Survey reveals the most satisfying tire retailers

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 recently and asked them about their overall satisfaction with 29 tire retail chains. More than 30,000 members responded.

Three outlets led the way: Les Schwab Tire Centers, Discount Tire, and America’s Tire. (Discount Tire and America's Tire are the same company. Discount Tire has stores in 35 states, and America's Tire sells in California, Oregon, and Washington.) As a broad category, our members rated independent retailers they bought tires from as on a par with these three chain retailers.

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Les Schwab Tire Centers, operating in nine Western states, tops the chart, getting top 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 installation time as better than average, although survey respondents who shopped there rated their product selection as average.

Overall, around two-thirds of the retail chains earned a favorable overall mark for satisfaction, with scores ranging from 83 to 91 points. The lower one-third of retailers earned passable scores ranging from 78 to 82 points.

Ninety percent of the tire buyers in our survey said they're highly satisfied with their purchase and 88 percent are highly satisfied with their installation experience.

There are clear differences among the various retail experiences, especially in terms of free perks, installation time, and waiting area. There is also a good deal of variation when it comes to selection, sales staff, and checkout ease.

“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 are limited but may be able to get what you want if you can wait.”

Three out of four buyers were highly satisfied with the price they paid for tires and installation. Other key factors include quality of service from installation professionals (84 percent), sales service (83 percent), and ease of checkout (83 percent). Respondents were somewhat less likely to be highly satisfied with product selection (70 percent), installation time (68 percent), and waiting areas (67 percent).

CR members reported a typical installation time of 33 minutes per tire. (So there is a good chance that you could be waiting over 2 hours to get four tires installed.) Only 2 percent of consumers reported that their tire installation required waiting until the next day or longer to complete.

Pep Boys, Mavis Discount Tire, and NTB Tire & Service are at the bottom of our newest tire retailer ratings. In particular, these retailers all get dinged for the lack of free perks and the amount of time it takes them to install tires. However, they are still rated very well, overall.

These are among the findings from a large-scale survey of CR members who reported their 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. The retailers are presented below in order of how they rate for overall satisfaction, starting with the top-rated retailer.

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

Tire Retailer Satisfaction

Tire RetailerEstimated Cost Per Tire*Estimated Installation Cost Per Tire**
Les Schwab Tire Centers$179 $22
Discount Tire (discounttiredirect.com)$144 $19
Independent Retailers$161 $23
America's Tire$167 $21
Discount Tire Centers$168 $23
Costco$165 $14

Tire Rack

$161 $24
Discount Tire and Automotive$160 $20
Amazon.com$110 $22
Kal Tire$226 $25
Sullivan Tire$155
Dunn Tire
BJ's$147 $18
Goodyear Auto Service$161 $25
Car Dealerships$193 $31
Sam's Club$139 $15
Tire Warehouse
Belle Tire Distributors$165
Big O Tires$167 $26
Firestone Complete Auto Care$149 $24
Tire Discounters$179
Town Fair Tire Centers$148 $23
Sears$149 $24
Tires Plus$161 $25
Tire Kingdom$163
Walmart Auto Care Centers$102 $14
Mr. Tire$159
Canadian Tire Corp$175 $24
NTB Tire & Service Centers$161 $27
Mavis Discount Tire$148 $21
Pep Boys$137 $24
  1. — Indicates not enough data was available.

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