How To Select Tires For Your Car

Tires are probably the most important, but most under-appreciated part of your vehicle. They are literally where "the rubber meets the road," the only part of your car that makes contact with the highway. You tend not to think much about them, until something goes wrong.

Robert, of Cottonwood Falls, Kan., said he purchased four Yokohoma tires for his truck in February 2011. Upon checking them this month he reports what he considers excessive wear.

"The mileage on the tires from purchase date is 26,000 miles," Robert wrote to ConsumerAffairs. "I'm very dissatisfied and angry that the tires cost over $750 and did not last longer than 14 months."

Paul, of Hicksville, N.Y., reports what he considers a more serious problem with the tires he purchased at Pep Boys three years ago. He said he made a disturbing discovery when he had a flat tire.

"On changing the tire I found the tire delaminated," Paul wrote in a ConsumerAffairs post. "To a trained person, it is clear the tire is defective. Upon looking at the other tire, it is clear it is beginning the same delamination."

Should be defect-free

Obviously, new tires should not contain defects and should not wear out after a year of use. Sometimes, however, it's not the tires that cause the wear but an improper installation or alignment. But there's no question that getting the right set of tires for a vehicle is the starting point for satisfaction and safety.

If it's time to replace you tires, you have several options. You can replace your tires with the same brand and size that came with the vehicle. Or, you could move up to better quality tires - ones that promise more miles or an added measure of safety.

Considerations

Choosing the right tire involves knowing how you expect to drive the vehicle. Do you drive long distances for your work? Do you have to navigate mountainous back roads? Do you in an area that gets lots of rain or snow? Or, will you rarely drive at highway speeds?

It also involves what's most important to you about tires? Do you want tires that will last longer? Ones that enhance the comfort of your ride? Do you want tires that minimize road noise?

Where you buy is important too

Once you have figured out how you will drive and what's most important to you, find a store that you trust to recommend a tire that fits you needs. A good sales person will ask a lot of questions before recommending a tire.

A good tire store will also stand behind their work, so that if you experience problems like Paul and Robert did, they'll help you resolve it.

While the technology behind tires is a lot better than it used to be, tires are also more expensive than they once were. That's why it's important to shop carefully, buying the right tires for you vehicle from the right store.

What's the right store?

How do you decide what store is right for you. A good place to start is the ConsumerAffairs Tire Department. There you'll find consumers reviewing -- and often lamenting -- their experiences with various stores and tire brands. Keep in mind that reviews tend to focus on the negative, but at the same time, watch out for patterns. If tons of consumers complain that a certain tire brand delaminated or didn't wear well, that should be a cautionary note.

The problem with many tire stores is that they tend to push certain brands. In other words, they sell you want they want to sell you, not what's best for you. One way around this is to shop online at a site that walks you through the process and displays as many or as few options as you specify.

TireRack.com, a favorite of ConsumerAffairs editors, has a well-designed website that basically "interviews" you about your vehicle and your driving preferences. You can, for example, specify your model and ask to see only all-weather tires made by certain companies. The prices are competitive -- usually $10 to $30 less per tire than you would pay locally. If you're not up for installing tires yourself, TireRack will ship your tires to a local service station or tire store that will install them for you.

Ironically, the tires may wind up being shipped to one of the local tire stores you initially avoided.

A ConsumerAffairs editor had this experience recently when buying new tires for a MiniCooper. He initially visited a Just Tires store in his neighborhood but found only a few tires in the right size. He ordered from TireRack instead and had the tires shipped to -- guess who? -- Just Tires. By the time he paid Just Tires $20 or so per tire to install the tires, he wound up paying about what he would have paid if he had bought the tires at Just Tires but he got the specific tires he wanted, which Just Tires didn't have in stock.

Good margins

While waiting around Just Tires, our editor made small talk with the store manager, who groused about all the online orders the store was now installing.

"Well, you're making $20 a tire for the installation with no inventory cost, no long-term storage and no sales expense. That sounds pretty good to me," the editor said.

"Yeah, you're right. I hadn't really thought about it that way," the manager said, though he still didn't seem very happy about it as he slouched back to his office.

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