Walking into a tire shop can feel intimidating. You are about to spend hundreds of dollars on a product (tires) about which your knowledge is spotty, at best. You want to spend your money wisely, and you want your car to be a safe vehicle for you and your family.

How to Choose the Right Tire

(Pixabay / robineero)

In general, you can trust Utah tire stores to recommend the first options which you should consider. While you will generally receive sound advice, employees may not take a lot of extra time to understand your unique situation. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your next trip to the tire store.

Summer, all-season or winter tires?

The tire store employees would also have suggestions about local driving conditions, but it’s something to consider on a personal basis as well. The basic choices are winter tires, summer tires, or a combination all-season tire. Some people are particular enough, or drive enough, to swap tires when the seasons change. Especially in places like Utah, where the driving conditions change radically from the cold and icy winter to the extreme heat of the summer, using season-specific tires is worth considering.

All-season tires, however, are popular for a good reason, and they pass federal safety requirements. All-season tires are less specific to seasonal road conditions, but they offer convenience and versatility.

Here’s a closer look at specific tire types:

  • Summer: These tires give you greater speed and agility on the road, and they are a great choice for high-performance cars or trucks. They have less grooving, which allows for more rubber touching the road. More rubber-to-road contact equals greater precision. They also have shallower tread depth, which allows them to stay stable, even when pushed to their limits with high-performance, sports-oriented vehicles. And finally, they perform very well in summer showers due to their tread patterns, which allow them to disperse water so that they don’t hydroplane on wet roads.
  • Winter: Winter tires are a must for extreme winter weather. All-season can handle moderate winters, but if you live in a place (such as Utah) where the weather is regularly below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s worth investing in winter tires. Their tread patterns give superior traction on snow and ice, meaning you’re less likely to slip and slide. They’re also made of a softer rubber compound that gives them even better grip in cold temperatures.
  • All-season: This is the jack-of-all-trades tire. They have deeper treads than summer tires, which may not support high-performance driving as well, but it does afford all-season tires greater longevity. They don’t provide the same degree of grip that you’ll find with summer tires, meaning you may not be able to steer, brake or corner with the same precision. However, the trade-off is that all-season tires will perform better in light winter conditions.

You compare prices for everything else – why not tires?

You can walk into the store and buy whatever they have, or you can call ahead and ask about any current or upcoming sales that might save you money. Once you have determined the size and type of tire you need for your particular car, you can call three different stores and compare their offerings, all while sitting in your favorite armchair at home. Ask whether stores have any tire models that they are clearing out or which are being discontinued. These tires may be discounted off the regular price.

Tires are sized by the type (P), the radial construction, the aspect ratio, the diameter of the rim, the width of the tire, the tire’s load rating, and the tire’s speeding rating. Although this information can be found in your owner’s manual, the tire dealership employees should be able to tell you the size and type of tire you would need if you show up and ask. Determining the size and type of tire allows you to shop around in advance and compare prices.

Some people find that the best deal is not local but online. If you, like a growing number of consumers, are looking online for a tire, don’t forget those pesky shipping fees. On the plus side, some tire brands offer free shipping to your local service station, and most brands offer 30-60 days for a road test period during which you can test your tires before fully committing to the purchase. Warranties are available for online tire purchases, just like in-store purchases.

How are prices correlated with the tire’s lifespan?

Like most consumer products, tires come in a range of prices. Although the higher-end tires have slight advantages, a mid-range tire is a reliable option. When considering costs, remember to ask about a tire’s lifespan. Those cheap tires might look like a great deal at the moment, but not if you need to buy multiple sets of them during the lifespan of a slightly more expensive model. Why not save yourself the time of repeated trips to the tire store, as well as protecting the environment from multiple cast-off tires, by buying the higher quality tires at a higher price? Before going for the cheapest option, ask specifically about the expected life span of the tire, and compare it to the more expensive brands.