Many car manufacturers have added oil life indicators on the instrument cluster that tell you when the oil needs changing. The car's computer keeps track of starts and stops, as well as other factors, and calculates the oil's useful interval. Depending on how you drive, manufacturers say it's possible to see 10,000 miles or more between oil changes.
These guidelines are coming from companies that have a vested interest in keeping your car running trouble-free: If you're happy with the car or truck, you're more likely to buy another one. And a well-maintained car means the manufacturer has to pay out less in warranty claims.
Even Motor Age magazine -- the publication for the automotive service industry (the people who want your service and repair business) -- put it succinctly: "Following the factory schedule should keep nearly any car or truck healthy past the warranty period.''
Consider that the average household has two vehicles and drives each 15,000 miles a year. Following the advice of the local change-a-lot fast lube outlet -- to change oil and filter every 3,000 miles -- the average family would pay for 10 oil and filter changes every year. At, say, $40 a pop, that's $400.
That same family could cut its oil change bill by $240 by following the manufacturer's advice to change oil every 7,500 miles.
There are some exceptions that might require more frequent oil changes: Driving in an abnormally dusty climate or taking a lot of short, stop-and-go trips. But the oil change interval for such conditions is again spelled out in the owner's manual. No need to do it more frequently.
A word of caution about owner's manuals: Some dealers, in an effort to boost profits, give buyers a "supplemental" owner's manual or service guide that calls for more frequent servicing. Don't be fooled into thinking you have to follow these recommendations -- it's just the dealer's way of competing with the fast-lube places for your money.