Best practices for tire shopping.

Getting the best tires for your car, truck, or suv.

     So your tires are bald, where do you go? 

      If your like a lot of people you found out by having a flat tire.  You are already at the repair shop, but is it your best place to buy?  With today's economy more people are driving their cars longer, which means more tire replacements.  You have many options for where to purchase. 

      First there's the name brand tire stores, Firestone, Goodyear, Michelin, etc.  Next, the wholesale clubs, Costco, Sam's Club. Then you have the independent tire dealers, Les Schwab, Tire Factory, America's Tire, Tire Kingdom and so on.  Lastly there is the new kid, the car dealership.  The benefits for shopping for tires at the brand name stores are specific product knowledge about their brand, usually lower pricing than independent dealers, and many offer other services besides tires.  Benefits of the wholesale clubs are, cheap pricing, and grocery shopping while you wait.  My favorite are the independent tire dealers.  They eat, sleep, and breathe tires, they offer a wide variety, and aren't at the mercy of the big name brand company.  Usually they offer the best warranties and service. 

     Okay your shopping for tires what do you look for?

      You want to get the best tire for your money so here's the low down.  First get the tire size off your tires sidewall, it will start with a P or Lt followed by a series of numbers, like this P195/65r-15, or LT265/70r-17.  Take this and start calling around, asking for price and availability.  If the sales rep doesn't specify, ask what the warranties are.  Things to look for in a good tire warranty are, a mileage guaranty, road hazard replacement, free rotation, free balancing, and the number of service locations.  Other questions to ask might be what the traction rating is.  Traction rating is the tires ability to stop in wet conditions, AA being the highest followed by A, B, C.  Really B and C ratings should only be th very least expensive tires.  Also the tread wear number is a good comparison of how long the tire will last compared to other tires from the same manufacturer.  A tread wear of 500-700+ is good for a higher mileage all-season tire, 300-500 would be good for a all-season performance tire, and 60-140 for an ultra high performance summer tire.  Also a great benefit for wet weather driving is tire siping.  Some people think this is completely useless, but it has been proven in court to give shorter stopping distances, especially in wet weather.  This usually cost about $12 per tire and might increase tire life.    

 Does it really matter what brand tire you buy?

     You can get good and bad tires from most manufacturers, what I really recommend no matter what tire you buy, is to do the service.  Tires should be rotated about every 5000 miles, with a best practice to balance the tires moving to the front each time.  Equally important is to check your tires air pressure at least once a month.  The last thing is to have your alignment checked when you buy new tires and annually. 

     It really boils down to where you feel the most comfortable.  You will be served better if you are clear about what you expect from your tires, smooth ride, long life, sharp cornering, good wet weather traction and so on.  Keep in mind you will  be going back to get your tires serviced every 5000 miles, which is two to three times a year for most people.   Overall tire life will depend on you service as listed above, after all if you shopped right it should all be part of your warranty.  Now go buy some tires