Your Quick Lube Place Is Probably Snitching on You to Your Insurance Company

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth

Ever wonder exactly how the various “quick-lube” places in your city made a profit?

The price of motor oil rises and falls — mostly rises — but the pricing stays at $19.95 or $24.95 or whatever your local market will bear. As fate would have it, most of my vehicles aren’t compatible with the quick-lube business model of having some sweaty dude waving your air filter in your face and telling you that it has the Zika virus while an actual rhesus monkey cross-threads your drain plug using an impact gun. My 993, as an example, has two oil filters, while my Boxster requires a 32-step process to get to the air filters. Nor would I trust my mighty Accord V6 to somebody whose path in life hasn’t qualified them to work above ground.

Not all of us have the luxury of doing our own oil changes at home, however. You might not have the space, the tools, the ability, or the time that’s required to do it correctly yourself. That last factor is perhaps the biggest. If you’re working two McJobs to make ends meet, the Valvoline Oil Change down the street might be your only practical choice. The good news: it’s cheap. The bad news: some of that cost savings comes from another way the shop makes money on you, without you even knowing.

Yesterday, a Twitter user posted a letter he’d received from State Farm informing him that his “low mileage discount” would be removed. The reason? State Farm, also known as “the scumbags who let their ‘approved repair shop’ joyride my first wife’s SRT-4 for 210 miles back in 2005 during a singularly inept attempt to repair the dashboard after a break-in and then sent a hatchet-faced female representative who literally laughed about it with the body shop manager,” had received information from a third party about the user’s odometer reading.

After some back-and-forth discussion between this person and various other individuals on Twitter, one user determined that the quick-change oil place had probably sold the information to CarFax, which had then sold it to State Farm. CarFax makes no secret of this; it’s a selling point from their perspective. But it’s worth noting that CarFax is just as happy to sell data in bulk to an insurance provider as they are to help you uncover odometer fraud on that sweet ’97 Mitsubishi Eclipse you’ve been considering. Probably more so, in fact.

So what’s the issue here? Surely it’s wrong to lie to your insurance company about your mileage. It’s just as wrong, however, for auto service providers to use their customers’ information as a revenue source. My advice: Learn to do your own maintenance, or learn to live with being double-fleeced by the guy at the Valvoline Oil Change. Perhaps this justifies a mild update of the Internet Age’s most truthful adage: If you’re not paying (much), you’re the product.

[h/t to a bad magician from Ohio who really, really likes for potatoes]

Jack Baruth
Jack Baruth

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  • Danio3834 Danio3834 on Jul 06, 2016

    Standalone quick lube places interest me. They advertise loss leader oil change specials, yet the average repair order is over $100. Some of these franchises cost multi millions to set up in higher density areas, yet can still make a go of selling things the dealer forgets to check and recommend.

  • Skloon Skloon on Jul 10, 2016

    Now how do they not know that he will park that car for the remainder of the year to meditate ? so his annual mileage will be less

    • JPWhite JPWhite on Jul 10, 2016

      @skloon. They don't know and don't care. The insurance will refund the money if the owner can prove he did less mileage at the end of the billing year, in the meantime they made bank.

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