Is Changing Oil Every 3,000 Miles Necessary?

The state of California CalRecycle website says many of today’s new cars can go much longer than 3,000 miles per oil change. New synthetic oils last longer and new engines require less oil changes. The CalRecycle website reveals a statistic about the amount of non-recycled used motor oil: “According to the CIWMB (California Integrated Waste Management Board) ‘in 2005, the latest year for which statistics are available, approximately 153.5 million gallons of used oil is generated annually. Only 59 percent of that oil was recycled.’”

Where does the remaining used oil go? Tragically far too much in California and other U.S. states is dumped down storm drains, where it eventually ends up in streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands. The constant dumping of used motor oil is a kind of unending oil spill. Recently we have seen one of the single worst oil spills in American history, but the constant dumping of used oil releases even more into the environment, yet generates nowhere near the amount of press as a single catastrophic spill. The Mississippi Dept. of Environmental Quality says 500 million gallons of used motor oil is disposed of improperly each year in the United States. They also say one gallon of used oil can contaminate one million gallons of fresh water.

So what is the connection between changing oil too often and the dumping of millions of gallons of it into the environment? Some of the people changing their oil too often are also the dumpers. If they can learn to change less, and recycle it properly the amount of damage to the environment would be decreased greatly. Changing oil less frequently also saves money for car owners.

If you are unsure how often your car’s oil needs to changed, consult the owner’s manual. The state of California has a table of popular cars and oil change requirements. According to their data, 2005 Honda Accords and Civics can have their oil changed every 10,000 miles. A person changing their new Accord’s oil every 3,000 miles would be throwing out or recycling oil that is still good. A 2007 Chevy Malibu is listed as needing 7,500 miles between oil changes. Of course this data is subject to evaluation based on the driving conditions for each vehicle.

In 2005, the Click and Clack Car Talk hosts on NPR said, “most manufacturers now recommend changing the oil every 7,500 miles. We recommend doing it every 5,000 miles, because we tend to be more cautious about protecting the engine. Very few people recommend changing the oil every 3,000 miles. It’s just not necessary, and the environmental cost is too high.”

Image Credit: Public Domain

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Beth M.
Beth M6 years ago


Bon L.
Bon L7 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Tori W.
Past Member 7 years ago

I knew about the change from 3,000 miles to 7,500 and change my somewhere between 5,000 and 7,500. What I want to know is that I take my car to a dealer and pay to have the oil disposed of properly, recycled. How can I be certain that is what they are doing?

Dennis R.
Dennis R.7 years ago

yes clearly understood

Krasimira B.
Krasimira B7 years ago

Useful info, thank you Jake and Brian.

Lola S.
Lola S7 years ago

thanks so much for the information-- my car manual says every 3,000 miles but I was told by a reliable source to change it every 6,000 miles. No problems so far, and I'm glad to know that newer cars need it changed even less!

I've always wondered, how is the oil recycled, anyway?

Theresa C.
Theresa C7 years ago

That was really interesting to read, thank you!

Annemarie W.
Annemarie L7 years ago

Great tip, did not know this!

Linda J.
Linda J7 years ago


Karen C.
Karen C7 years ago

In California when you have your oil change there is a fee charged for recycling. I would be very upset to find that these garages or dealer ships were charging customers for services not provided.
I have a 2000 Honda Accord and even though the dealer tells me to change my oil every 6 months I do it once a year since I drive less than 3000 miles annual
I would get rid of my car but the public transportation in the suburbs where I live is so poor.