How to pick the right car tires

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5 min read

You probably have a strong opinion on the color of your car. And whether you prefer leather or fabric seats. And the stereo system—that’s a big deal too. Tires, however…who cares, right?

But these four bits of rubber are some of the most important parts of your car (more important than the paint job!) and picking the right tires can have a big impact on your safety, comfort, and how well your car handles different driving conditions.

So how do you pick the right tires? Here are some questions to ask yourself (and discuss with the folks at the tire shop) to figure out what factors to take into consideration, as well as some handy tire buying tips to guide you.

what's the weather like where you live?

If you live somewhere with moderate weather, all-season tires should suit you fine. Those living in colder climates—especially if you get a lot of snow and ice should opt for winter tires, with a deep tread to optimize grip. If you’re heading into a cold winter, you might want to switch to winter tires for the season.

do you drive a car or truck?

Trucks and SUVs require larger tires with a bigger diameter. These reduce fuel economy and are more expensive than passenger tires, which are used for average cars like hatchbacks and sedans.

Passenger tires can be suitable for smaller SUVs, but be conscious of the suitability on larger vehicles and always defer to the manufacturer guidelines.

are you after high performance or standard driving?

Serious car enthusiast? You’ll probably be thinking about performance tires. These will deliver better grip and control at speed, especially when steering around bends. Performance tires are more expensive and generally wear out faster too, so for the average driver are not worth the investment.

how bumpy do you want your ride?

Your choice of tire can make a big difference to comfort and noise. Some tires, like the Continental TrueContact Tour and Michelin Premier LTX are designed to deliver a smoother ride, but usually at the expense of performance. Some drivers prefer to be able to “feel” the road, bumps and all.

how long do you expect your tires to last?

Tires usually need to be changed every few years, but some last much longer than others. Consumer Reports ran some serious testing on commercial tires and found that most all-season tires could last over 65,000 miles, but the Pirelli P4 Four Seasons Plus rolled for an impressive 100,000 miles before wearing out. The Uniform Tire Quality Grading System (UTQGS) provides a rating from 100-1000 and a tire rated 800 should last 8 times longer than one rated 100. It’s a good guide to help you make a decision (but manufacturers can sometimes under, or overestimate the true lifespan).

are you looking for run flats?

Runflats are designed to do, well, just that. The tires have reinforced walls that can hold the weight of the vehicle, which means even if you get a puncture, you should be able to keep driving safely (at a lower speed) for long enough to get to a garage.

They save weight as you don’t need to carry a spare and tools in the trunk. And they’re great if you don’t feel confident changing a tire on the side of the road. However, they cost much more than standard tires, and some drivers complain that they don’t feel as good on the road.

what’s your budget?

There’s a huge range in price on different tires out there. Basic tires start at around $50-100 each, moving up to $200-300 for mid-range, and anywhere up to $1000 bucks each for the premium models. It’s worth considering that cheaper tires will wear out faster, so unless you’re only using your car for a short time, it can be worth investing in higher quality if you can. And the more suitable the tire is for your driving, the better an investment it will be all round.

It’s easy to take tire selection for granted. But if you make the right choice it can transform your driving experience. Thinking about the right questions to ask yourself, or the folk at the tire shop, can set you rolling in the right direction.

If your tires are worn out (and your car is too), it might be time to sell up and start again. Peddle would be more than happy to make you an offer so you can start figuring out what tires to buy for your new ride.