Tire Buying 101

Dear Tracy,

I am in need of a new set of tires, and am a little intimidated by the idea of tire shopping. Where should I buy to get the best price? Can you tell me what I need to know before I get started? Basically I am wondering what things are important to look for and how to know what the best choice for my car will be.

Kim W.

Dear Kim,

While some may suggest cheaper ways to buy tires online, I recommend finding reputable, trust-worthy tire retailer in your area who will really help you in the tire buying process. Especially since you are new to the process,  a knowledgeable tire dealer will be able to recommend the type of tire that will best fit your vehicle, driving style and budget. You will know you have found a good source if the dealer asks you questions about the type of driving you do and if he or she guides you in considering things such as tread wear, ride and handling, and driving conditions. Buying from a brick and mortar store may cost a bit more than an online bargain source, but it will be worth it to know what you are getting and to know where you can go if you need support. If you are not sure what dealer to trust, start asking around. You never know who might have a great recommendation in your own neighborhood.

You are right to want to be an informed buyer! Even with assistance, it is important that you have a basic understanding of tires before you start shopping. Here are some point to consider:

  1. Manufacturer Recommendations It is important that your tire selection is in keeping with your vehicle’s specific manufacturer recommendations for the best safety and performance.
  2. Regional Climate Think about the kind of weather you get in your area. Do you get a lot of rain or heavy snow falls? Be sure you make the safest selection to handle the road conditions you will encounter.
  3. Ride Quality Some tires will look great on your car, but will not provide a smooth and comfortable ride or solid handling.
  4. UTQG Rating The U.S. Department of Transportation requires each manufacturer to grade its tires under the UTQG (Uniform Tire Quality Grading)labeling system and establish ratings for tread wear, traction and temperature resistance.
  5. Tread Design Some tread designs result in more road noise. This varies between tire brands and tread designs. If you mainly do highway driving, you’ll want to consider this. A knowledgeable dealer will be able to tell you which tires are quieter among those you’re considering.
  6. Buy a Full Set It is always best to replace all of your tires at once for optimal performance and even tread wear.
  7. Protect your Investment When you have your tires installed, be sure to have other checks made, such as the alignment and balance. Otherwise a vehicle maintenance problem that may have caused your old set of tires to wear out too rapidly will also ruin your new tires.