Fifty years ago, motor oil options were limited, and bottles of SAE 10W-40, SAE 10W-30 and SAE 20W-50 had room to breathe on store shelves. Although synthetics existed, they took up a slim cut of retail space in a limited number of stores, and many consumers were not even aware of them.
Today, the market is far more crowded. Bottles of conventional passenger car engine oils bump up against synthetic blends, high mileage oils, oils marketed as being environmentally friendly, and numerous full synthetic oils. In the past few years, the premium motor oil segment has proliferated with brands and split into many different categories. (See Page 34 for an illustration.) Both basic and synthetic high mileage engine oils are available, and full synthetic brands have basic and premium versions. While premium products were once the domain of well-advertised major brands, private label brands now offer good value. Consumers eyes may glaze over even before viscosity comes into consideration, ranging from monogrades to the latest ultra-low-viscosity oils.