Making a decision about buying tires usually comes down to price and tread wear. Most people are looking for the best of both worlds—a bargain priced, long-lasting tire. Finding low prices is mostly the easy part, but gauging tread wear is a black art. User reviews, word of mouth, previous experiences with a tire brand, and manufacturer claims in the form of tread wear warranties all play into the decision. And there’s also the government’s tread wear ratings.
Tread wear mileage warranties are easy to understand and are almost universal in structure. Basically, the manufacturers pay consumers for a tire’s tread wear shortfall. Likewise, manufacturers assign tread wear grades following strict government protocols. The grades are less intuitive, not based on specific mileage, but a comparison of one tire to another. A tire with a grade of 200, say, is said to wear twice as long as one graded 100. Comparing mileage warranties and government grades should be straightforward, but it’s not. Turns out some manufacturers are more conservative in their claims, and marketing strategies tend to blur direct comparisons between tire companies.
To put the models on the same playing field, we came up with our own comparative tread-life test several years ago. Its reflected in our tread life ratings for most tires, excluding winter tire products. We typically run all-season tires on cars to 16,000 miles—more than double the mileage called for by the government.