Stop Changing the Oil Every 3,000 Miles Already!

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The idea that the oil must be changed in a car every 3,000 miles or three months is a myth that even Jiffy Lube admits is not true. Nonetheless, the majority of drivers still insist on changing the oil more often than necessary, prompting the state of California to launch an initiative to clue car owners in as to what’s best for automobiles, the environment, and consumers’ pocketbooks.

In all cases, the answer boils down to this: For today’s cars, it’s almost never necessary to change the oil every 3,000 miles.

The Los Angeles Times spells out the fact that the 3,000-mile mantra just doesn’t apply to modern-day vehicles, and that changing the oil every 3,000 miles often means paying two or three times more than is necessary:

Improvement in oils, friction proofing and car engines have lengthened the oil-change interval, typically 7,500 miles to 10,000 miles for most vehicles.

(MORE: Now Even Jiffy Lube Says You Don’t Have to Get an Oil Change Every 3,000 Miles)

What harm is done by changing the oil every 3,000 miles? Well, no harm is done to the vehicle. It doesn’t help the vehicle either. Think of it like tossing out a half-gallon of milk well before the expiration date has passed: Basically, it’s a waste of money.

Beyond the personal expense, changing the oil more frequently than necessary causes more (negative) environmental impact than necessary. That’s why California has launched a website,, where drivers can quickly look up how often the suggested mileage interval suggested by auto manufacturers for oil changes.

Nowadays, owners can almost always drive 5,000 or more miles in between oil changes without hurting the vehicle’s performance or longevity. For some BMWs, it’s perfectly OK to drive upwards of 15,000 miles before changing the oil.

Still, nearly half of California car owners say they change the oil every 3,000 miles or sooner, and nationally more than half of drivers still maintain that proper maintenance requires an oil change every 3,000 miles or three months.

(MORE: Why You should Shop for Cars When You’re Grump)

Why do drivers insist on changing the oil so frequently? Basically, they don’t know any better. After years and years of marketing messages have pounded into drivers’ psyches that an oil change every 3,000 miles is a rule that must be obeyed, it’s become a habit—a bad, unnecessarily expensive habit.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.