0W-20 vs 5W-20 – similar or different?

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If the engine is the heart of your vehicle, then engine oil is its blood. It’s extremely important to find the oil that provides proper lubrication, cleaning and protection in specific weather conditions. Given all the options out there, it is not so easy to pick the right one for your vehicle. There are quite a few things the vehicle owners have to know about synthetic oil to make a choice. So today we’ll talk about synthetic motor oil properties, compare two similar yet quite unique types of multi-grade oils (0W-20 and 5W-20) and try to give the answers to all your questions on this topic in our FAQ section. 

what is the difference

0W-20 vs 5W-20: top 8 synthetic motor oils – quick reference table


0W-20 Best performance – Castrol 03060 GTX MAGNATEC 0W-20

  • Increased fuel economy. 
  • Prevents wear and tear, prolongs engine life. 
  • Runs smoothly even when the temperature drops. 

0W-20 Editors pick – Mobil 1 120758 Advanced

  • Great protective featuresї
  • High compatibility – suitable for most engines. 
  • Prolongs maintenance requirements. 

0W-20 User choice – AmazonBasics Full Synthetic Motor Oil

  • Awesome composition quality.
  • Better power output and performance. 
  • Enhanced fuel economy. 

0W-20 Top budget pick – Valvoline Advanced Full Synthetic SAE 0W-20

  • Good price. 
  • Superior engine protection. 
  • Good fuel efficiency. 
  • Unique additives for cleaner engine. 

5W-20 Best Performance – Valvoline High Mileage MaxLife Technology

  • Awesome lubrication properties. 
  • Contains extra detergents that maintain the durability and good condition of the engine. 
  • Great for older vehicles with higher mileage. 

5W-20 Editor’s Pick – Royal Purple 36520-6PK HPS

  • Decent compatibility. 
  • Keeps engine clean. 
  • Improves fuel efficiency. 
  • Excellent for maintenance. 

5W-20 User Choice – Castrol 03086 EDGE Extended Performance

  • High fuel economy – up to 20000 miles between oil changes. 
  • Innovative additives for increased tear and wear protection. 
  • Suits many different vehicles. 

5W20 Top Budget Pick – Pennzoil Platinum Full Synthetic Motor Oil

  • Significant fuel economy. 
  • Active Cleansing Agents which keep the engine clean. 
  • Protects the engine under extreme conditions.

If the engine is the heart of your vehicle, then engine oil is its blood. It’s extremely important to find the oil that provides proper lubrication, cleaning and protection in specific weather conditions. Given all the options out there, it is not so easy to pick the right one for your vehicle. There are quite a few things the vehicle owners have to know about synthetic oil to make a choice. So today we’ll talk about synthetic motor oil properties, compare two similar yet quite unique types of multi-grade oils (0W-20 and 5W-20) and try to give the answers to all your questions on this topic in our FAQ section. 

0W-20 vs 5W-20 - similar or different?

Many vehicle owners wonder if there is any difference between 0W-20 and  5W-20 synthetic motor oil. We’ll find it out soon, but first let’s take a look at short descriptions of these oil types. 

Brief review on 0W-20 motor oil 

0W-20 is fully synthetic motor oil with thinner viscosity. It protects the motor components perfectly. 0W-20’s temperature range is from -40° to 20°, so it’s great for cold winters, but can be used in mild springs and summers. One of 0W-20 advantages is better fuel economy – it can give your vehicle extra mileage. 0W-20 meets the API SN requirements and is approved by many vehicle manufacturers as a recommended oil. 

Brief review on 5W20 motor oil 

5W20 is fully synthetic multi-grade oil with thicker viscosity that provides better sealing action. Adjustable for both mild summers and not too cold winters, as it’s temperature range is from -25° to 20°. It protects the engine greatly and works decently for regular everyday use. Can also optimize the fuel economy. This oil also meets all the API SN requirements and is recommended for use by many modern car brands. 

0W-20 and 5W20 – so similar but still different 

The main difference between these two synthetic oil types hides into their codes. So what do the numbers and letters of the code mean? 

The letters and numbers in the code indicate the main properties of the synthetic oil. Let’s take 5W-20 as the example: 

  • 5 – the number at the beginning refers to the weight of the oil.
  • W (winter)  – this letter means that this oil variety is suitable for use in colder climates.
  • 20 – the number in the end indicates viscosity (thickness) of the oil. 

Synthetic motor oils get thinner when it heats up and thicker when it’s cold outside. 5 – the first number – shows the viscosity of synthetic oil in cold temperatures. 20 – the last number – indicates oil’s viscosity at operating temperatures.


The less viscous synthetic oil is at low temperatures, the lower number you’ll see at the beginning. 0 in 0W-20 means that the viscosity equals 0 in cold temperature, so, as you might have guessed, 0W-20 will flow better at lower temperatures than 5W-20.  


It is important to take into account the thickness of the motor oil. The higher the viscosity, the better the load it can support. 0W-20 is too thin for trucks, SUVs, etc., it is intended for lighter use in diesel and petrol engines. 5W20, in contrast, can support heavier loads, so it’s perfect for vans, 4×4 off-roaders, etc. 

Although both oils are intended for use in cold-weather regions, 0W-20 is a better option for those who live in colder regions, where the temperature falls beyond -25°. In extremely cold temperatures 0W-20 also gives slightly less wear at cold startup, as it flows freely at -30°/-40°. 5W-20, in its turn, resists shear under heavy loads better than 0W-20 thanks to its higher viscosity. So in the battle of 2 synthetic motor oils with very similar properties 0W-20 receives “Better low temperatures performance” award and 5W-20 wins “Better heavy-duty performance” trophy. 

Choosing the right motor oil - best products and most reliable brands

Now that we found all the differences and similarities of 0W-20 and 5W-20, we’re going to take a better look on leading synthetic oils brands and specifications.   

Top picks 

These days, when the shelves are heaped with different synthetic oils, determining which one of them is the best for your car can be a difficult task to manage. We created a list of 8 top picks for you, so with this information in hand you’ll be able to choose the best synthetic oils available. 

0W-20 – best 4 low-viscosity oils that meet your every need

We’ve selected four best 0W-20 motor oils in four different categories. 

Best performance – Castrol 03060 GTX MAGNATEC 0W-20 Full Synthetic Motor Oil 

Castrol 03060 is perfect for winter months, as it maintains a low viscosity level when the temperature drops. Even when it’s getting colder, the oil continues flowing smoothly, covering all of the motor parts properly. It is also good for cooler summer, as it doesn’t thin out too much. 

There is a nice mix of just the right additives in this oil. As a result, you get  high lubrication as well as a great degree of maintenance. The superior composition quality allows the oil to keep all of the parts running properly, for an extended period of time. This is also what makes certain that the oil is able to maintain its properties for longer, thus requiring fewer changes. 

Editors pick – Mobil 1 120758 Advanced Full Synthetic Motor Oil 0W-20

Mobil 1 120758 Advanced Full Synthetic Motor Oil formula means that the additive components are perfectly balanced within the oil. So, you get to enjoy all the additional benefits of the additives – such as the oil lasting for a longer period of time, without having to worry about any of the downsides. 

The lubricating action of this synthetic oil is quite impressive. In doing so, it is able to keep a protective layer between all the relevant parts, ensuring that there is no friction created between them. As a result, you can expect wear and tear to be reduced rather drastically. Mobil 1 120758 is able to take the protective features one step further. Not only does it make sure that the parts last longer, but also stays  clean for longer. So, there is a good chance that you will not need to change the oil as often as before.  

User choice – AmazonBasics Full Synthetic Motor Oil, SN Plus, 0W-20

Developed for longer drain intervals, AmazonBasics full-synthetic 0W-20 motor oil provides enhanced lubrication to protect all parts of the engine. Fully certified, it offers exceptional quality. Thanks to special friction-reducing formula, AmazonBasics oil provides great lubrication and creates a protective layer, thick enough to minimize frictions and reduce motor tear and wear to the most possible extent. 

Top budget pick – Valvoline Advanced Full Synthetic SAE 0W-20 Motor Oil

If you are looking for an affordable synthetic oil that can still do a great job of protecting your engine, then Valvoline Advanced is definitely what you need. From the moment that this oil is circulated, you will have peace of mind knowing that all of the various components will work smoothly against one another. Thanks to this feature, the chance of wear and tear occurring is greatly reduced. 

This formula has some interesting additives included in it. They do a great friction-minimizing job, that is why the lubricating power of this oil is so impressive. However, this isn’t all that the additives do. They also work to reduce the number of deposits formed in the engine system. As such, the engine is allowed to work smoothly for longer periods of time, without requiring as much maintenance. 

0W20 and 5W20 engine oils

5W-20 – top 4 oils in different categories

Now let’s take a look on 5W-20 synthetic oils and see what the manufacturers have for us there. 

Best performance – Valvoline Full Synthetic High Mileage with MaxLife Technology SAE 5W-20

There are so many great features associated with this motor oil, such as a high level of lubrication – Valvoline High Mileage molecular structure is quite thick, so it offers enhanced protection. At the same time, it’s not too thick, so you can use it in summer. Advanced thermal and oxidative stability of this oil help to reduce oil burn-off and increase power output to a great extent. Last but not least, Valvoline High Mileage provides additional lubrication, suitable for a not-so-new engine with signs of wear and tear. It also contains some extra additives to remove old deposits and keep the engine as clean as possible. Together it all makes Valvoline High Mileage our Editor’s top choice motor oil. 

Editor’s pick – Royal Purple 36520-6PK HPS 5W-20 Synthetic Motor Oil with Synerlec Additive Technology

Royal Purple 36520 is a great lubricant suitable for so many different types of vehicles and engines. The oil flows smoothly, ensuring that each of the parts is thoroughly greased and that there is absolutely no friction between them. By using this oil, you can be quite sure that the possibility of your engine parts experiencing wear and tear is considerably lessened.  This oil also works to cut down on any kind of build-up, including sludge, carbon deposits, and rust.

User choice – Castrol 03086 EDGE Extended Performance 5W-20 Advanced Full Synthetic Motor Oil

Almost 3500 customer reviews with 4.8 stars out of 5 – there is no doubt that this synthetic oil does an excellent job. The sheer quality is the synonym of Castrol 03086 EDGE. Unique fluid titanium additives which help Castrol 03086 oil to resist this pressure and increase its lubricating properties. Castrol says it’s their most advanced full synthetic motor oil that provides ultimate performance. Suitable for numerous vehicles. If you are looking to improve the overall durability of your engine, this is certainly the oil for you.

Top budget pick – Pennzoil Platinum Full Synthetic Motor Oil

Pennzoil Platinum Full Synthetic Motor Oil meets and exceeds essential car manufacturers’ requirements for engine protection and cleanliness. It is made from high-class synthetic base oil and unique high-performance additives, which help to dissolve contaminants and prevent the build-up of deposits, sludge and corrosion. 

What are the most reliable winch brands?

Time to talk about synthetic oils manufacturers and find out what are the most trusted brands 


American manufacturer that has operated successfully since 1866, today Valvoline is a leading automotive supplies and services brand. The company distributes own-branded engine lubricants, oils and additives and owns a wide chain of car repair centers and instant oil change centers. Known for its premium-class DIY motor oil, Valvoline goes the extra mile in developing innovative formulas of the oils and engine lubrication additives. 


British global brand, founded in 1899, entered American market over 100 years ago. Castrol offers the widest range of automotive and industrial lubricants – greases, conventional and synthetic oils, lubricating fluids and other products. Their special Liquid Engineering technology helps their oils to provide the best possible engine protection. Castrol is also known for its exceptional compatibility to almost any vehicle brand and engine. 


Pennzoil was founded in the USA in 1913. It was the first company that started using natural gas instead of crude oil. This company offers motor oils, fluids, lubricants, filters and other products for different vehicles. Known for its exceptional quality and loved by the vehicle owners for its affordable price, Pennzoil uses only the purest oils and best additives. Company’s scientists and engineers constantly work on developing new technologies and innovating the existing ones. 

Royal purple 

Royal Purple is one of the youngest American manufacturers that specializes in producing lubricants for automotive, racing, industrial and military use. Its founder John Williams was a pioneer in the development of high-performance synthetic lubricants. Known mainly for its line of top-quality synthetic Royal Purple Motor Oil. The secret formula of their popularity is simple – they use premium base oils and premium additives, and also add some innovations and dedicated work.  


Did you expect to see AmazonBasics in the list of best synthetic oil manufacturers? No? Neither did we. but actually Amason (with the cooperation of Warren distribution) produces pretty decent motor oils, suitable for almost all vehicles. The oils are fully certified. Although first AmazonBasics motor oils were introduced in 2018, company’s scientists have been working on innovating and reinventing synthetic lubricants formulas for a long time before they started selling their production. Their commitment to quality and innovation is greatly appreciated by the customers all over the world. 

FAQ - everything you need to know about synthetic motor oils

What is synthetic motor oil? What advantages does it have? 

Synthetic oil is an engine lubricant made from base – usually highly refined crude – oil, carrier oil and powder additives. It is artificially made – synthesized, therefore it is called synthetic. Also known as multi grade oil, as it meets the requirements of multiple (two) viscosity grades and can be used in low and high temperatures. Motor oils help to minimize friction between different parts of the engine; thanks to its properties synthetic oil provides better lubrication by forming continuous layer over the motor parts, ensures smooth operation and increases engine life. 

Synthetic motor oil advantages: 

  • Enhanced engine protection from wear and tear;
  • Greater temperature resistance, better engine work under high and low temperatures;
  • Cleaner motor – synthetic oil contains special additives that help to clean deposits and sludge;
  • Lower oil consumption, longer intervals between oil changes;
  • Fewer emissions. 

Together all these advantages contribute significantly to increased engine performance and noticeable fuel economy. 

 Is synthetic oil worth paying more for? 

Although full synthetic motor oils are more expensive than conventional or synthetic blends, all the expenses will be more than compensated, as synthetic oil provides increased fuel economy, and decreases engine wear and significantly extends engine life. 

How often should I change synthetic oil? 

You should change synthetic oil once per year or every 10,000-15,000 miles (whatever comes first).

I have an older car, can I use synthetic oil? 

Absolutely yes, you can use synthetic oils both for older and newer vehicles. 

Important: older cars often have considerably more mileage that results in engine wear and tear. In such cases use special high-mileage synthetic oils – they are thicker and provide better sealing; many high-mileage oils also contain higher doses of anti-wear additives.  

Is synthetic oil compatible with gasoline engines? What about diesel? 

Most synthetic motor oils are suitable for both diesel and gasoline engines. But still we recommend to check the label before you buy synthetic oil. 

What is viscosity? 

Viscosity is an important property of the motor oil. It is defined by the size of oil molecular structures. Viscosity indicates the oil’s resistance to flow, i.e. it shows how easily and fast the motor oil flows through the different parts of the engine. Synthetic oils with low viscosity pour easier at cold temperatures compared to the oils with higher viscosity.  

Thinner or thicker oil – what is better? 

It depends on the climate conditions where you live and the vehicle you drive. Thinner oils are good for using in colder weather and for light duty vehicles. Thicker oils are perfect for higher temperatures and heavier loads; they help to maintain oil pressure and film strength when it heats up.

What do Dexos 1 and Dexos 2 mean?

Dexos 1 motor oil is suitable for gasoline engine; Dexos 2 oil is designed for diesel engine but also can be used for gasoline engines too. These oils have different SAPS levels. Dexos 1 can handle oil changing interval for longer time thanks to its high SAPS level. Dexos 2, with its low SAPS level, can not hold oil changes intervals for a long periods, but it is more environmental friendly than Dexos 1.

Are 0W-20 and 5W-20 interchangeable? 

More or less, yes. 0W-20 and 5W-20 are quite similar, but still you have to make a choice based on your local weather. If you’re not sure what oil to choose, then check what your owner’s manual says about suitable viscosity. You will possibly find both 0W-20 and 5W-20 in the list; if no – just use the oil recommended by your vehicle manufacturer. 

My owner’s manual says I have to use 5W-20, can I use lighter (5W-10) or heavier (5W-30, 5W-40) grade? 

No, it’s better to stick to the recommended grade and avoid using thinner or thicker oils. Using lighter motor oil will lead to faster mechanical wear and shorten engine life in the long-term perspective. Using heavier oil will also reduce engine life and decrease the fuel economy significantly. Never select the oil randomly. 

Should I switch oils in winter and summer? Can I use 0W-20 and/or 5W-20 in warmer seasons? 

Again, it depends on your local weather. 0W and 5W oils are typically recommended for winter use, but they’re also good for mild summers (up to +20°). If the temperature during the hot season reaches +20° or more, use thicker motor oil

Synthetic motor oils are more expensive than conventional, but they last longer and, what’s more important, offer enhanced engine protection, especially under heavy workloads and extreme weather conditions. There are so many choices when it comes to synthetic motor oils and it’s not so easy to fight the right one for your engine, especially when your vehicle manufacturer includes several recommended oil types in the owner’s manual. But there are two simple rules which can help to decide between many available options. 

Rule 1 

  • Lower viscosity – for lower temperatures.
  • Higher viscosity – for higher temperatures. 

Rule 2 

  • Thinner oils – for lighter vehicles.
  • Thicker oils – for heavy-duty vehicles. 

And one more hint: check user reviews and buy synthetic motor oils from tried and trusted brands only. That is how you find the right lubricant for the best engine performance. No need to waste your money and experiment with different manufacturers or waste your time and go through multiple articles and reviews – we’re happy to take this challenge up for you. 

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