Tired out
November 21, 2011 5:51 AM   Subscribe

Buying new tires for my car for the first time ever. What kind should I get? What kind of up-sells/unnecessary stuff should I look out for? What about warranty? Should I get them from the dealer or a place like Firestone?

Car is a '05 Corolla with 85K miles--out of warranty, but it's in great shape and I plan to keep it until it dies.

I live in the South (hot summers, rainy-icy winters with snow maybe five times a year) and drive about half city, half highway, almost never dirt or gravel. Daily commute is about 30 minutes one-way.

I'm not necessarily looking for the cheapest tires that will meet my needs, but I want to shop smart and have no idea where to start.
posted by elizeh to Travel & Transportation (23 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Buy them from a reputable tire retailer, not the Toyota dealership. Most will offer some kind of warranty as part of the sale, though some will also offer an extended warranty for an extra charge. I never purchase the extra warranty...these don't replace your tires when they are damaged, they pay you a pro-rated amount based on the projected loife of the tire versus the mileage you have put on them. You'll likely want steel belted radials. You will get great prices, service and warranty from places like Discount Tire and they provide free flat repair. Firestone, Goodyear, etc. will set you up with good tires too, but the prices will normally be significantly higher for equivalent tires.
posted by txmon at 6:02 AM on November 21, 2011

I've had superb success with Costco. Unbeatable warranty. No BS sales. I've always purchased Michelin because they last longer than anything else.
posted by ptm at 6:08 AM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Town Fair Tire, Pep Boys etc often have good deals on 'house brand' tires. Here's a list of manufacturers and their brand names. So the tire you buy at Pep boys could be a Cooper or a Hankook or a Michelin...

Be aware that in most cases tire prices do not include services, balancing, new valves, etc. and they will want to charge you to dump your old tires. Most of that is negotiable if you have good competition in the area.
posted by Gungho at 6:09 AM on November 21, 2011

If you're buying the tires from the same place that's installing them, make sure that the price quoted includes installation and balancing. They might try to charge you for it, but you should be able to get it included in the cost of the tires.

I got my tires replaced within the past few months and went to a local independent shop. I feel that an independent shop that does more than tires will be less likely to try to screw you because they're going to want your repeat business.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:11 AM on November 21, 2011

If you have the time to wait, I've often found that ordering tires online can yield some really good deals, and delivery is often free (or it was the last time I ordered them). Any local garage can do the installation and rotation.

You have to be willing to wait a couple of days to get them, though, so it's not a good option if you've had a blowout and need to replace a tire today.
posted by jquinby at 6:16 AM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Agreeing with jquinby. TireRack.com is my preferred source. My only suggestion is to avoid looking at points on the ratings vs. marginal cost on the tires -- it's easy to talk yourself up a few dollars at a time.
posted by bfranklin at 6:26 AM on November 21, 2011

I always get the Road Hazard coverage, even though I think alot of people would say it's a waste. On my new-ish car, I had 3 of the OEM tires go bad (1 flat outside the tread, 1 slashing of the sidewall, 1 sidewall bulge) all of which were unrepairable and I had to buy a new tire each time. My boyfriend has had 2 flats on his car (which we bought the road hazard coverage when we last replaced the tires) and all he did was show up at Sears Auto and they put a new tire on. When buying a set of 4 tires, the coverage normally costs less that the cost of one more tire, so if you ever need to replace one tire then you're good.
posted by cabingirl at 6:30 AM on November 21, 2011

I used the reviews on TireRack to pick a tire, but the prices with shipping were not too much cheaper than the local places, and I would have had to wait a week to get them, which was problematic since I was replacing a flat.
posted by smackfu at 6:36 AM on November 21, 2011

Go find the Corolla owners forum for your year Corolla, and search for tire recommendations. It might even be a sticky at the top of the forum. Once you figure out the tire you want, order from TireRack as previously advised.
posted by lstanley at 6:39 AM on November 21, 2011

We always get our tires from Costco. The warranty is insanely good and they will give you options not pressure you. It's probably not the cheapest place, but we've always been really happy buying from them.
posted by Kimberly at 7:13 AM on November 21, 2011

I have never had a problem with Discount Tire/America's Tire. Prices are good, and they will match Tire rack's prices. I've never been pressured to up-sell, ever, and we've been getting tires on our family fleet for several years now.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:26 AM on November 21, 2011

Thirding Costco here. The tradeoff here is that you can either learn a lot about all the different tires, go through the obfuscopoly of different brands and watch out for being sold features you don't need, or you can just buy them from Costco, know that you're getting good tires that come with a warranty and that you're getting what you pay for.

You know how the solution to the problem of, "how do I avoid getting ripped off by my mechanic when I don't know how to repair cars myself?" is "buy a Honda/Toyota"? It's the same things with buying tires from Costco.
posted by deanc at 7:28 AM on November 21, 2011

Like others, I've had good experiences with Costco and Discount Tire. I will say, though, that the 1 time I've replaced tires at a Honda dealership, the prices were pretty much on-par with Discount Tire. Your mileage may, ahem, vary.
posted by puritycontrol at 7:49 AM on November 21, 2011

I always buy from my local tire dealer / shop. Tires are commodities, every tire shop in town will have pretty much the same prices on common tires, or will happily match if they don't. By using the local shop, I also get free tire rotations for life, and I help support the local economy. When I needed low profile tires for my 97 Mazda that have not been speced on a new car this century, my local shop was much higher than Tire Rack, so I had Tire Rack drop ship to the local place.
posted by COD at 7:54 AM on November 21, 2011

I've used TireRack to do research, and the purchased them at wherever it is cheapest.

Just as a tip, make sure you manually check the lug nuts AFTER you have the tires installed. One of my colleagues had tires installed where the lug nuts became loose a few days after driving. Comic hijinx almost ensued.
posted by StrictlyVague at 8:54 AM on November 21, 2011

I buy tires from a local shop that's been around for a long while, but it's mostly for the service - they're usually within a few dollars of TireRack, etc, and don't quote anything except installed prices. It really depends where you are though. I've bought through Sam's (long ago), had a good experience, have bought from a dealer when I lived in a different part of the country (decent experience, but it was an odder-size tire that wasn't as easy to come by at that time). Most reputable places will offer you several options, and ask you what kid of driving you do. If someone is trying hard to just sell you one particular tire, you might want to check around for other possibilities...
posted by pupdog at 10:50 AM on November 21, 2011

Another vote for a local shop with good recommendations via Yelp or similar, friends, colleagues (because they won't try to sell you more than you need for that car or sell you crap). Also, I've found that the good local shops have prices that are much better than the chains like Discount Tire.

Something you alluded to: the cheapest tires are not good; I learned that lesson the hard way, but there's no need to get top-of-the-line Michelins or similar. Something like a BF Goodrich, Uniroyal or Kuhmo will be all you need.
posted by ambient2 at 10:53 AM on November 21, 2011

Seconding the stay away from cheap tires. I worked my way through college in a tire shop and the best tires we sold were the mid level house brand. They were great, usually well outlasted the mileage warranty of 50k and even had pretty good snow traction. It is the tire I put on all my friends and relatives cars if possible. They were made by Kelly, but that was years ago and may not be relative now. A good price for a car like yours is probably somewhere between 300 and 400 out the door. You really don't want the 4 for 100 tires or whatever the cheapest ones are. I wouldn't trust those in a swing, much less my or my families lives.
posted by bartonlong at 11:05 AM on November 21, 2011

I'll add - when I lived in New England, the 'winter tire' swap made sense. Here in Middle Tennessee, good All-Seasons really do work for most people. And like ambient2 said, more money is not always better - cheap is usually cheap, but super-expensive is probably overkill.
posted by pupdog at 11:07 AM on November 21, 2011

Tires are always a compromise among tread life, noise and ride smoothness. I have Michelin HydroEdge tires on my Toyota Avalon, which have a 90,000 mile estimated life. They're expensive, but the longer life offsets that. However, they make more road noise and ride harder than other tires.

If you want a soft, quiet ride, the tread life is shorter. Some luxury-soft-ride Pirellis last only 25,000 miles.

Also, softer rubber means better road grip.

Sears stocks a wide variety of tires and has a good computerized selection guide. They also give a pro-rated tread life replacement warranty. I live in New York City and have found that their road-hazard warranty is well worth the money. Their stores nationwide make claims easier.
posted by KRS at 2:41 PM on November 21, 2011

Ditto Tire Rack. I recently got new snow tires; I ordered them (Bridgestone Blizzaks) from Tire Rack, and had them delivered to my mechanic. Tire Rack also had the best prices I could find.
posted by cool breeze at 2:58 PM on November 21, 2011

Response by poster: Will Costco put the tires on my car, or will I have to find a shop to do it?
posted by elizeh at 8:26 PM on November 21, 2011

Costco should have a tireshop. The one we used to frequent did, anyway.
posted by jquinby at 8:30 PM on November 21, 2011

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