A silhouetted photograph of a replacement tire

Nearly 2 out of 3 car owners are turning to alternative tire brands and models when buying replacement tires for their car, SUV, or pickup truck. In addition to replacing tires out of necessity, consumers are also replacing them to get better winter grip and handling, based on a new tire survey of Consumer Reports members.

Among those members, over 60 percent chose a different brand and model of tire than was previously installed on their vehicle. CR's exclusive survey reveals how shoppers made their decision and shows that some were savvy about saving money.

Price was a driving force in their brand selection, and 1 in 6 respondents tried to negotiate a lower price for their new tires. Although that's not a lot, nearly 70 percent of those who did haggle were successful, with a median savings of $29 per tire.

More on Tires

These are among the findings from a large-scale survey of more than 30,000 Consumer Reports members, who reported on tire purchase and/or installation experiences at walk-in chains, online retailers, independent tire retailers, and car dealerships between the fall of 2017 and the fall of 2018. We identified tire-buying trends and also learned some money-saving strategies that our members used successfully.

“Tire shoppers have many performance and price factors to consider when shopping for a replacement tire,” says Ryan Pszczolkowski, CR's senior tire and auto testing technician. “That so many are choosing a different tire than what comes with their car suggests the desire for different tire characteristics—and the influence of price.”

A vast majority of tire buyers (88 percent) reported doing research before buying, and most of them relied on information from websites or dealerships. The most frequent activity was going online to determine the right tire type, at 42 percent. Nearly as common was comparing prices (40 percent), a strategy that could pay dividends for shoppers who decide to haggle over their purchase price. (Check out the tire selector found with our tire ratings and help match the tires we've tested to your vehicle.)

The cost for replacement tires depends on the type of vehicle they're intended for, ranging from small-car tires, averaging $137 each, to performance-focused sports car and pickup truck tires at $187 per tire.

Of course, price ranges widely based on size, performance, speed rating, and retailer within each vehicle class. And remember that our tests routinely show that price isn’t necessarily a good indicator of tire quality.

Cost Per Tire by Car Type

Car Type

Percent of Vehicles in Survey

Median Purchase Price Paid Per Tire* 

Sedan/Hatchback/Coupe

40

$137

SUV

36

$162

Pickup Truck

12

$175

Minivan

5

$137

Sports Car

3

$187

Other

4

$137

  1. * Purchase price estimate does not include cost of installation. 

Michelin is by far the most purchased tire brand among CR members. It's no wonder, as Michelin holds the top position in many of the categories we test. It's considered a premium brand, with prices above many other household names, but the added cost can often be justified when comparing projected treadwear based on CR tests. Survey respondents show that, in fact, some other brands were more expensive, on average. The brand median price paid for tires was $148, and the median cost for installation was about $20 per tire.

Median Price Paid per Tire

Tire Brand

Price Paid

Nitto

$216

Nokian

$192

Pirelli

$187

Michelin

$183

Toyo

$179

Continental

$175

BFGoodrich

$168

Bridgestone

$167

Dunlop

$166

Big O Tires

$155

Yokohama

$151

Goodyear

$148

Firestone

$138

Cooper

$135

Hankook

$129

Falken

$124

Mastercraft

$123

Nexen

$120

General

$119

Kelly

$117

Kumho

$116

Uniroyal

$116

Sumitomo

$114

  1. *The purchase price estimate controls for car type and does not include cost of installation.

Those consumers who were bold enough to negotiate on their tire prices were successful nearly 70 percent of the time. In particular, consumers who shopped at Town Fair Tire, America’s Tire, and Discount Tire Center reported negotiation success rates of 75 percent or greater. Successful hagglers at car dealerships saved even more than tire negotiators in general, about $37 per tire.

Among the retailers included in our survey, Costco was where buyers were the least successful at negotiating.

Beyond shaving money off the purchase price, 8 out of 10 customers who purchased or installed tires received at least one free perk or service. More than half of all tire buyers got a tire rotation and/or tire balancing at no charge. Other freebies mentioned by members included tire mounting, tire disposal, and a road-hazard warranty.

Free Perks Obtained When Buying or Installing Tires

Free Perk

Percent Who Got the Free Perk

Free Tire Rotation

52

Free Tire Balancing

51

Free Tire Mounting

46

Free Tire Disposal

32

Free Road-Hazard Warranty

28

Free Vehicle Inspections (brakes, fluid levels, etc.)

10

Free Transportation or Loaner Car

4

Free Accessories

1
Other5

Perks were also available to online shoppers, with over two-fifths saying they benefited from free shipping. In fact, over half the customers of DiscountTireDirect.com (62 percent), Costco.com (60 percent), Amazon.com (58 percent), and Walmart.com (56 percent) reported receiving free shipping.

A road-hazard warranty—protection that typically provides a prorated replacement for tires damaged before their traditional tread life has expired—is another common perk. Twenty-eight percent of tire-buying members received one free of charge. Only 1 in 5 tire-buying members (21 percent) purchased a road-hazard warranty along with their tires.

The percentage of members who got a free warranty varied significantly by retailer, from just 2 percent of Amazon customers getting one compared with 57 percent for BJ’s customers. In addition to BJ’s, other good places to shop if you’re looking to get a free tire warranty included with your tire purchase are Les Schwab Tire Centers, Tirerack.com, Costco, and Dunn Tire. Half or more of their customers reported receiving this perk.

"You may be able to get the coverage you want bundled in with the tires,” says Gene Petersen, who manages the Consumer Reports tire-testing program. “In some cases, such as when you get a great deal on tires themselves but they don't include a road-hazard warranty, it may be worth paying extra for that protection."

Those who pay for a road-hazard warranty out of pocket spent a brand median of $17 per tire for it. Petersen suggest that buyers read the small print before assigning too much benefit to these programs, because the coverage does vary. In our experience, it's often worth the peace of mind.

Road-Hazard Warranties by Retailer

Retailer

Percent of Customers Getting a Free Warranty

BJ's

57

Les Schwab Tire Centers

55

Tirerack.com

53

Costco

52

Dunn Tire

50

Sam's Club

45

Kal Tire

43

Big O Tires

33

Town Fair Tire Centers

31

Belle Tire Distributors

30

Canadian Tire Corp

30

Tire Kingdom

28

America's Tire

27

Car Dealership

23

Discount Tire Centers

23

Discount Tire and Automotive

22

Pep Boys

22

Tire Discounters

22

Firestone Complete Auto Care

21

NTB Tire & Service Centers

21

Tire Warehouse

20

Goodyear Auto Service

19

Discount Tire (discounttiredirect.com)

18

Sears

17

Tires Plus

17

Mr. Tire

16

Independent Retailer

15

Sullivan Tire

15

Walmart Auto Care Centers

12

Mavis Discount Tire

9

Amazon.com

2

Bottom Line

Start shopping for tires by identifying models that deliver on the safety-related attributes that mean the most to you, such as wet braking grip, winter traction, and resistance to hydroplaning (when water gets between the tire and the road). Then focus on getting a good deal from a reputable dealer. The latest tire retailer satisfaction ratings help to supplement our extensive tire-testing results, allowing CR members to optimize their tire-buying experience.