Friday, March 30, 2012

Oil change wars: An "A" for Jiffy Lube, an "F" for Pep Boys

I usually go to Jiffy Lube for oil changes, but when the time came recently to take my car in, I thought I might try a new place. Jiffy Lube oil change prices are kind of high   about $43 if you don't have a coupon and I've tired of their continual attempts to upsell ("Change your wipers?  Flush your radiator? Replace your gazoodlefrackus?")

A couple coupons in the mail suggested other options. One came from a Long Beach car dealer, Harbor Hyundai, offering an oil change for $21.95.  Hmmm, not too bad. I called and scheduled an appointment for the next day, then asked how long the oil change would take. "About an hour and 15 minutes," the dealer man said.

I'm not an automotive genius, but I know that an oil change should not take 75 minutes. You remove the drain plug, let the oil run out, remove the filter, put in a new filter, reinstall the plug, then pour in new oil. How could that take an hour and 15 minutes, especially for experienced mechanics?

"It won't take as long if you don't want your car washed," the Hyundai man told me on the phone. Huh? Who said anything about a car wash?  "We always wash your car," he said. Actually, I told him, I just needed an oil change. I set aside Harbor Hyundai as an option while I kept shopping.

I also received a $21.99 oil change coupon from Pep Boys, and the flyer said I could schedule an appointment online. So I went to the Pep Boys "E-Serve" page. After going through several pages carefully entering my name, email address, phone number, type of car, new password and appointment time, the system told me,"Sorry, we cannot schedule your appointment at this time." Thanks a lot.

So I called the Pep Boys on Pacific Coast Highway in Long Beach, and as I was on the phone, I received an email confirming my appointment. Huh?  Did my appointment go through after all?  Yes, said the man on the phone. Actually, there's TWO appointments in the system. First, no appointment, then two.

This should have been a tip off to me that Pep Boys might not be smoothest operation on the planet. Still, I did discover that Pep Boys offers a $19.99 oil change Tuesday through Thursday, and I would be going in  on a Wednesday. That's the best price I'd found yet.

But when I got to Pep Boys the next day at the time of my appointment I was in for a shock: They didn't have the correct oil filter. Yes, this is an auto parts store, and yes, they have scores of shelves packed high with products. But they didn't have the correct filter for a 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe, hardly a rare vehicle (75,000 of them were sold in the U.S. last year).  Even with 24 hours notice that a Hyundai Santa Fe was coming in for an oil change, Pep Boys made no effort to get the correct filter, or to warn me they couldn't do it.

It's safe to say I won't be doing any more business with Pep Boys.

Stymied, I found a $9-off coupon for Jiffy Lube and headed to the shop on Pacific Coast Highway in Long Beach. To my delight, Jiffy Lube was having a $10 off special, so I didn't need the coupon. Even better, they changed my oil in about 15 minutes (take that, Harbor Hyundai!).  Minor complaint: They inflated my tires to 35 psi, even though the door panel clearly states that 33 psi is ideal for this car.

All in all, my Jiffy Lube visit cost $33, and very little time. Did they try to upsell me? Yes, but it was mild, and no one even mentioned the gazoodlefrackus.


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  1. Sometimes, there’s really a good reason why some places charge more. In the case of Jiffy Lube’s, you’re sure to get a quick and efficient service. And you’re sure they actually know what they’re doing. While there are some rare pockets of great repair shops out there that charge less, they’re either too far or undermanned to get it done that fast. And hey, better to be reminded that you might need a new gazoodlefrackus, than go to one and find out they don’t have one when you need it. Heh.

    Penn Ave Exxon

  2. That wasn’t helpful at all? Sheesh dude tell your mom about your misfortunes.