Maintaining a car is an expensive many of us overlook or try not to think about. Unless you’re getting your oil changed, most trips to the mechanic is usually at least $100. Replacing your current car tires is no different as you can easily cost up to $200 per tire for many vehicles. To save a buck, you might decide to find cheap tires online instead of paying the sky-high prices charged by your local tire dealer.
Is it cheaper to buy tires online? Not always, but it can be a good way to save money in more cases than you think.
By purchasing your own tires, you can help eliminate some of the additional markups that tire stores charge to keep tires in stock. Even if you have to pay a small fee to have your purchased tires installed, it can still be less than buying them directly from the shop.
Compare Store Tire Prices to Online Tire Prices
To find the best deal, the first thing you need to do is compare the tire prices for your local dealer to the online store. To do this, you will need to know the make and model of your car or the size of the current tires on your vehicle.
Each car tire has several numbers on it, but there’s one particular series you want to look for. Although your tire size might not be the same as the following examples, the sequence will be the same:
Typing these numbers into the online tire search engines will ensure you choose the correctly sized tire.
Once you find several tire models you like, get a quote from your local tire shop. Don’t be afraid to ask the following questions:
- What’s the best price you can offer?
- Do you install tires I order online?
- That price is too high, can you do better?
Don’t be afraid to try negotiating with the dealer. Many tire shops try to upsell by selling more expensive models or additional services that you don’t need. Because most towns have more than one place that sells and install tires, the tire business is more competitive than you think. Use this competition to your advantage to save a few dollars, even if it means asking if they can match the online tire price.
Look for an Online Tire Store with Free Delivery or Install
At first glance, online tires appear cheaper. What you don’t realize is that installation, delivery, and disposal fees aren’t factored into the equation. Some tire shops charge more if you buy the tires online instead of through their network. For example, Walmart charges an extra $10 per tire not ordered from Walmart or Walmart.com.
By looking online, you might find tires that are in the store’s inventory but aren’t locally in stock. These online tires can be cheaper if you’re willing to wait an extra day or two for the tires to arrive at the store to be installed.
Other third-party sites partner with independent tire stores to offer free shipping or installation.
Even if it feels like you might only be saving $10 to $15 per tire, you’re still saving between $50 and $60 and avoiding the hassle of dealing with your local merchant.
Discount Tire Direct
Discount Tire Direct is a good place to look. They also post their listing on eBay so you can also look there. You can enter your zip code to find a local Discount Tire partner that will install your tires if you ship them directly to their shop.
You can also check out Tire Rack. Although you will need to pay approximately $8.50 per tire to ship, they can have a different installer network than Discount Tire Direct. You can save some additional cash by accessing Tire Rack through Ebates to get bonus cash back!
Amazon also sells tires and you can have them shipped to any shop. They also recently launched a direct partnership to ship and install any purchased tires at any Sears Auto Center. Although there aren’t as many Sears locations in 2018 as there were a few years ago, Sears still has a national footprint in many malls and retail centers.
With 9,000 installers and free delivery, TireBuyer offers guaranteed installation rates. All you have to do is choose the brand of tires you like and the day you want to install them. It’s that easy!
You will need to conduct your due diligence with eBay, but the savings can be worth it if you find the right seller. Some of the other online tire sites also sell on eBay so there’s a good chance you’re buying from a company instead of an individual seller. Although you’re less likely to buy from a seller with an installer network, you might be able to pay less than some of these other networks because you’re buying independent sellers instead of giant warehouses that might also serve your local tire shops.
Tips for Buying Tires Online
Probably the largest disadvantage to buying tires online is that you can’t see and touch the tire you’re going to buy. Unless you’re keeping the same model of your current tire, you may want to look at the new tread pattern first. Online places have pictures of tread patterns, but this isn’t always the same thing.
You should follow these tips to help you pick the best pair of cheap tires online:
Read Tire Reviews
Even if you don’t buy from one of the online tire websites, you can read user reviews. Each manufacturer produces several different models that rate “good, better, best” in terms of product quality. Before the local tire salesman tries to sell you a more expensive tire that you don’t really need, read reviews so you know what’s a good brand and model so you don’t overspend.
You can also use reviews to avoid the discount brands that are cheap for a reason, the long-term durability of the tires leaves something to be desired. Do yourself a favor and stay away from poorly rated tires unless you truly can’t afford to spend a little bit more on a name brand.
Avoid “Buy Three, Get One Free” Promotions and Other Optional Add-Ons
It’s still possible to pay too much for tires online. Although you won’t have a high-pressure salesman breathing down your neck, you should take every promotion with a grain of salt and calculate the total cost before you make a purchase. If you go to a tire store, you probably don’t bring a calculator to crunch numbers quickly.
Most manufacturer mail-in rebates are a great way to save money and are offered by brick-and-mortar tire shops too. What you need to pay attention to is the store-specific promotions that make it look like you’re saving money, but actually aren’t. The most common promotion is the “Buy 3 and Get the 4th Free.” You might think you’re saving 25%, but the seller might have increased the retail price before announcing the sale. Take the time to compare prices from other sites to see what their everyday price is compared to the promotional prices at other retailers.
You should also compare the prices for tires that come with free tire rotation and wheel balancing specials. These specials can be a good deal if you normally pay for these services on a regular. Of course, you’re also required to visit that shop to get the free service. If your regular mechanic is installing the tires, these specials can be worth it.
Finally, don’t feel like you need to buy extended tire warranties. Most tires come with a manufacturer’s warranty. Although some new tires have defects that will be spotted soon after you begin driving, the extended tire warranties go unused in many cases.
It’s worth the effort to buy cheap tires online if you know where to look. If you’re tired of the upselling from your local dealer, ordering online is convenient as you can research the tires at your convenience. You can even use the online quotes as a bargaining chip if you still decide to buy your tires in-person too.