Most and Least Satisfying Tire Retailers

Tire buyers in CR's exclusive survey rate 23 retail chains, as well as independent shops and car dealerships

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You can buy car tires at a wide range of vendors, from big-box stores to web-based businesses. And while the tires themselves might be the same, a new survey from Consumer Reports shows that the tire-buying experience varies from retailer to retailer. That's why you should think as much about where you buy your tires as you think about which tires to buy.

Consumer Reports surveyed members who bought tires in the preceding 12 months and asked them about their overall satisfaction with 23 tire retail chains. More than 15,000 members responded to the survey conducted in the fall of 2020.

Among name-brand retailers, Les Schwab Tire Centers, Tirerack.com, Discount Tire Centers, Costco, America’s Tire, and Discount Tire (DiscountTireDirect.com) topped our ratings. As a broad category, our members rated independent retailers they bought tires from as on a par with these leading chains. Car dealerships as a group landed in the middle of the pack, with a strong overall satisfaction score 88. All rated retailers received a passable overall satisfaction score and most earned a favorable one.

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Les Schwab Tire Centers, operating in 10 Western states, tops the chart, getting high marks from Consumer Reports members for their sales staff, free perks (such as tire mounting, tire balancing, or tire rotation), installation quality, waiting area, and easy checkout. Members rated their product selection and installation time as better than average.

Overall, around 80 percent of the retail chains earned high marks for overall satisfaction, with scores ranging from 83 to 92 points. The remaining retailers earned passable scores ranging from 79 to 82 points. It is in the detailed ratings that the retailers were distinguished, with the top-rated retailer earning favorable marks across the board. Some of the lower-rated retailers had shortcomings in installation times, waiting area, and/or free perks.

Over half of the members (57 percent) who took our survey were completely satisfied with their tire purchase experience, and 33 percent were very satisfied.

“The tire buying experience looks quite positive for most shoppers, based on our latest member survey,” says Gene Petersen, Consumer Reports’ tire program manager. “But there are substantial differences in facets of the shopping experience that may drive customers to favor certain retailers. For instance, online retailers offer a wide selection, while physical retail stores may be more limited but may be able to get what you want if you can wait.”

Tires Plus, Pep Boys, Walmart, and Mavis Discount Tire are at the bottom of our newest tire retailer ratings. In particular, most of these retailers all get dinged for the lack of free perks, the waiting area, and the amount of time it takes them to install tires. Tire Plus stood out among these four retailers, getting average marks for those three attributes. However, they are all still rated well, overall.

The retailers are presented below in order of how they rate for overall satisfaction, starting with the top-rated retailer, with the estimated cost per tire and estimated installation cost per tire.

Further, we present ratings on the COVID-19 precautions taken by the retailers.

See the detailed tire retailer satisfaction ratings.

Become a member to read the full article and get access to digital ratings.

We investigate, research, and test so you can choose with confidence.