Top 8 Best Oil Filters
By | Last updated: July 9, 2020
best oil filters

There are some things best enjoyed without filters—most Instagram photos, discussions about pay with your boss, and those Camel cigarettes from the 1980s. What definitely does require a filter is the oiling system on your car’s engine. We’ve gathered a few of them here.

As a programming note, know that for purposes of making a vaguely apples-to-apples comparison in this post, we selected a common vehicle we figured would be roughly representative of the shitboxes efficient daily drivers pressed into service by the readers and authors of this site (except for our Managing Editor; inexplicably, he doesn’t own a car). Ed. note: If he did, it might also be a shitbox efficient daily driver. Lord knows he’s owned a shitbox reliability/performance-challenged ride before.

1. Editor's Choice: Genuine Honda Oil (Honeywell) Filter

Ages ago, Honda used to have a tagline when advertising their service departments that said “Don’t open your hood to strangers”. With all the unmentionable double entendres that the phrase implies, there’s no way that line would fly in today’s society. But it still makes a good point: the company that built your car probably knows a thing or two about the parts it requires.

Selecting a gen-u-wine OEM part goes a long way even when your car is well out of warranty. After all, wouldn’t you look more kindly upon a used car you were inspecting if it featured all-Honda replacement parts compared to one that was mended and serviced cheaply? Some reviewers are critical of this product and openly question if it is an actual Honda item but the vast majority seem happy, leading to a 4.8 out of 5-star rating.

Pros/Actual item from Honda, excellent reviews
Cons/Be sure to check those part numbers
Bottom Line/Don't open your hood to strangers

2. FRAM Extra Guard Passenger Car Spin-On Oil Filter

Going from genuine OEM articles to the king of aftermarket filters, we find this Fram filter to be priced in the basement and found on the shelf of just about every major retailer in the nation. Priced less than four bucks, it’s virtually a guarantee than many people shell out more cash than that for their morning coffee on the way to work.

There are plenty of uncomplimentary anecdotes about Fram filters but your author has had good luck with them for at least the last 20 years. That pavement-like gripping surface on its posterior works as advertised, providing a place on which to grasp the thing and torque it off. The rest of it is slathered in bright orange paint, which can be good or bad depending on your opinion.

Pros/Cheaper than the dirt it filters from your engine oil
Cons/Easily spotted by nosy used car shoppers
Bottom Line/Hard to beat this price

3. PurolatorONE Advanced Engine Protection Spin On Oil Filter

Several different filters from Purolator presented themselves when we specified a ten-year-old Honda Civic and its 1.8L engine. However, this Purolator One filter falls somewhere between their bargain filter and more expensive offerings.

In a fit of scientific statement, Purolator says this filter has a silicone anti-drain-back valve that lasts longer than traditional nitrile to protect against dry starts and oil leaks. They also say their metal end caps hold up better in the long term. Whether you think this is a dig at Fram or not is up to you.

Pros/Allegedly good for 10k miles, actual selling points in the ad copy
Cons/Gasket complaints
Bottom Line/FYI - the new top-of-line Purolator is called BOSS

4. Royal Purple Extended Life Premium Oil Filter

When the brand Royal Purple showed up on the scene it was, at least in my circle of gearhead buddies, worth the extra cash. By most accounts, that seems to remain true today even if the Fast’n’Furious crowd has grown up and now puts the stuff in minivan engines instead of those powering a lowered Honda to the car meet organized on ICQ.

Like any good marketer of motor oil, Royal Purple has expanded into a line of ancillary items including filters. Slathered in their trademark purple color, these filters apparently boast a 15k-mile lifespan when used with a full synthetic motor oil.

Pros/Brand snobbery
Cons/Higher-than-most price tag
Bottom Line/Put this - not neons - on the minivan

5. Mobil 1 Extended Performance Oil Filter

There was a time when your author would base his purchasing decisions with a critical eye at which racing team they sponsored. If they were on the flanks of a driver I didn’t like, there was little chance they’d snag me as a customer. Put it this way: I exclusively drank Coke for this very reason.

If you’re in that camp, we hope you like either Stewart-Haas Racing or Aston Martin Red Bull Racing. Porsche Supercup series too, by the way. As for the filter, it’s difficult to get a more recognized oil brand than Mobil 1, though the company does seem to offer different levels of filters. This is the mid-grade model.

Pros/This crowd knows what they're doing
Cons/Amazon's compatibility tool may be off
Bottom Line/Tough to go wrong here

6. Ecogard Synthetic+ Oil Filter

Marketed as an enviro-friendly product (hey, it’s in a green box and has ‘eco’ in its name), this filter is said to be designed to maintain performance for the longer oil change intervals on vehicle engines using synthetic oil.

According to the ad copy, it will provide long-lasting engine protection with 2x the filtration capacity compared to conventional oil filters. Without going into details, they say it’s been ‘proven’ to drive up to 10k miles between oil changes. Like others on this list, they promote their solid metal end caps.

Pros/The veneer of econess, decent price
Cons/EcoWho?
Bottom Line/Best for use with synthetic oils

7. Pennzoil Regular Spin-on Oil Filter

If there was a prize for the plainest oil filter, this Pennzoil unit would be a shoo-in. Not that oil filters need to be sexy, of course. This one simply flies the brand’s colours, bears its name, and is stamped with a unit number. That’s it.

Pennzoil says that their filter is among the highest efficiency units on the market with efficiencies of 97 percent or higher when scrubbing particle sizes above 20 microns. They also claim a larger filtering area and advanced media to provide additional capacity.

Pros/Just the facts ma'am
Cons/Price creep over the years
Bottom Line/Sail with the Pirates of Pennzoil

8. Champion Spin-On Oil Filter

In your author’s garage, Champion is known for electrical items like spark plugs and rotor caps, not oil filters. Still, it makes a lick of sense why this brand would venture into new territory; after all, why not have yer logo on as many surfaces under the hood as possible?

Champion says their filter is made with high-strength filter media, helping it weather harsh driving conditions and longer change intervals. In fact, they claim it’s ideal for OE recommended change intervals up to 12,000 miles when paired with synthetic oil.

Pros/Long life, plays well with synthetics
Cons/Frightening lack of reviews
Bottom Line/It's another filter

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.

(Editor’s note: This post is meant to both help you be an informed shopper for automotive products but also to pay for our ‘90s sedan shopping habits operating expenses. Some of you don’t find these posts fun, but they help pay for Junkyard Finds, Rare Rides, Piston Slaps, and whatever else. Thanks for reading.)

[Main photo credit: Paman Aheri / Shutterstock.com. Product images provided by the manufacturer.]

35 Comments on “Engine Protections: Best Oil Filters...”


  • avatar
    woodywrkng

    You forgot one. https://www.toiletpaperoilfilter.com/thetoiletpaperoilfiltercompany.html

  • avatar
    Don Mynack

    Pretty sure that Honda filter is actually made by Fram. Could be a Filtech though. Motorcraft filters are made by Purolator. What I’m saying is that they are all the same.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      While there are only a couple of manufacturers they are not all the same. It is true that if you put the same grade Wix branded filter next to the same grade Napa filter you’ll find them the same. However if you look at the 3 different grades from Napa you’ll see they are different.

      • 0 avatar
        Don Mynack

        They are all the same filtration media, with the same metal casing, and have been made that way forever. It’s far more important to avoid sludge in your engine than worry about oil filters – go OEM if the price is right otherwise go store brand or one that’s easy to change (Fram with that grippy thing or the K&N with the ratchet top thingie). Or…whatever the mechainic throws on there, which is the one that costs the least 99% of the time.

    • 0 avatar
      poggi

      Maybe. I worked at FRAM years ago and witnessed many private label filters in production. Each of them had a different spec, i.e. amount and type of filtration paper, # of folds, etc.

      Just saying that you can order chateau brion or a hot dog at your favorite restaurant.

      Oh, and by the way, check under the hood of every new, million dollar Ferrari and you’ll see two FRAM filters. Good enough for Ferrari, good enough for me.

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      I’m no longer in the Honda parts game, but when I was, and when we came out with the ’88 Legend which took a new spin-on filter(the PL2)(the previous model Legend used a cartridge filter), I got a call from Fram in Providence RI if I could send them a couple of sample PL2’s. Not long after that, they called again, this time looking for our best price for 20,000 PL2’s. American Honda Motors wasn’t pleased with me selling filters to Fram, and doubly so because a one-time order like that would tap out most of the nine Honda PDC’s in the States, so we compromised and broke the order up into two 10,000 shipments with the second one being delayed until enough stock was built up to also handle all the Acura dealer orders concurrently. So at least in one case, when you picked up a Fram filter for your 88> Legend, you were actually getting a Honda filter.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Actually, every u-tube video shows that Fram are the worst filters. Guys actually cut them apart. And you can tell that Purolator makes Bosch and some others

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      Funny you should mention that – I just watched one that I found (YouTuber carsntoys.net). It’s from August 2018, and he cut open NAPA Silver, STP, Purolator Red, Fram Extra Guard, and Bosch filters, and compared the components.

      The Fram was the only one with paper-based end plates for the media, and the lowest density media (least flutes), although it is rated at 97 percent efficiency and 13g of “dirt” capacity, versus 99 percent and 14g for the Bosch. He also recommends premium filters (synthetic media) with synthetic oil, for longer drain intervals.

      When I owned Toyota Previas, I used Motorcraft filters because they used a silicone anti-drainback valve, and had a longer can (more capacity).

    • 0 avatar
      stuart

      I’ve seen a bunch of videos that claim Fram is worst, but their evidence is: they cut open some filters, and the Fram “looked cheapest.”

      Good engineering is finding a sufficient solution with minimal cost. I don’t need a solid-gold oil filter, and I’m not filtering oil on the Space Shuttle; I just need something that A) filters the oil sufficiently, and B) is otherwise cheap. Fram seems fine on both counts.

      If you want to compare oil filters, ideally you would fit a bunch of different brands to a fleet of identical cars, with identical oil, and identical driving, and compare longevity of the engines. The videos I’ve seen don’t do that.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        Fair enough, however… I remember one reviewer said something about some material used in Fran that wasn’t belong in the hot engine. I have to re-watch

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        It isn’t just that it looks the cheapest it is the cheapest made and the effeciency is less than many other brands. When you look at the filter media held up to the light you’ll see the inconsistency and larger holes than you do in a better quality filter, plus there is much less media and dirt trapping pleats compared to the other brands.

        When you cut apart a used one it is not uncommon to see signs of bypass due to the paper and spring seal compared to the steel end caps you’ll find on other brands.

        Yes it still filters and it isn’t going to kill the engine immediately, however why would you pay more for a lower quality part?

        • 0 avatar
          Flipper35

          Using cardboard (or engineered fiber) for the end caps is a no go for me so I never use Fram. Spending a few extra dollars for a filter with good silicone and proper metal end caps to prevent the oil from bypassing the filter is worth it to me. It isn’t like you change these every month so an extra $6 is a no brainer.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            The thing is the standard Fram Extra guard is more expensive than many quality OE filters.

            I just checked Auto Zone for the PH8A the #1 selling filter for several decades. They want $11.99. Meanwhile you can buy the Ford Motorcraft FL1a which fits the same applications for $8.99. The Motorcraft is a much better built filter at 3/4 the price.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Me, I stick with the OEM filters (Toyota and Hyundai/Kia), and I buy them through dealers that sell parts online at a discount. I’ve noticed that Walmart now sells a limited selection of Toyota filters, but they don’t with a crush washer for the drain plug, which is something I always replace.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      I get oil changes for under $20 synthetic including filter. And non syn under $15 – Pep boys has these deals. But lately they have less oil+filter deals. In this case, I will do what you do. In fact, for my Toyota, these inserts are way cheaper on ebay from a dealer. I get box of 10 @ $3.20 each including shipping. nice

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    One of my uncles was head of maintenance for a chemical plant and is the best automotive troubleshooter I’ve ever run across. We were walking toward his father-in-law’s ancient pickup and he said “It changes its own oil” – I looked at him funny – he said “yeah it leaks enough that it always has fresh oil, I just change the filter periodically.” [That truck also had a factory ‘work’ light mounted under the hood – how thoughtful OEM’s were back then.]

    Oil filters – I know very little about oil filters (I usually buy the “99%” level Frams). But I am very interested in learning more from someone who knows.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Bob is the oil guy has a number of threads with links to more than you ever wanted to know about oil filtration.

      • 0 avatar
        ToolGuy

        @Scoutdude, thank you for the recommendation. Wow those guys are really into oil filters.

        TL;DR (recent thread and only 3 pages currently):
        https://www.bobistheoilguy.com/forums/ubbthreads.php/topics/5471818/1

        They talk about a Fram Titanium which I thought at first was a joke, but it’s real (apparently exclusive to Advance Auto Parts).

        I have been at the “Tough Guard” 99% level, but may step up to “Ultra” next time around. [My new mantra is ‘don’t be cheap’ but I have my limits – the existence of the “Titanium” allows me to step up to “Ultra” and still not be buying *the* most expensive one – lol.]

        (General takeaway is don’t buy *anyone’s* super-cheap oil filter. “Silicone anti-drainback valve” appears to be a reasonable indicator of the nicer ones. The “Economy” vs “Standard Replacement” vs “High Performance/Heavy Duty” classifications on rockauto.com are illuminating.)

        • 0 avatar
          RHD

          When I worked in the parts business I learned from an old-timer that most cheap oil filters, and many of the name brands, are made by Facet. They just paint them a different color, put a different label on them and drop them in a different box. That Pennzoil filter is likely the same as the house brand filter.

          The irony is no matter how well you maintain your car, some idiot will rear-end or T-bone it and it’ll end up in the wrecking yard with an excellent engine. So while fussing too much about which brand of filter is best is kind of fun and interesting, but won’t really make much of a difference when something else goes wrong, like a relative who borrows it, a water hose develops a pinhole leak, and he just keeps on driving while it’s overheating.

        • 0 avatar
          R Henry

          “Silicone anti-drainback valve” appears to be a reasonable indicator of the nicer ones.”

          Such a thing is pretty unnecessary when so many filters are mounted vertically, with open end up….that oil isn’t going to drain up!

          • 0 avatar
            ToolGuy

            R Henry,

            I’m not arguing for or against the need for an ADBV – I’m just saying as a customer I can use this as a break point to evaluate where that filter falls on the manufacturer’s ‘scale’ – just like if I open the hood of a vehicle and it has hood struts, that tells me it’s not the same class of vehicle that has a prop rod (in the mind of the OEM).

            But since you bring it up, this way to the rabbit hole:
            https://tinyurl.com/ybfoly7h

            There’s more, but that is a good start.

            It seems to be more about the oil in the galleries above the filter. Orientation of the filter matters, as does gravity, but the “altitude” of the filter on the engine also plays a role, along with hydrostatic pressure. (There is a whole subplot regarding backflush.)

            TL;DR: From ‘Sayjac’ – “The adbv does more than just hold oil in the filter, it also holds oil in the oil galleries leading to the filter also helping prevent or reduce a dry start condition. So even filters with a thread end up orientation can require an adbv.”

            [It is interesting to note parallels between commentators on BITOG and TTAC. Smile.]

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Maybe I’m a moron but I’ve kinda come to be of the mindset:

    Change the oil and filter at least on automaker schedule or earlier. Use their specified oil standards and weights, and the brand of oil and filter don’t really matter.

    This will get you a lot farther than all the Joe’s out there changing their oil every 50,000 miles, or never, but when they finally do they use the BEST filter and oil on the market.

    In all my years just keeping up on maintenance and fluid flushes has kept all my cars mechanically excellent and purring like a kitten for hundreds of thousands of very troublefree miles.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Well there are a lot of new specs on oils and not every brand meets every mfg’s specs. But yeah if the oil meets the spec then it is good enough.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @Jerome10–No you are not an idiot that is exactly what you should do. Stick with the manufacturers recommended weight and if it specifies synthetics then stick with synthetics. The brand of filter doesn’t matter as much as long as you stick with a routine. One exception is that if you have a turbo engine do not go over 5k miles–turbo engines get hot and you should not take a chance going 10k miles between oil changes regardless of what type of oil or filter.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Over on BITOG, where the OCD folks obsess over minutia like this, they used to call Fram the “orange can of death”. And I used to snark at them asking since Frams seem to be used everywhere, why America’s roads weren’t lined with dead cars, or America’s pick-a-parts predominately full of Fram filter equipped stuff.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      “The Orange Can of Death” was used almost exclusively by me in my K car back then and it lasted over a quarter million miles with no lubrication induced failures of any kind.

      How horrible were they really? The local mechanic used to install a generic white can labeled “Group 7″…at a cost to them for less than a buck…

      Does anybody really experience lubrication-related failures anymore other than the occasional outliers?

  • avatar
    Carrera

    Things change every 10-15 years in the automotive oil filter world. Years ago, Mobil 1 synthetic oil filter made by Champion labs was the best with Purolator being a close second. Honda had two filters, one made by Champion labs ( great filter) the other made by Fram…not so good. Of course, at that time, Fran was the orange can of death. Fast forward a few years, companies get bought out, they go out of business..etc. Now Fram Ultra is one of the best filters out there, NAPA good as well, Mobil1 just so-so, Purolator kind of fell out of favor. I’ve been following Bob is the Oil Guy for about 15 years now and that seems to be the new trend. I use either OEM Toyota for my Corolla ( 10,000 mile intervale, simple engine) and Fram Ultra for my wife’s Pilot ( 8500-10,000 mile interval). I used to buy Mobil 1 back in the day but not I stick to Fram Ultra. The Ultra is good for 20,000 miles. Ocassional I use the Top Sider and suck the oil out at 10,000 miles and keep the filter in place. Yeah, I know blasphemy. Well, the Pilot with the cylinder deactivation of death is going strong at 220,000 miles.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Why would anyone that’s that anal about the oil filter use anything but a full synthetic oil? For one, it encourages 10,000+ mile oil change intervals, turbos, no matter.

      For me a full synthetic oil encourages 50,000 mile intervals since my 4.6 V8 (16 valve) is rock solid, overbuilt, found everywhere if I’m wrong/mistaken, and (a used 4.6) was likely over-serviced at less than every 5,000 miles.

      • 0 avatar
        Flipper35

        Because even the synthetics use up their additives when you drive and that can cause damage as well. It isn’t just the base stock that goes bad. Each engine and car is different and driven differently. Mom and pop that drive 3 miles at a time everyday will have to change more often mileage wise than the guy with a highway commute of 40 miles each way.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          So why not run a full synthetic oil anyway? It not like they giving regular oil away. It’s funny though (to me only I guess) I changed my oil and (cheap) filter at 45K mi 2 months ago (from insane stir crazy) and couldn’t get a reading on the dipstick, (I had to bring it out to bright light), the oil was too clear. At first I “thought” WTF??

  • avatar
    mcs

    While my current EV doesn’t have an oil filter or changes, that might not be the case forever. Apparently, the Model Y has filters on its transmission. Not sure if they have to be changed though.

    https://insideevs.com/photo/4875533/did-you-know-ev-motors-had-oil-filters-check-them-on-the-model-y/

  • avatar
    notapreppie

    Seriously? You put Fram in 2nd?

    First you do the “best drills from Stanley Black & Decker” and now you do “The best filters from Fram”.

    These paid ads have really jumped the shark.

  • avatar
    john q public

    It really is about the filters efficiency rating at what microns. I never have trusted the Ecore style for longer oil changes (8to10k plus) but have no proof they fail either though. Also you have to watch if the filter has a manufacturer change at some point, that can change everything. I’m not sure if Motorcraft has a fit for the Honda, but always has been a quality filter especially for the price. They used to fix the Fords 4.6’s start up knock, by using an original Motorcraft filter… Long Live IC engines!!!

  • avatar

    TCW way after the fact: I’ve used Fram in all my vehicles since 1975 with each one leaving my possession with 275,000 miles+ (one at over 400K) and no oil related issues. I usually use their middle grade filter although I’ll cheap out on the lower grade – and sometimes go up a notch. I change the filter every oil change cause it makes sense to me to do so. In the research I’ve done on oil itself the common thought is blends=5K, full=10k. I choose to change at 5K so I don’t bother with full synthetic. It feels like throwing money away. Some may reply that using Fram should feel the same. To each his/her own – no worries. My youngest brother used full when it first came out (Mobil 1) and changed every 2K – the car was a Shelby Charger GLH with the turbo. I thought he was a little overboard, but it was his car so who was I to challenge his choice. That is what it comes down to on some aspects of this whole topic. Use what works with proven longevity by your own experience. Expert recommendations are just that – valuable but not the last word. I find it more valuable on what to avoid than on what’s the best. Agree with many and would guess that many filter brands are made by the same manufacturer and private labeled so not a significant amount of difference given the same “grade” level.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    IMO the knocking of Fram filters comes mostly from an actual incident of 30 yrs ago. A production run of the threaded end of the filter for a, then new, motorcycle had threads that were slightly oversize. With the production tolerance on the threaded boss on the engine, there was sometimes insufficient thread engagement. The filter could move enough so the seal was no longer working. So most of the engine’s oil leaked out. Since this was ahead of the front tire some riders crashed along with others that were following. This problem mostly showed up in racing where the engine was operated at high RPM continuously.
    Most racing organizations in the USA prohibited ALL Fram oil filters. Fram fixed the problem and recalled all the unsold potential problem filters. IDR if there were any injuries/lawsuits/settlements.
    There was no internet at the time, but the rumor mill worked in a similar fashion. Many letters to motorcycle publications proclaimed that all Fram filters were junk. With no actual evidence other than the failure of one part number.
    I worked in the vehicle repair business for more than 30 years. The only problems I saw with oil filters were due to installation errors; Wrong filter, Not tightened enough, Not removing the gasket that stuck to the engine from the previous filter, and so on.
    There was, not sure if it is still around in some form, a website by a guy that did a lot of work and spent some money to research new oil filters. At the time, 15-20 yrs ago, there were basically 3 makers of 90% of the oil filters sold in the USA. Fram, Champion Labs, and I don’t recall the 3rd. There were photos of the filters, outside and cut open, showing the only difference was the color and labeling. The various brands, very proud of their “unique and special” filters chased the guy around the net for a while. Not sure if I’m interested to look for the site again.
    The question people have to ask is, do they think a serious company would put out a product that could ruin an engine? Today’s engines are worth many thousands of $$$. If the filters were failing and leading to engine failure it would be figured out pretty soon. Then the oil filter “brand” would be paying a lot of money.

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