According to Bill VandeWater of Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire, a tire dealer should ask a customer shopping for tires the following questions:
- What did you like about your OE tires?
- What didn't you like?
- What are you looking for from a tire?
- What is important to you?
- How are you going to use the vehicle?
Based on this information, the dealer can then recommend a tire from his "tire wall" that will meet the needs of the consumer.
When it comes time to get a set of new tires, drivers have a lot of options. Traditionally, the most expensive option is to return to the dealership. Dealers will replace worn tires with original-equipment tires. This option can cost twice as much as going to the local shop down the street.
That local shop, be it a national chain or mom-and-pop establishment, is probably the best place for the average consumer to shop for new tires. Prices can be reasonable and the service manager will help consumers select the correct tire for their vehicle. However, consumers should always shop around for the best prices. Tire and installation prices vary widely from store to store.
Another option is the discount tire retailer. These wholesale tire distributors sell tires at extreme discounts. In addition to low prices, they are often just a phone call or a mouse click away. However, when consumers purchase tires from the discount retailer, the tires are shipped to the consumer's door. It is up to the consumer to find a local shop to balance and mount the tires. (In some cases, these tire retailers will offer discount mounting and installation at a local tire store.) For some people who want exclusive or hard-to-find tires, this is the only option.
If you purchase your tires online, you'll need to do a little extra research to find out how much it'll cost to have them put on your vehicle. A local shop will charge you to mount and balance the tires, as well as any other additional fees, such as disposing the old tires. Call around to several shops to get their full price for putting on your new tires.
On the next page we'll learn how your driving habits should be factored into your tire purchase.