A silhouetted photograph of a replacement tire
Photo: Zigmunds Dizgalvis/iStock

Shoppers in the market for new tires are often open to changing brands, according to a new survey of Consumer Reports members. We found that most get free perks, and they may save money if they are up for negotiating over prices. Their experiences can help you with your next tire purchase.

Consumer Reports surveyed members who bought tires in the preceding 12 months and asked them about their overall satisfaction with 23 tire retail chains. We also included independent retailers and car dealerships as two separate groups. Over 15,000 members responded to the survey conducted in fall 2020.

More than two-thirds of surveyed car owners switched brands when buying replacement tires for their vehicle. An additional 10 percent bought the same brand of tire but chose a different model. In addition to replacing tires out of necessity, consumers are also replacing them to get better winter grip, handling, and ride, based on the survey.

Price was a driving force in their brand selection; it was a motivating factor in a third of all purchases. Tread life and brand trust were almost as important.

To get the price they wanted, 14 percent tried haggling. Among them, 70 percent were successful at getting a deal, with the median savings being $96 per set of four tires.

More on Tires

“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.” (Check out the tire selector found with our tire ratings and help match the tires we’ve tested to your vehicle.)

The cost for the replacement tires depends heavily on what type of vehicle they’re for. Overall, members paid an estimated price of $167 per tire, up significantly from our 2018 survey, when the median price was $148. The cost for installation rose from $22 to $24 per tire in our latest survey. At $36, car dealerships charged the most for installation per tire, and at $14, Sam’s Club charged the least.

Of course, price varies 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

Median Purchase Price Paid Per Tire1

Sedan/hatchback/wagon

$137

Minivan

$137

SUV

$162

Coupe/convertible

$170

Pickup truck/van

$187

  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: Michelin holds the top position in many of the categories we test. Michelin tires often cost more, with prices above many other household names, but the added cost can often be justified when comparing track performance and projected treadwear. Survey respondents showed that, in fact, some other brands were more expensive, on average. The brand median price paid for tires was $167, up significantly from our 2018 survey when the median price was $148. The median cost for installation this time was about $24 per tire.

Median Price Paid per Tire

Tire Brand

Price Paid Per Tire1

Nokian

$215

Pirelli

$206

Michelin

$185

Continental

$178

Bridgestone

$174

BFGoodrich

$174

Toyo

$173

Yokohama

$157

Goodyear

$151

Hankook

$148

Firestone

$145

Cooper

$142

Falken

$131

General

$126

Uniroyal

$125

Kumho

$121

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

Beyond shaving money off the purchase price, 81 percent of customers who purchased or installed tires received at least one free perk or service. Half of all tire buyers got free tire balancing, and 49 percent got free tire rotation, which can lead to significant savings over time. Other freebies mentioned by members included tire mounting, tire disposal, and a road-hazard warranty.

Free Perks Obtained When Buying or Installing Tires

Tire balancing

50

Tire rotation

49

Tire mounting

44

Tire disposal

32

Road-hazard warranty

27

Vehicle inspection (brakes, fluid levels, etc.)

11

Shipping

8

Transportation or loaner car

4

A road-hazard warranty—protection that typically provides a prorated replacement for tires damaged before their traditional tread life has expired—is another fairly common perk. Twenty-seven percent of tire-buying members received one free of charge. Only 1 in 5 tire-buying members (19 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 53 percent for BJ’s and Les Schwab Tire Centers customers. Other places you should consider shopping if you’re looking to get a free tire warranty included with your tire purchase are Costco, Sam’s Club, and Tire Rack. Around half 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.”

Petersen suggests that buyers read the small print before assigning too much benefit to these programs, because the coverage does vary. In our experience, the cost is often less than $20 per tire, and the investment is often worth the peace of mind.

Road-Hazard Warranties by Retailer

Retailer

Percentage of Customers Getting a Free Warranty

BJ's

53

Les Schwab Tire Centers

53

Costco

50

Tire Rack

49

Sam's Club

48

Kal Tire

43

Canadian Tire Corp

33

Town Fair Tire Centers

32

Big O Tires

29

Belle Tire Distributors

28

America's Tire

26

Tire Discounters

26

Discount Tire Centers

24

Pep Boys

24

Discount Tire and Automotive

23

Car dealerships

22

Goodyear Auto Service

22

Tires Plus

21

Discount Tire (discounttiredirect.com)

18

NTB Tire & Service Centers

18

Firestone Complete Auto Care

17

Independent retailers

14

Walmart

13

Mavis Discount Tire

10

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. There are often discounts available from the tire manufacturer and tire retailer websites, most often in the form of savings on a complete set. And remember, it can’t hurt to try negotiating.

The latest tire retailer satisfaction ratings help to supplement our extensive tire-testing results, allowing CR members to optimize their tire-buying experience.