What to Do if Your Rental Car Needs an Oil Change

What to Do if Your Rental Car Needs an Oil Change: A Comprehensive Guide

Renting a car is a convenient way to explore new places or attend business meetings. However, as a renter, you may be unsure about what to do if the rental car needs an oil change. In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss everything you need to know about handling an oil change in a rental car like a pro. From recognizing the signs that indicate an oil change is needed to understanding the responsibilities of both the renter and the rental car company, we’ve got you covered. So, let’s dive in and learn how to navigate this situation with ease.

Why is an Oil Change Necessary?

Before we delve into the specifics of handling an oil change in a rental car, let’s first understand why regular oil changes are necessary. The engine’s proper functioning and longevity depend on regular oil changes. Motor oil plays a crucial role in lubricating the engine’s moving parts, preventing friction, removing debris and contaminants, and regulating the engine’s temperature. Over time, the oil breaks down and becomes less effective, leading to engine damage and reduced performance.

Recognizing the Need for an Oil Change

To handle an oil change in a rental car, you need to know when it’s necessary. Typically, rental cars have maintenance indicators that notify you when an oil change is required. The most common indicator is the oil warning light on the car’s dashboard. Additionally, the “maintenance required” light may also illuminate to indicate the need for an oil change. Keep an eye out for these warning lights as they are clear indications that an oil change is necessary.

Rental Car Oil Change Intervals

Now that you know how to recognize the need for an oil change, let’s discuss the recommended intervals for oil changes in rental cars. The frequency of oil changes depends on various factors, including the car’s age, make, model, and driving conditions. While the old adage used to be that cars need their oil changed every 3,000 miles, newer cars now require oil changes at longer intervals. Most car manufacturers recommend changing the oil every 5,000 to 7,500 miles or every six months, whichever comes first. However, rental cars may require more frequent oil changes due to high mileage and usage.

Responsibilities: Renter vs. Rental Car Company

One common concern for renters is whether they are responsible for changing the oil in a rental car. It’s important to understand the responsibilities of both the renter and the rental car company in this regard. While you may assume that as a renter, you are responsible for the maintenance of the rental car, the reality is that the rental car company is actually responsible for ensuring their vehicles are well-maintained. So if you notice a dashboard warning light indicating the need for an oil change, it’s crucial to report it to the rental car company’s roadside assistance line as soon as possible.

Reporting the Issue to the Rental Car Company

When you encounter a situation where the rental car needs an oil change, it’s essential to report the issue promptly. Not only will reporting the issue prevent any potential safety hazards, but it will also provide a record of the problem and protect you from any further issues or costs. To report the issue, refer to your rental agreement for the roadside assistance number and call it to explain that a service light has turned on in your rental car. The rental car company should have the car’s maintenance information on file and will guide you through the next steps.

Swapping Out the Rental Car

In many cases, the rental car company will offer to swap out the car for an alternative vehicle at a nearby rental office if an oil change is needed. This ensures that you can continue your journey without any interruptions. If you do need to take the car into a repair shop to check the oil, it’s important to let the rental car company handle all the details and costs. Attempting to repair the vehicle yourself may lead to further complications and could potentially violate the rental agreement.

Avoiding Costs Related to Oil Changes

One reason why renters might hesitate to report an oil warning light is because they fear being responsible for the cost and time associated with taking a vehicle they do not own into the shop. However, as mentioned earlier, the rental car company is responsible for ensuring their vehicles are well-maintained. Therefore, you should not be held accountable for any costs related to oil changes. However, it is your responsibility to notify the rental car company of any issues with the vehicle as soon as possible to avoid more significant problems in the long run.

Extended Rentals and Oil Changes

If you plan to rent a car for an extended period of time or drive long distances, it’s essential to inquire about the oil change schedule with the rental car company. While the intervals for oil changes have extended over the years, it’s still a good idea to ask the rental car company whether you will need to trade in the vehicle at some point. This ensures that you have a clear understanding of the car’s maintenance requirements and can plan accordingly.

Maintaining a Rental Car Properly

To ensure a smooth and hassle-free rental experience, it’s crucial to maintain the rental car properly during the rental period. Here are some tips to help you with this:

  • Inspect the car’s oil level and condition regularly: Before driving off, check the oil dipstick under the hood to ensure the oil is at the recommended level and color. If you notice any signs of low oil pressure or dirty oil, notify the rental car company immediately.
  • Refill the gas tank before returning the car: It’s a common courtesy to refill the gas tank before returning the rental car. This ensures that the next renter receives the car with a full tank and avoids any additional charges.
  • Avoid smoking, eating, or drinking inside the car: To maintain the cleanliness of the rental car, it’s best to avoid smoking, eating, or drinking inside the vehicle. This prevents any potential damage or unpleasant odors.
  • Keep the car clean and free of clutter: Treat the rental car with care and keep it clean throughout the rental period. Remove any trash or personal belongings before returning the car.
  • Drive responsibly and follow traffic rules: Drive the rental car responsibly, follow traffic rules, and avoid any aggressive driving behaviors. This ensures your safety and helps maintain the car’s overall condition.
  • Report any issues or damages promptly: If you encounter any issues or damages during your rental period, report them to the rental car company as soon as possible. This allows them to address the problem and prevents any disputes or misunderstandings later on.


1. What should I do if the oil light comes on in a rental car?

If the oil light comes on, pull over safely, check the oil level, and contact the rental company immediately for guidance.

2. Why is my car indicating I need an oil change shortly after getting one?

If you see the warning post-oil change, reset the indicator, check for sensor issues, and verify the correct oil type and amount used.

3. Is it better to get an oil change before or after a road trip?

For peace of mind, it’s generally better to get an oil change before a road trip to ensure optimal engine performance and prevent potential issues.

4. What should I do if my rental car’s oil change is due during my trip?

Contact the rental company, follow their guidelines for maintenance, and address the oil change promptly to prevent potential engine problems during your trip.


Handling an oil change in a rental car doesn’t have to be a daunting task. By recognizing the signs that indicate an oil change is needed, promptly reporting the issue to the rental car company, and maintaining the rental car properly, you can navigate this situation like a pro. Remember, as a renter, you should not be responsible for any costs related to oil changes. By following the guidelines in this article, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable rental car experience. So, the next time you find yourself in a rental car that needs an oil change, handle it with confidence and ease.

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