Do You Tip Mechanics for an Oil Change & How Much?

Written by Jim Belt in How Much To Tip

If you're bringing in your car for an oil change, you're probably wondering if you should tip the mechanic. You're in the right place. Read on to find what most people do.

Do you tip your mechanic for an oil change, and how much? Most people don't tip mechanics for an oil change since they are paid a decent hourly wage to do the job. Since it isn't customary, you shouldn't feel obliged. If you want to tip, you definitely can (in most cases). The average tip is $5 - $20.

Sometimes, a well-placed tip can be a great investment. Read on to find how.

Tipping Customs

Tipping not customary $ 15 - $ 20

In this article:

  1. Should You Tip Mechanics?
  2. When Not To Tip
  3. What Car Mechanics Think About Tips
  4. What Do Car Mechanics Actually Make
  5. Some General Tips on Tipping
  6. In Conclusion

Should You Tip Mechanics?

The short answer is: no, you definitely don't have to tip mechanics. If they ask you for a tip explicitly (this happens), you can simply refuse. It's actually rude and a bit far-fetched of them. It's not customary at all, and mechanics get paid a pretty decent wage.

Tipping is only customary for hospitality and personal services, like restaurants, delivery, and the hairdressers. For any other job, it is entirely optional and up to you. Tipping does seem to become more common each year, and it can get you preferential treatment and better service. Also, an honest tip can really brighten up someone's day.

Okay, so you don't have to. But in some cases, it could be a great idea. Here are some examples:

When to tip

  • only tip if you can give the money to the actual mechanic doing the work
  • tip if you like to be treated really well
  • tip if you always go to the same place and work with the same mechanical

That last one is my favorite. Tipping is really powerful if you give it to one person over a period of time. They get to know you as 'that tipping customer.' That really is the best way to be known.

How much most people give

  • a couple of dollars is probably plenty: $5
  • if you want to tip the entire crew for Christmas: $5 each
  • if you want to tip generously, around $20 - $30
  • long-term relationship with good history: $10 - $15

When Not To Tip

  • You don't have the money
  • The mechanic is the business owner
  • There is a no-tipping policy at the car shop
  • The mechanic is unprofessional

You don't have the money

I really mean this. If you don't have the money to spare, you might want to keep it in your own pocket. Especially for these kinds of jobs, where it isn't expected of you. In my opinion, I shouldn't get in trouble because I want to fit in.

The mechanics is the owner

Some people say oil changes are pure profit for the car shop - which is true. If you bring your car to an independent mechanic, the oil change IS the tip. And that seems about right. It's an easy enough job you could do yourself without any problems. Bringing in your car every year is good business for them. Most people do tip their mechanic (independent or not) at Christmas.

However, if you're not the owner, you get your hourly pay. So an oil change (which takes only half an hour) pays you a lousy $5. Getting ten bucks on that job can make your day.

There's a no-tipping policy

Some employers think it's necessary to have a no-tipping policy in place. I'm not sure why that's a good idea, but if that's the case, you should respect it. If you force a tip onto a mechanic, he or she could get into trouble.

The mechanic is unprofessional

This includes being rude or impolite, delaying the job longer than necessary (or agreed upon), or making a mess under the hood. Some car shops don't actually change your oil at all. So check it when you pick up the car (if it's still black, you're being conned for sure). For me, it goes without saying. Tipping is a way to pay tribute to someone who's worth more than they're asking. If they're worth less, don't tip.

What Car Mechanics Think About Tips

Oil changes are an easy job and don't require a lot of experience. It doesn't take a lot of time, and it's one of those typical jobs for mechanics. So for this kind of job, they really don't expect you to tip.

Mechanics are, however, generally very skilled, and the appreciation for skilled labor seems te become less and less. Some mechanics see their worth go down. Major car shops are cutting back on their hourly wages. Some customers are really unappreciative of the work and skill involved. This can be very challenging for hard-working mechanics that deliver top-notch repairs and maintenance.

It is hard work - well, this particular job maybe isn't so much. But appreciating the work will go a long way.

(Based on 2,966 reviews by real mechanics on Payscale)

What Do Car Mechanics Actually Make

On average, car mechanics make an hourly wage of $17.66 per hour. However, oil changes are one of those entry-level tasks. The guy or girl changing your oil will most likely be making something like $11 per hour.

source: Payscale.com

Some General Tips on Tipping

If you want the most bang for your buck, there are two ways to go about it. One: tip upfront. This way, you can expect the mechanic to give you all the attention in the world, and doing a bang job. Number two: drop your car off at your regular mechanic, and tip him every time. This way, you'll build a lasting relationship.

It's important to ask if it's okay to tip upfront. Some mechanics (and tradesmen in general) really can't appreciate it. I'm not really sure why, but I think it makes them uncomfortable or has to do with pride. Anyways, be subtle about it. Another important thing is to be clear about why you're tipping them. It shouldn't be charity. If it is, that would make me uncomfortable as well.

Also, being kind and not tipping is always better than tipping and being rude.

Generally, I tip people that do a great job and make less than I do. If they make more, they have to provide real value to me. If I don't have the money, I never tip. Getting into trouble over social pressures just doesn't make sense to me.

If you decide to tip, tip generously. Tipping too little can be a bit painful. Even if the job only costs $40, don't tip them just two dollars. I'd consider never tipping any skilled laborer less than $5. Where I come from, we say 'every little bit counts', but not everyone seems to agree.

In Conclusion

If you really want to tip your mechanic after an oil change you definitely can. But you shouldn't feel obliged to. Most people don't tip for this kind of work; they simply pay the bill. You will, however, show the mechanic your appreciation for their trade - which is maybe the best tip of all.


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