It’s awfully tempting. Why not buy tires at the lowest price, throw them on, and hit the road? You’ll have more money leftover for whatever your family needs.
The truth is, you need to be careful when buying tires on a budget. The wrong set of tires will hurt you more than help you by negatively impacting fuel economy, wearing out too soon, and limiting your car’s performance when it matters most.
Why not have your cake and eat it too? Here are some quick and useful tips on buying inexpensive tires that offer maximum value.
Determine What Type of Tires You Need
Just as you need to make sure your new tires are the right size, you also need to make sure you buy tires that will last. High-performance tires are less likely to do well in the longevity category. According to AARP, “Any tire with ‘high-performance’ in its name will likely wear out quicker.” Although that’s not a hard-and-fast rule, it makes sense because high-performance tires are primarily built for speed, with an emphasis on a lot of tire-to-road contact.
An All-Season or Touring tire, on the other hand, is designed to last longer, with long tread-life and harder rubber to stand up to a variety of conditions above freezing temperatures. A good example is the Cooper CS5 Grand Touring Tire. It has a high silica content, which makes the rubber stickier and the tread tougher. This improves traction without sacrificing longevity. The Grand Touring’s ride is comfortable and the handling very reliable, thanks to advanced Stabiledge technology.
The age of your tires will oftentimes determine how much wear there is on them, and therefore, whether you need new ones. In order to determine how old your current tires are, as well as what size you need, check the sidewall of the tire. The outermost letters and numbers indicate size of tire and type of car for which they’re intended (such as P215 65R15, where “P” standards for Passenger, “R” for Radial, and the numbers are size measurements) . Below that, you’ll find the DOT code. Look for the last four digits, which are often enclosed in an oval. The first two digits are the week it was manufactured, the last two are the year. Typically, tires should be changed every five to six years. Don’t waste money on changing tires when you don’t need to, but at the same time, change them when necessary so that you get the best gas mileage and performance out of your car, as well as lower maintenance bills.
Look for Special Offers and Rebates Online
The internet is a great place to find cheap tires without sacrificing quality. First, determine whether you are happy with how your original tires performed. If you are, search for rebates, promos, and coupon codes on that brand. You’ll also need to match size. Don’t be surprised if nothing comes up.
According to Popular Mechanics, “When you try to replace your tires with the same model that came on the car, you might run into sticker shock—original equipment tires can be expensive.” Tire and car companies spend millions of dollars collaborating to create tires that specifically emphasize your car’s performance points. But don’t worry. There’s always at least one high- quality alternate brand. For example, Cooper Tires makes replacement tires—including All-season, All-terrain, and Winter varieties—and offers a rebate on qualifying models every year, usually in the spring.
Online retailers offer an advantage in terms of rebates, sticker prices, and selection. With brick-and-mortar retailers, you—the consumer—absorb the cost of maintaining a local facility, which includes the price of shipping tires from the manufacturer. Online retailers have fewer warehouses to maintain, and may have special offers on shipping, even on top of manufacturer rebates.
Maintain Tire Life
Once you buy a new tire with the express purpose of saving money, you’ll want to take steps to ensure you get maximum life out of that tire. Here are some excellent ways to save money on tires:
- Check pressure: Under-inflated tires cause more rolling resistance—lower gas-mileage—and increase wear-and-tear; check inflation levels each month and inflate to the level listed in your owner’s manual
- Rotate: Rotating your tires regularly helps them wear evenly and last longer; follow rotation recommendations in your owner’s manual
- Say no to nitrogen: If there’s an additional charge to inflate with nitrogen, skip it—Consumer Reports tests show nitrogen does not help maintain pressure longer
- Align your wheels: Shoddy alignment contributes to uneven wear
- Buy a full set: Modern vehicle suspensions are designed to work best with a matching set of tires
Pay attention to tire tread and the condition of the sidewalls. The penny test has been a longstanding way to determine if your tires are worn out. Make sure tread height isn’t below 1/16 of an inch, that sidewalls don’t have any cracks, and no belts are showing. Pay attention to tires, maintain regular inflation and rotation, and you’ll spend less money on tires overall.