Lipstick on a pig?
March 18, 2011 6:54 PM   Subscribe

Question from a friend: "My car (a 1998 Saturn SL2) has ~172k miles on it. As this point, is it worth it to buy tires rated for 60k miles?"

The car does have quite a lot of miles on it, and has the requisite number of minor issues that come along with a vehicle of that age, but nothing major. She says she wants to keep the car "until it dies."

Are there any handy rules of thumb to go by in this sort of situation?
posted by aheckler to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total)
The Car Talk guys did a thing about new vs. pumping cash into a used car. Basically the math always comes out in favor of the used car. Even a car that needs $2,000 in repairs a year is better than a car payment. The math may fail on a per car basis, but if she's not had problems with it and plans to keep it until it dies I'd buy the tires, but then my 2000 Neon has a quarter of a million miles on it.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:59 PM on March 18, 2011

I used to work accident reconstruction for several years. Tires are very important, as they are literally your only connection to the road. I have seen several accidents caused by shitty tires, but this is hard to gauge. Firestone used to be a trusted name.

Myself, I generally go to the tire shop and talk to the guys. They see it all, they know which tires are shitty and which aren't. They'll tell you whats a good tire and what's a bad one. They have all been honest in their recommendations, to my semi-professional opinion.

In general, just don't get the cheapest. You'll have 5-6 choices at your tire size. I always recommend two places above the cheapest. Right in the middle, unless the tire guy recommends something different. They really are honest about it.

Myself, I buy Michelin. Yeah, more expensive, but I've seen all sorts of accidents caused by bad tires.
posted by sanka at 7:02 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

The two jobs I had while working my way through college were working in tire store, and driving a tow truck. I am fairly careful with my money, but I ALWAYS have good tires on my car, in my case Michelins. At that time they were clearly the best tires available, now there are others that are pretty good too, but I just stick with em.

I have literally seen people die from driving on bad tires. Sometimes the tires I drive on are worth close to what the car is worth!

3 things I never compromise on: tires, brakes, suspension.

I disagree with the car tak guys btw... 2000 a year IS a car payment, and you could be driving a new safe car instead of a beater. And better mileage. They are correct though that most people dump their cars too early though and take a big hit on depreciation....
posted by jcworth at 7:16 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

A 98 Saturn is going to take fairly small tires. I can't imagine even good tires for that car get much over $100 each. Buy the tires.
posted by COD at 7:20 PM on March 18, 2011

My sister has (my former) 1996 Saturn SL2, which now has 215,000 miles on it. Them's good cars.
posted by unknowncommand at 7:59 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I faced the same question at roughly the same mileage.

My car's now at a quarter million miles and the next set of tires needs replacing.
posted by codswallop at 9:05 PM on March 18, 2011

No need to spring for Michelins. Mid-range tires like BF Goodrich, Uniroyal are fine, fine, fine for that car.
posted by ambient2 at 11:53 PM on March 18, 2011

Brands don't mean much... Michelin makes some very good tires, but also some very lousy ones. The Michelin Pilot MXV4s that came on my father's Acura TL were complete rubbish; swapped them for Pilot Sports which drastically changed its handling and ride for the better.

It's most important to get something appropriate for your driving style and climate. Find your budget, then ask a professional, and/or research at Tire Rack for reviews and ratings. If it snows where you live, choose something rated for severe weather.

For what it's worth, I drive a small economy car as well (Mk4 Volkswagen Golf) and I've settled on two sets of tires: General Altimax Arctic for winter, and the Barum Bravuris 2 for the summer. I'm very happy with both sets, and neither was very expensive -- around $70/tire installed. They're not something to skimp on, but you don't have to spend a lot to get good tires.

If there's a location nearby, I highly recommend Discount Tire for their fantastic customer service.

Also, as a former Saturn S-series owner, just keep the oil level topped up and it'll run forever.
posted by bhayes82 at 3:23 AM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding Tire Rack. I've been buying tires from them for several years, having them installed at a local shop, and couldn't be happier. The whole package -- tires, delivery & installation will cost around $350-$400, which is a perfectly reasonable amount to sink into an otherwise sound car, even if it has a lot of miles on it.

That said, the oft-cited Car Talk maxim that "the math always comes out in favor of the used car. Even a car that needs $2,000 in repairs a year is better than a car payment" presents a false dichotomy. It doesn't account for the lovely time period after a new(ish) car is paid off and before the more expensive failures start happening. It also doesn't account for the fact that a replacement car doesn't have to be brand new. I did a very careful cost-of-ownership analysis of my wife's last car just before we decided to replace it. The average cost to own & maintain that car (including depreciation) was lowest when it was about 9 years old, with ~90k miles on it, after which the average monthly cost-to-own started creeping up as day-to-day reliability got worse and worse. It made excellent financial and quality-of-life sense for us to replace it with a newer car, so of course we did.
posted by jon1270 at 4:40 AM on March 19, 2011

Seconding sanka's comment about tyres being critical. The question isn't is the car worth the expense, the question should be how much is your life worth.
Never skimp on types, I typically buy Michelin tyres and get good life and performance out of them. Costco have pretty good prices and gave me good service when I lived in the US.
posted by arcticseal at 7:40 AM on March 19, 2011

When you're asking about tire prices, make sure you ask them for the out-the-door price. This way you're comparing apples to apples. I highly recommend Discount Tire if they're in your area.

As for the tire life question - yes, it's worth the good tires. The S-series can hold together for a long time.
posted by azpenguin at 7:46 AM on March 19, 2011

I fully agree with buying high quality tires.

Another value brand to consider is Yokohama.
I had 2 different sets on my old '99 Civic, and my wife had a set on her Subaru Outback years ago.
posted by nickthetourist at 9:44 AM on March 19, 2011

My 04 Ion has about the same miles as yours.
Tires are important, and its one of those things to take care of.
I don't buy 60k mile tires because I've never once gotten that kind of mileage on them even with regular rotation.
I simply wait for a deal, generally at discount tire when in need of either 4 new or just swapping out the back tires and throwing two new in the front.
posted by handbanana at 9:52 AM on March 19, 2011

Do not save money on tyres because the car is old. Accidents don't care how old your car is, and tyres are one of the best ways of avoiding them.

End of. Buy the tyres if they are keeping the car and buy appropriate ones (just not necessarily premium).
posted by Brockles at 2:10 PM on March 20, 2011

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