Here’s How to Buy the Best Cheap Tires in Person and Online
There is rarely a convenient time to take your car to the mechanic. Even less convenient is learning you need new tires after shelling out a couple hundreds bucks for an oil change and tuneup.
If you’re a DIY car-care expert, you can stave off a trip to the mechanic by changing your car’s oil, removing leaves and debris from the intake vents and preventing dirt buildup on the car’s undercarriage. But no matter how good of a car tech you may be, there’s little anyone can do to prevent wear and tear on car tires. Eventually, you will need to purchase new tires.
This can cost from $150 per tire to more than $500 per tire. Because most new tires last about 50,000 miles, you may find yourself wondering what difference it would make to purchase cheap car tires. But simply going off price at the tire shop can be a risky move.
Factors such as safety rating, stop time, weather type and how much driving you do can greatly affect what type of tire you should consider purchasing — and how much you end up spending in the long run.
Consider these tire purchase tips the next time you need to put some new treads on your wheels.
4 Tips to Help You Save on New Tires
- Know your car’s wheel specs
- Use a free online search tool
- Consider financing and rebates
- Know the tire salesperson’s lingo
Before setting out to buy tires and looking for bargains, it’s smart to do some research. These three tips will help:
1. Know Your Car’s Wheel Specs
Understanding your tire type and specs will arm you with key information to help you start the buying process, assess tire prices — and not be misled in the process.
Unsurprisingly, different cars require different types of tires. Fortunately, it’s easy to determine the size and type of car tire for your make and model without spending a dime.
To start, shine a flashlight on the flat side of the tire that faces out, toward you. Look for some numbers printed in a row — that row may start with a letter.
These numbers (and/or letters) will tell you the type of tire, tire width, aspect ratio, construction type, wheel diameter, load index and speed rating for your vehicle.
When purchasing new tires, consumers should be most concerned with the type of tire and tire width.
Car owners can also locate this tire information in their car user manual or on a small sticker on the inside of the driver’s-side door (the sticker will be on the part of the door that is flush with the car frame when the door is closed).
2. Use a Free Online Search Tool
Now that you have your tire information, you can use any number of legitimate free tire search tools to explore tire options.
Discount Tire, Priority Tire, TireBuyer and Tire Rack all work about the same way, allowing you to search by vehicle make, tire size and other factors. It’s free to use the search tools.
For each tire result that comes up, regardless of the search tool, standard metrics such as stop-distance (how long it takes a car, on average, to come to a full stop while traveling at 60 mph), handling, quietness, comfort, tire life and a cost-per-tire should be easily explorable.
Some search tools will let you input how many miles you drive per year. An algorithm will respond with how long, on average, a new set of tires will last you.
If you drive frequently (such as a long daily commute or frequent road trips), consider the fact that investing in tires with a better stop time, tire life and slightly higher up-front cost may benefit you in the long run.
Purchasing cheap tires if you drive more than, say, 30,000 miles per year means you could be replacing your tire set almost annually. If you skip the cheap tires and pay a bit more up front for better tires, they could last two years or more.
3. Consider Financing and Rebates
Just like with cars, it is not uncommon for a tire dealer to offer financing. Most legitimate tire retailers offer six-, nine-, and 12-month financing options for qualified buyers.
For example, if you purchase four tires for a total of $1,200 and opt to finance them over a nine-month period, you could be paying about $130 per month instead of hitting your credit card with $1,200 all at once.
Another common practice is for a tire manufacturer to offer hearty rebates.
Goodyear, Michelin, Continental, Firelli and Firestone were, as of publication, all offering rebates between $60-$110 when consumers purchase tires from said companies (details apply). You can easily learn about them by visiting their websites. Combine these rebates with the option to finance and you could walk away with new tires and a minimal immediate charge to your credit card.
4. Know the Tire Salesperson’s Lingo
If you opt to head into a brick-and-mortar location to purchase new tires, it’s important to be prepared to speak with a salesperson. Despite some humorous characterizations of salespeople, not all are pushy and desperate for you to buy. Most want to help you make a purchase (if you’re ready to) that you will be happy with.
First, come prepared with the tire size and other specs we listed above. This will help speed along the process with the salesperson — and also show them you know what you’re talking about when it comes to the basics. You can even write the tire specs and car make and model on a piece of paper and give it to the salesperson to be extra-sure they have the right information.
Secondly, know your budget and be ready to hold strong to your financial guardrails. Sometimes, a salesperson will try to convince you that spending a bit more is the way to go. Depending on your finances, you’ll want to be ready to either put your foot down on a price range or internally know how much over budget you’re willing to spend.
Don’t be afraid to lay down your boundaries with the salesperson. A simple, “I am not going to spend more than X amount and am not comfortable discussing prices over that amount,” should suffice.
Finally, it’s perfectly OK to talk to a salesperson and then leave without purchasing anything. You are the customer, and you are in control.
Feel free to use the salesperson as your on-the-ground resource for understanding the pros and cons of different tire types and brands, then head home to mull over the information you received. You can also let the sales associate know you may shop around (sometimes, this will net you some extra deals if a salesperson is concerned you may take your business elsewhere) and may not make a decision today.
Remember — you’re making the decision, not the salesperson.
How to Buy Tires Online
We’ve described how to research tires online before you shop and how to talk to a salesperson. But what if you want to buy online? You’ll need to know all the same information discussed above.
The same websites that help you research tires often offer the option to order online. Retailers like Discount Tire, Priority Tire, Tire Rack and TireBuyer are all legitimate online tire retailers. You can also try national retailers like Costco, Walmart and others.
Once you find the set of tires that fits your budget, driving needs and safety concerns, shop around online a bit. While the prices are unlikely to vary drastically among major tire outlets, it doesn’t hurt to scroll through each’s special sales, rebates and financing options before making your choice.
Just remember: While you can order new tires online, you will nearly always have to head to an auto shop to get them installed. It is next to impossible to install new car tires yourself because it requires special safety training, hydraulic lifts for your car and equipment to remove the old treads. When buying tires online, you will be prompted to select an installer that’s affiliated with that retailer.
Here’s how an online tire retailer typically works.
- Add the number of tires you need (likely four) to your shopping cart. Remember, the price listed is the price per tire. You’ll need to add as many as you need to your cart!
- You’ll be prompted to check out with a payment method: either your up-front payment or financing option.
- You will need to select a store affiliated with the seller to have the tires delivered to for installation.
- Then, you’ll receive an order confirmation via email with an estimated date of tire delivery, and you’ll be asked to schedule your installation appointment online. Choose your preferred date and time and be on the lookout for any followup emails regarding updated delivery dates or inventory notices.
- Now that you have a purchase receipt, you can likely also file for any applicable rebates.
If you’re uncomfortable relying only on website research to make your decision about a tire purchase, you can always head to a local mechanic or tire shop and request a free in-person conversation with an expert. Better to be sure before you buy than get stuck with a set of tires (that may or may not be returnable) you don’t need.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Buying the Best Cheap Tires
We’ve found the answers to some of the commonly asked questions about buying tires in the most economical ways.
Four tires can cost consumers from $500-$1,500. The price will depend on the car, type of tire, where the tires are purchased and where they are installed.
How long tires last depends on the type of tire (all-weather, all-terrain, snow tire, racing tire, etc.). In general, most consumer-facing tires will last about 50,000 miles.
To buy tires online, you first need to know your car’s tire specifications. Then, you can use free online search tools from an online tire outlet such as Discount Tire, Priority Tire, TireBuyer and Tire Rack to select the model tire that fits your needs. You can then pay online. In most cases you will need to have the tires shipped to and installed at a professional mechanic or tire shop.
Yes, you can find bargains online. Look for special rebates, sales and financing options for online purchases. It is also easy to check a variety of tire retailers’ prices when shopping online instead of visiting multiple stores, making it simple to find the best current price available.
Colorado-based writer Kristin Jenny focuses on lifestyle and wellness. She is a regular contributor to The Penny Hoarder.