Is It Worth Buying Expensive Tires? How to Decide

Auto mechanic pulling a brand new car tire from the tire rack ready to install it on the vehicle

Tires are a necessary purchase for cars. Without them, cars would not be functional at all. Tires come in a wide range of price points, and sometimes consumers are willing to spend more on a pricier option in the hopes that they will get more use out of their tires. But, is it worth buying expensive tires? How do you know if choosing an expensive option is right for you?

To decide if it is worth buying expensive tires, consider:

  • Handling
  • Comfort
  • Durability
  • Road Performance
  • Safety
  • Warranty  Length
  • How much you drive

The quality of your tires affects your entire driving experience. So, read on to find out if investing in top-quality name-brand tires is a smart choice or if you should stick with the more budget-friendly options.

Car repair shop replacing the car tires with expensive brand new ones with BMW car visible and tire wheel balancer

What Are the Benefits of Buying Expensive Tires?

Although higher-quality tires have a larger price tag, they are equipped with advantages that other tires do not have. This section will explore all the benefits of buying expensive tires over ones that are lower quality.

Shorter Braking Distance

This means that your car can more easily avoid accidents and provide better safety because it can stop faster than the average vehicle. Stopping will also be more accurate, decreasing the need to slam on the brakes to stop quickly. Tires with shorter braking distances are ideal for slippery roads and other rough terrains.

More Comfortable Car Rides

The comfort we experience while driving depends heavily on the smoothness or lack thereof of roads. Expensive tires make road trips more pleasant because they have properties that help them reduce the noise generated while traveling over uneven roads. They are also thicker which lowers the vibrations felt by passengers.

Brand new car tire with a label close up showing the noise level, braking distance, fuel efficiency, and how it handles on wet roads

Improved Grip or Traction

More costly tires have a wider contact patch, and consequently, more sipes and grooves on them. This provides greater traction or grip on the road when compared to other tires on the market. The better the grip on the road, the less likely an accident is to happen.

Better tires use flexible rubber compounds that are flexible and allow for better performance in the cold. Less expensive tires do not have the design to withstand difficult weather.

Importance of Good Tire Traction

Traction is the resistance of the tire rubber to the ground as a result of force on the axle from being powered by the engine.

It is a key characteristic of tires that allows them to grip onto the asphalt and allow the car to move. Without traction, cars would slide all over the road and there would be constant accidents.

Tires lose their grip on the road in rainy or otherwise wet conditions. This is why people do like to drive in the rain. They can feel their car sliding underneath them and they feel unsafe.

Close up of a car tire driving on a wet road with the groove marks visible on the tread

Better Tire Tread

The rubber compounds used in high-quality tires also offer better tread. The thicker sidewall on these tires also provides more durability.

The tire tread lasts longer on expensive tires thanks to the way the tread is aligned as well as the shoulder width and other features. The better the tread, the more pleasant the overall driving experience.

Michelin Primacy 4 Plus brand new car tire isolated against a black background

Importance of Tire Tread

The tread on the tire is what connects the tire to the ground. Deep treads are essential for good tire traction because the deeper the treads are, the better the tires can grip the road. The tread on tires wears over time, so it is important to check your tires regularly.

Every part of a tire can wear or break down over time and the location of the wear can give you hints about other issues your car is experiencing. These include:

  • Tip wear- alignment issues
  • Cup or scalloped wear- suspension problems
  • Edge wear- tires do not have enough air
  • Center wear- tires have too much air
  • Patchy wear spots on tires- unbalanced tires

Tires that cost more also do not heat up as fast on the hot road in the summer, so they have less chance to become overheated and blow out.

Expensive tires seem to have several advantages, but why are there different tire prices in the first place when all tires serve the same purpose? Let’s explore that in the next section.

Brand new Michelin summer car tire close up showing the tread

What Factors Decide the Price of Tires?

There are so many different tires that car owners can choose to put on their cars, and the different car makers also have tires they prefer to use. When pricing tires, the factors that people in the car industry use to determine tire price include several things, like:

  • Size differences
  • Brand differences
  • Tire quality
  • Supply and demand

Differences in Tire Size

The actual size of the tire is one factor that changes the price. Large tires take more material to make, so they cost more. Tires to fit small cars like mini-coopers will be more cost-effective than tires for SUVs and min-vans.

Big tires take longer to make but are more durable and can carry a heavier load. The type of car you have is directly related to the tires you need to buy.

Brand new tires of all sizes on a tire rack at a tire store

Differences in Tire Brand

The more well-known or established brands such as Michelin or Bridgestone charge more for their tires than lesser-known brands. When you buy tires, you are not only paying for the quality of the tire but also the notoriety of the brand.

Each brand does make a range of tires that vary in price, so the brand is not the end-all-be-all when it comes to tire price, but there is some difference.

Michelin car tire log isolated against a white background

Tire Quality

The more features a tire manufacturer adds to a tire to improve the driving experience, the more they will charge consumers for the tire.

Quality extends to the material used to make the tire as well. A tire made of cheap synthetic rubber that can be found anywhere is going to cost less than a cheap synthetic tire.

Close up of a Bridgestone car tire on an orange car

Supply and Demand for Tires

Supply and demand, as well as inflation, impact the cost of almost everything, and tires are no exception. If more people need tires, but there are not enough of them being produced, the price of the tires will go up. Conversely, if lots of tires are being produced but there are not a lot of people buying them, the price will go down.

Tire prices also change as the cost of making them fluctuates with the rest of the economy.

Car tire and battery service repair senter at the Sams Club Wholesale retail store

Comparing Affordable and Expensive Tires

Because tires are such an essential part of a car, the type of tires you buy determines the experience you have driving along with the car’s other components. However, not everyone can afford the top-of-the-line brands and may have to settle for a budget option. Here is a comparison between upscale and more affordable tires.

Durability

Expensive tires are reinforced with sturdy sidewalls and made of hard rubber, making them more durable. On the other hand, less expensive or affordable ones are made with soft rubber and do not have any reinforcements added, decreasing durability.

Handling

Expensive tires have better handling overall because they have a better grip on the road which prevents you from losing control of your car, better turning, and allows for faster stops.

Less expensive tires have less traction and a slower reaction time for turns and quick stops, limiting their handling.

Rental car driving on a curvy road in the mountains of Spain at sunset

Tread

Thicker tread, as well as a wide groove pattern, gives expensive tires the ability to handle difficult weather conditions like rain or snow. The only downside to better tread is that it can make tires noisier. Less expensive tires have thinner tread, giving them less grip and less ability to withstand adverse weather conditions.

Breaking Distance

More expensive tires have a shorter braking distance thanks to their better design. A shorter braking distance means quicker stops and better reaction time in the event of an emergency.

More affordable tires have a longer braking distance which decreases their ability to make quick stops and drive well in harsh weather and emergency situations.

Car accelerating then slamming on the brakes next to cones on a test track to check the braking capabilities

Drag

Higher quality tires have less drag which makes it easier for the tires to work. This means that the car will use less fuel and save you money in the long run. Cheap tires have more drag which makes the tires stiffer, The stiffness of the tire will make the car harder to drive and waste more fuel.

Warranty

Expensive or brand-new tires have a warranty that lasts anywhere from 1 to 6 years. This means that you are covered if you encounter tire problems during the length of the warranty, Less expensive tires either have a shortened warranty or no warranty at all. This can be a problem if you are prone to tire problems.

Expensive and less expensive tires differ in terms of quality and design. Cheap tires are often not recommended due to safety concerns, but there are tires out there that are inexpensive but still of good quality.  Let’s explore the world of cheap or lower-quality tires for a bit.

Car wheel warranty service illustration isolated against a white background

Identifying Good Quality But Inexpensive Tires

The price of a tire does not always mean it is good quality, manufacturers just like to drive up the price because they can. The following factors are ways that you can identify the quality of a tire regardless of price. The best quality tires on the market have:

  • Enhanced safety and added stability while driving
  • A well-designed tread pattern that lends itself to proper traction on the road
  • A decent braking distance to reduce the likelihood of accidents
  • The ability to drive well in wet and slippery weather
  • Low noise construction
  • Hard rubber material for more durability

While all of these factors typically increase tire prices, there are still options that meet these requirements while being affordable. What will be affordable or not to you depends on your initial budget, so everything around purchasing tires is subjective and changes from situation to situation.

While tire shopping, you want to make sure that the tires will hold up over time and are budget-friendly but not too cheap. The lowest-quality tires will cost drivers more in the long run because they will need frequent repairs. If you would like to help your tires last longer and avoid having to replace them, the next section covers some steps you can take to do that.

Auto mechanic explaining the pros and cons of a car tire to a young customer before installation of the brand new car tires on his vehicle

How to Make Your Tires Last Longer

Tires get more and more expensive every year. The less time you have to spend on repairing your tires and or buying new ones, the more time you will be able to spend in your car and go on adventures.

If you want to make sure your car tires last longer but aren’t sure how here are some simple tips to help you get the most out of them:

  • Check your tire pressure once a month- when your tires do not have enough air pressure in them, it negatively impacts their handling which makes driving more challenging and more dangerous. Every month, tires lose a pound per square inch of pressure. Cold weather decreases tire pressure while hot weather increases it.
  • Get your tires rotated every time you go 5,000 miles– most cars only have two tires that contribute to the drive you feel at a time. This causes tires to wear down unevenly because some of the tires are used more than others. Technicians rotate tires by moving them to a different position and this helps parts used less often achieve more even wear.
  • Get your tires balanced– technicians balance tires using a special machine and tiny weights. Balancing and rotation of tires are usually done at the same time. Balancing tires helps to redistribute weight in the tires and reduce heavy spots or divots  
  • Check tire alignment biannually– tires can become misaligned the more they are driven due to the pressure of the vehicle and the uneven terrain. Hitting curbs, going over potholes, and bumping into things all decrease alignment and increase the rate of tread wear

If you make an effort to do each of these things as often as you can, you will get the maximum use out of your tires and they will be worth the cost of the price you pay for them. Maintaining your tires and keeping track of them will pay off in the long run.

Car tire being balanced on the balancing machine tool
Car tire balancing machine

Advantages of Inexpensive Tires

There are certainly many benefits to choosing to spend more for an expensive set of tires such as durability and better construction, but is there any benefit to making the opposite choice? Let’s explore some of the possible benefits of purchasing cheap tires.

They Cost Less

The difference in price is the most obvious advantage of lower-quality tires. This makes them perfect for people who do not drive often enough to justify paying a premium for tires, or people on a budget. Used tires are typically sold for 30-50% of the original price, which is a great deal.

They Are Usually Still Good Quality

Tires are considered used the minute they show any signs of wear. Most of the time, tires will be taken off of cars after they only have a couple of hundred miles of use on them. Tires can handle a lot more mileage before they go bad, so they are usually still good quality.

Used car tires on a blue rack with some wear on the treads visible

They Save You Hassle When You Do Not Need a Full Set of Tires

Used tires can always save the day when one or two of your tires needs rescuing. You can almost always find a used one in good enough shape to be a replacement, and you will save money because you will not have to purchase all four tires when you do not need them.

Buying Used Tires is Good For the Environment

If people did not buy them, used tires would sit in landfills for years. Rubber is not biodegradable unless made of natural materials, so it will not even break down when thrown away.

For an eco-conscious person, getting used tires is a smart choice as reusing tires helps reduce the waste they create by being sent to landfills. If everyone purchased new tires whenever they needed them, there would be a lot more waste at dumpster sites.

They Have Roughly the Same Lifespan as Normal Tires

If you find good quality used tires that still have a decent amount of tread remaining and do not have much wear on them overall. Gently used tires are the way to go if you need tires in a pinch and are short on money.

Industrial lanfill with old and recycled car tires piled up on top of each other

What to Look For When Purchasing Used Tires

Just like when buying new tires, you want to at least be a little selective when buying used tires because you never know what you are going to get. Often, you will not know the history of the used tire or tires and will have to make your decision off the words of the seller.

With that being said, you never know how long your used tires will last. To get the most out of your used tire purchase, here are some things you should be on the lookout for when buying used tires.

The Depth of Tread

As with new tires, the depth of tread on used tires determines the effectiveness of the tires and prevents accidents. It is the grooves on the tire that connect it to the road. The tread depth on any tire should not be less than 1/16th of an inch deep. Any less depth than this would be too little to drive on effectively.

Used car summer tires stacked up ready to be installed on an SUV

Aging Signs

Be aware of aging signs on used tires such as faded color and patches that give a quick estimate of the age of a tire. To find the actual age of a tire, look for a four-digit number printed on it. The first two numbers are the week the tire was made and the last two digits are the year it was made. Driving on a tire that is too old is not safe as it will be less reliable on the road.

Large Punctures or Holes

Be on the lookout for any large holes or tears in the tires you are hoping to purchase. If the tires have a lot of tears, they will not hold up well on the road and may pop before long. Even if the holes look like they have been patched, you do not know what the repair process was or if the repair has been done well.

Cuts or Cracks

Cuts and cracks are another sign of tire aging, The more cuts, and cracks a tire has, the more it has been used. Too many cuts and cracks in a tire means it is unsafe to use because it is more likely to suddenly deflate or pop while driving.

As long as you find a tire or set of tires that are still in usable condition, buying tires used instead of new is a smart and worthwhile purchase. Used does not always mean broken or completely destroyed.

Bead Damage

If there are large pieces of rubber missing from the bead area on the tires, you will not want to purchase them. This is because the bead area connects the tire to the wheel and any damage to the bead area keeps the tire from sealing properly.

Close up of an old tire with cracks visible worn out

How To Decide Whether to Buy Affordable or Expensive Tires

Even after all of this discussion, you may still be torn between choosing expensive tires or more affordable options. Buying tires is an extremely individual decision based on the car you own, your personal budget, and how often you are driving.

With that being said, here are some things you should consider when choosing expensive or cheap tires:

  • How often you will be driving and how far you drive when you do
  • If you need a full set of tires or just need to replace some of them
  • The size of your vehicle and how larger tires cost more
  • If you would be willing to sacrifice quality if necessary to get a lower price
  • Your driving style and how often you find yourself doing things that will wear the tires down faster, like slamming on the brakes
  • How much time you’re willing to spend inspecting your tires for damage and correcting that damage
  • Whether a warranty on tires is important to you because used or lower quality tires have limited or no warranty

Once you have explored all of these points for yourself, you will have a better idea of whether a used or new tire purchase is better for you. At the end of the day, you get what you pay for when it comes to the quality and lifespan of tires.

Mechanic holding a car tire at a car tire shop ready to install it

Conclusion

When deciding to buy expensive or cheap tires, consider physical factors like the handling or tread of the tire as well as your budget and how often you drive. Although expensive tires are made better and have higher quality overall, you can also find gently used tires for almost the same quality and up to half the price.

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References:

Tires-Easy

United Tires

Metromile

Tire Wear Patterns Can Be a Sign Of Bigger Issues

CEAT

Learn How Good Quality Tyres Deliver a Good Driving Experience

Tires Less Schwab

How to: Make Your Tires Last Longer

The Mechanic Doctor

Advantages and Disadvantages of Buying Used Tires

Ace Auto Parts

The Pros and Cons of Used Car Tires

Ernest Martynyuk

An automotive enthusiast who's been tinkering with vehicles since I was 15-years old. Repairing automotive electronics has been my main job for over a decade now and have a passion for everything technical regarding cars.

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