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how to buy new tires

Your tires are one of your car’s most important safety features. If you tend to grab the first (or cheapest) set you see, it's time to get schooled in the fine art of tire buying.

When to replace tires

Before you start shopping for tires, it's helpful to know whether yours actually need to be replaced. Here are a few common indicators:

  • Age (tires generally last up to 6–10 years)
  • Your tires' tread depth is below 2/32" (measuring trick: stick an
    upside-down penny in the tread space. It should at least come up
    to any part of Abe's head)
  • Your car is hydroplaning (losing traction in water)
  • Your car vibrates when you drive
  • There are cracks or bulges in the tire's sidewall

Where to get new tires

Just like car insurance, you can shop around and find the right tires for your ride online. At reputable websites like Michelin and Goodyear, you can plug in your make and model to find out which tires will fit your vehicle.

And if you prefer the human touch, there are plenty of brick-and-mortar tire stores that can help you find a new set that meets your safety needs and your budget.

What to look for in a new set of wheels

Not all tires are created equal. Keep these distinguishing qualities in mind as you search for the right set:

Weather capabilities

hail

It's important to know how tires will fare in your climate. If you live in a snowy or icy region, consider winter tires during the colder months. If you make your home somewhere rainy, high-performance wheels that can handle the wet/dry juggling act might be for you. And living in a hot and sunny locale probably means you'll need to replace your tires more frequently since heat can speed up their aging.

If you live in a place with all sorts of weather patterns (we're looking at you, Midwest), you would probably benefit from all-season tires.

Gas mileage

Tires and gas mileage go hand in hand. Some tires, for example, have thinner sidewalls and shallower tread to reduce weight and rolling resistance. This lower resistance can mean more mpg for your car (and more savings at the pump for you).

tip

Even if you don't go for the fuel-saving set, you can increase fuel economy just by keeping your tires inflated correctly. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that sticking to the tire pressure listed in your car's owner's manual can save you the equivalent of 11 cents per gallon.

Comfort vs. performance

Some tires make for smoother rides than others. If a comfy ride is your top priority, consider smaller tires with larger sidewalls. On the other hand, if you're willing to sacrifice smooth sailing for road-gripping performance, summer tires (tires that aren't for all seasons) might be right up your alley.

Personal familiarity

person

While considering the above-mentioned factors can help you find the right tires when you're searching from scratch, the shopping process is easier when you stick with the familiar. If you were pleased with your last set of tires, there's no reason to complicate things. Simply replace them with the same set.

Tire buying and your car insurance

By doing your homework before your next purchase, you can find a set of tires well-suited to your climate, your car, and you. Your tires can go a long way toward avoiding unnecessary accidents, and the longer you drive safely and remain claim-free, the less you can expect to pay for your car insurance policy.

Good luck shopping, and if you have any tips of your own, please feel free to share them with your fellow drivers on our Facebook Wall.

Related links

Proper tire maintenance
Tires, like humans, benefit from a little TLC from time to time. We'll explain how you can get the most from your current set of wheels.

Properly inflated tires = fuel efficiency
The Esurance blog offers tips on turning your tires into money-saving wallet boosters.

How to handle a blown tire
The last step is buying new ones, but find out how to safely manage a dangerous situation.