Online Tire-Buying

Save Hundreds and Still Get the Best Rubber for the Road


  • Online Tire-Buying

    Online Tire-Buying

    Next time your tread wears thin, try shopping online for your tires. | June 08, 2010

3 Photos

Some people might assume that buying tires online and having them shipped to you is too expensive, time-consuming and cumbersome. So they continue to schlep down to the corner tire store, or buy from a chain store and wind up paying more than is necessary.

However, thanks to easy-to-navigate Web sites, consumers can provide their car's year, make and model and quickly be shown a wide selection of tires that fit their vehicle. The choices are easily sorted based on the driving requirements, prices or other factors. The tires are then "drop-shipped" to a local tire store for installation at an additional cost. Consumers we have talked with have been amazed at how smoothly the online tire-buying process works. In fact, one shopper called it, "One of my best online-shopping experiences."

Advantages of Online Tire-Buying

The Internet route offers the following advantages over the traditional tire-buying experience:

  • Online tire prices are lower, particularly when compared to inflated costs at dealerships.
  • Consumer reviews help buyers make informed decisions.
  • Buyers avoid aggressive "upselling" found in many brick-and-mortar stores.
  • Some online tire-buying Web sites, such as Tirerack.com offer their own independent tire tests.
  • There is no state sales tax on most Internet purchases (depending on the laws in your state).
  • One can find an excellent selection of hard-to-find performance and specialty tires.

Disadvantages of Online Tire-Buying

Purchasing tires over the Internet does have a few drawbacks. Here are a few things to know before proceeding:

  • The purchase requires advance planning and takes days.
  • Buyers can't inspect the actual tires before purchasing.
  • A trusted local installer still needs to be located.
  • Some buyers prefer the face-to-face interaction with an expert.
  • Shipping costs are high, particularly for overnight delivery.

Navigating Your Way to a Good Deal

The process starts with choosing the right tires for your needs. With some 160 different brands in the marketplace, the choice can be overwhelming. Many people are confused by what has been called sidewall graffiti, the hieroglyphic-like information about size, speed and load rating. In most cases, all you need to know is the year, make and model of your car. If you have put aftermarket wheels on the vehicle, you might need to know your wheel size before proceeding.

Nearly all online tire-buying sites allow you to view the list of tires using different sorting methods. If you have a brand preference, such as Michelin, you can sort the list so you can look at all those tires first. You can also cross-shop other brands by reading reviews from people who have bought these brands. While consumer reviews are important, it's also a good idea to read the opinions of experts who have a greater depth of comparative knowledge.

If you don't know a lot about tires, an easy way to make a decision is to look at the provided star ratings and the price range you have in mind to find the best intersection of these two factors. However, while most people like to save money, it's also important to make tire safety a priority.

Sorting Through Price

In tire stores you are likely to be quoted a per-tire price, so you have to do the math on the fly. On the Internet, the computer totals the cost of the four tires and gives you a better idea of whether this will fit into your budget. Keep in mind that while you are likely to be paying a hefty shipping price, you will probably not be charged sales tax by the company unless they have an office or warehouse in your state.

If you want to do a cost comparison to traditional tire-buying, keep these factors in mind:

  • Cost of the tires
  • Shipping cost
  • Savings from not paying sales tax, depending upon the merchant and where you live
  • Cost of installation
  • Disposal fees and excise taxes

Getting Your Tires Mounted and Balanced

In addition to the tire cost, you will also have to pay to have the tires mounted and balanced. Tirerack.com has a list of local installers arranged by ZIP code, so when you order you can have the tires shipped directly to the store. When the tires arrive, the installer calls you to bring the car down to have the job completed.

It's a good idea to read reviews of the installer ahead of time, and call and confirm the price for the work you need done. You will have to buy valve stems from the installer, have the tires mounted and balanced and have the old tires disposed of. The cost for all this ranges from $15 to $20 per tire depending on tire size and type.

Give the Online Route a Try

If you can save $15 per tire, that's a total savings of $60, not to mention you'll avoid some of the pricy extras many chain tire stores push on unwary customers. So give this new shopping experience a test-drive next time the tread is wearing thin on your tires. Like many other consumers, you might be so satisfied you'll never go back to the old way of doing things.

Comments

  • Dear Mr. Reed, I once again am going to disagree with you on your article. This one especially. There are a lot of things that I can buy easily on the internet and probably not have a problem with. A DVD or CD for example. However, when it comes to tires and especially Tire Rack, I have to be a myth breaker. Myth # 1 is that buying tires online is cheaper. Simply stated, If I want to sell tires, I "have" to compete with Tire Rack and Discount Tire on price. Tire Rack sells the 205/55R16 Continental DW Extreme for $102.89 with shipping and I sell it everyday at $102.00. Myth # 2 is that buyers avoid "aggressive" upselling online. I'm not sure what you can upsell on a tire sale, but we do offer the exact same road hazard program that Tire Rack does, although I have to explain it to you instead of you reading it online. We also can perform an expert 4-wheel alignment on your car to save on wear to your new tire investment, something Tire Rack and Discount Tire cannot perform. Myth # 3 - Tire Rack performs "independent testing" on their tires. While it is true that they test tires, they test the tires that they are going to send you an email on to sell you. It teeters on aggressive marketing, only online. When you go to tire rack for example and enter the very popular 205/55R16 tire size, you have 157 tire choices and 63 buttons to check off if you choose to. It's like Chinese stereo instructions. At Carolina Tire & Auto in Charlotte, NC you are going to find a friendly face with an expert opinion on tire buying. We don't offer 1 or 2 tire brands or for that matter 157 choices. Our tire experts can offer you a tire choice made especially for your car, driving habits, wants in a tire and of course budget. Want to know how to trust a repair shop? Go to Google Maps and type in auto repair or tires from your area. Read the reviews about the local shops and then call or visit them in person for sound advice on tire buying. If I make the wrong choice in a DVD buying it online, I just wasted an hour and a half of my time and $20 bucks. If I make the wrong choice in a tire, I just put my safety at risk and I am stuck with it for 30,000 to 80,000 miles and wasted hundreds of dollars, maybe thousands. Lastly, do this quick experiment. Call Tire Rack and tell them that a tire you bought from them has a warranty issue and see what they tell you. I'll save you the trouble and tell you that they will tell you to go to your local tire dealer to get that handled. Better yet, ask them to rotate your tires or fix your flat tire. You have a relationship with your hair stylist, your cleaning lady, your nanny, your local bartender at your favorite pub or waitress at your local eatery, or better yet your doctor. Why on Earth would you "not" want to have that same trusting relationship with your local independent auto repair and tire shop? Sincerely, Jim Seidel President Carolina Tire & Auto http://www.carolina-tire.com

  • livestrong livestrong Posts:

    Great article! In reply to Carolina Tire: I always purchase from Tirerack.com. Retailers in my area generally will not match prices, and I find the reviews much better than most "experts" at a tire shop (who usually only carry a couple brands and only push those). Moreover, the CONSUMER REVIEWS are what I find most informative. Consumers are much more educated and informed these days to not listen and heed their experiences and reviews on a product. The tire shop I use to install my tires has been nothing but professional when installing by online-bought tires. After all, I am paying them for a service! Why should I feel second-rate because I bought my tires elsewhere?? The fact that you (Carolina Tire) imply that you provide second/third rate service to customers that don't purchase tires from you says a lot about your business. While I do believe it is important to have tires installed and balanced correctly, it also does not take 10 years of education and a residency to get a job at Commercial Tire to rotate/balance/install tires. Why on Earth do you compare a doctor to a tire salesman/tech? By the way, the retailer that handles my installs has ALWAYS treated me professionally and Always does a professional job.

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