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5w20 would be the same with either standard or synthetic?

New engine, though.

With older cars (200k miles), don't parts wear out, needing a thicker oil to fill larger gaps? Like a plain 30w, or a 10w40?

On previous cars I just put 30w in summer, then change to 10w30 in the winter.

What would someone who knows what they're doing, do?
 

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5w20 would be the same with either standard or synthetic?
Correct, the weight is the weight, regardless of type.

With older cars (200k miles), don't parts wear out, needing a thicker oil to fill larger gaps? Like a plain 30w, or a 10w40?
With modern engines and oils, this is not necessary.

What would someone who knows what they're doing, do?
Given these assumptions:

1. Either none or very few attempts to start the car in freezing temperatures
2. You are on a budget
3. This is a daily driver that you will either drive into the ground or sell at some point (not a collector car, not a car you are trying to keep in the family for generations, etc.)

I would run the cheapest 5w-20 or 5w-30 (per owners manual) with an API SM SN or SP rating that you can find, along with the cheapest oil filter, and I would change it every 6,000 miles or so. I'm serious, if you fit the above assumptions you should buy the absolute cheapest one you can find that meets the spec.

Oils and filters today are amazingly good. Even the cheapest oils today (that meet the above specs) are far better than oils from just 20 years ago.

As long as you run an oil that meets the spec and change the oil and filter regularly, you will not have an oil related engine failure...so don't waste your money on expensive oil or change it more often than necessary.

At the other end of the spectrum, I run this in my Caliber: 30WT Race Oil (10W30)

If you really want to jump down the oil rabbit hole:


You can even get your oil tested:

 
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