What Tires Are Right For Me? A Guide for Tire Decision Making

Often times when our customers come in for tires, we’ll get asked: “what tires should I go with?” That’s a fair question. The ins-and-outs of the tire industry probably isn’t on the average consumer’s mind, and why would it be? It’s not something you replace every few months like oil or even every few years. It’s something most cars get just twice a decade. That being said, knowing a bit more about your routines and driving habits help us answer that question for you.

First and foremost, what kind of vehicle do you drive and what are you driving it for? Is it a sedan that is yours daily? A van that hauls the kids and groceries? A sports car that you pull out on the weekends? A work truck? An off-roader? All of these kinds of driving styles require different tires. A big mud tire on a pickup that sees nothing but pavement doesn’t make sense, now does it?

Second is your desired longevity. Most tires have a mileage rating, designed to give you a general idea on how long they’ll last. Generally, the higher the mileage, the more tread the tire has, meaning a higher cost. Also, remember rubber doesn’t last forever, tires over 10 years old are generally considered unsafe. Are you going to get your money’s worth and drive enough in 10 years to accumulate enough miles?

After determining what kind of tread and longevity you’re looking for in a tire, the next question should be about what brands you’re looking for.

Like almost every industry, tires range from relatively cheap to the ultra-expensive. Certain brands cost more than others. Is Michelin one of the best? Absolutely, but you’ll have to cough up the big bucks to get it. Generally speaking, the more expensive the tire is, the better the rubber was engineered, meaning that more expensive tires usually have a longer life in terms of tread wear, are generally quieter, provide more grip and displace more water in the rain. Cheaper tires generally sacrifice some of these luxuries to be more economical.

Your big name brands such as Michelin, Goodyear, BFGoodrich, Bridgestone, Pirelli and the like generally provide all of these things. Many of these brands also offer their own mid-range tires under other names, like Kelly or Uniroyal, which sacrifice some of the nicer things, but keep others to provide a nice middle-of-the-road product. Your ultra-cheap tires tend to be brands you probably have not heard of and can come from a slew of different manufacturers that are hard to pinpoint, and usually did the bare minimum to meet safety standards and aren’t providing much else. Affordable, street legal, but probably not quite, long-lasting or comfortable.

Okay, so, you know what kind of tread and longevity you need. You know what kind of creature comforts you want or don’t want in a tire. You know what your price range is. Now that we’ve sorted that out in previous installments, let’s finally answer that question of what tire is right for you.

Michelin – This is arguably the best tire brand for your money. Great longevity. Excellent warranty. A slew of options. Comfortable. You will, however, pay for what you get. Michelins are usually one of the most expensive tires we sell. Every customer we’ve had that bought one, however, never had a complaint.

Honorable mentions: BF Goodrich, Pirelli, Bridgestone, Nitto

Hankook, Uniroyal, and Cooper – These are my three picks for mid-range tires. I speak from experience, not just as a seller but as a buyer. I’ve had all three on our company van over the years. They are great. They don’t last quite as long on average, but they’re considerably better priced, and still pretty comfortable and quiet. Uniroyal is also our best-seller, so our customers tend to agree.

Honorable mentions: Sumitomo, Yokohama, Duro

If you’re in the market for a cheap tire, I have no real recommendations. Many of these brands come and go from my suppliers, which is understandable. At that price point, the brand name isn’t a consideration. Just make sure your tire is DOT approved and you should be fine.

Ken Manchester