How can I save money when buying tires for my car?
Owning a vehicle comes many expenses, from car insurance to maintenance to new tires.
Depending on the type of vehicle you drive, replacing a set of tires can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. So saving money on tires is critical for many tire buyers.
Fortunately, there are many easy ways to save money on a new set of tires.
How to Save Money When Buying Tires
There are countless tire options at many price points, but even the cheapest tires can be expensive. That’s why it’s crucial to leverage these tips to save money on tires.
1. Compare Prices Online
The Internet makes shopping and comparing prices easier than ever.
You can also see a far more extensive selection of available tires and their prices at large online tire retailers like Tire Rack and Discount Tire Direct.
You can even go outside the tire industry and check websites like eBay or Amazon.
When shopping, keep these variables in mind:
- Fees. Some online shops include extra fees with new tires, including disposal, a new valve stem, mounting, and balancing. Check with the retailer to get an idea of these costs so you can see the entire picture.
- Sales Tax. When shopping online, some companies exclude sales tax if you live outside the company’s home state. For example, if the company is based in New York and you live in Florida, you may not pay sales tax, which can greatly reduce the cost.
- Shipping Fees. Always look into shipping fees. Most online tire retailers ship for free, but it pays to double-check.
2. Watch for Circulars
Watch for tire ads that come in the mail or newspaper. These often highlight special offers you may not find anywhere else, like buy-three, get-one-free deals and percent-off specials.
When reviewing these sales, always read the fine print, as they often have limitations and requirements to get the sale price.
For example, a 25% off sale may only be on specific tire sizes, or that buy-three, get-one-free deal may only be for the tire — you still have to pay for balancing, the valve stem, and disposal fees.
3. Search for Rebates
There’s not much markup on tires, so the retailers may not offer great sales too often. However, tire manufacturers often offer rebates for meeting certain purchase requirements. For instance, Firestone may issue a $100 rebate if you buy any set of four Firestone tires.
These rebates are generally through the mail, so you must mail the rebate form with a copy of your receipt and wait to receive a check or gift card in the mail for the rebate amount. These rebates often take weeks to process, so patience is key.
You can find the rebates advertised on tire manufacturers’ websites, but you may also find them on a retailer’s site or in a circular.
4. Look for Takeoffs
While used tires are rarely worth buying, takeoffs are a different story. These are tires that a person purchased, used for a few days, and returned within a specific period — typically 30 days or less.
Often, the buyer simply didn’t like the way they rode or handled. The tire retailer will put different tires on their car and place the used tires back on the shelf at a deeply discounted price so long as they’re not defective.
These takeoff tires are still basically brand-new and can save you big money.
5. Shop During Holidays
Like many retailers, tire service shops use holidays as reasons to slash prices. You can often save money on tires by shopping around holidays, including:
- New Year’s Day
- Presidents Day
- Veterans Day
- Independence Day
- Memorial Day
- Labor Day
- Black Friday and Cyber Monday
6. Use Competitive Shopping
When looking to save money on buying tires, the last thing you want to do is get just one price quote and get the work started. Instead, get multiple written quotes on the same or similar tires and get the lowest cost through competitive shopping.
Once you have three to four quotes, take the lowest quote from one tire shop to the others and see if they can beat the price. If you get a better price from another shop, repeat the process. Continue repeating this process until you get the best price possible.
7. Focus on Things Other Than Brand Name
Unless you’re a race car driver, you just need a set of quality, long-lasting tires. There’s no need to shop for the big brands. Big-name tire brands like Michelin, Bridgestone, Firestone, Dunlop, and Goodyear are high-quality, but they’re among the most expensive options.
You can get quality tires from lesser-known brands like Kumho and Hankook at significantly lower prices.
Instead of looking at the brand, focus on the tire’s performance and durability. Several other key features are more important than the brand name.
Most vehicles have a recommended minimum speed rating for their tires. This letter rating indicates the sustained speed a tire can structurally handle. For example, a V-rated tire can handle sustained speeds of up to 149 mph, while a Y-rated tire can handle 186 mph.
You can find the speed rating stamped along with the tire size on the sidewall in one of three ways:
- Before the R: 225/60VR16
- After the Two-Digit Load Rating: 225/60R16 92V
- Before the R and After the Two-Digit Load Rating: 225/60VR16 92V
The R stands for “radial,” as in radial tires. It comes before the tire size (the tire in this example has a 16-inch diameter).
Load index is the amount of weight each tire can support while inflated. Verify the cheaper tire matches or exceeds the load-index minimum your car requires. You can find the load index requirement in the owners manual or on the tire placard inside the driver’s side door jamb.
The load index is a two-digit code stamped after the tire size on the sidewall. For example, if the tire code says, “225/60R16 92V,” the load index is 92.
The load index ranges from 1 through 112, and the higher the number, the more weight it can support. Tirerack.com has a more comprehensive explainer if you want more details.
Tire treadwear rating is often mistaken for a direct translation to how many miles a tire will last. It’s more of a comparative number.
The baseline treadwear is 100, and a tire with a 200 treadwear rating lasts twice as long in testing before its tread wears out. A 300 treadwear tire lasts three times as long in testing.
Each tire manufacturer performs its own testing on the same 400-mile test track in Texas to ensure uniformity in the treadwear ratings. The tires complete a 7,200-mile test. Every 800 miles, the testers check and adjust the air pressure in the tires, perform an alignment, and rotate the tires.
After the test, the testers measure the remaining tread and compare it to the remaining tread on the baseline 100 treadwear tire.
Compare the cheaper tire’s treadwear rating to that of a more expensive tire. That gives you an idea of how long the cheaper tire will last relative to the more expensive competitor.
But note that while tire manufacturers complete treadwear testing under strict National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rules, each uses its own baseline tires. So a 500 treadwear Kumho tire may not last quite as long as a 500 treadwear Goodyear because they used different baseline tires.
However, the number can still be helpful when making an apples-to-apples comparison.
You can find the three-digit treadwear rating stamped on the tire’s sidewall after the word “Treadwear.”
The warranty may be the single best way to compare a less expensive tire to a pricier competitor when all other variables remain equal.
Most tire manufacturers include some type of mileage warranty on their tires. Generally, these warranties range from 25,000 miles to 80,000 miles. These mileage warranties mean the manufacturer guarantees the tire’s tread will remain above the wear bar for a specified number of miles.
The wear bar is a small, raised section of rubber running across the grooves in the tread that indicates the tire has reached the end of its useful life. If the tread reaches the wear bar early through no fault of the vehicle or driver, the tire company gives you a prorated credit toward a new tire.
For example, if a $100 tire with a 50,000-mile warranty only lasts 25,000 miles, the tire manufacturer owes you $50 — 50% of $100 — toward a replacement tire.
If a less expensive tire has all the same or better ratings than an expensive brand-name tire and a matching or longer warranty, you can save money on the cheaper tire and feel confident you’re getting an otherwise equivalent tire.
8. Go for All-Season Tires — if Possible
In areas where winters get cold and snowy, it’s not uncommon to switch from summer tires to winter tires.
However, keeping two sets of tires on hand can get quite expensive. If you live in a temperate region or one where snow is light and rare, you can get away with one set of all-season tires instead of separate sets for summer and winter, saving you money in the process.
Continue Saving Money After Buying Tires
Sure, you can save money when buying tires with the seven tips above, but you can save even more money by helping your tires last longer. There are several maintenance strategies you can use to extend the lifespan of your tires and save even more money.
1. Maintain Your Tire Pressure
Tire pressure impacts fuel economy and the longevity of your tires. Too little pressure can cause excessive wear on the outer edge of your tires, but too much pressure can accelerate tread wear in the center of your tires.
To avoid these issues, check your tire pressure at least once per week and compare it to the pressure recommendations in your owners manual or on the tire placard inside the driver’s door jamb.
Always check and adjust your tire pressure before driving, as time on the road increases the tire’s temperature, which increases its pressure. Adjust the pressure as needed.
Never inflate your tires to the maximum pressure listed on the tire’s sidewall. It’s too much pressure for most passenger vehicles.
Many tire shops will check and fill your tires with air for free, and gas stations usually have air stations that cost around $1 to use. You can also buy a small portable tire pump with a pressure gauge for $20 to $30.
2. Perform Regular Rotations
Tire rotation is a maintenance procedure that places each wheel and tire in a different position on the vehicle. That changes each tire’s angle and rotation slightly to prevent it from wearing unevenly, which can happen if it remains at the same angle and in the same position for too long.
Every vehicle has its own recommended tire rotation schedule in the maintenance schedule section of its owners manual. Perform this maintenance as the manufacturer recommends to maximize your tires’ lifespans.
Tire rotations are often free with oil change services. If they’re not free, they’re still inexpensive, generally $20 or less.
3. Check and Adjust the Alignment
Your vehicle’s suspension flexes with the road, which can sometimes throw its alignment off.
Alignment is the angle at which your wheels sit against the road. Driving with the alignment out of specification can cause excessive wear on one part of the tire, significantly shortening its life.
At least once every six months, have a repair facility check your vehicle’s alignment. If it’s out of specification, the shop can perform the alignment. That helps maximize your tires’ life.
Alignment checks are often $20 or less. If you need an alignment, expect to pay $50 to $100, depending on the complexity. The shop usually removes the alignment check fee if you complete the alignment service.
Some repair shops offer lifetime alignments for an extra cost. If you plan to keep your vehicle for a long time, it may be a worthwhile investment, as you can get the vehicle aligned as often as you like at no extra cost as long as you own it. Lifetime alignments usually cost $150 to $200.
Tires can be one of the most expensive things to maintain on your vehicle, but it’s worth it. They’re the only point of contact between your car and the road, so you want the best tires you can afford.
That’s why you may want to consider getting a road hazard warranty on new tires. It may not save you money, but it can protect your investment. These tire insurance policies generally cover 100% of all flat repairs and offer prorated replacement guarantees if the tire is irreparable.
By using these tips, you can maximize your tire investment. Then, with the right tire maintenance, you can ensure your new tires last as long as possible, saving you even more in the long run.