In maintaining a car, tire purchase is always expensive but necessary. Every 4-5 years on average, you need to replace your tires. Depending on the size/measurement and type of your tires, this could translate to $300 to $1,000 to just purchasing new tires alone. Then adding cost of balancing, mounting, getting rid of your old tires, etc - you add another about $40 per tire. Although you only do this every 4-5 years, it is still quite costly. So how can we do some cost saving in this tire related stuff?
Using your tire as long as possible is one way to do it, but if you are using bald tire, it can be very dangerous. So how can we get the best lifetime of our tires? There are three simple principles: tire pressure, balancing, and alignment. If you keep these 3 things in line then you have the possibility to get the most out of your tire lifetime. These 3 things basically deal with the evenness of your tire thread wear. If you have under-inflated tire(s), or an unbalanced tire(s), or misaligned car, it will create uneven wear - which will reduce the lifetime of your tire.
- The standard manufacturer recommended tire pressure usually listed on a sticker inside one of your door.
- Most tire shop/place (Firestone, Goodyear, DiscountTire, etc) will check pressure and inflate your tire for free of charge.
- Most tire shop (at least I know Firestone, NTB, and DiscountTire) have a lifetime balancing deal. So you pay a fee ($15 per tire), but then you can balance your tires anytime you want as long as you own the same set of tires. I balance my tires every 6,000 miles or every 6 months. This is a lot cheaper compared to what the car dealership is charging you.
- Most tire shop (at least I know Firestone) have a lifetime alignment deal. So you pay a fee ($170 at Firestone), but then you can your car anytime you want as long as you own the car (some places only goes for 3-4 years). I check my alignment every time I balance my tires - every 6,000 miles or every 6 months. For a single standard alignment, it usually costs you about $70 - so within 3 alignments, I already got my money's worth.
You can get your tire measurements from your own tire, just look at the side wall and it will be written there, usually in this format: XXX/YY/RZZ. My minivan has these measurements: 235/65/R16. Or, you can go to www.tirerack.com and enter your car's year, make, and model - then it will tell you the original tire sizes/measurements.
Once you have your measurements/sizes, go to www.tirerack.com, click "Tires" and then "Survey Results". Now depending on your car type, and tire type, you want to select the tire type that you want. A few tips: "Summer" tire is unusable in the winter time, "Winter" tire is usable in non-winter times but has short lifetime. Since I live in Ohio, I always buy an "All Season" tire - which means I don't have to replace the set of tire seasonally. So I open each "All Season" option in a new tab in my browser and enter in my tire size on the left side under "FILTER BY" of the window and close the tabs that yielded no results. From that point on, it is just a matter of taste, preference, price, and survey results. For example, for my minivan (235/65/R16), I am choosing General AltiMAX RT43 (T-Speed Rated) as my top pick. Now if you are buying new tires, you put the tire in your basket, and pay and checkout from TireRack.com - you can ship it to your home, in which then you will need to take them to the tire shop to be installed later on, or you can ship them directly to the tire shop that you will be installing (assuming you already made an appointment with them).
- If you are buying new tires from the big-box store, always go to Discount Tire. They always have the best price. Always. They even price-match.
- Always ask for lifetime balancing during your installation - you pay a bit more, but worth it. Read "TIRE LIFETIME" above.
- Never go to Monroe, Walmart, Sears, Midas, Meineke
- If you prefer local store instead of the chain-shops, go to Katz Tires in Columbus. Good people, fast, awesome prices, excellent customer satisfaction
PURCHASING USED TIRES
Another option is to buy used tires. There is a huge market for used tires - from junk yards, people swapping rims & tires, etc. These tires usually still have about 50-90% thread left, which means 2-4 years (or more). Now why used tires? Because they are "CHEAP" - I am talking REALLY REALLY CHEAP. Here is an example, a new tire for Continental ProContact (245/45/R18) cost about $210 per tire. In the used market, with 80% thread, you can get one for about $50-$60 (including mounting, balancing, and disposing your old tire). If you are not picky about brand, you can get cheaper ones that only cost about $35-$45 per tire for that size. For smaller size (for like a Civic or an Elantra etc), it can be cheaper still. I have seen someone walk out the door with 4 tires installed, balanced, and dispose old tires for $100. Getting used tire(s) is ideal when you do not need a whole set - sometimes you just need 1 tire or maybe a pair because of flat, sidewall damage, etc. Used tires are not ideal if you are a stickler to a particular brand/type, or if you have rare sizes - since they are used and cannot be special ordered.
- Know what you want in terms of sizes and brand/type. I would use the survey from TireRack to narrow down my list of brands/types.
- Call lots of places and compare prices, thread-wear, and availability. In Columbus alone there are about 20+ used tire shops.
- Read shops review. Some shops are really friendly, nice, and professional. Some are just plain rude and questionable.
My tire store is Katz Tires. They are old-school, been in Columbus forever, well-known tire shop in Columbus. They sell new and used tires. Their service is always impeccable, fast, economical, satisfaction guaranteed. They are a tire shop - so they sell, mount, and fix tires - nothing else. Katz is always the first shop I call if I need a used tire or a plug/patch. Here is a story where they just treat you above and beyond: I came in the other day because of a leak in one of my tire. My tire pressure indicator alerted me about it and I need to put about 10 psi of air every week. So after 2 weeks of leakage, I brought it to Katz. They took care of me right away, dismounted the wheel, checked for leaks, inspected the tire, and after 10 minutes or so, one of their staff came to me and said that they could not find a leak. I told them my story and they thought it was a just small leakage from dirty rim lip. So they cleaned the rim and the tire, remounted the tire into the rim, re-balanced the wheel, mounted the wheel into the car. When the staff gave me my key back and I was ready to pay - he said "free of charge, no need to pay". So I was a bit confused and asked him "Really? Are you sure?" He replied, "Absolutely. 100%. Bring it back if it still leaking and we will take another look." He just won a customer for life.
Don't believe me about Katz? Check out their Yelp review.
There is also a Firestone nearby my house where I do all my lifetime balancing and alignments. They treat me right, rarely push any services beyond what I need, and they are close to there I live. I also like Discount Tire, they are generally great, but they do not do alignment. So balancing & alignment in separate places just create too much hassle for me.