Tire buying for dummies
July 23, 2018 6:21 PM   Subscribe

My 2014 Prius is due for new tires in the coming months. What kind should I buy, modulo snowflakes?

Only a few requirements:

- All-season, should be suitable for very dry summers and wet (non-snowy) winters. I live in northern California and I do not want to hassle with swapping out winter tires.
- Unlike many Prius owners, I care much more about rain handling than MPG. I only average 9k miles/year, mostly local roads/short highway stints. Current factory tires, which are wearing down, will consistently skid at certain intersections when it rains.
- Needs to fit my car, obviously. Preferably available at local installers without ordering online.

I'm not strongly price sensitive, but nor do I care about having brand-name or OEM tires.

What tires should I buy?
posted by serelliya to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've been happy with tires from tirerack.com. Their reviews will give an indication of wet weather performance, etc. Check the size on your current car - looks like there are a few options for that year Prius. Tirerack will suggest a small number of local mechanics to install tires ordered online but will ship to other shops. I would have them shipped to my favored local mechanic (obviously check with your mechanic before you do this). You probably don't want them sent to your home and then have to schlep them to be installed.
posted by exogenous at 6:39 PM on July 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Where abouts in Nor Cal do you live? All season tyres generally have limited temperature range and would likely suffer enormously in the Cal summers and be baked enough they potentially lose any advantages for winter after a year or two.

Unless you are driving in temps consistently below 50F then All seasons 'advantages' over summer tyres and just slowing down in winter may not be enough to be worth considering. What is your climate like?

Current factory tires, which are wearing down, will consistently skid at certain intersections when it rains.
Be aware that places that don't rain much ALWAYS are super slippy when it first rains, and tyres won't do much for you. The fine dust and grease/oils that naturally come out of the tarmac need to be flushed away before the gripper 'normal wet road surface' is apparent. Care needs to be taken here not to mistake 'slippy roads' with 'my tyres are no good'.
posted by Brockles at 6:39 PM on July 23, 2018

I’ve had great luck on our Prius with Goodyear Assurance TripleTreds. They are not the absolute cheapest, but they’re very good All Season tires: very good dry and wet traction and even acceptable in the snow. Back when I spent a lot of time on the online Prius forums (a long time ago now), they were generally regarded as the best All Season tires if you weren’t one of the super-obsessed mileage people. I’ve been very happy with them over ~13 years on three different cars (including two Priuses).

Probably available at local retailers, but Tirerack will also deliver directly to your local installer.
posted by Betelgeuse at 6:41 PM on July 23, 2018 [3 favorites]

So I've just looked and it seems you are based in San Francisco? I cannot see a need for all weather tyres in SF. It just doesn't get cold enough, and certainly not for long enough at a time. I think you will definitely be compromising grip levels for the majority of the year for the sake of a few cold mornings/nights that are raining in SF.

I'm a big believer in winter tyres and all seasons, but not at all when they are not warranted. 90% or more of your driving will be in prime 'summer tyres are far better' territory.
posted by Brockles at 6:58 PM on July 23, 2018

I just put these on my car , very surprising price .
posted by hortense at 7:37 PM on July 23, 2018

My mechanic (who I trust deeply) told me that the discount tire labor day sale is the best deal.
I followed his advice and got a set at discount tire. I also opened a credit card. They were next to free at that point.
Discount tire was super nice too.
I paid the card off in a few months.
posted by k8t at 9:21 PM on July 23, 2018

I have a 2008 Prius...you should know that non-Low Rolling Resistance (LRR) tires make a surprisingly large difference in your mileage. I put on regular tires once, and the around-town mileage went from 40s to around 28. Next tires were LRR, and I'm back up at 40.
posted by spacewrench at 9:23 PM on July 23, 2018

Location specifics: I'm on the peninsula south of SF. It tends to be a bit warmer than the city. Most driving is 60-80F. Wrt rain, we get no rain for 10 months of the year and then IF it's not a drought year, winter includes several weeks of straight rain that semi-floods the highways.

I thought the only options were "winter" and "all season," but it sounds like "summer" is also an option? What are summer tires best at?

Thanks for the info on why the roads here are so slippery in winter... I learned to drive in a four-season climate on the East Coast of the US, where we got more rain (year-round) with much less flooding.
posted by serelliya at 9:51 PM on July 23, 2018

To add more snowflakes, literally: I want to maintain the option of driving my car up to Tahoe 1-2x a year in the winter. I'll bring tire chains, of course. But I think that rules out using summer tires year round for safety reasons.
posted by serelliya at 9:56 PM on July 23, 2018

Summer tires are good at sticking and they're often good at shedding water! They have fat grooves that run the long way to shed water, but only teeny grooves that run across, so all they do with snow is turn it into cute little toothpick shapes that get flung around while the car fails to go anywhere. They also have compounds that can freeze and be basically useless at anything at cold temperatures.
posted by ftm at 5:26 AM on July 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Your tires are what gets you out of the way when somebody pulls in front of you and you need to stop swerve or otherwise not go BOOM at a high rate of speed. The ten dollars each you'll save on cheep will not count towards you deductible.

A two ply sidewall avoids the zero adhesion total sidewall collapse effect of a one ply (read 'thin') sidewall tire if and should you have a blowout at speed.

The 0.5 mpg gallon that you might give up by purchasing a tire with a more grippy pattern might also be what keeps you from skating off into a krunch during one of your Tahoe trips.

LRR means a hard, long wearing tire compound. That also means less adhesion. Hard tire; hard road; less grip.

The TripleTreds seem to be a big winner; can't find specs on the sidewalls.

Can't pick your tire for you; but your tires are the sticky between your vehicle (you) and the road. Considering that you will probably have the same tire for some four+ years; tires are not a bad place to spend a few extra $$$. When some bozo runs a light; and you can nearly put your car up on two wheels to avoid them, or you need to stop in a right now quick manner; or you're countersteering to get out of a slide on snow or water, then tires become the cool thing as they are to a good number of people.
posted by Afghan Stan at 6:33 AM on July 24, 2018

I have bought 4 sets of tires (3 x winter and 1 x all season) for 3 cars in the past ten years or so. In each case I've gone with a Consumer Reports (CR) recommended tire that I can find locally at a decent price. I just put the all seasons on so I can't really speak to them but the CR recommended winter tires have been, without exception, excellent tires. I trusted them for the new all seasons I just bought and expect the same results.

Currently they are liking:

Continental PureContact[H or V]
Pirelli Cinturato P7 All Season Plus[H or V]
Michelin Premier A/S [H or V]

I went with the Continentals which I was able to find on sale in my locale.
posted by kaymac at 6:51 AM on July 24, 2018

Do not get summer tires unless you're a hardcore driving enthusiast. You will have to swap them out. I didn't and wound up in a ditch during the first snowfall of the year.

+1 for tire rack, which will hold your hand through the process of picking suitable tires for your specific size and needs.
posted by AFABulous at 6:54 AM on July 24, 2018

Do not get summer tires unless you're a hardcore driving enthusiast.

This is terrible advice for the location being discussed. Summer tyres are not for hardcore anything, they are the safest tyre without question in >50F degree weather, rain or shine. They are probably as good within 40-50F for dry conditions, too. Notably, all the people here recommending brands are driving in areas that actually HAVE a winter. The Bay Area does not in any sense of the word relevant to tyres.

Driving in winter conditions (ie near freezing) and with ice/snow with summer tyres? Sure it's dangerous. That is why there are different tyres for different conditions. But that doesn't make all season/3 season tyres more competent for Bay Area year round conditions. At all.

There is zero need for winter/All season tyres in the area you live in. None at all. They are actually the *wrong* tyres for where you live. Summer (ie normal) tyres are far better at what you will be doing the VAST majority of your driving in. Even going to Tahoe twice , it's only the last 30 miles or so at most of a 225 or so mile journey where all seasons or winter tyres will have ANY difference, so basically while you DO need winter tyres for driving in Tahoe for any length of time, you are compromising literally 99% of your driving because of one 'maybe/would like to' trip.

What you're not considering is that while normal tyres are less safe in Tahoe snow, all seasons/winters are less safe in the entire rest of your driving in terms of lateral grip, stopping distances and even in the wet (assuming not wet and colder than 45 degrees).

So I suggest you choose normal/summer tyres and if you want to go to Tahoe, maybe take a shuttle for the last few miles (do they even have those?) or only go if the roads have been plowed, or find some other transportation solution. Basically, find some other way to do the 'my tyres aren't suited for this weather' tiny, fractional trip rather than reduce safety for the other 49-50 weeks of the year.
posted by Brockles at 10:28 AM on July 24, 2018

'Summer' tires provide much better handling in rain. 'All-season' tires try to be okay for driving in dry, rainy and mildly snowy conditions. I'm in Maine, and have summer and studded snow tires, because my compact truck is awful in snow.
posted by theora55 at 10:51 AM on July 25, 2018

Brockles, you had me convinced to go with summer tires... until I looked up my model on TireRack and discovered that there's only ONE summer option for a 2014 Prius. And it has worse wet traction ratings than the top-rated (as well as cheaper) all-season tires, e.g. Michelin Premier A/S which Consumer Reports recommended.
posted by serelliya at 1:59 PM on July 25, 2018

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