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The Best Motor Oils

Pouring motor oil into a car engine.
Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com

Car engines run less efficiently if they’re low on oil. Changing your oil regularly positively impacts the gas mileage of your car or truck and keeps it running smoothly. Here are some motor oils we recommend.

Buying Guide for the Best Motor Oils

Pouring motor oil into a car engine from a blue bottle.
Me dia/Shutterstock.com

Why buy motor oil?

Your car or other motor-powered engine requires motor oil to run. Why? Because under your vehicle’s hood lies an intricate assemblage of moving metal parts that work together to get you places. The pistons move inside their cylinders; lifters, rockers, and pushrods move in tandem with the camshaft. Together, these parts produce power through combustion and torque and more. Without oil, these metal parts would scrape against each other to the point that they break down, and you would have no ride. Quality motor oil also protects your engine against heat, friction, deposits, and wear—the most harmful stressors to your vehicle’s engine.

What should you look for in motor oil?

  • Viscosity Level: Your engine must get the oil it needs to run its best. Incompatible oil could ruin your engine or at least expedite the process. Check your owner’s manual if you don’t know what type to buy. You’ll find a series of numbers and letters, a code, like 5W-30, which signifies a viscosity rating of 30 at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. There’s no need to memorize the temperature range. Just check the viscosity level you need before you select an oil.
  • Engine Type: Chances are good that you know what engine you are dealing with and the type of oil it requires. You don’t want to pour motor oil for lawnmowers into a motorcycle engine. Always check the product’s description to ensure the oil is correct for your motor. Ask an expert if you don’t know. There’s no shame in that!
  • Specialty: Often, actual differences between High Performance and Premium High-Performance blends of any single brand name will be difficult to detect. Read carefully, though. Sometimes the premium version contains more detergents, for example, that your auto mechanic recommends for your vehicle. And if you’ve put over 75,000 miles on your car, you may want to look for motor oil designed for high-mileage vehicles. These specialized oils contain ingredients like conditioners and additives to slow the aging process.

How do you decide between big-name brands?

You probably know what type of oil your engine runs on best. But there is always room for improvement! Many big brands carry motor oils for specific engine needs, like high mileage. Perhaps your car’s engine would perform better for longer if you switched to different oil. Always check your driver’s manual and mechanic first, of course. If you have found a brand name you trust, it makes sense that you would want to stick with it. However, most brand names carry several blends similar to the motor oil you are used to buying. You never know; you might find something that will better meet your engine’s needs. 

Our Picks for the Best Motor Oils

Best for High Mileage

Castrol GTX High Mileage 5W-30

A motor oil that meets the needs of high-mileage engines.

Pros: Have you hit the 100,000-mile mark and need to take better care of your car? Using high-mileage motor oil is essential to help prevent catalytic converter failure. This common and costly problem may not be worth the effort. Interestingly, many high-mileage motor oils contain too much phosphorus, an ingredient that negatively impacts catalytic converters. It has less phosphorous and more good stuff, including detergents, conditioners, and additives, which help prevent engine breakdown.


Cons: As with most users, you’ll likely find this product an excellent match for your engine. One thing to consider is Castrol EDGE, another high-mileage oil fully synthetic, which boosts engines’ high-temperature performance.


Bottom Line: Castrol’s GTX High Mileage motor oil has a great reputation for a reason. It’s specifically formulated for high-mileage cars.


Best for Motorcycles

Honda Pro GN4 Motor Oil, 10W40

This oil has additives to increase viscosity, resistance, and more.

Pros: Honda Pro GN4 motor oil has been the golden standard for motorcycles since 1974. However, the recipe has evolved to include additives specific to motorcycle and ATV engines. With regular testing and pushing for excellence, Honda has improved its oil’s shear resistance, cleanliness, and viscosity stability. Honda makes this oil for Honda motors.


Cons: Honda Pro GN4 is optimized for Honda motorcycles and ATVs. While it might work in other motors, think before you buy if you ride another make.


Bottom Line: It’s a reliable, old-school motor that Honda continually modulates as the science improves. You can’t go wrong if you have a Honda bike or ATV.


Best Full Synthetic

Valvoline Advanced Full Synthetic 5W-30

This synthetic oil wards off the effects of common stressors with anti-wear additives and detergents.

Pros: Valvoline’s Advanced Full Synthetic is a step up from its Daily Protection motor oil. It contains ingredients to create an extra defense against oil breakdown. They added antioxidants, anti-wear additives, and premium engine-cleaning detergents. This combination creates outstanding temperature protection and viscosity retention, qualities your motor needs to run optimally in extreme weather. It’s said to offer 40% more protection between the moving parts of car engines than industry standards.


Cons: The only drawback users report is the awkward design of the bottle. It may be challenging to pour without some spillage.


Bottom Line: Valvoline oil is the first American motor oil dating back to 1866. That’s worth something. And if you can deal with potential spillage, the Advanced Full Synthetic oil makes a great buy.


Best for Lawn Mowers

Briggs & Stratton SAE 30W Engine Oil

A small engine oil that works great for lawnmowers and warmer climates.

Pros: If you have a Briggs & Stratton lawnmower, you want their OEM SAE 30 lawnmower oil for optimal performance. However, this oil is compatible with most SJ/CD small-engine outdoor power equipment, from pressure washers to leaf blowers, tractors, and more. The motor oil is specially formulated for use in higher operating temperature ranges of air-cooled engines and contains quality detergents.


Cons: The product has a California Proposition 65 Warning for possible cancer and reproductive harm.


Bottom Line: This small-engine oil is in a category of its own. Briggs & Stratton may be just what your lawnmower needs to finish the landscaping season with a bang.


Best Internal Temperature Protection

Mobil 1 Extended Performance High Mileage 0W-20

This is the oil you want to keep your high-mileage engine working its best.

Pros: This is the motor oil you need for your favorite geriatric automobile. The extended performance descriptor prevents leaks and lengthens the mileage you’d typically go between oil changes of high-mileage engines. Its triple action formula optimizes cleanliness by reducing sludge in a single oil change, high-temperature protection up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, and severe conditions performance for temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit. This Mobil 1 oil meets ILSAC GF-6 standards. What’s that all about? ILSAC GF-6 is a motor oil specification for improved fuel company and protection; basically, this product gets an A+.


Cons: This is not the oil you need if your engine requires 5W30, 5W40, 10W-40, or any other viscosity level.


Bottom Line: This motor oil for high-mileage vehicles deserves applause for its outstanding performance for a wide range of requirements, like extreme temperature protection. And that ILSAC GF-6 stamp of approval makes a big difference too.

Final Thoughts

Just double-check that owner’s manual, take a look at our selections, and get the oil that will make your engine perform like it’s made to.

Britta Kallevang Britta Kallevang
Britta is a professional writing tutor and freelance writer that is trained in journalistic, technical, and creative copywriting. At LifeSavvy, she researches products, writes about the items, and shares what she's uncovered with readers. Her writing is comprehensive and sometimes a bit silly. Read Full Bio »
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