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 buying experience varies from tire retailer to tire retailer. That's why you should think as much about where you're buying your tires as you do which tires to buy. 

Four retailers lead the 33 chains included in the survey for overall satisfaction: Costco, Tirerack.com, Les Schwab Tire Centers, and Discount Tire. As a broad category, independent retailers are on par with these particular chain retailers.

Although Costco wins favor for its prices, the ratings it received for selection, waiting area, and time for installation are middling. Leading online retailer Tirerack.com is one of the few retailers to get top marks for both selection and checkout ease. This is, however, a common trait among the three online-only retailers in our ratings, including Amazon.com and TireBuyer.com.

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The majority of other retailers have scores that cluster together, earning favorable overall marks for satisfaction. However, differences can be seen among the various retail experiences, especially among sales staff helpfulness, quality of installation, quality of the waiting area, and free perks offered.

Most survey respondents said their tires were installed in a timely fashion, with 95 percent saying the work was completed within the original retailer’s estimated time. Most shoppers had a highly favorable installation experience, both in terms of quality (83 percent giving high ratings) and time (71 percent giving high ratings), including online shoppers whose tires were installed elsewhere. In general, tire websites were judged to be easy to use and offer quality support provided via notifications, shipment tracking, and live chat.

Sears, NTB, Pep Boys, Tire Kingdom, and Mavis Discount Tire are among the lowest-rated tire retailers. In particular, these retailers all get dinged for the lack of free perks they offer and the amount of time it takes them to install tires.

These are among the insights from a survey of 48,525 Consumer Reports subscribers, who reported on 50,125 tire buying and/or installation experiences from walk-in chains, online retailers, independent tire retailers, and car dealerships. In order to qualify for this survey, subscribers must have purchased two or more new tires for a vehicle in 2016.  

The retailers are presented below in rank order, starting with the top-rated retailer.

See the complete tire retailer ratings.

Tire Retailer Satisfaction

Tire Retailer

Median Cost Per Tire

Costco

$166

Tirerack.com

$177

Les Schwab Tire Centers

$187

Discount Tire

$173

Independent retailers

$167

Fountain Tire


Amazon.com

$124

Tire Barn

$183

Tirebuyer.com

$147

Belle Tire Distributors

$168

BJ's

$154

Kal Tire

$259

Kauffman Tire

$166

Dunn Tire

$155

Sullivan Tire

$179

Sam's Club

$148

Just Tires

Car Dealerships

$194

Big O Tires

$168

Tire Discounters

$183

Goodyear Auto Service

$166

Firestone Complete Auto Care

$152

Tire Warehouse

$161

Tires Plus

$158

Town Fair Tire Centers

$171

Monro Muffler Brake


American Tire Depot


Mr. Tire

$175

Walmart

$118

Merchant's

Sears

$164

NTB

$162

Pep Boys

$145

Tire Kingdom

$172

Mavis Discount Tire

$159

  1. The Reader Score reflects overall satisfaction with the tire purchase and installation experience. A score of 100 would mean all respondents are completely satisfied; 80, that respondents are very satisfied on average; and 60 that respondents are somewhat satisfied. 
  2. Cost per tire shown controls for car type and includes installation fees, and it is based on only drivers that purchased and installed four tires at the same location. Dashes indicate that the sample size was too small to calculate an accurate value.

See the complete tire retailer satisfaction scores, including ratings across nine purchase/installation factors.