Buying Car Tires: When, Where, and How

Tires are the most important—but least appreciated—part of your car. Good tires can make a car ride and handle like a dream. Mediocre or worn-out tires can make it feel as though you're constantly on a rocky, unpaved trail. The condition and quality of your tires has a direct effect on your vehicle's braking performance, so taking the time to educate yourself may save you more than just your hard earned cash!

Replacing your tires is a true investment. Today's cars utilize more specialized tire types and sizes compared to tires of only a decade ago. Even some of the most economic vehicles require what was previously known as a performance size or rated tire. As vehicles have become more complex, so have the tires they ride on. So what do you do when it comes time to replace those worn out shoes for your car?

For your convenience, this article is separated into two sections. The first section will sum up the major questions many consumers have and the second section will give a much more detailed explanation.

When do you need tires?

Typically, new tires start out with a tread depth of 1/3 of an inch. They are legally worn out at 2/32" tread depth. You can measure the tread with a simple penny. There are also wear bars on the tire that show how much usable tread is left. It is a good idea to start shopping for tires at 4/32"–5/32". You should also replace tires when they get to be five years old. Learn more >>

Where is the best place to buy tires?

Shop around—tires are aggressively marketed and priced to sell. Try your local big name retailers, warehouse clubs, and online retailers. But don't rule out your local car dealership—they sell tires, too, at often very compelling prices. Try not to get stuck on the price of the tire—remember there is a charge for mounting and balancing. There are taxes and disposal fees. And for online retailers, there are shipping charges. Learn more >>

How many tires do you need?

There are varying circumstances that factor into how many tires you will need to buy. If there are two tires still in good condition, you might only need to replace two. There are some cases when tires must be replaced as a set of four. In unusual circumstances, you can replace a single tire to match the remaining three tires that are in excellent condition. Learn more >>

What should I know about my tires?

1.    Tire size
2.    UTQG ratings – treadwear, traction, and temperature
3.    Tire speed and load ratings

What kind of tires should you buy?

There is no one magic answer to this question. A safe bet is to replace your tires with the same tires that are currently on the vehicle. The original equipment tires were engineered specifically to work with your vehicle and the manufacturer of the vehicle thought enough of them to put them on the vehicle before it left the factory. However, there are many excellent alternative choices; for example, economy brands can be a great value. And some tires have specific characteristics that may be more beneficial for your driving needs (e.g. wet traction, tread design, noise, etc.). Learn more >>

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