Tire Buying Guide

Buying tires can be about as enjoyable as having a root canal. But since tires are the one part of the vehicle that actually touches the road they are extremely important for both comfort and safety.

The most basic question is size. That long combination of letters and numbers on every tire completely answers that question. It indicates the inside diameter, outside diameter, width and tire type. Your owner’s manual or dealer will tell you the correct size for your vehicle.

What are the different types of tires, and what purpose does each serve? Drivers need to consider where they drive, the time of year, road conditions and individual driving styles. The most popular types are:

  • All-Season – a good all-purpose choice well suited to average cars and conditions
  • Performance All-Season – designed for higher speeds and better handling and braking
  • Ultra Performance – recommended for upscale or sporty cars but not suitable for winter driving
  • All-Season Truck – the all-purpose choice for SUVs and light trucks
  • All-Terrain – improved traction on unpaved and snowy roads
  • Winter – designed for better grip on snow and ice but less effective on cleared roads
  • Performance Winter– snow and ice performance with improved handling and cornering


Tires are rated for expected lifetime in miles. Proper inflation and rotation will protect against premature wear. Uneven wear may be a symptom of bad alignment, balancing or other problems. Regular monitoring will tell you how your tires will wear based on your own driving style.

Noise should not be a problem with new, properly adjusted tires. If a hum is heard while driving it may be from uneven wear, bad wheel bearings or tires out of balance.

Different brands and types of tires will cost very different amounts even for the same size. You might consider how long you want to keep your present vehicle, how many miles you will drive in the future and whether you are OK with average performance or need something better.

Another option, more expensive but considerably safer, is the run-flat tire. These tires are not for everyone. They are designed with stiff sidewalls so that the tire itself, rather than the air inside the tire, will support the vehicle’s weight for enough miles to reach help. They need to be mounted on special rims with special equipment and may only be used in vehicles with a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), which is standard on vehicles starting with the 2008 model year.

Regardless of the type of tires you have it is advisable whenever you change tires to rebuild the sensor kit for the TPMS if your vehicle uses one. Other related costs may include mounting and balancing, valve stems and disposal fee. Ask for a total price including all services needed for you to drive away with a complete tire job.