The right set of tires is vital for
safety and handling
Your tires are one of the most important components of any car. Safety, comfort and
handling all depend on the quality and condition of your tires. So many details factor into tires, in
fact, that professional tests are typically extensive and very precise. Measuring braking distance in
different weather conditions, evaluating handling in corners, and testing
traction during acceleration are just some of the tests experts conduct in a tire review. Durability
is a crucial factor too; a tire's ability to wear evenly and maximize your fuel
economy will help save you money in the long run. Also important -- and not to
be overlooked -- is the ride comfort the tire provides.
Not all tires fit all cars. If
you go to a dealer, they will narrow your choices down the type of tire that is
most appropriate for your car; from there, the decision rests on your driving
style and budget. Most online sites that sell tires have some sort of
tire-to-car fit check system, where you can put in your car's make, model and
year and it will tell you if the tire will fit or not. However, some of these
systems are more accurate than others: we recommend that you always
double-check with the manufacturer to see if a given tire will fit your
specific car. This report covers tires for passenger cars. We cover SUV and light truck tires in a separate report. For driving under winter
conditions, we also have a separate report on snow tires.
Types of Tires
Experts say it's more accurate to call these three-season tires. Though the best can keep you on the road for the occasional snowstorm, and most have pretty good traction on the ice, if you live in a region with heavy snowfall consider switching to a winter tire for optimum traction for the cold months.
Also known as zero-pressure tires, run-flat tires allow you to continue to drive up to 50 miles after the air is out of your tire, thus reducing the need for a spare tire. Run-flats provide a measure of security (no changing of flats at night on a deserted road), but trail standard tires by a smidge in comfort and handling.
Because summer tires don't need to bulk up on extra traction for icy roads, they focus on maximizing grip for higher speeds and increased maneuverability. The best summer tires will deliver good traction on both wet and dry pavement, as well as offering excellent street handing, even in corners. They should also muffle distracting road noise. However, they are only an appropriate choice if you religiously change to winter tires when temperatures fall, or live in areas where winter is not a factor.
Performance tires aren't the best choice for most family vehicles, but if you have a high performance sports car or exotic, they could be your first choice if you want to tap its full potential. They are designed to provide maximum speed and handling on dry roads and closed tracks. Some can handle wet surfaces fine, but others struggle and are more subject to hydroplaning. They also shouldn't be driven in even near-freezing temperatures, let alone if there is any ice or snow.
A word on
The best tires in the above categories can cost $150 each or more --
sometimes much more. There are tires out there that have excellent performance and a price tag of $60 each
or less, but tires at that lower price point typically don't compare across the
board to the more expensive tires. A shorter tread life is often -- but not
always -- one of the trade-offs for spending less money.
The price you pay for your
tires will also depend on the size. In general, but not always, the smaller the
tire, the cheaper it will be. For the purposes of this report, we used the
lowest price we could find for that particular tire model, so use these prices only
as a guide. Also, prices are for one tire only, so be sure to multiply by the
number of tires you need (generally, you should buy at least two at a time so
both front tires or both back tires have equal wear), plus any installation and
disposal fees (if those are required in your state), to get your final cost.
Finding The Best Tires
"Tell-All Ratings & Reviews"
"Tire Test Results"
To find the best passenger-car
tires, ConsumerSearch editors examined dozens of road tests performed by auto
professionals and tire experts. We selected tires that excel at braking
quickly, are responsive on the road, and maintain their grip on wet roads. From
there, we narrowed the field down by considering factors such as rolling
resistance (which can effect a car's fuel consumption) and durability.
But expert reviews only provide
part of the picture. We also consulted thousands of owner reviews at retail
websites for additional feedback on durability, ride comfort and tread noise. These
are particularly helpful in judging real world performance on roads and
highways rather than test tracks, and can reveal things that don't turn up in
short term testing -- such as how well a tire wears and its overall real-world