Expert Advice | How To Buy Tires – 3 Easy Phases, 20 Actionable Items

Here are 3 phases to follow if you want to learn how to buy tires. There are 20 items to check before you make your final decision. Still, the process itself is not rocket science.
How to buy tires
How to buy tires

I spent several hours researching and putting together simple and clear actionable items. As per our mission and goal at Car Care Handy, I aim to cut through the jargon and help you make the right decisions for your car care and maintenance.

Phase 1: Finding Your Recommended Tires

Checking owner’s manual

Never buy tires without checking for the recommended ones based on the original factory specs of your car. Wrong tires will affect your car’s performance in terms of shifting and speedometer reading [1].

You can check your owner’s manual and you’ll be able to find the recommended tires for your car. If you don’t have an owner’s manual, you can look it up on your manufacturer’s website.

Most owner’s manuals have these recommendations relevant to the replacement of tires in one of the chapters. You can find it by looking through the “Tire” or “Technical Information” or even “Maintenance” sections.

Phase 2: Analyzing Your Needs

Analyzing your needs

It isn’t arbitrary that tires come in different shapes, forms and sizes. You need to determine what you want from your car to choose the most suitable tire. Ask yourself why you are buying new tires. The answer to this question will help you determine what you need the tire to accomplish [2]. 

You can consider these 8 factors when analyzing your needs. 

1. Driving Style

If you’re looking for a soft ride with a good grip, then touring tires are your best friends. They’re all about comfort and can deliver a smooth ride even on dry and wet surfaces. 

If you’re looking for an effective tire that can give a satisfactory high-speed performance on dry and wet surfaces, then you have to choose high-performance tires with good traction. 

2. Road Type

Consider the roads you drive on the most. Are they mostly highways? Or do you drive off-road often?

Off-road terrains need a tire that has a good grip and that can live up to its claims on uneven surfaces. Light-truck tires work well for this type of road if you own an SUV.

If you drive on the road, touring tires work best for regular passengers, high-performance tires work best for sports vehicles. If you drive an SUV, SUV tires are the best.

3. Load Carried

If you carry large loads regularly on your car, you should check out the load index of the tires. Consider buying tires with a higher load index.

A tire with a higher load index will resist large loads for extended periods as well as road conditions and types of surfaces.

4. How Many Tires

It’s recommended to buy a set of two or four tires. It will cost you a lot more than expected but it will make sure you don’t face any problems regarding your car’s axles like wheel misalignment, excessive wear, etc.

You don’t have to buy more tire sets than you need, because tires wear out over time even if you don’t use them.

5. Fuel Economy

An effective tire coupled with good driving habits can save you gallons of fuel. Choosing the right tire will impact your fuel economy.

Tires with low rolling resistance got your back! They’re specifically designed to cut out on energy loss by reducing the required rolling effort. Make sure you check the tire’s specs for further information related to fuel economy.

6. Noise

All tires make some noise. It’s better to choose the less noisy models, especially if you’re driving at a higher speed on the highway for example. You may choose “Touring” style tires as they’re designed for a quieter ride.

7. Warranty

Buying tires with a good warranty is always a good idea. There are mainly two types of warranty you can get. A defect protection warranty for any potential road hazard. And a treadwear warranty if ever your tire wears out before the guaranteed tire mileage.

Most tire manufacturers provide both warranties with long periods. And it’s sometimes included in the price. So if you’re not looking to purchase a warranty, make sure you inform the salesperson.

8. Replacement or Upgrade

There’s one more thing you need to assess in your needs before finalizing your decision. Are you just going to replace your tires with a similar type to your actual ones? or are you looking for something entirely new as an upgrade?

8.1 Replace

If you’re still using the tires that you got with the original equipment from your manufacturer, then it’s recommended to just replace them with the same model and type since they were specifically to complement your car perfectly.

If not, but you still think your current tires have enough good quality for your specific needs, then replacing them with the same model and type is also a good option.

8.2 Upgrade 

You have many ways to go about upgrading your current tires. You need to determine first why you’re thinking of the upgrade. Maybe you’re just not fully satisfied with your current car tires, or even you just need to improve your car’s performance.

If there’s something wrong with the tire, make sure you determine whether or not you had the same problem when you first got the tires. If that’s the case, then you definitely need an upgrade.

Upgrading your tires is not as easy as it sounds. You have to research different types and brands, their advantages and disadvantages as well as pricing. You can also consult an expert. In the end, you’ll have a clear answer to your upgrade needs.

Phase 2: Selecting Tire Types

Selecting tire types

Now that you’ve determined your needs and what you’re expecting from the new tires, it’s time to choose a type from the 3 available options [3].

1. All-Season Tires

As their name suggests, these types of tires are specifically designed to last a long time and work well throughout seasons on the roads, on highways, and off the road. They have an endurance capacity that will withstand all weather types and conditions. Thus, most cars come equipped with all-season tires. 

There are mainly two subcategories of the all-season tires: high-performance and grand touring.

The high-performance all-season tires are designed with better road grip, sharper traction, and improved handling. They work well with sporty cars and can handle aggressive drivers.

The grand touring all-season tires have better handling capabilities and can give a better ride.

2. Summer Tires

Unlike all-season tires, summer tires don’t really indicate what their name stands for. They’re not used only in summer or dry surfaces. It would be more correct to call them “3-Season” tires instead as they fall short when the weather is colder to freezing since they’re not designed for icy roads.

The summer tires are specifically designed with improved traction to withhold both dry and wet surfaces which will help you stop the car at a much shorter distance when you need to. They perform well for all three seasons as long as the weather is either hot, warm, or even moderate.

Summer tires come in different subcategories: ultra-high performance, max performance, and extreme performance.

Unlike all-season tires, summer tires aren’t common in all cars. They usually come on cars like Corvette, Mercedes-AM, Mustang, and Porsche.

3. Winter Tires

Winter tires also called snow tires are designed specifically for the cold weather. They have a better performance on icy roads and the slippery surfaces of winter. Winter tires provide the maximum traction possible for your car to have a good grip and perform in cold weather conditions.

Winter tires don’t do as well once the months grow warmer. They wear much faster than all-season tires or summer tires. So make sure you replace them once the weather warms up.

Phase 3: Understanding Tire Codes

Each tire contains several pieces of information to help you make the right decision. I highly recommend you check these 7 codes before you make your final decision [4].

1. Tire Size

Tire size

The tire size code contains a series of numbers with a slash in between, and each number stands for a measure.

The first number is usually a 3-digit number before the slash. It measures the width of the tire at its widest point in millimeters.

The second number after the slash is the aspect ratio. It’s a 2-digit number that indicates the height of the sidewall as a percentage of the width. A low ratio results in good tire steering.

The last number in the series is also a 2-digit number. It indicates, in inches, the diameter of the wheel that the tire must mount to. If the code contains a letter, it indicates the construction type of the tire. For example, R stands for a radial tire.

2. Load Rating

Tire load rating

The tire load rating indicates how much weight the tire can carry while delivering a good ride with its best capabilities. The load rating is usually a 2-digit or 3-digit number.

Each tire has its own load rating. So if your car is equipped with similar tires and you want to get the full load index, you need to multiply the number by four.

Load IndexLoad (lbs)Load IndexLoad (lbs)Load IndexLoad (lbs)
7585210118191263748
7688210218741273858
7790810319291283968
7893710419841294079
7996310520391304189
8099210620941314289
81101910721491324409
82104710822051334541
83107410922711344674
84110211023371354806
85113511124031364938
86116811224691375071
87120111325351385203
88123511426011395357
89127911526791405512
90132311627561415677
91135611728331425842
92138911829101436008
93143311929981446173
94147712030861456393
95152112131971466614
96156512233071476779
97160912334171486844
98165312435271497165
99170912536381507385
1001764

Choosing the right load rating for your tire is important. You should always go with the recommended index. A lower load index will affect your car’s performance and can even be potentially dangerous.

3. Speed Rating

Tire speed rating

The tire speed rating is a letter that refers to the speed at which the tire rolls while performing a safe ride at its best capabilities. It also indicates the overall performance potential of the tire and how long it might last.

Symbol SpeedSpeed (mph)Speed (km/h)Symbol SpeedSpeed (mph)Speed (km/h)
K68110S112180
L75120T118190
M81130U124200
N87140H130210
P94150V149240
Q100160W168270
R106170Y186300

L, M, and N tires are more than enough for most drivers. Speed lovers have a range to speed ratings to choose from.

4. Manufacture Date

Tire manufacture date

The tire manufacture date is a 4-digit code. The first two numbers indicate the week of manufacture, and the following two numbers indicate the year.

5. Treadwear Rating

Tire treadwear rating

The tire tread wear rating is mentioned as a 3-digit code on the tire sidewall just after the word “treadwear”. The number 100 indicates the standard wear and gives a rough idea of how long the tire tread will last. The higher, the better.

The 440 value on the image above means that this tire should last 4.4 times longer than the “100” base tire. 

Each tire brand has its own formula to calculate the treadwear rating. So, it makes no sense to compare brands based on this number.

6. Traction Rating

Tire traction rating

The traction rating indicates how well the tire’s rubber resists on wet surfaces. In other words, it assesses the capability of the tire to stop when need be if on wet and slippery pavement.

Traction rating is expressed in letters: AA, A, B, C, ranked from the best to the worst. AA would be the tire with the best traction and C the tire with the worst traction. For example, if you drive on icy roads or snowy areas, then it’s recommended to purchase an AA.

7. Temperature Rating

Tire temperature rating

The tire temperature rating indicates how fast your tire can run while still dissipating a safe and acceptable heat level. 

Temperature rating is measured in letters: A, B, C, and equivalent range values are in mph.

  • The letter A indicates that the tire can go over 115 mph. 
  • The letter B indicates a speed level of 100 to 115 mph.
  • The letter C handles a speed level of 85 to 100 mph.

B and C tires are a good option for most drivers. Using A tire in a normal street will cost you more without any better performance.

The Bottom Line

Buying tires and choosing the right tires for your car can be quite challenging. It seems to be a tough task with the plethora of choices available on the market, and all the confusing ratings and designs.

I made this article very simple, so any car driver can learn how to buy tires by following the 3 phases that totalize 20 actionable items to check.

Do not hesitate to let a professional assist you if you feel not comfortable with the process.

Do you want to learn more about checking tire pressure? Check out our guide on how to check tire pressure.