Considerations when buying a new set of tires?
July 16, 2021 9:27 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I need to buy a new set of tires for her car. What should we know before we go to the tire store so that we're not taken for a ride?
posted by Fister Roboto to Shopping (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I would know several things.

1. What the manufacturer recommends.
2. What your goal is. That is, is it performance, wear, weather, etc.
3. I would go online and look up the price of manufacturers recommended tire and then see what else is in that class.
4. I would look at the tire or in the manual for the size.
5. Ask about their warranty in addition to the manufacturers warranty.

Consider buying the tires on line and having them installed locally. Several garages around here will take delivery of tires bought online and charge a fee for mounting and installing.

I would go to tirerack and read about the tires in your size and class.
posted by AugustWest at 9:55 PM on July 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

I recently had to buy new tires for the first time in a couple of decades. Fortunately my new neighbourhood has a few mechanics nearby. So I walked up to one of them and asked your question, figuring he'd know more about it than most without having a vested interest. He immediately asked me, "Do you have a Costco membership?"

Apparently, pretty much any of the local tire shops will have access to the same tires but Costco has A. better customer/warranty support, and B. nobody there's going to put any extra money into their pocket by selling you more tire than you need.

So, do you have a Costco membership?
posted by philip-random at 9:57 PM on July 16, 2021 [13 favorites]

It kind of depends on the car a little bit, the weather and if you do any off road stuff.

But for basic regular driving with mild weather pretty much any tire that is the right size will do. All season tires are just fine. If the brand of tires you currently have you are happy with, just stick with those.
They likely will come with a warranty when you but the from the shop, I'd do this if you can reliably go to the same place to get your tires done.

Personally I get my all season tires from a random small shop , cheapest tire they have . I tend to go through tires extraordinarily quickly (Chicago and potholes? I don't know) and the factory tires that came with my car just didn't last at all and were way way way more expensive. I figure if I'm going to have to replace them every 20,000 miles anyway, might as well go with the cheaper option.

Do an alignment when you get new tires. Don't stress to much about this .
posted by AlexiaSky at 9:57 PM on July 16, 2021

Costco is pretty good. My car they don't carry the tires in stock so it usually takes a day or two for that. I don't have when something goes wrong. But when I had a car that they did carry tires for - it was reliable, quick and hassle free. And they honored the warranty no problem.
posted by AlexiaSky at 10:02 PM on July 16, 2021

+1 to Costco. They'll have a limited selection, which will make choosing easier. There won't be any scammy upsells. You'll also get free rotation for the life of the tires.
posted by AaRdVarK at 10:23 PM on July 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Make sure you're getting recently manufactured tires.

+1 to checking tirerack on the available options for your vehicle.

This is also a good time to go to a different (similar) size tire if you are so inclined. Size calculator and pros/cons available here.
posted by tillwehavefaces at 10:42 PM on July 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

I live alone so I don't really shop for anything at Costco beyond tires, kitchen trash bags, and toilet paper. Still totally worth it. They have great warranty support for tires and have fixed my flats several times in addition to doing all the rotations and balances for free of course. I never had a problem with anything I bought there and don't mind the limited selection. If you have special driving needs like offroading then YMMV. The Costco near me does a ton of new tire sales so I know the products are recently manufactured even for my small car.
posted by zdravo at 11:32 PM on July 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

Some things I've learned with modern tyres:

When I bought my current car (new) I stupidly accepted the wheels and tyres that came with it, they were low-profile tyres. I'd never driven with such tyres. They are very prone to punctures if the roads are rough - many NZ roads are either rough, or unsealed (loose gravel).

There are also noisy, and very expensive to replace. They are also a special kind of tyre that can only be rotated on one side of the car, again expensive as this increases wear and is dangerous as you can't treat them all the same.

To replace will cost me $2500 and I'm not keen. But punctures, noise and a rougher ride are a pain.
posted by unearthed at 11:48 PM on July 16, 2021

We got a foot of snow over two days last winter. The city ground to a halt.
I'd just spent $1800 on Hakkapeliitta snow tires, and I was extremely happy to have them. My wife got caught in the mountains and cruised on, albeit slowly, past a line of semi-trailers that had stopped on a hill to chain up.
She came home and told me that was the best money we've ever spent.
This was on a vehicle that we were given because someone was going to scrap it. Several people told me I was crazy to put so much money into an old vehicle. They're completely wrong.
Your life, and those of your passengers, depend on your tires. Go to a proper tire shop and ask them what's the best. I've never had a tire shop screw me over. If they sell you tires that are too good, that's what you want.
The first time I went out on ice with my new tires I gave it too much gas and the back end swung out. Admittedly this was deliberate - I wanted to see if they were really good. When I let up on the gas the back end latched onto the ground as though it had claws. They're the most expensive tires I've ever bought, and the best.
You may not be driving under extreme conditions, but you should absolutely get the best tires you can. Sooner or later you'll need to stop or swerve in a hurry, and good tires can make the difference between making it and not.
I'd do without a lot of things to have rubber I can depend on.
posted by AugustusCrunch at 12:25 AM on July 17, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: So the thing about tires is that basically any new tire will be decent in good weather. A decent tire slightly above the bottom of the barrel will probably even have decent performance in the rain when new, but will get much worse over time.

If you find yourself driving in the rain very often at all, it's worth spending money on better tires. They are, after all, the only thing keeping you stuck to the road. When I switched from some middling Goodyears to the BF Goodrich Traction T/A it was frankly quite shocking how much better the BFGs were in the rain.
There was some difference on dry roads, but it was minor enough to not be any kind of safety issue. It's been way too long for me to give any specific recommendation, but it illustrates the point that some are in fact better than others.

TireRack has ratings and reviews you might find helpful even if you don't want to order from them.

FWIW, the shops I used always did patches for free. Pep Boys will do it even if you didn't buy the tires from them.
posted by wierdo at 3:23 AM on July 17, 2021

Also to know: as with everything auto related, supplies of tires are getting tight. Independently there’s a rubber shortage looming. Tires were expensive before and they’re going to get more so. If you need tires soon, including snows for the coming winter, buy them NOW.

Second, TireRack is great. The reviews are really valuable and you can find plenty for your specific mode of vehicle for the popular tire models. I’ve used them many times for tires. I’ve even been to their warehouse. They have gone out of their way to work with me twice. Cannot recommend enough.

Third: tires are the one thing in life you should never ever go cheap on. Get the best you can afford and amortize the cost.

Bexause of the aforementioned looming shortage I just replaced a set of Pirellis on my Mazda3 that has gotten over 60k excellent miles and still had tread for more, albeit not much. They were my favorite tires I’d ever owned, so I got the new model Pirelli (P7) and have put about 600 miles on them. They make me smile on the corners. They are terrific in rain. I live in western mass so we switch to Blizzaks come November, and they handle my mountainside roads and gravel driveway just fine in anything. In snow country, smart money is always on snow tires over AWD. Worth the cost.
posted by spitbull at 4:32 AM on July 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

I think of it this way: good tires have saved my life more than once. In the moment you’re trying to stop safely under challenging conditions at speed, the money difference between a $90 tire and a $130 tire is as nothing. What’s your life worth? Nothing I know of in automotive upgrades gives you more safety bang for the buck. Your tires will last 3-5 years. Pricier ones tend to last longer. Amortize a $300 difference and it’s really meaningless. Michelin, Cooper, Pirelli. There are other good ones but you can count on those brands in my experience.

Also the tires that came on your new car are very likely to be crap. Or optimized for fuel efficiency, which in my experience is the same thing. I’ve never met a low rolling resistance tire that could handle my driving style. Give me grip, I’ll take a small mpg penalty.
posted by spitbull at 4:53 AM on July 17, 2021

Count me in the good tires matter camp. Anything will mostly handle adequately on dry, flat asphalt but in the times you really don't need your tires to fail, cheap tires will
posted by wotsac at 9:20 AM on July 17, 2021

Generally speaking, you probably want to look at all-season touring tires. That's the type of tire we've put on our family cars (a mix of Hondas, VWs, and Nissans) for decades and have never had any issues in anything other than the most apocalyptic weather (we live in Indiana, so we get pretty much everything bad.)

Most tire stores sell/warrant tires based on mileage. They'll talk about 30,000 mile tires, 60,000 mile tires, etc. Generally, the lower the mileage, the softer the tire and the quicker they will wear. Conversely, the higher mileage, the harder the tire and the longer they wear. We usually opted for something in the middle, like the 60,000 mile tire. We used to put a ton of miles on our cars, though, so you might do well with a lower mileage tire.

Don't dismiss store-brand tires, either. For instance, we've gotten most of our tires at Discount Tire, and found that their Arizonan house brand tires gave us outstanding performance, in terms of getting us through rains and snow, and good longevity.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:56 AM on July 17, 2021

I didn't want to think about this too much so I got a Costco membership specifically for this reason and the discount on labor alone more than pays the annual membership. There were like 6 choices for my car and AFAICT they were all pretty much the same-ish for my vehicle. The tires themselves were also like $200 less per 4 than local shop. And now that I've read this thread I know that I get free lifetime rotations which I did not realize, so man I'm feeling pretty good about this deal (my appointment is tomorrow morning to get them put on).
posted by bradbane at 2:04 PM on July 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

I just got Bree tired and had no idea what to do so I googled “how to pick tires” and it was pretty helpful. I also looked at best tires lists from the people who make such lists. I don’t live in a place with extreme weather and don’t do extreme driving, so middle of the road, quality but not high performance, all season touring tires were right for me.

Agree wholeheartedly that if you are in a place with Real Winter, snow tires are a game changer.
posted by jeoc at 7:25 PM on July 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Hey, I just wanted to say thank you so much for asking this question. Due to various life issues and the fact that I don't have to drive much anymore, and then the pandemic, I've let car maintenance slide for a ridiculously long time, especially tires. I knew they were in bad shape, but the responses here were not only so helpful about what I should look for, they also spurred me past my "I don't have the spoons or the money" issues because of the information about upcoming shortages. I just got back from getting new tires (went for the middle-high price based on suggestions here and because I live in such a rainy place) and OMG, they are so quiet and grippy and smooth. Turning into a parking space, it was like I was gliding. My car was also desperately out of alignment, which I knew, and it's really amazing that the most worn tire didn't have a blow out at some point or something else bad happened to me while driving.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 4:57 PM on July 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

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