Here is a little known fact about buying tires. Prices are negotiable. While the big box stores like Wal-Mart or Costco are not going to haggle on their already low tire prices, dedicated tire stores have quite a bit of leeway on pricing, especially on services such as mounting and balancing.
Price is always a major consideration but it’s important to remember that safety should always come first. Tires are the only direct contact between the road and your vehicle so keeping high quality tires on your vehicle is key to staying safe out on the road.
According to safercar, drivers in the United States put more than 2.9 billion miles on their tires every year. There are roughly 11,000 tire-related crashes per year and those accidents kill about 200 people so maintaining your tires is important.
Getting a great deal on tires is actually pretty easy but it does require some upfront research. Follow this step-by-step guide on how to get the best deal on a new set of wheels.
Part 1 of 4: Research the tires
Go online and research the various brands of tires that are available for your specific vehicle. There will be a number of different options for every vehicle out on the road so look for a high quality tire that falls in the middle of the price range. Unless you are driving a high-end sports car, top of the line treads are usually unnecessary.
Sites such as safercar.gov have entire sections dedicated to tire safety statistics so carefully research any tire you are considering.
Consider how you spend most of the time in your car and buy a tire for the way you drive. Here are a few considerations when researching tires:
Step 1: Decide on your tread life. Tires are rated for different tread life and in most cases, the longer the tread life, the more the tire will cost. Decide how long you want the tires to last and look for a set of treads that meets that timeframe.
It is important to remember that tread life ratings are not an exact science and the tire may wear quicker than the rating. It depends on the vehicle, the rim size, and the weight of the car. A heavy vehicle will wear down tires much faster than a light one.
Step 2: Consider the weather. If you live in an area where inclement weather is a factor you may want to look at tires that are designed for wet or snowy weather. If you spend a lot of time driving in the snow, a separate set of snow tires may be required.
Step 3: Pick your speed rating. Unless you drive a high powered sports car there is little need for a tire that is rated for anything over 150 mph. The higher the speed rating, the more the tire will cost.
Step 4: Decide on the ride quality. When going for looks some people will choose a low profile tire. While a 40 or 50 series tire looks cool, the ride is going to be less than stellar. Low profile tires are harsh over potholes and bumps, in addition, they expose the rims to damage more easily.
Once you have decided on the brand and model of tire, compare prices online so you have a good idea of what the tires should cost.
Going into a tire store armed with the make and model of the tire you want, as well as a price range gives you a distinct advantage. Tire sales people are almost always commission based so pushing their most expensive option on you is in their self-interest. If you already know what tire you want it will save both time and money.
Part 2 of 4: Get quotes
Call around for quotes before heading out to a tire store. Look for stores that are happy to help get a price on the specific tires you are calling about. Almost all of them will probably try to convince you that another tire is more appropriate.
Don’t immediately dismiss their suggestions, while some tire sales people will definitely try to push you into a more expensive tire, others will just be trying to find the best tire for your vehicle.
- Tip: A salesperson that keeps pushing a different tire than the one you have in mind probably has their own interests at heart (a bigger commission), move on to the next store.
Calling around will help you determine a reasonable price for the tires you are interested in and which stores you can trust.
Part 3 of 4: Shop at a tire store
In most cases it pays to shop at a dedicated tire store. The big box stores will not negotiate on price and there is no guarantee that the person mounting and balancing your tires has been properly trained.
If possible, shop at a store that makes the tire you are interested. As an example, if you have decided on a Firestone tire, shop at a Firestone store as they are getting their inventory direct from the factory, which will usually mean a lower price.
If it is not possible to shop at a factory store, look for a tire store that carries a large selection of brands, including the one you have picked out.
Part 4 of 4: Negotiate the price
Here are a couple of tips on how to negotiate the best price on your new tires.
Step 1: Be polite. The first rule of negotiating anything is to stay calm and polite. An unpleasant customer is never going to get the best price so maintain good manners at all costs.
Step 2: Never take the first offer. While tires are actually a pretty slim margin item there is always plenty of room for discounts on installation, balancing, and disposal of your old tires. Most tire sales people will start off at their suggested retail price and move down from there.
Always ask if they can do better on the price, can they offer free installation, and are rotations free for the life of the tire? Make sure the price they are quoting includes everything, including tax. Only agree to a deal when you are happy with the final price.
Step 3. Remember the rule of four. When dealing with tires you always have to multiply a price by four since you are replacing all four tires. While a tire that costs $15 more than the one you picked out doesn’t sound like a big price increase, when you multiply it by four it suddenly turns into $60. Always ask them to quote prices for all four tires so you only have to deal with one number.
Step 4: Shop online. Like almost everything else, tires can now be purchased online and in some cases you can get a much better deal. Websites like Tire Rack will ship the tires directly to the mechanic of your choice who will mount the tires.
It is possible to save money shopping online, especially on high performance tires or less popular tire brands. Mentioning that you are going to check online can sometimes prompt a price drop at a tire store, so don’t be afraid to mention it.
Step 5: Avoid the extras. Tire shops will often perform other services such as replacing brake pads, oil changes, and even wheel alignments. In most cases it is best to politely decline these extras and have the vehicle checked out by your mechanic if you feel there could be an actual issue.
Tire stores make a big margin on these services so there can be pressure to upsell services that are not always necessary.
You are now ready to get out there and strike a deal on some brand new tires. Remember, maintaining the proper air pressure and rotating them on a regular basis is the best way to keep tires healthy so you won’t have to head back to the tire store for a long long time.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How to Negotiate the Price of Tires and was authored by Mark Vallet.