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Low-Rolling-Resistance Tires Can Save You Money at the Pump

Choosing the right tire can improve grip and reduce fuel consumption

Low-rolling-resistance tires.

Shoppers must consider many factors when buying tires: braking performance, wet-weather grip, how long they last, and price. But taking into account a tire’s rolling resistance could save you money at the pump.

Exactly how much depends on your car and other factors, but CR tests show that it’s possible to save a couple hundred dollars over the service life of a set of tires by choosing a model with low rolling resistance, and you won’t necessarily have to pay a premium. 

Rolling resistance refers to the energy it takes to rotate the tires, affected by the friction caused when the tire surface meets the road. The Department of Energy estimates that 4 to 11 percent of fuel consumption is due to tire rolling resistance.

There have been significant strides in tire technology designed to improve fuel economy, driven in part by automakers trying to meet increasingly stringent fuel-economy standards. Consumers also are eager to save at the pump.

Industry studies show that a 10 percent drop in rolling resistance equates to about a 1 percent improvement in fuel economy. It might not seem like a big difference, but fuel-economy gains are hard to come by. You can grab that advantage by making an informed tire purchase.

Consumer Reports rates the rolling resistance of the tires we test. This work is conducted by an outside lab where real-world rolling resistance is simulated on a dynamometer. CR has tested tires when they’re new and also after the tread is shaved down to 4/32-inch, which equals the tread depth of a tire that’s near the end of its life.

Our testing of performance all-season tires showed a 27 percent difference in rolling resistance between the best and worst performing tires.

“There are many tires that have excellent grip, long tread life, and low rolling resistance,” says Gene Petersen, who runs CR’s tire-testing program. “These are often the tires that rise to the top our ratings and can be smart buys. Because there are so many factors for shoppers to consider, it is important to look beyond the Overall Score to understand how a tire performs in the factors that matter most to you.”

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Over 12,000 miles driven, that 27 percent difference in resistance equals about 13.4 gallons of gas separating the best performer from the worst, based on average fuel economy. It adds up to about $40 per year, or $215 over the life of a set of tires—about 66,800 miles for a performance all-season tire, based on CR testing. We based our savings calculation on the current average U.S. gas price of $2.88 per gallon, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. 

Our tests also show that buying a low-rolling-resistance replacement tire doesn’t mean giving up all-weather grip, Petersen says. Some of the tires with the lowest rolling resistance ranked in the upper half of our overall tire ratings.

We recommend that tire shoppers prioritize safety factors, such as handling and dry and wet braking, and consider nice-to-have elements, such as rolling resistance and warranty coverage, the tie breakers when the time comes to make a purchase decision.

Below is the list of performance all-season tires, ranked in order of their rolling resistance. We also show how tire wear affects rolling resistance. 

Performance All-Season-Tire Rolling Resistance

This bar graph ranks tested tires based on the rolling resistance we measured, and it illustrates how that resistance translates to fuel economy.  

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