How to Save Money on Tires
For years or decades my husband, Will has put out an enormous amount of effort struggling to save even the smallest amount of money on, well, everything. The last 10-15 years in particular has been spent conducting ongoing, extensive research on how to save money on tires. He has just recently discovered that he now knows everything there is to know about tire savings and now he’s ready to pass this vault of information along to you!
Here’s my husband, Will, on how to save money on tires:
Tires, like all consumable goods, can be evaluated on a cost per unit basis – in this case, cost per rated mile. The object is to spend as little per rated mile on the tire you’re about to purchase.
Car tires are rated with a mileage warranty, load index, and speed rating. Truck and SUV tires typically do not have a mileage warranty because they expect you to be off-roading so much that your tires wear out too quickly. Car tire mileage warranties typically vary between 40,000 and 90,000 miles and there are some terrible tires with no mileage warranty. Because they last for exactly 40 minutes. Ask me how I know. Keep this in mind as I discuss ways to spend as little per rated mile possible on your tire.
Here are 4 ways to save money on tires:
Maintain Your Current Tires
In order to get maximum life out of your tires, you must complete four maintenance items with some regularity:
Rotate — This needs to be done every 10-15k miles unless your car is out of alignment, in which case you’ll need it much more frequently. You get free tire rotations with the $59 oil change card we offer at FrugalLivingNW.com (buy one now if you’re not using one already).
Align — Having a four wheel alignment is even more important than the tire rotation. Without proper alignment, your tires will wear unevenly and much quicker. When you run tires with different tread patterns, wear life, and sizes, your car will need more frequent alignments. Don’t worry, you also get free computerized four wheel alignments with your $59 oil change card (you seriously need to buy one if you’re not using one already). This needs to be done every 25k miles.
Repair Flats — Don’t replace a tire just because it is leaking. Fill it up with air and drive it to any tire store where they will plug or patch it for between $0 and $15 depending on location and type of repair needed. It is much more cost effective to pay for the infrequent flat repair than paying for a new tire that includes “free” flat repairs from a higher-end tire store.
Maintain Air Pressure — Keep your tires filled to the maximum recommended on the sidewall of your tire. This will decrease roll resistance and increase gas and tire mileage.
Replace One Tire at a Time
Tire sales people give buyers the impression that buying tires in pairs or sets of four is your only reasonable option. Not necessarily! Oftentimes you’ll go in because one tire is flat or funky, but the other three still have plenty of miles left. Don’t replace the other three perfectly good tires!
Trust me, tread patterns, load/speed ratings, even exact size do NOT make enough of a difference in the drive or gas mileage to make it worth buying additional, unneeded tires. Just buy the one tire that you immediately need and you’ll save 50-75% each time.
Buy Used Tires
New tires cost a lot. The cost of a new tire can easily be more than $150 mounted, balanced, and installed. The same tire purchased used could cost just $25-$45 and have plenty of life left on it. The more you buy used, the more you will discover the unit price savings. Typically I replace used tires about every 20k miles and spend about $35 making each rated mile less than 1¢.
One important thing to consider, which most people don’t even think about, is this: Will you actually own the vehicle for number of miles the tire you’re about to buy is rated for? If you’re only planning to own the vehicle for another two years, purchasing a fancy new tire rated at 90K miles is a complete waste of your money. It would be a wiser investment to purchase a used tire with another 30K miles of life and apply the savings to your upcoming new-to-you car purchase. Let the new owner spring for a tire when your used one wears out.
You can buy used tires at almost any tire store, including the ones that primarily sell new tires. Just Google “used tires” and your city to find tons of options in your area.
Buy New Tires Online
Only consider buying new tires when three or more of your tires need to be replaced at the same time (otherwise, use one of the strategies listed above). If you need a car-full of new tires, try this strategy out.
I recently discovered that you can purchase tires online, ship them directly to your participating neighborhood tire store, and have them installed for substantially less than doing the entire transaction at the same neighborhood tire store. Makes sense, right? You’re skipping the middle man (the neighborhood tire shop) who has to pay for the building, the salesperson, the insurance, and stocking the inventory.
Recently our van experienced a very rare phenomenon: three tires were actually at the end of their life and the fourth only had a few miles left on it. It had been a while since I needed to buy so many tires at one time, so I did some research and found that TireBuyer.com had a new 85k warranty tire for our minivan for $72! Even after I paid for the tires and the installation, the price per rated mile on the new tire was much less than the price per rated mile on the used tire I typically buy!
If you have enough cash saved up and you need more than a handful of tires on your vehicle, I cannot recommend TireBuyer.com enough! Here’s how the transaction worked:
I purchased four high-quality tires on TireBuyer.com, selected the installer closest to my home (the site lists tons of neighborhood installers along with the installation price), and waited for the call from the tire shop. Once the tires arrived, my installer called and set up an appointment. I took the van in, paid the shop for the installation (again, the installation price was listed on the TireBuyer.com website), and the shop installed my brand new tires.
Later that afternoon, we had brand new tires on the van, all for about $200 less than I would have paid if I purchased a lesser-quality set of tires from the same neighborhood tire shop! We’ve had the TireBuyer.com tires on the van for over six months and have zero complaints! It was a great experience!
Here are some additional codes that might save you more money, depending on which tires you’re purchasing and how much you end up spending:
Get $25 off any order of $450+ with the code FRUGALLIVING25
What tips do you have for saving money on tires?
This post may contain affiliate links. See the disclosure policy for more information.