Tires are arguably the most important safety feature on any vehicle. They are the only part of the vehicle that makes contact with the ground and their grip is of paramount importance. Tires are also the part most likely to need replacing over the life span of a vehicle. In fact, the only part of a car, truck or sport utility vehicle guaranteed to wear out are the tires. So it is kind of surprising how little most people know about tires. When shopping for new tires, most people simply take the advice of the sales person they are speaking with and go with the tire that is recommended for their make and model of vehicle. Yet this is not always the best approach. Sales people, after all, are often pushing to unwind inventory or unload certain tires that are not selling well. Knowing some information about tires—even basic information—can help ensure that you get a good deal on the most suitable tires for your vehicle. Here are eight tips to keep in mind when buying tires.
8. Know the Size of the Tires You Need
This might sound painfully obvious, but ask most people on the street what size tires are on their car and they’ll look into space and blink a few times. Most people have no idea what size tires are on their vehicle. And it is for this reason that incorrect tire size is one of the biggest problems that occur when it comes time to replace tires on a vehicle. Fortunately, the tire size is readily available. People just have to look. And you can find the correct size on the sidewall of your tires. The tire size and its capabilities will be right there. Jot it down on a piece of paper before you go to the garage or tire dealership and make sure the new tires you buy are the exact same specifications.
7. Know Where to Buy Tires
People today have a lot of options when it comes to buying tires. Tires can be purchased everywhere from the dealership where the car was originally bought to Costco and discount retailers. But the price charged for tires varies greatly depending on where people go to buy them. As a general rule of thumb, car dealerships tend to be the most expensive place to buy tires. This is because dealerships replace tires using original equipment and factory direct parts. Discount tire retailers tend to be the cheapest option. But the quality of these tires is not always great. And, discount tires are often shipped to a home or place of business. It is then up to you to pay more money to have the tires mounted on your car and balanced. The best option in terms of where to go to buy tires is a local tire store—be it a retail chain store or an independent garage. The sales people can help find the right tire for your vehicle and they usually have a shop onsite where the tires can be professionally mounted. However, it is always good to shop around for the best price on tires.
6. Don’t Buy More Tire Than You Need
Tire salesmen are salesmen. And that means that they will upsell you on tires if they get the chance. Be cautious. A lot of people are driving around on more tire than they need. A “touring tire” might be suggested to you when all you really need is an all-season tire. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when buying tires and probe the salesperson you’re dealing with. Also, beware of the trend right now towards “plus sizing” tires. This involves mounting bigger wheels and tires on a vehicle. Why? Sales people will tell you it enhances the look of a car and can improve the handling. In reality it is a cash grab and is not necessary. The safest course of action is to keep in mind the tires that were on the vehicle when you bought it. Those are likely all the tire you’re going to need. Everything else that is suggested is an upgrade and an upsell.
5. Keep in Mind Fuel Economy
In addition to safety, the biggest impact that tires have on a vehicle is in terms of fuel economy. The right tires properly inflated can enhance fuel economy while the wrong tires deflated can lead to more frequent trips to fill up at the pumps. If fuel economy is important to you, then keep in mind that purchasing a tire that is different than the one you had when the vehicle was new may negatively impact the fuel economy. Maximizing the fuel economy may require that you purchase more expensive tires from the dealership and hope that you can recoup some of the expense with lower fuel costs. Buying generic tires from a discount retailer may save you some bucks initially but could hurt the fuel economy of the vehicle going forward. In the end you’ll have to figure out what is more important to you—the upfront cost of the tires or the fuel economy of the car you drive.
4. New vs. Used Tires
Most debates involving cars, and car parts, come down to “new” versus “used.” This is the same with tires. Many people buy used tires in an effort to save money, while other people always buy new tires to ensure that they are safe and reliable. So what is the right way to go? Used tires are not a bad option provided they are only slightly used. The key is to ensure that any used tires you buy still have plenty of tread on them. You can tell this by looking at a tire and feeling the tread with your finger. Also, if you are buying tires used, be sure to get them from a reputable seller. Many used tires could have defects, punctures or tread wear that are not readily visible to the naked eye. If at all possible, buy used tires from someone you know and trust. Also, keep in mind that new tires will come with some type of warranty protection, whereas with used tires it is buyer beware. As with most things, people will have to balance cost with practicality and safety.
3. Consider Tread Wear
How durable a tire is and how long it lasts depends on factors such as a motorist’s driving habits, the climate in which they live, road conditions and how often a vehicle is driven. In optimum conditions, all-season tires can last for 100,000 miles. High-performance tires tend to last less at about 70,000 miles. Top performance tires last as little as 25,000 miles. When buying tires, consider what you will be using the vehicle for, how frequently you will be driving it, and where you will be driving the vehicle. For most of us, regular all-season tires will suffice. Be mindful of suggestions from sales people to go with a higher performing tire. This might be better in the short-term, but will only cause the tires to wear out faster in the long run.
2. Do Some Homework and Read Tire Reviews
Tires are reviewed and rated just like cars. The internet is filled with reviews for every conceivable make of tire. While it might not be the most interesting reading, taking time to read reviews of tires before you go shopping is recommended. Reviews typically cover things such as fuel economy, how a tire handles and how long it lasts. There are also reviews that delve into how certain tires perform on different terrain and in various weather conditions, including rain storms and in winter driving. Arming yourself with this type of information is only going to help when you eventually go searching for tires. You will know what to look for, which questions to ask sales people, and how to get the best deal possible on the tires you need. A little homework can go a long way.
1. Properly Maintain Your Tires
As with any part on a vehicle, maintenance is half the battle. This goes for tires too. And while people often don’t think of maintenance when it comes to tires, there are steps people can take to increase the life and longevity of the tires on their car. These include things such as rotating the tires to prevent uneven wear, keeping tires properly inflated and keeping the brakes on your car in good working order. Frequent washing of a car and removing dirt and debris from the tires is also good practice and can help to keep tires safe from punctures or damage. Keeping your tires in mind and treating them with the care and respect of other parts on your vehicle is always the best way to go. After all, the longer the tires last the less money they’ll cost you over the life of your vehicle.