Things to be Mindful of While Tire Shopping

This month my husband and I ended up spending $800 on new tires for our vehicle. Not outrageous, actually we scored a pretty good sale, what’s crazy is that less than one year ago we spent $700 on tires for the same vehicle. Both sets are all-seasons and we drive with winter tires from December to March, normally.

how to shop for tires


What Went Wrong?

A few things went wrong for us when tire shopping last time:

1) We bought the $700 tires from a store that sells, installs and balances tires only.

2) We neglected to get a full alignment and suspension check after said tires were placed.

3) We got busy/lazy and didn’t have our winters placed this year. Not that this should really matter in terms of tire life since they had a 105k warranty and we were at less than 25k.

4) We were ignorantly sold the wrong type of tire 10 months ago.

Long story short, the misaligned, wrongly placed tires, were so severely worn in the last 10 months we needed to throw them in the garbage and have new ones placed. Good times.

What did we learn?

There’s a silver lining in everything I guess. My husband and I tend to learn lessons that hard way like when you buy new tires, make sure you have a wheel alignment done. Even if you don’t buy new tires, make sure the wheels are checked and aligned once per year! If you live in a city with winter conditions and the roads get full of potholes in the winter due to plows, have the alignment done in the spring, checking for potential winter damage done. Not only is having an alignment a necessary basic maintenance that is all too often overlooked, but it will make sure your vehicle is driving better, safer and more optimal in terms of fuel usage.

Get second opinions, and third, and fourth. Though we shopped around for price we didn’t question the details of the tire enough when we dropped the $700. They told us it was a good tire. We were familiar with the brand but none of that means anything if the tire isn’t an ideal tire for our vehicle. We should have called around and asked more questions about the tire in question before we bought. Luckily with this hard lesson learned when a new tire was suggested we did just that, and the consensuses was that the replacement tire we bought was a great tire.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate. They’re in the business of selling stuff. They know if they hook you in with a ”deal” you may come back. There’s often wiggle room. We discovered our tire issue during an oil change appointment. The staff took time to let us (brand new customers to them) know all the details about what was wrong. They offered us a lot of really good advice (which was reconfirmed by two other non-employee mechanics) and a quote to replace them. Included in the quote was tires, balancing and alignment/suspension check. Because I asked, and we’re returning customers, I saved $40 off the wheel alignment alone. I also asked them to let me know of any future sales on the tires we decided on, but hadn’t set any installation date yet. We left them under the assumption we would be shopping around. The same day he gave me a call to let me know a ”sale” came up putting the already ”on sale” tires an additional $70 off, nice.

Though this lesson cost us $1,500 we learned a lot from it. We found a great new mechanic who we instantly liked and were comfortable with. We are now experts in all things tires when it comes to our vehicle and we learned the importance of a good wheel alignment. Shelling out the $90 for the suspension check and wheel alignment last year probably would have bought us at least one more year with the $700 tires. Oh well, too late now!

Finally, if you do want to go to a reputable tire place, consider Costco.  They have a good reputation for customer service and their tires are inflated with nitrogen.  The nitrogen inflation is sweet because it provides better inflation pressure over the long term and reduces tire rot.

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17 thoughts on “Things to be Mindful of While Tire Shopping

  1. Yikes, those are some expensive tires!! Even after I get an alignment done, I always ask my dealership if my tires need rotating after each oil change (they send me killer coupons in the mail). If they notice my tires are wearing unevenly, I know something’s up!

  2. I really don’t know much about cars or tires so when it comes time to get new tires I’m sure that will be an overwhelming purchase – so much research to do and decisions to be made.

  3. I agree with Brian. If it comes to excellent quality, I’ll go with the high-priced tires. What’s the purpose of saving money if you’re not sure with the quality of the product you’re buying? It’s ok to spend more money if you think that the quality is worth of its price.

  4. We always get tires at Sam’s club. They do any maintenance like fixing flats for free. We have also had them replace all of our tires for free before because they were under warranty. The price of our Sams membership is easily covered by the money we save in tires.

  5. I always buy my tires slightly used from kijiji and can save around 40%. If I need new tires I buy them from tire and save big. Costco also has occasional deals on tires. I tend to avoid tire shops as they are all quite a bit more than I’m willing to pay

  6. I started reading this and thought it sounded familiar, then looked at the author!
    That sucks that a company was so poor. I hope you’ve reviewed them negatively on every forum available, like yelp and whatnot.
    I also have to trust the people at Canadian Tire and Kal Tire, but at least at Canadian Tire the last time I was buying them it was off the owner who had a vested interest in his reputation. (We live in a small town, which makes a difference.)

  7. Like others, I don’t skimp on tires and I always get an alignment with new tires. I still try to get a deal when I can, as long as the deal is on the tires I want. Often you can negotiate a free alignment if you buy the tires from the same place.

    I am curious as to why you didn’t get some sort of pro-rated refund from the first tire place. I would have gone there with the old tires, receipt, and warranty, and demanded my money back.

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