Editor’s Note: This piece is part of an ongoing series called “Get It for Less” that will appear every Wednesday on MainStreet, so check back for more shopping tips on your favorite products.
NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Snow is already creeping into several states this week, which means two things: It might be a white Halloween this year, and many drivers may soon need to switch up their tires for the winter season.
As any driver probably knows, replacing all four tires typically costs several hundred dollars, and according to Jack R. Nerad, Kelley Blue Book’s executive editorial director, there generally isn’t as much variation in tire prices as there is with other consumer products. That said, there are still several ways to cut down your tire costs from one year to the next.
Shop at Costco & Sam’s Club
In general, Nerad says there are several types of retail stores where one can find tires, including auto dealers, businesses that focus exclusively on tires and car maintenance like Firestone, department stores like Sears and big-box retailers like Costco and Sam’s Club. Auto dealers and tire shops tend to be the most expensive of the bunch, but there is good reason for this.
“Typically the traditional tire dealer is a more expensive place to buy tires, but at the same time you are more likely to get good customer handling in these stores and good advice because their business really is tires,” Nerad says.
For those drivers who are more concerned with price than having a tire expert walk them through the process, their best bet is to shop at the big-box retailers that often have the most competitive prices.
“If you just want to replace what’s on your car, you probably don’t need huge amounts of expertise to make that happen, so then maybe you look at Costco or Sam’s Club,” he says.
Shop at Peak Times
As MainStreet has reported countless times before, the best time to find bargains on most products is during the period when they are less in demand. If you want an air conditioner, you’ll find lower prices during the colder months. If you want to buy outerwear, the best prices come after winter when stores are trying to clear out their stock. But tires operate on a different schedule altogether.
“Very often you do get good deals during the hot buying season because the tire manufacturers fish where the fish are rather than promoting it during the off-season,” Nerad says. Moreover, drivers purchase tires all year long, so there is no one time of year when tire companies are particularly desperate to shift their inventory around in the way that other retailers need to do with fashion or sports equipment.
One of the peak buying times for tires, according to Nerad, is actually right around now and in the coming weeks as more drivers look to purchase winter and all-season tires to make it through the cold season. (Another popular period is during the spring when households get ready for more road trips.) So keep an eye out for sales in the near future.
Comparison Shop Online
Unfortunately, price comparison services are hard to come by at the moment (hopefully some clever entrepreneur reading this will change that), but there are some options out there. Nerad recommends TireRack.com, which sells tires from a wide range of companies including all the big names like Firestone, Goodyear and Michelin. You don’t actually have to order the tires from the site (and incur the shipping cost), but instead you can use it to come up with price quotes for different makes and use this as a point of comparison when shopping in the store. Other sites like TireSavings.com serve a similar a function.
Check Your Tires Regularly
Finally, Nerad stresses the importance of checking the air pressure and tread depth of your tires on at least a monthly basis to reduce the chances that they might blow out while driving. Not only is it a huge inconvenience to be stuck on the side of the road with a blowout, but it also forces many to pay more for tires than they’d like.
“A lot of times, tire purchases are made because consumers have a punctured tire and then they are at the mercy of whichever place they were able to pull into off the road,” Nerad says. “That’s not really the way to get the best deal.”
Performing regular checkups may not completely protect you from tire failure, but at least the odds are more in your favor that you’ll get to decide when it’s time to get a new tire and how much you’re willing to pay for it.
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