Why New Tires Are a Girl’s Best Friend

New Tires
It might not seem like a gift, but buying the right tires for you is a gift to yourself.

I’m the lucky girl who turned 16 and got a new set of tires.

I’m a new driver but I am driving my parents 10-year-old Toyota Highlander SUV. To ensure it is safe for me, they did some basic things like renewed the AAA roadside assistance plan, had the oil changed, had the fluids checked and put new tires on it.

The new tires were a set of Michelin Defenders my mom had the chance to test, but really, since they went on the car I’m learning to drive, I was excited to test them out, too.

Learning the difference between new and old tires

New Tires

Checking the tread on the Michelins; put a penny head-down into the tread and if you can’t see the top of Lincoln’s head, your tread is good. Photo: Scotty Reiss

I started driving the Highlander before the new tires were installed, and the difference in performance before and after was amazing, to say the least. I didn’t really know the difference when I first started driving. Our white Toyota Highlander, which sits up high, is as my mom calls it, like “driving a marshmallow:” Steering is sort of soft and you float over bumps in the road. But it could be a little bouncy when going over potholes, and I learned to be prepared to brake way before getting to an intersection or stop sign, and taking a curve at 35 miles an hour was a little unnerving.

What I learned was that the old tires were worn out so they weren’t gripping the road very well. They were also a softer rubber, which gave the car more bounce and less control.

New tires = new confidence on the road

New Tires

No longer a marshmallow: our Toyota Highlander with its new Michelin Defender tires. Photo: Scotty Reiss

But when the old tires were replaced with Michelin Defenders, I became more confident behind the wheel of the Highlander, which was no longer such a marshmallow. These new tires, according to Michelin, are designed for SUVs and minivans, get better gas mileage, allow you to stop in a shorter distance, have a more rigid rubber tread and are intended for driving in all seasons—winter and summer.

I really noticed the difference driving in my Connecticut neighborhood of back roads, small hills and winding parkways. I am more in control behind the wheel, and as a driver that is so important. From feeling confident going around curves, feeling in control when going down a hill, stopping in a shorter distance—really important when curves in the road are hard to see around—to feeling in control merging onto the highway, I really noticed the difference in the new tires versus the old ones.

Wet roads? No problem. Or less of a problem, anyway

New Tires

The new tires on the way to the shop to be installed. Photo: Scotty Reiss

I also noticed the difference in the rain. Wet roads can be harder to stop on and you’re constantly poised to hit the brakes because you never know if the water on the side of the road is a deep puddle or a small pool. With the old tires, staying in control of the car was harder; the Defenders make better contact with the pavement even when it’s wet, and I can feel that control in the steering and ride of the car. Even so, my mom always reminds me to slow down and be cautious in the rain.

Then, there are the potholes. Our roads are famous for the potholes, especially after really bad winters. The Michelin Defenders made driving over bumps in the road not so noticeable. With the old tires, a big bump could actually change the direction of the car and I would have to correct the steering; with the new tires the Highlander glides over potholes and stays on its path. It’s also a more comfortable ride for everyone; no one likes to be jarred or tossed around in the car by potholes.

The price of new tires: Worth every penny

New Tires

The label on the Michelin tires shows the tire size right under the name; always be sure you have the right size tires for your wheels.Photo: Scotty Reiss

The Michelin Defenders are about $100 per tire, or about $400 for the set, and it cost about $100 to install them, which included checking the brakes and having the front end aligned. Surprisingly, that is about what my dad paid for the old tires, which were good for about 40,000 miles before they wore out (maybe the softer rubber wore down faster?). The Michelin Defenders should get about 90,000 miles of wear before they need to be replaced. With all the driving I’m planning to do they might just last me a year or two!

Disclosure: We were given a set of Michelin Defender tires for this review; I was not compensated for the review and opinions expressed are all my own.

A full time tech executive and part time writer, Cameron is a graduate of the University of Alabama. A... More about Cameron Reiss