How I Shop for Tires

Categories: Automotive

Are you thinking about buying new tires before the hard winter weather hits?  Have you looked at them lately, do they look bald?  The old rule of thumb is to stick a penny in the tread and if the tread doesn’t go above Abe’s head then it is time, even if close you are ready. Tires are important, having bad ones can be dangerous. That is why I purchased 2 full sets of tires for our cars recently.

Tires are an expensive investment, one that you will be stuck with for several years, so it makes sense to spend some time researching before you purchase.  When I begin the search process, I first decide on the type of tire that best fits my needs such as driving style (e.g., sport, off-road, and general passenger) and is a match for my particular vehicle. The next thing I consider is if I want the tire to handle really well in the rain, since some tires from most manufacturers will have a tire or two designed specifically for excellent handling in wet conditions. Once I have decided on those areas for example general passenger use, and excellent (not just good) wet handling, then I have narrowed down my tire choices from 100’s to less than dozen, if I stick with only known major manufactures, that have been around a long time. Surprisingly, there are many new manufacturers of tires in the US market these days, I avoid the names I have never heard of.

With my shortened list of  tires I now compare mileage rating, which is the amount of miles the manufacturer projects you will get from a tire. If the tire wears out before, then I usually get that pro-rated towards your next tire purchase from the same manufacturer. The higher the mileage rating the more expensive the tire, so it is at this point that I can narrow my search to the lowest price, or the highest mileage for the amount of money I want to spend.  At this point I may have narrowed my search down to 2 – 5 choices, hopefully.

With this information I go to a few different tire retailer websites that have capabilities to compare the tires I am interested in. There will be various factors for me to compare, from noise to handling. If you get Consumer Reports, or your library has back issues, that can be a good resource too.  If you have a relationship with a good tire shop, talk to a well-trained expert about your findings and what he or she recommends, but avoid pressure to buy on the spot. I also look for an expert that wants to help educate me, and not talk down to me.

This has taken probably an hour or so, and for me I will know what 1 or 2 tires I want. I then call 4 different shops and ask for a full price quote including mounting, balancing, new valve stems, alignment and taxes. I don’t want the quotes confused by any other add-ons like road hazard warranty.  Most shops I talked to said that I can call them back because they will match the lowest price. I write down the names of each person I speak to, and call the nicest and lowest one back. By now we are on a first name basis, and tell them if they can knock off 10% of the tire’s cost, then we have a deal, if not I tell then I call one of the others, and may call them back. I may only get 5% off, but I am not interested in a price match, but ammunition to negotiate the lowest cost. This is exactly what I did when I purchased 4 Michelins and saved about $30, off of the lowest quote, and a lot more than if I just bought them at the first place I drove to. I choose Michelins because the last set lasted 105,000 miles, and in my research they were the best in what I was looking for.

By the way, lately I have noticed NTB advertising buy one get one free. When I called them they informed me the deal required “With purchase of a premium tire installation package and one year precision vehicle alignment program!”  This made their net cost well over $100 more than the best quote I got. I’m not a fan of this promotion.

This is what I do when I buy tires, it helps me to not only save money, but get a good tire fit for my vehicle, and performs up to my expectations.