While the substantial cost of replacement high-performance tires is old news to us enthusiasts, it's a surprise to many new- and used-car buyers who are finding out that fresh skins for their cars aren't cheap. Some of these people are becoming "accidental performance customers" according to tire manufacturers, which is a direct result of OEMs specifying the large-diameter wheels and fat tire profiles that are desired by many customers (and often necessary for optimal performance). While an $800 set of tires causes a very immediate impact upon one's checkbook, tires are still much less of an impact on the per-mile operating costs of a vehicle than fuel, so keep that in mind before walking away from a car just because it wears expensive rubber.

It does seem unfortunate that tires are the single most important factor in vehicle performance, and yet so many people are adverse to spending money on them. The usual tire-care tips apply to getting the most out of your investment - keep them properly inflated, rotate them as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer, make sure your alignment is within specs (a challenge for those of us in the Pothole States), and expect those 300-foot-long burnouts in front of your friend?s house to have a negative effect on tire life.

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