This is how to know which new tires to buy.
When it comes to tow & haul, I can talk your ear off about most of the technical aspects. As an RV’ing family I’ve done my research, gotten hands-on, and honestly know way more than I’d like to admit.
Have questions about weight distribution hitches? I’ve got answers. Confused about what GVWR and GCWR are? I can explain that in a way you’ll understand (gross weight rating is how much your car weighs; gross combined weight is your vehicle + the vehicle you’re towing). Want to debate the virtues of the many, many types of recreational vehicles out there? I’m game for that.
And don’t even get me started on how most dealerships are wrong when they say “sure, it can tow it.”
But when it came time to replace the tires on our Ford Expedition, which we use to to our RV, I found myself overwhelmed by all the options.
Is it REALLY time to buy new tires or was the shop just trying to upsell me?
How to Tell If You Need New Tires
Good old’ Honest Abe is a solid test for checking the tread depth on your tires. Grab a penny and stick it in-between the tread blocks with Abe’s head upside down, facing you. If you can see the top of his head, your tread isn’t deep enough and it’s time to replace. When you’re at less than 1/16 inch in the tread, your tires could still feel fine, but they’re no longer going to do their job well. Shallow tread makes your tires more susceptible to punctures and hydroplaning.
What Type of Tires Do We Really Need?
Tires are important, especially when you’re a full-time RV family. Those four rounds of rubber are the last layer between the road and the most important parts of my life. My family sits in those seats and we are pulling our entire home behind us. This is not a purchase I can take lightly. But where should I start researching tires?
Is the price the dealer offered a good price on tires?
Do I have to buy the tires and have them installed at the same place?
But where to even begin?
Where Should I Start Researching Tires?
In the past, I’ve always just gone with whatever my shop of choice has recommended, which was usually just to replace them with a newer version of whatever was already on the car. But with so much riding on our tires this time, and knowing our SUV probably wasn’t originally equipped with tires meant to carry such a load, I wanted to really do my homework this time. Unfortunately, I quickly exhausted every tire shop in the area with my questions. They could easily recommend (and had a stock of) tires for most cars, but towing-specific recommendations just weren’t their strength.
Tire Rack to the Rescue
Thank goodness for Tire Rack. Their Tire Decision Guide helped me think through what my tires truly needed to be capable of. It even made some recommendations based on my location and average climate. Once I completed it, it gave me 3 tire recommendations and showed me how each scored on the individual criteria I said was important to me (like all-terrain performance, wet traction, and treadwear). Alas, it never delved into a couple of concerns I had: like towing capacity and performance in mountainous terrain.
Tire Rack’s support team had me covered though. I was able to talk to a real live human—and not just any call-center answer guy who is just there to read my Decision Guide results back to me. Tire Rack’s support team are all experienced tire experts who have been with the company for 5-20 years and they are still out there driving and testing on 35-40 sets of tires every year. They have the actual experience and knowledge to answer my questions. After talking over my Decision Guide results and giving them the information the guide wasn’t set up to consider, they ended up recommending the third option the guide had given me with a full explanation of exactly why they were making that specific recommendation. I came off that call feeling educated and empowered.
Delivery & Installation Is Easy and Convenient
I was really excited about to have experts guide my choice, but ordering tires online felt a little bit daunting. How do they ship? Where will they ship to? Who will be willing to install these for me? Honestly, I’d never considered any of this but knew that with our nomad lifestyle, I no longer had the tools to put them on myself without a huge hassle. But would a local shop even be willing to install tires I didn’t buy from them?
Tire Rack made the whole process super simple. I was able to look up independent recommended installers near me and have the tires shipped directly to them. They called once they received the tires and we made an appointment to have them installed. It was a win for us because being nomads, we’ve come to love the ease of using Firestone Complete Auto Care, which we were able to use to install our tires. We can find one no matter where we are, and all of our records are available to them, meaning I don’t have to keep track of much. (And they have an app. I love the app.)
Once I placed my order the tires were delivered to Firestone. Shipping for tires is included in the price but installation is not; I paid for installation separately (and all Tire Rack installers take to a price pledge agreeing not to overcharge you. However, buyers can pick up their new tires and save $40; Tire Rack has 10 distribution centers across the US.
Getting the Right Tire Means Driving In Confidence and Comfort
Having new tires, and the right tires, makes our time on the road so much more comfortable. Not just in the ride experience– and, yes, good tires will make the ride better– but also giving me confidence that our car has the ability to handle turns in the weather, hillier roads than I anticipated or traffic that abruptly stops in front of us. Whether you have a complicated towing situation like ours, or you’re an everyday driver on city roads in a small car, knowing that you have the right tires for your car is critical. Having an expert on hand to guide you priceless. And buying them on line with no pressure and an extensive range of options is the perfect way to shop for tires.
Disclosure: Tire Rack provided guidance and a set of Continental TerrainContact tires for this review; installation and all opinions are on me.