How to Compare Prices on Tires

by James Clark

Tire shopping may not be fun, but it doesn't have to be difficult. Armed with a basic knowledge of tire construction and the size tire needed for your vehicle, you'll be able to compare tire prices with confidence.

Write down the tire size for your vehicle. This is embossed on the side of the tire. For example, 195/75R-14 is a common tire size. The 195 measures the width of the tire tread, the 75 refers to the height of the tire from the rim to the edge of the tread and the 14 is the measurement, in inches, of the wheel diameter for your vehicle. The R is simply used to denote a radial tire.

When shopping for tires, always get a price quote for the same size tire so you can make a valid comparison.

Virtually all tires sold for consumer use are designed as "all weather" tires. Unless you live in a region that requires snow tires during certain months or live in an area where the winters are especially brutal, all weather tires will likely serve you well. High-performance tires designed for sports cars are built for speed and maneuverability.

Check the mileage guarantee on the tires and write that information down next to the price. A tire with a 50,000 mile warranty is going to cost more than a tire guaranteed for 40,000 miles. For valid price comparisons, look at tires with similar guarantees. If you are not going to keep your vehicle for another 50,000 miles, you may not want to price the cost of tires guaranteed for that mileage. Instead, compare the price of tires guaranteed for about the length of time you wish to drive the vehicle. That way, you'll get your money's worth out of the tires and still have decent tread on them when you sell or trade the vehicle.

Write down the construction qualities of the tires you are comparing. Two steel belts are stronger and more expensive than a single-belt tire.

Evaluate the operating cost of the tire by dividing the price into the number of miles on the warranty. A $150 tire guaranteed for 50,000 miles costs 3 cents per mile over the life of the tire. The same size tire priced at $120 for the same guarantee costs 2.4 cents per mile.

Realize that premium tires may deliver greater fuel-efficiency over the long term, so if you plan to keep your vehicle for the life of the tires, you may get better value from tires rated at greater fuel economy, even though they may be more expensive initially than a comparable set of tires. For example, if the fuel savings on a better-rated $150 tire works out to $600 over 50,000 miles, then the set of four tires pays for itself. Bear in mind that you'll need to drive the vehicle for the life of the tires to derive that savings. If you plan to keep the car for only another 25,000 miles, you won't realize the same level of savings on a 50,000-mile tire.

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About the Author

James Clark began his career in 1985. He has written about electronics, appliance repair and outdoor topics for a variety of publications and websites. He has more than four years of experience in appliance and electrical repairs. Clark holds a bachelor's degree in political science.