Whitesburg KY

Car Talk

Hidden oil-change charges explained

Dear Tom and Ray:

I notice that car businesses that lube and change oil for passenger cars are now charging for recycling oil filters. Is this a scam, since I never see “recycled” oil filters for sale? Personally, I think oil filters would be too expensive to recycle. Thank you for your answer. — Chuck

RAY: You’re right, Chuck, that actually recycling old oil filters and turning them back into new oil filters would be very expensive. But the materials still get recycled.

TOM: Just like when you recycle an empty box of Cheerios, it doesn’t necessarily come back as a new box of Cheerios. But the material — the cardboard — gets recycled and reused for something else.

RAY: Based on my most recent visit to a public restroom, I think those Cheerios boxes are coming back — basically unaltered — as toilet paper.

TOM: When you have hazardous waste, like oil, it has to be disposed of properly. So the owner of the garage has to pay a licensed handler to come and take it away so the handler can dump it in our water supply in the middle of the night when no one’s looking.

RAY: Now, I know your next question, Chuck: “Why are they charging me separately for that — why isn’t it just part of the price of the oil change, like it used to be?”

TOM: Good question. The answer is advertising. If your local Pokey Lube wants to advertise an oil change for $19.95, but it can’t really make money doing oil changes for $19.95, then it adds on additional fees.

RAY: These could include a recycling fee, a waste-oil-disposal fee, a fee for use of shop rags and lubricants, or a fee for the Cinemax the owner is showing in the waiting room. You have to read the fine print, Chuck.

TOM: You’ve probably noticed that the airlines are doing this, too. The fare from here to East Armpit is only $59. But the airport departure fee is $47, the fuel surcharge is $82, the landing fee is $107, the Federal Aviation Administration’s “Oh, You Want Us to Pay Attention While You Land” fee is $68, the peanuts are $5, the blanket is $10, the aisle seat is $35 and checking two bags costs $50.

RAY: There’s also a charge for supplementary oxygen, but only in the unlikely event that the cabin loses pressure. But bring a bunch of quarters just in case.

TOM: Just like with your oil-filter recycling fee, all of these additional charges are based on real expenses. They’re just being separated out of the base price so you think the price of the service is lower than it actually is.

(c) 2009 by Tom and Ray Magliozzi and Doug Berman Distributed by King Features

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