How to Save Money on Tires

by David Ning · 6 comments

You can’t drive your car if it doesn’t have tires, but pieces of rubber, especially those for some of the newer all wheel drive models, can be very expensive. If you require snow tires as well as three-season models; that will double your cost. What is a car owner to do? The simple answer is to play the system.

Know What You Want

When you head out to purchase a tire you need to know which type you desire as well as the size. If your car is an all-wheel drive, you will need to replace all four tires at once, as even relatively small variances in wear on the tread will affect drivability. Determine if you want regular tires, performance tires or ultra performance models. Performance tires usually provide better handling and maneuverability at higher speeds, but have shorter wear warranties.

Shop Around

While every brand is different, there are no differences whether you get it from shop a, b or c. Don’t wait until the last minute to go tire-shopping. Start looking early, so you can take advantage of sales and promotions. Many tire shops offer a “free” tire with the purchase of three.

Other common offers include free mounting and balancing, or road hazard insurance. Compare not just the tire prices, but also the price of getting the tires on your car. Then pick the best choice.

If your car demands a fairly expensive tire, consider going down a size if possible. It is possible to buy a smaller tire than originally intended for your car, as long as the circumference remains the same, since the speedometer is set according to the original tires.

Things To Look For

One of the first things you want to check, once the size and style have been determined is the age of the tire. All tires must list when they were made, and the information is coded. The last four digits in the required DOT number determine the week and year a tire was manufactured. For example, if the last four digits were 2610, then the tire was manufactured in the 26th week of 2010. Because rubber naturally breaks down, you want to avoid getting a set of tires that is more than a couple of years old.

Double check to see that the tires you paid for are the tires you got. Honest errors occur, but dishonest shops, and these are usually smaller shops, will try to slip a cheaper set of tires on your car for a higher price.

Brands, Protection and Maintenance

All of the top tire manufacturers that sell tires in the States are fairly reputable, although they all have a bit of a niche where they specialize. Continental is well known for light truck tires and Michelin for long tread life. Do some research regarding your needs. As long as you stick to one of the better-known tires, you should do fine.

Once you have paid several hundred dollars for a set of tires, the best thing you can do to save money is to take good care of them. This means keeping them at the proper tire pressure, rotating them every 6,000 miles and visually inspecting them at least once a month. You are searching for bulges, obvious nails or screws penetrating the tread, odd tread wear patterns and any damage to the sidewalls.

In the end, the most likely place you will save money on tires is after the purchase itself. Properly inflated tires reduce drag and improve your gas mileage dramatically. A good set of tires that are well maintained will save you money at the pump.

Want more money saving tips? Check out the free How to Save Money on Everything ebook by signing up for the (also free) frugal newsletter.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Samer Forzley May 22, 2010 at 6:42 am

I need to buy new tires for my car. I have to replace the snow tires and need to get performance tires. I had no idea tires had a manufacture date on that, thanks for that tip its awesome.

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Aaron May 22, 2010 at 8:24 am

Best deals I’ve found recently are from discounttiredirect.com on Black Friday. They’re cheaper than almost anyone usually on just about everything as is, but they then do $100 off an order of four tires on Black Friday, with free shipping. Then just take them somewhere to get them installed, and you’re off to the races, no pun intended. I got 4 top rated 17″ Falken tires for my wife’s RAV4 for $325 shipped, which was ridiculously cheaper than anyone else. A few years before, I got 4 Falken 14″ tires for my Civic for $125 shipped. Tough to beat those deals.

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John May 22, 2010 at 9:59 pm

I really liked the tip about the date, I had no idea tires had an identifiable date on them. That should help me find some decent tires when I go shopping for them next. Great advice.

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Squirrelers May 23, 2010 at 7:05 pm

Good tips, interesting article. Thanks. I tend to agree with your last paragraph, on after-purchase care being the place where you can probably save the most over the long run – [articularly with gas costs.

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Jenna May 24, 2010 at 11:35 am

You can also donate your old tires to schools (swing sets or football practices), sell them at garage sales or make flower pots out of them. This way you can feel good about your purchase and not feel like the money you just spent will end up in a landfill like your old tires did last time years from now.

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Cd Phi May 24, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Awesome. I had no idea what that number meant either….That’ll definitely be something to look out for now.

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