April is National Car Care Month, so protect your investment and save money down the road. ...
Cheap Tires Buying Guide
There are, of course, many different types of tires and many factors that determine which type of tire best suits your needs, including the climate you live in, the car you drive, the types of roads you drive on, and the type of driver you are. For example, ultra-high-performance tires, such as the Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar G:2 (starting at $344), are designed to withstand the high temperatures generated from racing at very high speeds.
In this guide, we focus on two types of cheap tires of interest to most buyers: standard all-season tires and winter tires. All-season tires strive to balance performance and longevity for the average driver. As the name implies, they are designed to handle well in a variety of driving conditions and temperature ranges. Winter tires, or snow tires, provide better traction in cold temperatures. While all-season tires live up to their name in warmer climates, consumers who see a lot of snow and ice are likely to find winter tires indispensible. Note that some of the very qualities that make winter tires dependable in snow -- deep treading and an extra strong grip on the road -- make them noisy and sluggish in warm weather. So if you do use cheap snow tires, switch back to all-season or summer tires as soon as the weather gets warmer.
Before you begin shopping for new cheap tires, find your vehicle's tire placard on the doorframe or doorjamb on the driver's side. (It may also be inside the glove box, the gas door, or the trunk.) The placard tells you what size tires to buy. The number to the right of the size is the load index, which indicates how much weight each tire can carry. (The letter is the speed rating -- more on that later.) The load index on the cheap tires you choose should match or exceed the load index on the placard.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requires manufacturers to rate all-season tires according to the Uniform Tire Quality Grading System. A UTQG rating comprises three measures of tire quality: tread wear, traction, and temperature resistance. Winter tires aren't required to display UTQG ratings, so we have to turn to reviews for an indication of, for example, a winter tire's ability to stop on wet pavement (reflected in the traction rating on an all-season tire). Other features to consider include the manufacturer's tread-wear warranty, speed rating, and the option of using metal studs on a winter tire. User and expert reviews tell us how these features translate to performance in both dry and wet weather, as well as comfort and noise levels.
The top all-season tires we found for consumers on a budget are the General Altimax RT (starting at $51 per tire, Amazon) and the Falken Sincera Touring SN211 (starting at $54, Amazon). The Altimax RT is widely praised for providing a soft, smooth ride and a solid grip on the road. The Falken SN211 is also known for a quiet ride and excellent handling. Consumers might want to think twice about purchasing the other all-season tire we researched, the Goodyear Wrangler ST (starting at $73, Amazon). Some users deem this tire dangerous due to its poor performance on wet roads and tendency to blow out.
We selected the Michelin X-Ice Xi2 (starting at $72) as the best cheap winter tires. They impress many users with their solid performance on ice and snow. The General Altimax Arctic (starting at $51, Amazon) is also a good choice. Users say it handles even better in winter weather than some higher-priced tires. Drivers warn against choosing the Hankook Icebear W300 (starting at $76), however. It seems to perform particularly poorly in the snow.
Best Cheap Tires
General Altimax RTThe all-season General Altimax RT receives high marks from users for its quiet ride and ability to grip the road in wet and dry conditions. The Altimax RT has a UTQG rating of 600-A-B, speed capacity of 118 mph, and manufacturer's tread-wear warranty of 70,000 miles. It features a replacement monitor that indicates when the tire's tread has worn down. Read more »
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Michelin X-Ice Xi2The Michelin X-Ice Xi2 is a studless winter tire for sedans, coupes, and family vans. It impresses users with its performance on ice and snow, particularly its ability to stop and start on ice. It has a speed capacity of 118 mph and a 40,000 tread-wear warranty, unusual for a winter tire. Read more »
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Good Cheap Tires
Falken SN211The all-season Falken Sincera Touring SN211 receives high marks from users for its quiet ride and ability to grip the road even in the rain. This tire has a UTQG rating of 720-A-B, speed capacity of 118 mph, and tread-wear warranty of 80,000 miles. It comes with a specialized tread-wear indicator to alert drivers when it needs replacing. Read more »
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Don't Bother Cheap Tires
Goodyear Wrangler ST
Many consumers pan the all-season Goodyear Wrangler ST, describing it as risky or flat-out unsafe. Users especially warn against driving in the rain with these tires. The Wrangler ST has a UTQG rating of 340-B-B (340-A-B on some sizes). It is commonly sold as original equipment on light trucks and SUVs. Read more »
Dunlop Graspic DS-3 Review
Goodyear Wrangler ST Review
Hankook Icebear W300 Review
Falken SN211 Review
General Altimax Arctic Review
General Altimax RT Review
Michelin X-Ice Xi2 Review
April is car care month. If you haven't adopted a car care plan or it needs a tuneup, follow our guidelines.
Find out the results for our Frugal Month Challenge.