Under the Hood

How to Buy the Right Car Tires: 15 Expert Tips

August 9, 2019

Like any first-time purchase, buying a set of new tires can be quite nerve-racking. You’ve got to worry about things like tire brand, ratings and grades, longevity, size, tread, type, price, retailer, installer – and the list goes on. Yikes! But don’t worry, friend, because I’m here to help you make the right call. Review these 15 how-to tips for choosing the best tires for your car, and drive onward.

Check Your Tire Tread

When should you replace your tires? Perform the Penny Test (or similar) to see how much tread you have left. This will give you an idea of when you’ll need to install new tires.

Say “No” to Used Tires

Yes, used tires are cheaper. Yes, cheap tires are attractive to anyone on a budget. Yes, old tires will probably work in a pinch.

But used tires are also dangerous – you never know what they’ve been through or how much longer they have left to live! It’s always better to install new tires, even if your pockets don’t like it. Safety first.

Read Reviews from Owners

All new tires feel (and smell) nice, but that doesn’t mean they’re all created equal. Therefore, it’s a good idea to read tire reviews furnished by people who have already purchased and used the same set you’re looking to buy. You can check tire ratings online at sites like simpletire.com, for example.

Look for customer testimonials of tires that have at least ¼-worn tread. In some instances, problems only arise in tires when they’ve been worn down. Issues like hydroplaning, tramlining, and poor alignment are common. The best way to identify tread depth is to compare mileage driven to the manufacturer’s suggested tire lifespan. For instance, if the tires are supposed to last 60,000 miles, look for reviews from people who have driven at least 15,000 miles.

Compare Treadwear Warranties

Most major tire brands will include warranties. Some are better than others, so compare a few from your list of potential tires to identify the best options.

Plus-Sizing Isn’t Always Best

If you drive a lot, 60,000-mile tires are excellent choices. However, if your odometer isn’t putting on 5 digits annually, it might be best to choose “regular” tires. Those high-mileage tires can lose their “flex” quicker than they wear down tread, which means you’re paying a premium for under usage.

Never Wait

Last-minute purchases in the grocery checkout line are probably ok. Last-minute purchases of new tires are probably not. Waiting until the last possible second to install new tires is a recipe for disaster. You could suffer a sudden blowout, be left stranded without a vehicle, or do some serious damage to your wheels.

Follow your tire manufacturer’s recommended replacement interval, and don’t shrug off the advice your local auto service center techs provide. If your current tire tread is low, plan to save up for a new set.

Check for Rebates

Once you identify which vehicle tires to buy, be on the lookout for manufacturer rebates or discounts provided at your local tire shop or auto body center. This is an especially good idea if you have life left in your current set, as it gives you time to search and compare.

Don’t Buy Just for the Rebate

However, don’t just buy a set of tires because there are rebates available. Oftentimes those tires are discounted for a reason – they’re of poorer quality. Choose your tire first, then find your savings. (The same goes for overall pricing.)

Inspect Your Tread Wear Pattern

Before having your tire installer get to work, have them take a look at your outgoing tire’s wear pattern. Unusual tread wear may be indicative of alignment or suspension issues. If those issues aren’t corrected, your new tires may wear down faster than they should.

Check Manufacturing Dates

If you’re able to, try to identify when your chosen set of tires were made (check for the numerical code on the side of the tire wall). If they weren’t manufactured within the previous 12-to-24 months, you should consider purchasing a newer set. Improperly stored, tires can warp and degrade quickly; this isn’t an uncommon problem of tires left in warehouses, which can be hot and humid.

Snow Tires Work

Although we don’t get that much wintery snow in Kansas City, we’ve been known to have a blizzard or two. If you think you need them, consider buying an extra set of snow tires, as well as new rims, and get them installed before the first snowfall of the season. The further north you live, the more important it is to have a quality set of winter snow tires.

Avoid Low-Profile “Soft” Tires

Additionally, it may be a good idea to steer clear of those low-profile tires if you live in Kansas City. Potholes are a major concern around here, and those softer tires are much more prone to nasty blowouts compared to your standard set.

Get “Road Hazard” Coverage

You drive long enough, you eventually get a flat tire. Paying a little extra – say, $10 or $20 per tire – for flat-tire coverage can really reduce future headaches. (And there will be headaches.)

Find the Correct Tire Size

P195/60R16 63H M+S: Do you know what any of that means? Tire size is one of the most confusing aspects of the purchase process. We advise you to check your vehicle’s manual or ask a trusted mechanic or local auto body shop for assistance when buying your vehicle’s tires.

Buy Tires Locally

If you know what you’re doing, buying tires online can be financially advantageous. However, most people will need a tire shop for installation and therefore shouldn’t purchase tires online. Using a local tire installer provides you with personalized service, quality care, and potentially even extended warranties or flat-tire coverage. You’ve gotta take what you can get in this crazy, crazy world.

If you have any questions about what tires you should buy, let me know in the comments below! I’d be happy to share some more advice, suggestions, or even recommendations. (Don’t forget to read more about the do’s and don’ts of tire-purchasing, too.)


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