Tire Buyer: If you’ve never done it before, picking out tires may seem just as complicated as buying an entirely new car.
However, the process is actually incredibly simple and requires just a bit of knowledge about what tires your car takes.
Where you can purchase them from, and what tire features you should look for.
Choosing a Tire Retailer
Go to a branded retailer for the best quality tires.
In addition, these retailers typically offer extensive service options and employ people who are well-versed in the type of vehicle you have or the brand of tires you’re purchasing.
- Before settling on a specific brand, search online for reviews explaining how well the tires hold up over time.
- Be wary of store representatives trying to sell you additional products that don’t seem necessary, such as nitrogen for your tires, new air filters, or preventative oil changes.
- If you don’t know whether an add-on is worth getting, look up what it does and if other stores offer it. If the add-on is far cheaper elsewhere or exclusive to this retailer, it’s most likely an unnecessary upsell.
Pick an independent retailer to save money.
Make sure to look up online reviews of these businesses before buying anything from them. Some types of shops to look for include:
- General tire chains like Discount Tire, Les Schwab, and the Tire Kingdom.
- Discount box stores like Walmart, Sears, and Costco.
- Independent mechanics and locally-owned tire shops.
Search for tire websites if you want to order online.
However, buying tires online means that you won’t receive them immediately and will have to go to a tire installation service to get them to put on.
- Most tire websites provide a list of installation shops you can ship your tires to.
- However, keep in mind that the cost of installation may not be included in your initial purchase.
- You can determine a tire website’s legitimacy by looking for scam warning signs, such as bad spelling and poor web design, and by searching for the retailer on the Better Business Bureau’s official website.
Picking Out Your Tires
Check your owner’s manual to find your car’s recommended tire type.
Most car manufacturers include replacement part recommendations inside your vehicle’s owner’s manual. To find this information, look for a “Tire” section in your manual’s “Technical Information” or “Maintenance” chapter.
- If you don’t have an owner’s manual, search for a copy on your car manufacturer’s official website.
- You can also find these recommendations on your car’s information placard, typically located on your vehicle’s door post, door edge, trunk lid, or glove compartment door.
- In most cases, your manual and placard will include recommended sizes and ratings for your front tires, rear tires, and spare tire.
Examine your tires for more detailed information.
These codes are on each tire’s sidewall and consist of, in the following order:
- A letter or number indicating the tire’s primary function, typically “LT” for light trucks or “P” for passenger vehicles.
- A 3-digit number noting the tire’s width, such as 215 to show it’s 215 mm (8.5 in) wide.
- A 2-digit number listing the tire’s aspect ratio, such as 65 to shows the tire’s height is equivalent to 65% of its width.
- A letter noting the tire’s construction type, like “R” for radial.
- A 2-digit number indicating your wheel’s diameter, such as 15 to represent 15 in (38 cm).
- An optional 2 or 3-digit number showing your tire’s max load capacity, such as 80 to indicate that it can hold up to 990 lb (450 kg).
- A letter noting the tire’s speed rating, such as B to show it can go 31 mph (50 km/h) while carrying it’s maximum load.
- A series of letters, either “M+S” or “M/S,” indicate whether or not the tires will work in snow and mud.
Choose a type of tire that matches your driving needs.
Though your tire retailer can help you find the perfect type of tire for your car, some of the most common styles include:
- All-Season tires, which last a long time and work well on general streets and highways.
- Performance and Ultra-High Performance tires, which can withstand incredibly fast speeds and provide far better grip than standard tires.
- All-Terrain tires, which provide extra traction when driving off-road.
- Snow tires, give extra grip and traction during the winter but may not work as well during the summer months.
Look for tires that have good treadwear grades.
Though tire grades vary by manufacturer, aim for a minimum of about 300.
- In general, all-season tires have far better treadwear grades than specialty tires.
- Though the treadwear grading scale has no upper limit, few tires get a higher rating than 800.
Examine the tires for signs of wear if you’re buying used.
Though you shouldn’t expect used tires to be the same quality as new ones.
Do look them over to see if there are any glaring issues.
In particular, search for undisclosed patches and make sure each side of the tire received an even amount of wear.
- If you purchased your tires online, check them as soon as they arrive to make sure they’re in the condition described on the website.
Making a Purchase
Look for tires that fit within your budget.
Tires can be incredibly pricey, so you may need to shop around to find options that you can afford.
On average, expect a new, standard all-season tire to cost between $80 and $150.
Specialty variants typically range between $100 and $250 per tire.
- Depending on the store, used tires often cost less than $50 per unit, making them a great budget option.
Buy tires in sets of 2 or 4 whenever possible.
Though expensive, you should always try to buy tires in sets of 2 or 4 so that each of your car’s axles has a matching pair.
This ensures that your car drives properly and helps it avoid issues like:
- Wheel misalignment
- Improper handling
- Excessive wear and tear
Purchase tires that have a good warranty.
Whenever possible, try to purchase tires that have a sizeable treadwear warranty.
For new, standard all-season tires, you can expect a warranty between 40,000 and 80,000 miles.
For used tires, you’re more likely to get a month-based warranty instead since they’re harder to accurately insure.
- If your tire has a high treadwear grade but a suspiciously low warranty.
- It may be a sign that the tire is not as good as it claims to be.
Install your tires.
To avoid any unwanted mishaps, make sure to get your tires installed professionally by your retailer or a tire installation shop.
Some tire retailers offer this service for free if you purchased the tires directly from them.
- If you have to pay for the installation, expect it to cost between $10 and $25 per tire.
For safety, replace your tires once the tread depth gets lower than 2⁄32 in (0.16 cm).
To check the tread depth, insert a penny into the tire tread with Lincoln’s head facing down.
If any part of the head gets obscured, your tread is too low.