Buying New Tires? Dos & Don’ts to Find Your Best Fit

You need new tires. But they are the last thing you want to shop for. We asked an expert what we need to know about buying new tires and how to pick the right ones.

All-Weather, All-Terrain Tires Helped The Jeep Grand Cherokee 4Xe Grip The Snowy Road. Photo: Allison Bell
All-weather, all-terrain tires helped the Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe grip the snowy road. Photo: Allison Bell

I really needed new tires – not my favorite shopping trip.

Buying new tires can be incredibly confusing. There are so many different kinds of tires; tires need to fit your specific car and you need to make sure they’re fit for the driving you do. Should you get the same tires that are already on the car? Should you just buy tires from your local dealership? Or should you see a tire specialist?

When I needed new tires, I wanted good advice. So I asked TJ Campbell, Tire specialist & testing manager at Tire Rack, an on-line tire seller. TJ does all the hard work: learning all about each tire, the cars they are designed for and then testing them on a track. This is what he said.

Related: Tire Buying is Easy with Tire Rack

Kia Carnival Minivan

Don’t they look pretty? New tires can look as shiny and polished as a fab new pair of shoes. Photo: Jill Robbins

1: Do NOT Just Purchase the Tires Currently on Your Car.

The tires that come on your car when you first purchase it are chosen by the manufacturer. Yes, those tires will fit your car, but they might not be the best tires for your personal driving experience. The manufacturer tends to choose tires that perform well on gas mileage. The tires that rate the highest MPG are not the tires that will last the longest or perform the best in uncertain weather

Related: 9 Great Secrets for Buying Tires

The Audi E-Tron Badge And Its Fancy Wheels

The Audi Q8’s e-tron badge and its fancy wheels will be enhanced by proper tire buying. Photo: Tanya Gazdik

2: Don’t Assume You Must Buy New Tires at the Car Dealer

When I took my car for an oil change, the mechanic at my local dealer quoted me upwards of $1,000 for a set of 4 new tires. TJ explained that often when a dealer tries to sell you tires, it’s because they have tires in their inventory and will sell them to you at a premium. Although there may be the convenience of getting those tires installed on the spot, they’re probably not going to be the best-fit tires for your driving experience, nor will they be the best value for your money.

Related: Ten Best Run-Flat Tires 

Alfa Romeo Stelvio

Tire buying can be a satisfying experience, especially when it complements the floral-like wheel design on the Alfa Romeo Stelvio. Photo: Scotty Reiss

3: Choose your Retailer Carefully 

If you are buying tires in an in-person store, TJ recommends seeing a tire specialist over a mechanic. A tire specialist will be focused on finding the best tires for your specific vehicle and installing them properly.

Keep in mind that mechanics are there to work on your car’s mechanical systems; tire shops are there for tires specifically.

If you want to cross-shop brands and prices, digital shopping sites like TireRack.com makes shopping for tires easy. The website allows you to enter the make, model, and year of your car and then suggests all the tires that fit.

The list of tires automatically sorts by customer ratings, with the most popular tires at the top. You can search by other filters such as price, winter/all-terrain, brand, special deals, and more. 

The Classic Nautilus Design Of The Wheels On The Lincoln Navigator

The classic Nautilus design of the wheels on the Lincoln Navigator. Photo: Scotty Reiss

4: Vet Your New Tires: How Did TheyTest on the Track? 

Not all tire sellers test the tires they sell. Tire manufacturers test their tires, of course, and car manufacturers do, too. But tire sellers? Not always. Tire Rack is one that runs their own tests on the tires they sell and compares them to similar tires. Their testing covers the tire’s performance on a dry track, a wet track, an ice rink, and finally on a dedicated snow track in Sweden. Tire Rack tries to answer the questions you really want to know, like how the drive experience feels, and how quickly they can stop on wet pavement.

5: Which Tires Should I Buy?

This test was the determining factor in which tires I ended up choosing. I drive a 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan and live in Colorado, so having off-road and extreme weather capabilities is important to me. I narrowed it down to two: Michelin CrossClimate2 tires and Bridgestone WeatherPeak tires.

I got to see how those tires performed on a track and read Tire Rack’s descriptions of what the drive experience was like. While the Michelin CrossClimates were rated as having great handling, they were noted to be less comfortable of a drive than the Bridgestone WeatherPeaks. The Bridgestone tires were noted to drive smoothly over bumps and cracks in the pavement, which is ideal for the pothole-lined roads of the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

Jeep Wrangler Dna Of Car Design

Tire buying is more playful when you have an old-school Jeep Easter Egg on the wheels. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Finally: Buy Yourself Some New Tires! 

When the time came for the actual tire buying, I realized I needed the tires to be delivered on a specific date since I was traveling and wouldn’t be home for a week. I was able to call a Tire Rack sales specialist who assisted me with my transaction and in selecting a delivery date and it look less than five minutes. 

Now, to get the tires installed. Tire Rack works with local tire installers and has their own mobile install service, which sounds like a true luxury. Now that I’d decided which tires to buy, I just needed to arrange installation.

But that’s another story for another day!

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Social media marketer, avid hiker, snowboarder and student, Estee Reiss loves all things outdoors, social media and cars. A... More about Estee Reiss

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