How To Buy Tires and NOT Get SCAMMED!

tire buying guide
Consumer Reports

Tires are the most important part of any car! They’re the only part of your car touching the road! Well, hopefully. Handling, braking, nearly everything is influenced by the tires. But, if you don’t know what you’re doing, buying new tires can be a nightmare!

And if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can totally get ripped off! So, how do you find the perfect tire for the best deal? I’m going to walk you through my process that’s saved me a ton of dough. Now, let’s put rubber to the road. Let’s go!

Getting new set of tires will change everything about your car. So, when you’re looking, you’re going to want quality for the best price. And you don’t want to cheap out on these, because, believe me, when you’re whipping around the twisties, the last thing you’d want is to lose grip, that sweet sweet precious grip, and end up in a tree.

So, first I’m going to break down some of the basic knowledge you should know about your tires, and then show you exactly how to get the best deal and not get scammed! First, let’s get down to the essentials.

How to Read Tire Sizes

tire size numbers
Garber Buick

Reading a tire is the key for finding out what tire you need. This is especially important to know so you don’t get ripped off. I mean, it would be easy for any mechanic to just throw on wider tires than you need and overcharge you.

If you take a close look at any tire wall, you’re going to see a string of numbers. These numbers can tell us a lot about the tire, but this can be pretty overwhelming, so bear with us. Basically you can look at it as pant sizes. The first two numbers are width and aspect ratio.

If you refer to the image above, the 235 is the width of the tire in millimeters. Yeah, I know. The metric system. The second number, the 55, is the tire’s aspect ratio. Basically, it’s how tall the sidewall is in relation to the width of the tire. It’s a percent, so 235/35 means the tire is 235 millimeters wide and the sidewall is 35% as tall as it is wide. This is why they taught you math in school!

Then, you’re going to see a letter, most likely, the letter R. This stands for radial construction. Don’t sweat this letter too much. It’s pretty much always an R. Some tires will also include a Z here, this just means the tire can go over 149 miles per hour. 

And then, it’s the rim diameter, 17, 18, 19. It might even be 24 if you’re gangster. In the image above, the tire’s rim diameter is 18. Whatever your rim size is, that’s what should be here in the third spot. Almost done!

After that, you’ll see the load and speed rating. In the image above, it’s 100V. The number indicates the load the tire can take. Try and match your factory numbers here. And the letter is your maximum speed rating. It’s alphabetical, from A to slow, to Y for over 186 miles per hour. The speed rating on the tire above is V. If you’re buying replacements for your stock vehicle, go with the letter that came from the factory. If you’re modifying your car, you’re going to want to level up your tires speed rating as well. 

The Truth About Cars

So, that’s a ton of info to remember, right? If you have no idea what you’re doing, just get the same specs as the tire you’re replacing! Easy as that! And, tire websites like Discount Tire, Tire Rack, or America’s Tire will have you put in your car’s year, make, and model, and will tell you exactly what size tires to get.

If you’re up sizing your wheels and want to maintain the same size, there are tire size calculators online to help you keep the same overall diameter as you change wheel sizes, offset, and more! And if you’re a fan of the hella flush look, you should check out the Fitment Industries website. They have a database of all kinds of cars, with pictures, and how people have tucked and stretched their wheels and tires to fit perfectly! It’s an incredible resource!

Whatever way you choose, it’s best you have this info before you buy, because choosing the wrong tire can be down right dangerous. And you don’t want to trust your life with the high school kid working minimum wage at your local tire shop, do you?

tire racks
The Balance Everyday

Do your homework, figure out what size you need, and then it’s time for the most important part. So, choosing which tire to buy, and what price to pay? This is where we go into tirerack.com, put in all your vehicle info and see what different options you have. This is so we can start seeing owner reviews and start to get a feel for how much we need to  budget.

So, for my 2006 Porsche 911, first I go to “Shop By Vehicle”, and select “Without TPMS”, which is tire pressure monitoring system. Now, it’s going to ask what size I want, and boom, I’m hit with a bunch of options! I like to sort by consumers’ highest rating, and then create a Google Doc to jot down pricing for a few tires I’m interested in.

It’s always good to have a back up plan if you don’t get the tires you like the most. So, make a list of a couple ideal options. Now, how do I get the best possible price? First, I search deals online. Type in “tires for sale” and look at prices on Discount Tire, Walmart, Pep Boys, and more! Remember to take into account add-ons like shipping fees and sales tax.

tire buying discount

Next, look local. And the key here is to pick up your phone and call your local shops! That’s right, you’ve researched and found your own best price, now it’s time to get an even deeper discount! By picking up your Tinder swiping device, I mean phone, this is 100% how you can guarantee you’re getting the best deal!

The same companies you just looked up online, I’ve found more often than not, when you talk to an actual human working at the store, you can negotiate an even better deal! Tell them the specifics of the exact tires you want, and ask what their price is. Once they come back with a price, see if there are any current or upcoming rebates in the system. If it’s higher than the lowest price you found online, tell them the lowest price you’ve found, and ask them if they can beat it and make you a customer today!

If they say no, ask them to match it, and ask for freebies. You know, can they include installation into the price? Lifetime tire rotation? And road hazard warranty coverage? The worst they can say is no, and if you don’t ask, I can promise you won’t get it! 

Also, here’s a trick I’ve used in the past, but be forewarned, this is an expert level maneuver. I’ve used a tire company’s credit card to save an additional $100 on some Michelin tires I purchased. Ask the salesman if they offer a credit card from the manufacturer. 99% of the time, you should really avoid using credit card offers. But as long as you know, and I can’t emphasize this enough, you know you’re going to pay it off in time and not use it on any other purchases, this can be a great opportunity to save 15% to 20% on your tire purchase. With any credit card, read the fine print and pay it off early and often!  

Only agree to a deal once you know the exact out-the-door price. That includes the price of the tires, disposing of your old tires, installation, tax, everything! Call a few different local tire shops and document the final price in your Google Doc! It usually takes a few hours of research and phone calls to get the ideal deal on a new set of rubber, but you’ll sleep easier at night knowing you got a great deal on the exact tires you wanted!

I’m now confident that you’re ready to get out there and strike a deal on some brand new tires! Now, just remember to get proper tire maintenance like keeping the tire pressure in check and rotating them every 6 months or 68,000 miles so you can get the maximum life out of them!

Choosing the Right Tire

types of tires
Bill Luke Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram

There are many different types of tires that we could cover, but today, we’re going to be looking at the most common: all seasons, summer, and winter tires. Let’s jump into it.

If you want the best all-around tires, get some all seasons. They can be used in any weather, dry, wet, and even snow if you’re brave! These are the ones to get for a comfy ride, respectable handling, and you won’t have to worry about swapping them when it gets snowy.

Now, there are 2 major categories you can go for when you get all seasons: high-performance all seasons and grand touring all seasons.

High-performance is like it sounds. They provide better handling than regular all seasons without risking the potential loss of traction. And because it rains all the time here in Seattle, they’re also perfect for the wet weather. High-performance all seasons do usually risk some winter weather traction. But, if you’re in a place that snows only a little bit each year, you should have no trouble!

Now, grand touring all seasons are better for less performance-oriented driving, and more cruising, allowing a better ride at the cost of some handling.

If we had to choose an all-season tire we would go for the Continental DWS06’s. They’re solidly built and great for all-season performance. These are your best bet for a tire if you want to just put them on and forget about them.

summer tires vs all season

But on the flip side, if you live somewhere mostly dry, we highly recommend getting summer tires. Summer tires are built from the ground up for performance in the dry and wet, but definitely not the snow. These bad boys do a better job of increasing traction, reducing braking distance, and allowing you to slice through corners like a hot knife through butter. Some will even go as far as to say they’re the true enthusiast’s tire.

While summer tires do have great handling capabilities, they have one major setback. They only work well in temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s not unusual for people with high horsepower cars to go out on summer tires on a cold day. However, if you don’t let the tires warm up, it can feel like you’re slipping and sliding in the wet, which can lead to your car being smashed against a wall if you aren’t careful. Not fun!

If you want some summer tires, we recommend getting the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S. So, while these tires may be awesome for performance, it can come at a cost. And don’t even get me started on how slippery these feel on the ice.

If you’re in a place that snows a lot, then grab some winter tires. These are designed to provide maximum grip on snowy and icy roads, making you feel extra safe in any slippery condition. But this comes at a price: speed.

Usually, winter tires are good for going through the snow, not the dry. Pushing these tires through corners can increase tire wear, and will ultimately slow down how fast you can handle the car. But the upside is major confidence in the snow. If you live in the northern states with snowy winters, these are a must.

If you want to pick up some winter tires, we recommend getting Dunlop WinterMaxx WM02’s. These are affordable and provide some of the best winter grip out of any tires.

What’s Our Recommendation?

rows of tires

Get yourself some all seasons! However, you will hear that a lot of people in many states have one set of summers and another set of winters. This allows you to switch once the snow falls, and then switch again the moment the tarmac dries, allowing for a dynamic range of tire feel as the season’s change.

But what we recommend if it doesn’t snow that much where you are is to get all seasons. The unbeatable traction on those high performance all seasons can sometimes be better than summers, making an ideal setup for driving here in rainy Seattle.

Again, this is all down to your preference and where you live as a driver. But if I had to choose what tires to leave on my 911 year round, I’d definitely go with all seasons. So, where can you buy them? Really anywhere that sells tires. Basically any tire shop will have endless amounts.

And which ones should you get for your car? Well, to find out, Tire Rack has this nifty tool called the Tire Decision Guide. Give them the year, make, and model, if you want all season, summer, or winter, then you complete a survey about what you want your priorities to be. Wet handling, ride comfort, price, even adding weather facts about your region to better help you find your ideal tire.

It’s a great tool to get you started. And once you find them, take a look at the forums and see what other people think about the tires you chose.

Safe driving, Ideal fam! If you want to add a little personal touch to your tires, check out our video on how to install tire letters!

Brad Danger
Mr. Danger loves cars, finance and living the Ideal Lifestyle!
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