What is the Best Synthetic Motor Oil in 2020?

If you are in a hurry and just want to find out what the best synthetic oil is, then we recommend Pennzoil Ultra Platinum Full Synthetic Motor Oil as the best one.

A healthy engine is a happy engine. And a happy engine guarantees great performances for a long time.

The number one best way to keep your engine healthy and happy is giving it a fresh dose of its recommended motor oil.

Full synthetic motor oil is more expensive than conventional oil. But its properties and benefits are strikingly superior. As a wise person once said, prevention is cheaper than cure. And if you’re serious about your vehicle maintenance, a synthetic motor oil is hands-down your best ally.

We’ve created this guide to help you select the best synthetic motor oil for your vehicle.

Combined with regular maintenance, synthetic motor oil will get you where you need to go while ensuring that your engine runs at peak performance for years to come.

Here are the best full synthetic motor oils we recommend:

What is Synthetic Motor Oil?

Synthetic motor oil is a lubricant consisting of chemical compounds that are artificially made, hence the name synthetic oil. The base material is still generally crude oil that is distilled and then heavily modified physically and chemically.

As opposed to conventional motor oil, though, synthetic oil refinement process is longer and more complex. Thus, synthetic motor oil is more expensive but guarantees properties and benefits that are outstandingly superior.

Synthetic oil provides the best performance and protection for your engine

  • by offering greater engine wear protection
  • by keeping your engine cleaner
  • by flowing better in lower temperatures
  • by protecting better at higher temperatures.

Additionally, synthetic oil usually has longer oil change intervals than conventional oil, yielding longer-lasting performances, especially when paired with a great oil filter.

Synthetic oil is especially recommended in scenarios where

  • you drive quite a bit (generally more than 6000 miles, or 10000 km in a year)
  • you live in a climate with temperatures higher or lower than average
  • you are not especially devoted to your vehicle oil changes.

However, always remember that the most important thing you can and should do to keep your car running smoothly is to follow the recommended service intervals. That is changing the vehicle oil and oil filter at the recommended times. Regularly.

Remembering that, investing in a good synthetic motor oil is, without a doubt, the second best thing you can do to keep your engine happy and performant.

How to Choose the Best Motor Oil for Your Vehicle

Viscosity Rating

The first and most important thing to know is your vehicle’s engine recommended oil viscosity rating. The best engine oil for your vehicle will be one with the recommended rating.

The viscosity rating can be found, like most things, in the vehicle owner’s manual. Alternatively, it is sometimes indicated right on the vehicle’s oil cap.

The rating is usually composed of two numbers separated by a W, e.g., 5W-30.

Those numbers represent the oil viscosity, that is its thickness, when cold, and when hot. Oil is thicker at lower temperatures and thinner at higher temperatures.

A visual explanation of motor oil viscosity rating

In other words, the numbers represent how the oil behaves at cold and at hot temperatures. The first number represents the behavior when cold (the W stands for winter by the way). The second represents the behavior when hot (i.e., at operating condition).

The desired oil behavior depends on the vehicle engine, hence the recommended viscosity rating.

Generally speaking, thicker oil

  • provides greater protection for your engine parts
  • but it will be harder to get flowing, especially at the start when the engine is still cold, and could thus end up causing engine wear (because the engine will operate without oil temporarily)
  • because of the higher viscosity, it can act as a dampener for the engine motion, and can thus decrease fuel efficiency.

Thinner oil, on the other hand,

  • provides a thinner film between the moving motor parts, and thus less protection
  • but it will be easier to get flowing, especially at the start of the engine
  • because of the lower viscosity, it dampens less the engine motion and thus usually yields a higher fuel economy.

In synthesis, at lower temperatures, there’s a risk that the oil gets too thick and doesn’t flow as it should, whereas, at higher temperatures, there’s a risk that it gets too thin and doesn’t protect the engine as it should.

As far as the viscosity rating

  • the lower the first number, the better the oil will flow at lower temperatures (e.g., 5W oil will flow better than 10W oil at lower temperatures)
  • the higher the second number, the less thin the oil will be at higher temperatures and thus the better it will protect the engine (5W-40 oil will be less thin than 5W-30 oil at higher temperatures).

However, what we’ve just said is just for your personal education and curiosity. It is absolutely crucial to follow the oil viscosity recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.

Do not buy oil with a different rating out of your own volition. Maybe you’re in a colder climate and thus you may think you need a lower W rating. Or maybe you’re in a hotter climate and you’re considering a higher hot rating. Unless your vehicle owner’s manual has explicit guidelines on the matter, don’t. Just don’t. Simply use the recommended viscosity!

We’ll repeat that again: the desired oil behavior depends on the vehicle engine. Not all engines are created equal. Each engine expects a particular behavior from its oil. Your vehicle’s manufacturer obviously knows best. Hence, follow the recommended viscosity rating.

If you really want to take better care of your vehicle engine get a synthetic oil with the recommended viscosity. Its behavior will be more accurate than conventional at the recommended viscosity rating, and you’ll get all of the added benefits of synthetic.

Type of Engine: Gasoline or Diesel

This one’s pretty simple. You want an oil that is appropriate for your type of engine.

If you have a gasoline engine buy a gasoline motor oil. If you have a diesel engine buy a diesel motor oil.

There’s actually a link between the type of engine and the recommended viscosity. Since diesel engines’ operating temperatures are usually higher than gasoline engines’, diesel motor oil will usually have a higher recommended “hot viscosity rating”.

But this is just for curiosity’s sake. You don’t actually need to know this. Simply buy an oil with the recommended viscosity and compatible with your engine type.

Luckily, some newer oils are actually compatible both for gasoline and diesel engines. But you should always check if that’s the case.

It will be usually indicated explicitly on the oil jug. In the case that it isn’t, you can check the API oil certification labels on the back of the container.

API Certification Labels

The API donut and starburst labels

In the US, every container of reputable motor oil will have the API (American Petroleum Institute) donut and starburst labels indicating the service rating of the oil.

The API donut tells you if the oil meets the current S (for gasoline) or C (for diesel) service rating.

By the way, S stands for Spark ignition (i.e., gasoline) engine, while C stands for Compression ignition (i.e., diesel) engines. That should make it easier to remember!

The letter following the S or C indicates the “version” of the rating. Generally, the higher it is, the better the oil will be.

Additionally, newer versions are always “backward compatible” with older requirements. Thus, if for example your vehicle’s manual asks for an SJ rated oil, you can use an SJ, or SL, or SM, or SN oil and you will be fine.

As a recommendation, it’s better not to go lower than SJ, as these oils are obsolete and could cause damage to your engine.

The API donut also provides the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) viscosity rating of the oil and tells you if the oil has passed the Energy Conserving test.

Finally, the starburst symbol indicates that the oil has passed the tests listed for the S or C reported service level.

These are the Best Synthetic Motor Oil Brands

As we said, you should always follow your vehicle owner’s manual for the recommended oil viscosity. Sometimes, however, the manual will also recommend a particular brand of oil. This particular brand recommendation, if present, can be safely ignored. The vehicle manufacturer will most likely have a partnership with that oil brand. And that’s why they are recommending it. That’s not necessarily the best oil brand.

As long as you follow the recommended viscosity rating, most oil brands will do. So you might as well choose the best synthetic motor oil brand for your vehicle.

In our experience and according to our extensive research, these are the best full synthetic motor oil brands.

Pennzoil

Pennzoil is an American oil company founded in Los Angeles, California in 1913. Pennzoil is an official long-term recommended motor oil Fiat Chrysler, BMW, Mini, Rolls-Royce, Hyundai, Chevrolet, Ford, Ferrari, Iveco, Ducati, and Opel in the United States. And there’s a reason for that. It is one of America’s most trusted motor oil.

Pennzoil is considered by many the best motor oil brand in the industry. It is the first motor oil made from natural gas, which is cleaner and has fewer of the impurities found in crude oil. It provides your vehicle with the most advanced oil technology for complete protection and top engine performance.

Two of their most recommended products are the Pennzoil Ultra Platinum Full Synthetic Motor Oil and Pennzoil Platinum Euro Full Synthetic Motor Oil (specially formulated for European vehicles).

Amsoil

Amsoil is an all-American company founded in 1969. Amsoil has been making top-notch oils since 1972, when it produced the world’s first synthetic motor oil to meet American Petroleum Institute requirements. Their “First in Synthetics” tagline is well deserved. Some even say it’s the best engine oil brand they’ve tried.

Unfortunately, however, their products suffer from a somewhat particular direct-marketing business model that makes their distribution more difficult than it should be.

Their most recommended product is the Amsoil Signature Series Synthetic Motor Oil.

Mobil 1

Introduced in 1974, Mobil 1 has been making top-notch oils and lubricants ever since. The Mobil 1 brand is world-renowned as an early innovator of synthetic motor oils, and that legacy continues to this day.

Its motor oil lineup is perhaps the most recognized in the business, with prestigious auto manufacturers such as Porsche and Mercedes-Benz using Mobil 1 oil in all their vehicles.

Two of its best-selling products are the Mobil 1 Extended Performance High Mileage Motor Oil and the Mobil 1 High Mileage Motor Oil.

AmazonBasics

No, we’re not kidding. AmazonBasics may not be a well-known brand when it comes to the automotive industry, but in recent years, Amazon’s own line of products has expanded at a rapid pace to all types of markets. And their synthetic motor oil offer is one of the best we’ve seen in quite a long time.

All of their oils have the best and most recent API certifications to date. And as if that weren’t enough, their products, like most AmazonBasics products, are super affordable. What’s not to like?!

AmazonBasics’ motor oil is manufactured by Warren Distribution, Inc., which is North America’s largest manufacturer of private label lubricants.

Two of their most recommended products are the AmazonBasics Full Synthetic Motor Oil and the AmazonBasics High Mileage Full Synthetic Motor Oil.

These are the Best Synthetic Motor Oils

Alright, here we are. In our experience and according to our in-depth research, these are the absolute best synthetic motor oils on the market.

Best Synthetic Gasoline Motor Oil: Pennzoil Ultra Platinum Full Synthetic Motor Oil

Featuring a patented gas-to-liquid PurePlus Technology that gives it amazing engine protection and performance-enhancing characteristics, the Pennzoil Ultra Platinum Full Synthetic Motor Oil is the preferred engine oil of many vehicle enthusiasts.

Pennzoil’s PurePlus technology converts pure natural gas into full synthetic motor oil, resulting in an industry-leading 99.5% pure base oil. The higher purity allows the additives that are added onto the base to do their job even better, granting superior protection and cleaning of the engine, as well as a higher fuel economy.

No other leading motor oil provides better wear protection for your engine (based on Sequence IVA wear test using SAE 5W-30).

And did we mention this oil is race trusted? Pennzoil Ultra Platinum Full Synthetic Motor Oil is used and trusted by many racing professionals and experts.

Pennzoil Ultra Platinum Full Synthetic Motor Oil is API SN certified and comes in 0W-20, 0W-40, 5W-20, 5W-30, and 10W-30 viscosities.

It is in our opinion the best performing full synthetic motor oil on the market. Period.

Best Synthetic Diesel Motor Oil: Pennzoil Platinum Euro Full Synthetic Motor Oil

Exceeding the strictest requirements of European vehicle manufacturers for cleanliness and protection, Pennzoil Platinum Euro Full Synthetic Motor Oil is specially formulated for diesel engines.

This motor oil also features Pennzoil’s patented gas-to-liquid PurePlus Technology, giving it amazing engine protection and performance-enhancing characteristics.

It is formulated and trusted for most BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Porsche, and Audi vehicles. This oil is even used and recommended for Ferrari vehicles. And there’s a reason for that.

Pennzoil Platinum Euro Full Synthetic Motor Oil is available in 0W-40, 5W-30, 5W-40.

Its special formulation helps to keep the engine cleaner, giving more reliable engine protection and thus prolonging engine life.

Best Budget Pick: AmazonBasics Full Synthetic Motor Oil

AmazonBasics Full Synthetic Motor Oil is specially formulated for longer drain intervals, and to help reduce friction for improved fuel economy and protection against engine wear. It keeps your engine properly lubricated and protected, helps prevent buildup that can cause rust and corrosion, while also helping reduce exhaust emissions.

AmazonBasics Full Synthetic Motor Oil is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a synthetic oil that won’t break the bank. It offers all the benefits of a full synthetic oil without the hefty price tag of the famous brands.

If you’re concerned about the fact that the brand is not that well-known in the automotive industry, don’t be.

Behind AmazonBasics’ motor oil there’s Warren Distribution, Inc., which is North America’s largest manufacturer of private label lubricants.

Their oil is API SN Plus and ILSAC GF-5 rated and certified. And these are the most up-to-date and strictest certifications to-date.

Finally, our opinion and general consumer feedback of this oil are through the roof.

At a very accessible price, this oil has absolutely deserved the best budget synthetic motor oil spot in our review.

You can get the AmazonBasics Full Synthetic Motor Oil in 5W-20, 5W-30, 5W-40, 0W-20, and 0W-40 viscosities.

What If I Can’t Find My Vehicle Recommended Oil Viscosity?

If you don’t know your vehicle recommended oil viscosity, you can just check your trusty vehicle owner’s manual.

If you can’t check the manual, you may try and have a look at the vehicle oil cap. Sometimes the oil cap reports the recommended viscosity.

Once you know it, you can come back here and select the right viscosity from the best pick.

However, if you’re just not able to find the vehicle recommended oil viscosity, or if the viscosity is not among the ones available for our top picks, don’t despair. We got your back.

Simply trust one of the best motor oil brands we recommended before. They provide great motor oils that are consistently rated as the best in the industry.

Most of these brands provide a website with a specialized search function to help you select the best oil for your vehicle.

Then, you just select the right model for your car and buy it.

Here’s a step-by-step procedure:

  1. Select one of the recommended best motor oil brands. We recommend Mobil as the most versatile brand with the largest selection.
  2. Go to the brand website and search for your exact vehicle model to obtain the recommended motor oil specific for your vehicle.

    These are the search pages of the recommended best motor oil brands:

  3. Once you have the brand’s recommendation for the right motor oil for your vehicle, simply plug it in the search box below to get the best price on Amazon and buy it (if you can’t see the search box then please disable your ad blocker for this site).

Conclusion

After regular oil maintenance, the next best thing you can do to take care of your vehicle and prolong its life is to use a good synthetic motor oil. Among all oils, synthetic is simply the best under all aspects. The engine will be running better than it ever did before and it will last you for years to come.

The best full synthetic gasoline motor oil in our experience and research is Pennzoil Ultra Platinum Full Synthetic Motor Oil. It offers an unbeatable combination of superior anti-wear performance in all climates, long oil change intervals, and exceptional additives for maximum fuel-efficiency and long-term engine health.

If you’re looking for the best full synthetic diesel motor oil, however, choose Pennzoil Platinum Euro Full Synthetic Motor Oil. Same great oil, but specially formulated for diesel engines. You can’t do better than that.

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