engine internals and will lead to a long-lasting and happy engine.
Choose the Best Engine Oil for You
It’s a critical choice and you need the best information to help you make the right choice for you. We’re here to help with that decision and all decisions about your vehicle’s health. When it comes time to look after your vehicle’s motor, keeping up with your oil changes at the manufacturer’s recommended intervals is the easiest way to keep your vehicle running better for longer.
You’ll find more information about our recommendations by visiting our website and browsing our categories. If you’ve got specific questions about our recommendations or about other options on the market, please drop by our contact page and get in touch! Make the right choice for your vehicle with our help – every time!