Tire Buying Guide: A-Z Guide to Finding the Best Tires
When it comes to ensuring the operational safety of your vehicle, there are several factors to consider. One of the most impactful yet simple areas of car maintenance that you can focus on to maintain a safe vehicle is tires. Tires form the very base on which we’re able to use our motor vehicles in order to traverse the various locations and roads that we all use. Due to the fact that your tires are in use every time you use your vehicle, they are very prone to material deterioration over time and you should pay attention to their condition on a regular basis in order to prevent any accidents while driving. There are several different types of tires available on the market all of which serve their own individual purposes and each type of tire comes with its own unique advantages and benefits.
Depending on your vehicle make and model, certain types of tires may provide certain benefits in terms of the handling and overall efficiency of your vehicle. That’s why it’s important for you to take into consideration the type and configuration of the tires you’re using on your vehicle to obtain maximum operational standards. With the right set of tires on your truck, car, or SUV, you can increase your fuel efficiency and improve the overall handling dynamics of your vehicle. The right set of tires on your vehicle can also reduce the amount of general stress that it absorbs while in use which is why finding the right pair of tires for your vehicle should be on the top of your list.
One of the most obvious advantages to taking the time to find the perfect set of tires for your vehicle is that you can cut down on the odds of your experiencing any serious punctures or other issues while driving. There is a lot to unpack when talking about selecting the right tires from the proper tread pattern all the way to the thickness of the actual tire itself. Without prior knowledge or experience dealing with cars or tires especially, it can be difficult trying to find the accurate information which will allow you to make an educated purchase decision about which tire type is best for you.
If you’ve been struggling to find the right resources you need in order to decide on which tires are best for your vehicle, today is your lucky day. In this guide, we’re going to cover all of the details you need to know about finding the right set of tires to install on your vehicle. We’re going to cover several tire types in-depth and breakdown in detail the various benefits and disadvantages of using each type. Be sure to read each section of this guide fully so that you can understand all of the variables involved with choosing specific types of tires to install on your vehicle.
Keep in mind that every vehicle has a different weight, steering mechanic, body type, and more so you should always seek professional assistance if you have any questions about which tire type is best for you.
Knowing When You Need New Tires
One of the most common reasons that people replace their tires and install new ones is due to punctures, abrasions, or general wear. Before buying a new set of tires, it’s important to find out if you really need to purchase new tires or if the current tires on your vehicle are suitable for more use in order to avoid spending unnecessary money. There are a lot of various tests and methods that you can use in order to find out if your tires need to be replaced or not without having to go to an actual mechanic or repair shop. There are a few main factors that you can pay attention to in order to determine the overall condition of your tires. These factors play an essential role in purchasing new tires as well so you’ll be able to use the results you obtain from the initial test to purchase the new set that you decide to go with.
If you notice a very pronounced vibrating noise while driving, it could point to potential issues with the condition of your tires. Vibration typically occurs once your tires have reached a very serious and potentially dangerous condition. A vibrating noise while you’re driving could be the result of a number of issues which is why it’s important to take immediate action once you notice strong vibration while driving your vehicle.
Cracks in tire sidewalls
Cracks in the sidewall of your tires are commonly caused by leakages or other abnormalities which cause the tire to swell. If you notice abnormal bumps on the sidewall of your tires, it’s time to replace them. Trying to ride on damaged sidewalls can put you at risk for experiencing some very serious accidents or other issues related to how well you’re able to control and handle your vehicle.
Blisters & Bulges on your tires
Blisters and bulges on your tire can indicate numerous issues related to a weakened outer tire layer which will impact the overall operation of your vehicle in a very noticeable manner. It is not advised for you to continue driving on tires that have pronounced bulges or blisters on their exterior layer because it can cause problems on the road which may put you at risk for injury or other serious damage. Always pay attention to see if your tires have bulges or blisters on the exterior as it is a clear indication that you need to replace them soon.
Depth of Tread
Tread is the pattern that you see surrounding your tires, the tread provides traction for your vehicle while on the road in order to help you better control and steer your truck or car. When your tread begins to wear, it is a major sign that your tires are at the end of their life cycle. A great way to test and see how deep your tire tread is is by using a penny. This test is known as the Lincoln penny test and many automotive professionals use it in order to accurately gauge whether or not it’s time to replace a given set of tires. To begin the test, take a penny with president Lincoln on it and place it in between the tread of your tires in an upside-down position. If the top of President Lincoln’s head is distorted by your tire tread, you don’t need to replace them immediately. If you can clearly see the top of President Lincoln’s head when placing the penny in between the tread of your tires, you need to replace them. This is an easy, simple, and convenient method that you can use in order to tell whether or not you need to replace your tires.
Now that you know what to look for when deciding on whether or not it’s time to replace your tires, let’s focus on the important factors that you need to consider when purchasing a new set of tires. It’s important to take into consideration all of these factors before buying a new set of tires to ensure that you purchase a set of tires which will last for a long time and provide you with ultimate stability while traveling.
Factors to Consider When Purchasing New Tires
When you go out to look for a new set of tires, it’s important to keep in mind a few key factors which will help you determine which option is best for you. By paying attention to all of the following components of purchasing new tires, you’ll be able to select the right set for your vehicle in no time.
When you begin searching for a new pair of tires, it’s important to read all of the detailed specifications regarding the construction process used to make the tire, it’s speed rating and the size of the tire. The size of your tires will ultimately determine the fuel efficiency that you’re able to achieve, how well your car handles and just general performance. When you go to purchase a new set of tires, the dealership will be able to provide you with information about the details of the various tire types that they have available. You also need to make sure that you match the size of the tires that you’re purchasing with the size of your wheels in order to avoid any problems with compatibility. The speed rating of your new tires is very important because it determines the maximum rate of speed that you can drive on them without experiencing issues. Speed ratings typically range from A being the lowest to Y which is the highest so you can get a pretty good indication of how much speed your new set of tires can really handle. Higher speed ratings generally lead to better overall control and stability when driving your vehicle because it allows you to sustain more traction that tires with lower speed ratings.
UTQG Uniform Tire Quality Grading
The Uniform Tire Quality Grading code is a universal code that is used to indicate the testing method used when determining the detailed specifications of a specific tire. The Uniform Tire Quality Grading test is used to determine the traction, temperature, and tread wear rate of every new tire so it’s important to look for these indicators when purchasing a new set of tires. If you’re having trouble verifying the Uniform Tire Quality Grading level of the tires you’re interested in, ask the dealer for more information and they will be able to lead you in the right direction.
Department of Transportation Safety Code
The Department of Transportation Safety Code is applied to every tire that has passed the qualifications set out by the U.S. Department of Transportation and ensures that you’re purchasing a safe set of high-performing tires that will last. The Department of Transportation Safety Code is usually located around your tire’s ID number in addition to information about where and when your tires were made. Look for this code to ensure that you’re getting a set of reliable tires that were built to provide lasting performance to your vehicle. If you don’t see a Department of Transportation Safety Code on your tires, you may want to double check with the dealer to verify their authenticity and condition.
Traction rating and temperature scores
Traction ratings and temperature scores denote a tire’s wet-stopping ability and temperature resistance. For traction, AA is best, C is worst. For temperature resistance, scores range from A (best) to C.
Every tire has a Department of Transportation number after the letters on the sidewall. The last four digits show the week and year the tire was made; for example, the digits 2315 would signify that the tire was made during the 23rd week of 2015. Don’t buy tires more than a couple of years old.
The tire speed rating is a letter indicating the tire’s maximum speed when carrying the load defined by the load index—and not how fast you should drive! Standard all-seasons are usually rated S (112 mph) or T (118 mph). Climbing up the scale are H (130 mph), V (149 mph), ZR (149-plus mph), W (168 mph), and Y (186 mph) ratings. Winter tires may carry the letter Q (99 mph) or higher.
Types of Tires
There are several different types of tires that you can choose from and all of them are designed with specific vehicle dynamics in mind. For example, someone who lives in a rather snowy environment will need tires that can resist slipping and hydroplaning. Someone who lives in a sunny and dry environment will need tires that can resist expansion due to abnormally high temperatures. Below, we’re going to list all of the major types of tires available on the market so that you can determine which tires are best for your vehicle.
Each type of tire also comes with its own set of ratings such as speed ratings and treadwear rate so that you can get an up-close view at how they would function in the real world before buying them. Those measurements and ratings will also be listed with each type of tire.
Performance Winter/Snow Tires
Performance winter/snow tires come in sizes to fit cars using UHP all-season and summer tires. They are designed to be seasonal replacements for those vehicles, providing improved cold-weather grip.
- Speed ratings: H (130 mph) and higher
- Treadwear warranty: None
- Typical wheel size: 17 to 20 inches
Winter/snow tires offer superior grip to go, stop, and corner in cold, inclement weather. But they typically have faster treadwear than all-season tires because the tread is specifically designed to bite into snow and ice, and the rubber is formulated to stay pliable at freezing temperatures. Also, winter/snow tires generally take longer to stop than all-season tires on cleared roads.
We test winter/snow tires suited to cars, performance winter/snow tires for sports cars, and truck winter/snow tires for pickups and SUVs
- Speed ratings: Q (99 mph) and higher
- Treadwear warranty: None for most
- Typical wheel size: 14 to 22 inches
All-season and summer ultra-high-performance tires are commonly fitted to upscale sedans or sporty vehicles. All-season UHP tires are designed to provide good handling and responsive steering in wet and dry conditions, but the treadwear and ride comfort are common compromises. Summer UHP tires are not intended for cold weather and won’t grip in snowy or icy conditions. All-season versions may compromise some dry and wet grip to gain winter traction.
- Speed ratings: ZR (149-plus mph), W (168 mph), Y (186 mph)
- Treadwear warranty: None or 30,000 to 60,000 miles
- Typical wheel size: 17 to 22 inches
All-Season Car Tires
All-season tires come in sizes to fit everything from small cars to light-duty SUVs and pickups. They are for drivers who want year-round traction, long treadwear, and a comfortable ride. But all-season tires typically lack the precise handling and grip of performance tires.
- Speed ratings: None, S (112 mph), T (118 mph)
- Treadwear warranty: None or 40,000 to 100,000 miles
- Typical wheel size: 14 to 18 inches
Check the style you need here:
- The Best Tires for Subaru Outback
- The Best Tires for Mazda CX-5
- The Best Tires for Honda Odyssey
- The Best Tires for Honda Pilot
- The Best Rated Tires for Honda CRV
- Best Tires for a Mazda 3
Performance All-Season Car Tires
Performance all-season tires provide year-round grip tuned for enthusiastic driving. They have a higher speed rating than standard all-season tires, and they generally provide better handling and braking than regular all-seasons.
- Speed ratings: H (130 mph), V (149 mph)
- Treadwear warranty: None or 40,000 to 80,000 miles
- Typical wheel size: 15 to 20 inches
All-Season SUV Tires
All-season SUV tires are specifically designed for modern SUVs, splitting the difference between car and truck tires. They are tuned for the performance, light-duty towing, and off-roading capabilities of those vehicles.
- Speed ratings: T (118 mph), H (130 mph)
- Treadwear warranty: 60,000 to 90,000 miles
- Typical wheel size: 16 to 20 inches
All-Season Truck Tires
All-season truck tires are designed for the heavy loads an SUV or pickup can move. These are well-rounded tires designed to perform well in most conditions.
- Speed ratings: S (112 mph), T (118 mph), H (130 mph)
- Treadwear warranty: None or 40,000 to 80,000 miles
- Typical wheel size: 15 to 22 inches
All-Terrain Truck Tires
Engineered for more heavy-duty applications, all-terrain truck tires are suitable for use on paved roads and light off-road use. The more rugged tread is designed to provide added traction on unpaved and snowy roads.
- Speed ratings: S (112 mph) for many
- Treadwear warranty: None or 50,000 to 60,000 miles
- Typical wheel size: 15 to 20 inches
Truck Winter/Snow Tires
Truck winter/snow tires are specifically designed for pickups and SUVs. Like car winter/snow tires, always use truck winter/snow tires in a set of four for optimum grip to go, stop, and corner.
- Speed ratings: S (112 mph) for many
- Treadwear warranty: Typically, none
- Typical wheel size: 15 to 20 inches
These are all the primary types of tires that you will find in virtually any tire shop or repair facility. Read each description thoroughly to ensure that you select the right type of tires when purchasing a new set.
Find the best All Terrain tires for your vehicle model here:
A treadwear rating can be found on virtually every new set of tires that you purchase. But that treadwear rating is a comparative tool, and it does not tell in miles how long anyone tire might last. Further, manufacturers use different methodologies in making treadwear mileage claims, which in turn makes comparing tire mileages across tire brands challenging.
Consumer Reports provides a comparative tread-life mileage figure chart, offering projected mileage of all-season and performance all-season car tires. The predicted mileage is based on our rigorous vehicle treadwear analysis in which we run tires around the clock, over 1,000 miles a day. Car and truck tires are run to 16,000 miles. Treadwear coverage will be expanded to ultra-high-performance and truck tires in future tests.
How you can maintain your tires
In previous years checking your tires was something that you had to do often in order to make sure that you don’t experience any issues. Thanks to longer-lasting tires, safety checks now don’t need to occur so frequently however they are still very important. Many of today’s tires last 50,000 miles or more before they wear out, though heat, environment, potholes, and underinflation can weaken them. Below, you’ll find a list containing all of the ways that you can perform simple maintenance tasks on your tires in order to avoid potential issues while driving or in the future. Use all of the information listed below to assist you in maintaining the tires that you already have to avoid having to waste money on completely new ones.
Simple Tire Maintenance Routines You Can Perform
- Air Pressure- Check the air pressure each month when the tires are cold (before they’ve been driven more than a couple of miles). Be sure they’re inflated to the air pressure listed on the placard on the doorjamb or inside the glove compartment or fuel-filler door. Don’t use the pressure on the tire’s sidewall; that’s the maximum pressure for the tire.
- Tire Condition- Look for cracks, cuts, or bulges in the sidewall or tread, and replace tires that have them.
- Tread Condition- Check for uneven tread wear, which typically denotes poor wheel alignment or worn suspension components, and has both checked by a shop. Also have your vehicle’s alignment and suspension checked before mounting new tires, to prevent them from wearing prematurely.
- Weight Capacity- Stay within the vehicle’s weight capacity listed on the doorjamb placard. Overloading makes tires run hotter, increasing the chance of failure.
- Tread Depth- Measure tread depth with a quarter. If the top of George Washington’s head is just visible when placed in a tread groove, the tread has about a 4⁄32-inch depth. That’s enough to offer some all-weather grip, but it’s time to start thinking about replacement.
How to approach Buying New Tires
When you decide that it’s time to buy new tires, it’s important that you know about a few unwritten rules to make sure that you make the right purchase decision. Continue reading to find tips that will help you approach buying new tires with confidence.
Buy All Four Tires at Once
New tires generally grip the road better than tires that have some miles on them. It’s best to replace all four tires at once, but if you must replace them in pairs, put the new tires on the back (regardless of whether the car is front- or rear-wheel-drive). This will help the car retain its stability and predictability in a panic swerve. (Older tires on the rear will make the car more likely to spin out.) Rotating the tires every 5,000 to 7,000 miles will ensure that they wear at the same rate, allowing you to get the most return on your investment and ensure that all four tires will be ready for replacement at the same time. Never replace a single tire if a tire is damaged and cannot be repaired, replace it as well as its mate on the other side of the car.
Still, Monitor the Condition Of Your New Tires After Purchasing Them
New tires are not a maintenance free pass, you still need to monitor them on a regular basis. Tires lose about 1 psi of pressure per month and another 1 psi for every 10-degree drop in temperature. If you buy new tires in August, by January they could have lost as much as 20% of their inflation pressure. Underinflated tires decrease gas mileage and are more likely to suffer a blowout and with modern tires, you can’t tell the pressure is low just by looking.
Purchase Two Sets of Tires
Most cars come with all-season tires. Imagine using the same pair of shoes for jogging, hiking, tramping through snow, and ballet dancing, and you’ll understand the problem inherent with all-season tires. If you live where it snows, buy a set of proper snow tires (also known as winter tires) and use them in the winter. All-season tires are designed to handle all weather conditions, but they aren’t optimized for any particular one. Snow tires are designed for one thing and one thing only: Keeping your car going where you point it when temperatures are low and the roads are covered in snow and ice. By using snow tires in the winter, you can opt for a “summer” tire better suited to your tastes be that a quieter, more comfortable ride, better handling, improved rain performance or longer tread-life.
Go with Your Gut Instinct, OEM Parts Are Not Always the Best Option
OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) tires are the ones fitted to your car at the factory, but buying the same type of tire as a replacement isn’t always the best choice. Manufacturers look for a tire that will provide acceptable performance in all conditions from Arizona summers to Vermont winters. They may choose a tire that emphasizes comfort over handling or handling over tread life. As a consumer, you can do better by shopping around. Replacement OEM tires for our Honda were around $130 apiece; I found a tire better suited to our hot and dry California weather that cost significantly less. Not only did they improve the way the car drove, but they also saved me quite a bit of money.
Choose the Right Dealer to Purchase Your New Tires From
When the time comes to shop for tires, many people go to the dealership or their local mechanic — but these businesses often carry a limited number of brands or tire models. A full-service tire dealer will carry a wide range of brand names and will be familiar with local weather and road conditions. Talk to your dealer about the type of driving you to do and get her recommendations. If you’re comfortable buying tires online, Tire Rack ) has an excellent interactive system that will help you find a tire well suited to your needs.
Questions & Answers
Q: What is the correct air pressure for your tires?
A: Find your optimal operating tire inflation pressure in the owner’s manual and on a sticker located on the inside of the driver’s door.
Q: Can you mix tire types?
A: Performance is best when all 4 tires are the same size, tread pattern, and age. Tires that vary in those factors can cause handling and stability problems. However, some cars have different size tires in the front and rear, so check your owner’s manual.
Q: Can you mix tires with different speed ratings?
A: Generally, not recommended. It could affect handling and maximum speed limit.
Q: When should you use winter tires?
A: Winter tires are generally used when the temperature remains consistently near freezing. Winter tires can provide improved grip on icy and snowy surfaces, and are one way you can prepare your vehicle for driving in the snow.
Q: Should winter tires be used only in the snow?
A: Usually, if temperatures drop and you’ll be driving in the rain, ice, snow or other wintery conditions. When temperatures stay above freezing, change to summer or all-season tires
Q: Can you use summer tires in the winter?
A: This is not usually recommended. Cold weather can cause softer summer tires to lose grip, develop cracks and shorten tire life.
Q: Should you purchase used tires?
A: This is not typically recommended. You may be unaware of past hazards or mistreatment the tires underwent.
Choosing the right tires and knowing how to care for them is critical to safe driving. Get more safety recommendations, so you can keep yourself and your tires in top shape on the road.
All of the information in this guide will help you purchase the right set of tires for your vehicle with any problems. Make sure that you use all of the tips and information here to assist you the next time you find yourself in need of some new tires. Depending on your vehicle make and model, certain types of tires may provide certain benefits in terms of the handling and overall efficiency of your vehicle. All of the tire types mentioned earlier in this article provide you with a vast array of options to choose from when it comes to different vehicle types and models. That’s why it’s important for you to take into consideration the type and configuration of the tires you’re using on your vehicle to obtain maximum operational standards. You want to make sure that you select the right type of tires for your vehicle if you plan on getting as much value and usage out of it as possible. With the right set of tires on your truck, car, or SUV, you can increase your fuel efficiency and improve the overall handling dynamics of your vehicle. The right set of tires on your vehicle can also reduce the amount of general stress that it absorbs while in use which is why finding the right pair of tires for your vehicle should be on the top of your list.
Consult your owner’s manual or the placard on the door jamb behind the driver to find the appropriate size and specifications for your vehicle. Don’t look at the sidewall of your existing tires: They may not be the same size as originally came on your car or truck. Putting the right size tire on your car ensures that the speedometer will be accurate, the proper loads will be placed on the transmission and other driveline components, and they won’t rub on suspension or body parts. This will ensure that your vehicle and your new tires operate together seamlessly and without any issues. As long as you follow this guide exactly, you won’t have to worry about purchasing the wrong set of tires or dealing with shady auto repair shops who try to sell used tires as new ones. Take back control over the safety of your vehicle and buy a perfect set of new tires by using our thorough and comprehensive purchasing guide. Once you purchase new tires according to our guide tips, you’ll be able to see, experience, and feel the difference when you’re driving.