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Automotive Finances & Money

The $252 Oil Change for the MINI Cooper



This is why I change my own engine oil. Oh, and why I change my car’s cabin filter myself.

Let me brush you up on some details as I know some of you don’t follow me every day. We bought a 2005 MINI Cooper (used) back in 2007 for Stacie’s daily driver. We got it with 30,000 miles on the odometer. The MINI comes with a factory maintenance plan for 3 years or 36k miles, and includes everything from scheduled oil changes to unscheduled brake pad replacements. It’s a really nice bonus you get for paying a premium on this small car (As a note, I wrote about which car companies offer free maintenance on their cars).

We got the first oil change at around 34,000 miles, which meant we only had 2,000 more miles left on the free maintenance. That also means we would have to pay out of pocket for all other oil changes (and other maintenance). That was almost a year ago (MINI only requires oil changes every 10,000-15,000 miles, thanks to the synthetic oil). Well, it came time to get another oil change at 45,000 miles.

Since we’re still under the 4 year or 50k mile factory warranty (don’t confuse this with the maintenance plan), I wanted to get them to check out some items like the transmission computer and fan belt. I also decided to get the dealer to change the oil and also rotate/balance the tires. I knew I was in for a ripoff. I didn’t know how bad it would be until we dropped it off though.

Why I pay for dealer services

While I do change my vehicles’ oil and perform other simple maintenance myself, there are a number of reasons to send your car to a dealer for work, even though it seems they’re required, by law, to rip you off:

1. Create good will with dealer: If you take your car into the dealer for all scheduled maintenance, the dealer will more often than not consider you a “good customer”. Because of that, if something happens to your car outside of the warranty period, they’ll be more willing to fix it for free, or offer a big discount. There isn’t a dealer “code of honor” behind this, just numerous real-life examples. Getting your car into their system is also good for when you sell the car and need to show maintenance records.

2. I can get other problems checked out and get a loaner car: I’m a complainer when it comes to creaks and squeaks with my cars, and if it’s still under warranty then you better be sure I’m going to try to get them fixed for free! But oftentimes the dealer “can’t reproduce the problem” and I have to return in defeat (and the problem inevitably returns on the ride home). Whether out of guilt or clever strategy, I’ll pay for small maintenance items like tire rotations that the car needs anyway simply to get a loaner car.

But once the warranty runs out, you won’t see me at the dealer again. I’ll be doing ALL maintenance myself, or using lower cost alternatives like the local mechanic to replace brake pads, etc. (I won’t touch the brakes).

Getting *&$*^$ in the **&# by MINI Service

Ok, that heading is a bit harsh (depending on what words you insert), but I really got ripped off by the dealer. I know exactly how much it costs me to change the oil in my vehicles, although I haven’t worked on the MINI yet (as it’s under warranty, as mentioned). Here’s the breakdown of the oil service, which includes topping off fluids and replacing the cabin filter:

  • Windshield washer fluid: $4.19 (I JUST topped this off last week. And I thought a $2 gallon of fluid was pricey)
  • Oil Filter: $14.03 (I can get these for $5-8, depending on the quality)
  • Synthetic Motor Oil: $46.90. (I get this for $5-6 per quart at Sam’s Club, and the MINI at most takes 5 quarts)
  • Microfilter: $65.26 (I get these for $20-30 at Advanced Auto)
  • Labor: $122 (wow. Just wow.)

Total Cost: $252

Compared with the $27 I normally spend for changing my own oil, and $20 for changing the cabin filter, this is ridiculous. I’m waiting for Dark Helmet to throw the lever to Ludicrous Speed. They basically charged double on all materials, and charged a full hour of labor for something that takes 15 minutes or less. But I expected this, and just bit the bullet, knowing this would be the last time. The MINI maintenance costs are on par for the scheduled maintenances with my Acura, but at least MINI doesn’t require one every 7,500 miles.

But that’s not all! Recall I also got the MINI’s tires rotated. Cost: $50. Again, double what a local tire shop would charge, if not more.

And alas that wasn’t the final charge. The dealer also decided to tack on two other charges. One for an environmental fee of $6. Another for “shop supplies/hazardous materials” for $17.20. Like gouging me on materials already wasn’t enough. They’re all bogus fees. It costs me nothing to take my used oil to the recycling center, except some gas. I would bet they actually make some money from recycling that oil.

So in total, our day with MINI cost an astounding $332, just for an oil change, cabin filter and tire rotation. But at least I got the transmission computer reset (stupid CVT transmission) and the brakes and fan belt checked. The brakes are still in good shape (half left) and the belt is showing some signs of wear, but not enough to replace yet. And they washed the car, which it really needed. Oh, and I balked at the $200 price for a wheel alignment since that’s also double what the chain shops charge.

Do you still use the dealer for all of your car’s maintenance?

Let me know your dealer experiences in the comments. If you stil go to the dealer, have you thought about getting the service elsewhere, like NTB, Merchants, Jiffy Lube (oh I hate them) or the local mechanic? What’s preventing you from saving some dough? Do you agree with either of my reasons for using the dealer?

Comment below and let me know!

About the author

Clever Dude

61 Comments

  • I agree with you, going to dealerships really cost you. They wanted $350 to do a 4 wheel alighment, Goodyear charged me $79. I went for an oil change and they said I was due for brake and fuel line flushes and would charge $200 & $300. Ala Carte quotes I believe. they quote minimun of 1 hour per service, get you up on the rack and spend maybe a total of 1/2 hour for both jobs. I love my Mini, but good god.

  • I just bought a 2007 Dodge RAM 1500 here and they gave me a card that gets me $10 oil changes for life! Love it! I can’t buy the oil and filter for that much myself. Good job DishmanDodge in Spokane, WA!

  • Also you need to check part prices from dealers. Most dealers have no problem marking up part prices above retail (most are making 40 to 45% at retail) another 30%. All the high end dealers do this and think they have a right. I was an insurance adjuster for years and seeing some invoices at 40% above retail just makes me think what do they do to the people off the street. Any repair that the dealer does the service writer makes a piece of it ( commision), the tech makes a piece of it, the service manager same thing and then the dealership wants a piece. A service writer in Scottsdale can make 100,000 with no trouble. Can they make this amount or are there over priced repairs that are unneeded? When you add all the people eating off the pie the customer has to really pay for service. Also a good airplane mechanic will make about 1/2 a car mechanic makes ( no way to cheat like in cars).

  • I have a ’06 Cooper S and a ’05 Nissan Frontier. The Cooper just came out of warranty and I’ll be doing my own oil this week. I have a stockpile of 3 OEM filters for the Cooper and can get the rest @ the local auto parts store. My Frontier is still under warranty and I juast has some repairs done at the dealer for free. Then they wanted to do a transmission & driveline fluid change. They wanted…wait for it….$535 to change the ‘oil’ in the gear box and 4×4 differentials. I went to my local shop and had it done for $170 (only cuz it used synthetics) That’s a HUGE mark-up if nearly $400 out the door. It pays to shop around on this stuff.

    GREAT article!!!

  • Well, we ordered our 2003 Cooper S the end of October 2002. The dealer received it in the middle of December but, due to some financial difficulties, we arranged to pick it up in the middle of January. It took us 3 years for the countdown timer to let us know that it was due for the second oil change. Since the computer takes into account the type of driving done I have to assume that was because so much of the mileage was long distance highway miles. So, we took the car in at the end of December 2005.

    There’s where the “trick” comes in. Supposedly with 36000 miles the first three oil changes should be covered. Well, because they decide when you get the oil changes based on the service notification countdown, we figured we would get by with just two covered oil changes. But, after the second one was done we were presented with a $250 bill for the oil change. They told us that the coverage started when the dealership took delivery of the car, not when we took delivery of the car. They used the excuse that “we were covered” in case anything happened during the time they had posession but that’s just BS. If they had wrecked the car or anything before we took delivery of the new car they would have been responsible no matter what.

    Oh well, I’ve not taken the car to the dealership since. Brakes and rotors can be done for around $150, replacing all wear parts. I’ve done it. Oil changes, very simple. I’m doing one in the driveway right now. Besides, I far prefer to know how to work on my own cars, out here in fly over country it’s often hundreds of miles to the nearest dealership.

  • Hey Everyone
    I got My mini in South Florida (Fort Lauderdale) and never had ANY problems with them. warranty or not all good.
    Well just at the end of last year move to North Carolina, shop around to get the new Fog light program or (code in) I found a dealer in Greenville, South Carolina ( Century MINI). Who give me a over the phone quote of $65.00 or so. Out of no where, and 4 or 5 hours later and a $450.00 it was my bill. The service guy ask me if it was okay for the mechanic to look for the problem as of why they could not program my light.
    I tell you why they could not program the fog light. Because I did the install me self.. Oh but wait I had a copy of HOW From BMW MINI.By the way the mechanic at this Century place told me ” the installation was done correct to the teeth.
    But what was the problem you ask the “mother board” is fry. REALLY? wow how come everything else works fine window up n down radio ,door locks,AC…
    let see I did the NEW switches by the book, the wiring by the book.Or should I said instruction.
    okay how much was the mother board $411.00 or something like that not including installation and reprogram. could can see where this is going. Sure I will be back > in your dreams you%^&.
    lets not forget one of the few mechanics hanging around my car open the box where the old switches was and took every one of the inner part the makes the switches work. yeah you know who you are.
    Any way I went to the dealer in Charlotte NC. to get oil filter and out side of the shop I got the talking with one of the mechanic who told me, Dude there nothing wrong with it. they do that because they don’t like it when you do your own work.
    people please lets stop this from happening to others.
    HAPPY MOTORING!!!

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