How to buy tires for your car (letter to a friend asking for advice)

A friend asked me how to buy tires for her daughter - and I wrote this up to email to her.
How does it look (do you have better ideas for a basic college kid's car)?
Here's what I just wrote up for her:
0. Write down the current tires on the vehicle & compare with what the vehicle came with as stock.
1. Go to the Tirerack web site and list all available tires for that size & load rating and type (e.g., mud and snow, all weather, etc.).
2. Order the cheapest tires with the best ratings for traction you can find. Use temperature and treadewear ratings as tie breakers. Never ever buy anything, least of all tires, based on the warranty - but if all else is otherwise exactly equal, then use the (otherwise nearly useless) warranty as your tie breaker only. And never buy based on manufacturer's speed ratings - although, as always, feel free to use them as a tie breaker.
3. You can read the reviews - but they'll be nearly useless in the end (but read them, by all means - there's no telling what you'll find out).
4. When ordering, choose the option to send them to the installer of choice, and pick the CHEAPEST local installer by overall price (it should cost roughly about $15 per tire for mounting & balancing but many have additional fees so that's total price, including tire disposal fee, new valve, balancing, and mounting).
5. You'll find the shipping is about $15 per tire, so basically the final price will be the sales price plus $30 for shipping & balancing.
6. If you want, you can skip the ordering and just print the prices and visit any local tire shop and ask if they'll match those prices. Make sure you print the installation costs also to ensure they match both.
7. Depending on how your old tires wore, you may want to have the car aligned when the new tires are put on.
You can expect tires to cost roughly around $100, plus $15 shipping, plus $15 for installation, for a total of about $520 for a set of four.
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That last bit depends on the car. Tires with a low sidewall aspect ratio can cost a fortune because they need extra reinforcements. Mix a low sidewall aspect ratio with a heavy car and you're looking at prices starting at $250 per tire. Most tire shops will try to sell such tires with a lower load capacity and say they're giving you a good deal, but underrated tires won't handle well or last long.
There's also sport versus cruising and everything in between. A sport tire may be so superior in performance that it grips better in the rain than a cruising tire grips on dry pavement. The downside is noise, a harsh ride, and rapid wear. Cruising tires are comfortable and long lasting but not great performers.
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On 02/07/2013 01:25 AM, Kevin McMurtrie wrote:

I agree with both of your comments, I would also add that unless this is a car that a) never sees snow, EVER or b) has a set of dedicated winter tires to exclude anything that has "summer" in the description (or doesn't have "all-season.")
Sounds like you actually have a pretty good handle on it, and I would definitely try to price match with a good local independent shop before just ordering from tire rack - it works out the same in the end but you build a good relationship with the shop that way. It's an easy sale for them if you walk in already knowing what two or three models, sizes, etc. of tires you're thinking are acceptable.
Finally, I've had excellent luck with Michelin tires and find them to be a little more expensive but wear a lot longer than other mfgrs. comparable tires, while still having good traction. Whether the premium is worth it really depends on how long friend's daughter anticipates keeping the car.
nate
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t
r
Yeah, I've got to say the Discount Tire warranty for the wife's car has paid for itself, her being able to deal with it instead of being dependent on me if nothing else. 3 times in two months at one point IIRC. Tire guys are a long way from brain surgeons, so having decent policies, procedures and locations makes a difference.
I'm normally bitching and moaning about warranties.

m
I have generally too, though on Chrysler 300M they were noisy as hell and I eventually went with whatever Tire Rack recommended as the quietest (don't remember what now, funny how easier it is to remember the screwups).
Usually auto dealers are to be avoided, but I have seen them actually have decent tire deals (rarely, but I have). I speculate because they buy a bunch for their trade-ins, perhaps also to upsell other services.
jg
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Why?

Which size...?

Why?

That's nonsensical.

How much longer than between tire sets would you suggest for alignments...? -----
- gpsman
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up

This should be obvious - buying a car from some dumbass who put on the wrong tires, you don't want to propagate that. They might be all four different size retreads, you know?

ze

The size for the car. Usually they list all the combinations that came with the model, sometimes they might be off. Some cars these days have 3 different sized wheels available from the manufacturer.

This appears to be trying to maximize safety for the young 'un. Probably way over-generalized.

.
I agree, but I do the same thing. These are internet opinions, it takes some skill to judge them.

This is a tough question. I've put 20K on the new beetle I bought used five years ago, which had apparently OEM replacements with I guess 5 or 10K on them. No alignment has been necessary, even though there is obvious off-road damage from the previous little-old-lady- driving-on-Sunday and I've had trouble with bent A-Arms. This has surprised me. I'm unsure if I'll do an alignment when I get a new set.
I would think getting an alignment with a new set makes sense, but I didn't with the Chrysler, no apparent issues 15K miles later. I think I've done this several times now with cars up to 200K.
It seems it depends on the car and circumstances. The roads around where I live are crap, too.
jg
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s up

e
So why "compare" them...?

size

That isn't clear.

n
Ya think...?

d
t).

Right. Knowledge/skill of which I think we can safely assume the recipient has none.

Especially if you can't "read" a tire.

The roads are crap everywhere, so you must drive like me, which almost no one does. -----
- gpsman
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Yah, I'm the guy in the Bug who thinks he's James Dean in the Spyder ;-)
jg
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On Thu, 7 Feb 2013 08:48:41 -0800 (PST), jgar the jorrible

But not too much skill. When you see the reviewer has put 100 miles on the tires and says they are "Awesome!" just ignore that. Not much different than wading through product reviews on Amazon. I trust my take on enough good Tirerack reviews much more than a tire rating from Consumers Report. They still around? You just need enough reviews for a tire on your car type. I don't bother reading reviews where the tire is on a car substantially different than the car I want them for. Don't recall if the OP said look up reviews by tire size, but that's useless. Has to be by make/model.. You do have "tire nuts" writing some decent reviews there. I've trusted some of them enough to buy based on their reviews, and was satisfied with the result. I've found the biggest problem is when there aren't enough believable reviews for my car, or the tire model is discontinued.

I never align because I put new tires on, unless there are wear or tracking issues. But it seems how it's worked out the last couple times is when it was time for front end maintenance like struts, or tie rod ends, it was time for new tires too. So I did it all at within a week, tires and alignment last.
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On Thu, 07 Feb 2013 08:48:41 -0800, jgar the jorrible wrote:
EVERYTHING jgar said was on the money!
Thanks.
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Problem is the cheapest local installer is going to be using torque sticks and are apt to overtorque everything and bend up your rotors. They are also apt to find lots of other things wrong and wind up sticking the customer for the cost of an alignment (which more often than not is actually a misalignment).
So it's good to at least beware of these things. --scott
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On 02/07/2013 10:28 AM, Scott Dorsey wrote:

I've finally found a shop that I trust to install tires on my car - if any of you are near DIA I can tell you where to go. (no, I'm not being a smartass <G>)
nate
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I go down the road to a large independent tire place that sells Cooper. I have them put on and get out. Cooper is all they have.
Years ago there was a mail-order tire place in WVA. They used to have a tire installation inside a department store in Pittsburgh. They had good deals. Next thingI know they are NTB. Never went to NTB. There are three independent tire discounter near me. It's hard to find better deals overall. Don't know what I'll do when I have to replace my truck tires. They are low slung big rimmed. Gona cost.
Greg
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On Thu, 07 Feb 2013 10:28:36 -0500, Scott Dorsey wrote:

I understand 'what' you're saying ... but ...
The problem is trying to simplify how to get four round black ones her daughter's car - and - well - it just seemed senseless to try to have her judge which installer to use when there's really no way to tell which installer is better than any other installer.
Is there a way to tell which installer is better than another?
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Obviously not, as even a good one may go bad. And obviously, the feelings that women have that they are being taken advantage of come from some truth (really, taking advantage of suckers is gender-blind, and surely some macho guys overestimate their own ability to judge). Part of the reason I got a good deal on my bug was the little old lady felt the vendors were taking advantage of a little old lady. Perhaps they were, but there were things that simply needed to be fixed. I felt the same way getting those things fixed even understanding the issues as a car guy.
All you can really do is ask your friends who've they had reasonable dealings with recently, there's no deterministic algorithm. And then you risk the fact that your friends might be bat-shit crazy. With yelp and similar, there's the additional sock-puppet risk.
When I was in car clubs there were usually people who worked in the biz who could direct you towards the good guys. That's not feasible for the general public, though perhaps everyone knows a car guy that can help. I can say there was one group that was got uncomfortable when they realized a member was subtly ripping them all off.
Years ago when I was auto-crossing, I got to know my local Goodyear dealer well, really liked him, and gave him a lot of business. Then he got some roid-raged weightlifter guy as a manager, I couldn't deal with it, so went elsewhere. Eventually that guy left and I went back. With that set of tires, the ABS light came on as I left, and they told me it would go out in a few miles (true in some cases). Well it didn't go out, turned out the installer had cut the ABS sensors. So they had to replace them, the manager showed me the invoice, parts alone certainly wiped out any profit they might have made. While I felt they tried to make good both by fixing it and fessin' up, really, this is brakes we're talking about, they lost my business. So it goes.
My wife is a psychologist, and doesn't want me to go to one place because one of her patients works there. There's another place I avoid because a former tenant works there, he bolted and left me to deal with junk truck and engines. lol
jg
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Ask a good mechanic who he has do his car.
Pick the chain store that has their own race car team over the one that doesn't.
See what happens when you offer the man a $20 tip to use a torque wrench instead of the sticks. If he isn't sure how to use it, go elsewhere.
Don't ever, ever let them do an alignment unless there are clear and obvious signs of an alignment problem. If you absolutely need an alignment, find some race car guys and ask whem who the guy in town that does good alignment work is. --scott
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I don't know. I was at my favorite gas station/ repair shop, watching truck getting towed in. Fender damage, wheel off. Finally heard the woman was crossing a bridge, and tire came of. Just came from NTB.
Greg
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Be sure and print everything, it seems there are sometimes different prices between franchise and corporate web sites. There are also sometimes marketing sites with outdated information that look similar to the real sites, trying to get referral fees or something.
jg
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On Thu, 07 Feb 2013 08:53:46 -0800, jgar the jorrible wrote:

I just got tirerack tires shipped to a "recommended installer", Midas, and, guess what?
Midas charged me 10% more than their advertised price for the installation on TireRack.
So, I signed the estimate and then called Tire Rack who called Midas who then lowered the price after an hour of phone calls.
But just for me (by adjusting the labor rate).
The only problem with that is that the NEXT person who goes into Midas is not going to get that price so they're still fleecing people (bait and switch).
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On 2/7/13 10:33 PM, Danny D. wrote:

But that's the Midas way, or should I say, the Midas Touch!
I've avoided going to Midas the past 25 years because of their shady practices. Friends don't let friends go to Midas.
- Peter
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