Most consumers know that there are strategies for getting the best price on a new car. But did you know the same principle holds true for buying one of the most important pieces of equipment on your car? Yup, we’re (of course) talking about tires. A recent survey of 30,000 drivers from our friends at Consumer Reports found that price was the most important consideration for consumers when buying new tires. This begs the following question: what are the best ways to save money when buying new tires? We looked at this question inside and out and came up with the following answers to help you get the best prices on new tires.
There best way to save money on buying new tires is to educate yourself by shopping first online, visiting big-box retail shops to check out their prices, and then using this information to negotiate the best price at your local tire dealers, ideally in the months of either October or April.
Let’s look at the data behind these tips for getting the best price on new tires.
Comparison Shop In-person and Online
If you’ve ever traded in a car then you are no doubt familiar with Kelley Blue Book. It’s a prime resource that sellers turn to in an effort to understand the true value of their vehicle. The catch – as a salesman once told me when I scoffed at the low-ball offer he made on my 1995 Nissan Sentra with 103,000 miles – was that Kelley Blue Book is nice and all, but they don’t actually buy cars. In other words, as much as sellers treat their numbers as scripture, Kelley Blue Book is almost irrelevant since they don’t actually buy the vehicles they quote.
What is this relevant?
Because a lot of online tire websites are just like that. They list and compare and opine on a lot of different tires – everything from makes and models to brands and performance – but they don’t actually sell tires to consumers. This renders their opinions as merely that: opinions not fact. But as any savvy shopper knows, comparison shopping is one of the best ways to save money, and that holds true when thinking about the best ways to save money on tires.
Shop Online First
Just a few years ago it seemed that the majority of tire-related sites were like this. And the online tire buying experience was quite painful. But things have changed and throughout our tire journeys we have found three sites that seem to have cracked the code for making online tire buying simple, painless, and affordable.
Both TireBuyer.com and TireRack.com are user-friendly sites that let consumers search replacement tires by either entering in their vehicle make and model or their exact tire specifications (check out our article on what those numbers on the side of your tire mean, which is essential when shopping for new tires).
We’re not endorsing these sites, nor can we comment on the actual deals that consumers may get by shopping on their platform, but in our experience searching and cultivating the most reliable tire information across the internet, these two sites have made it very easy to compare different tires that are exact matches for your vehicle.
Amazon, of course, sells tires as well. Sign up for Amazon Prime and you qualify for lots of offers of free shipping (note, Amazon Prime does not qualify everything you buy for free shipping, and that includes some tires). From our searching, Amazon does not seem to be a direct seller of tires, meaning that you’ll be dealing with third-party sellers in their marketplace. This is not necessarily a make or break deal and we’d wager that many shoppers rarely notice a different in their Amazon experience, but it’s something we wanted to flag.
Then Shop In-person
Once you’ve done your online research, the next step is to visit actual brick and mortar stores that sell tires. And here, you have three different types of destinations.
The first are big-box retailers like Walmart or Costco. These stores have their own national distribution centers and sell massive amounts of tires each year. Because of their volume, they typically have already-low prices that are immune to negotiations (more on that in a minute).
The second stop is to your car dealer, many of whom will also replace your tires. Yes, expect to pay a bit more or, at the very least, be quoted on the higher end. But as with your car, tire prices here are negotiable as well (we promise, more on negotiations in a second).
The third and final place to comparison shop is with your local tire dealer. Think your local Mavis Tire, Goodyear, Firestone or Mr. Tire. Be sure to ask about rebates – both manufacturer rebates as well as store rebates – that may be eligible for the tire you’re looking for. In fact, even before stepping foot in a retail store, be sure to check out their websites for online rebates, which sometimes can only be found online and not in the store. Finally, ask how much wiggle room there is to negotiate on the price of each tire and/or if there are any other services (e.g. oil change, mounting and rotation) that could be thrown in while, at the same time, sharing with them your online research and asking them if they can match or beat the online price for specific or equivalent tires.
And that brings us to negotiations and if the prices of tires is negotiable. But before we head there, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention one other strategy that’s a bit more controversial (our thoughts on negotiations are one scroll away… promise!).
We’ve written previously about how to tell the year your tire was “born.” Yes, a tire’s birthday (actually birthweek) is printed on the side of every tire. Some shrewd shoppers claim that you can ask any in-person dealer if they have unused tires from last year and if those tires are discounted from this year’s tires. Though tires – even unused ones – do degrade with age, a year of sitting on a shelf should not have a tremendous effect on the performance and longevity of a tire, so this could be a worthwhile strategy.
In full disclosure, we’ve never tried this approach but wanted to share it with you for your consideration and experimentation. While buying back-dated tires may be up for debate, here’s something that’s not: tire prices are sometimes negotiable.
Can you save money on tires by negotiating?
Nothing in life is free, but everything is negotiable. This includes tires. Yes, the price of tires can be negotiable, and this is certainly one of the best ways to save money on tires. In that same Consumer Report survey, 70% of the drivers who tried to negotiate tire prices were successful! Beyond price, eight out of 10 customers said that they received “at least one free perk or service,” such as a free tire installation, mounting, balancing or warranty. Those who had their tires replaced at a dealership also were able to negotiate other free services, including discounted vehicle inspections and loaner vehicles.
Most of these discounts – as well as the ability to negotiate – are going to come primarily from your local dealers. Big box retail shops that sell tires like Walmart and Costco are not going to haggle over their already-low tire prices. Nor are there ample opportunities to negotiate with online sellers. So, in many respects, the name of the negotiation game is this: do your research online, then pursue your big box shops, and then head to your local tire dealer and see what you can work out.
What is the best month to save money on tires?
Memorial Day and Labor Day are well-known car-buying times. But when is the best time to buy tires? The answer is subject to debate, but the consensus appears to be that April and October are the most fruitful times to purchase new tires. This has to do with seasons. In October, drivers in areas with potential snow or freezing rain (so quite a lot of the U.S.) are thinking about how to winterize their vehicles, especially their tires. Tire manufacturers know this and offer discounts on snow and all-weather tires at this time.
Same is true for April. Those same drivers who wisely invested in the best tires for the winter season are now looking to shed those tires in favor of all-season tires that will perform well in spring and summer. Warmer weather also awakens summer vacation planning, which means road trips. And the last thing you want to do is take a road trip on shoddy tires and get stranded on your way to/from vacation because of a faulty tire, so new tires can insure against any unexpected tire-related hiccups.
We’d love to hear any additional tips and tricks you may have to save money on tires. If you’re willing to share them with us, we’d love to share them with our readers, and we’ll be sure to give you full credit if you would like. Write to us!