Are Cheap Tires Worth It? No, this is why


There’s an old saying. You shouldn’t cheap out on things that keep you off the ground, such as your bed, shoes, and tires. But tires can get up there in price, and we all want to save money. So are cheap tires worth it?

Inexpensive good quality tires are worth it. Cheap poor quality tires are a safety hazard and are not worth risking your life, your family, or other road users.

If you drive in precarious conditions, it could be worth going for premium quality tires to save on any potential accidents. Additionally, those who wish to extract as much performance as possible from their sports cars, trucks should also avoid getting cheap tires.

Below we will look at the various aspects of tires and what you should be familiar with before buying your new tires.

Car tire rack

Types of Tires

Due to the vastly different conditions around the world, it’s hard to have one perfect tire for everyone. As such, you will notice that the first big differentiator between different tires is their optimum weather conditions. Currently, the three big categories of tires are All-Season, Summer, and Winter tires.

All-Season Tires

As you can imagine, all-season tires are the “jack of all trades, master of none” in the tire world. Most new cars sold will come with all-season tires due to their adequate use in all but the most demanding conditions.

Compared with summer tires, all-season tires differ in their generally lower levels of grip due to different rubber compositions and tread patterns. This will result in less responsive handling and potentially worse braking distance. However, this will most likely not matter unless you are driving a performance vehicle, and by no means is choosing an all-season tire an unsafe choice.

Similarly, all-season tires will come up short in snowy weather when compared to winter tires. There are, however, specific all-season tires marked with an “M+S” on the sidewall. These indicate that the tires have performed well in both mud and packed snow. They still won’t be up to the standards of dedicated winter tires, but they should perform well enough if you don’t live in an area with extreme snowfall and ice.

Despite not being the best choice for the extremes, most drivers won’t find themselves in those conditions in the first place. Additionally, all-season tires tend to last longer before needing to be changed, being potentially the most frugal choice.

Summer Tires

Despite the name, summer tires are really “not winter” tires. These types of tires perform exceptionally well in temperatures above 45 degrees. Their softer rubber compound and large tread blocks allow them to typically be the best choice for both dry and wet conditions.

However, as soon as the temperature dips, the performance of summer tires drastically drops. The softer rubber compound will start to harden and could even result in cracks. Regardless of whether or not there is even snow or ice, these tires will lose their traction, making them a no-go for anyone driving in colder climates.

That being said, if you live in a warm climate and own a great handling car, then you owe it to yourself to get summer tires to extract every bit of performance.

Winter

Winter tires are the polar opposite of summer tires. The rubber compound of winter tires is formulated to excel once temperatures dip below 45 degrees. Winter tires will have the deepest of groove patterns to allow for maximum traction in icy and snowy conditions.

However, outside of winter driving, winter tires typically are a subpar choice for driving. They will provide less grip, increased road noise, and possibly weaker fuel economy. So while they are a great choice for driving safely in snowy conditions, most people recommend only putting them on right before winter weather hits.

Uniform Tire Quality Grading

In an effort to try and make it a little easier to compare the quality of different tires, the Department of Transportation created the Uniform Tire Quality Grading (UTQG) standard. The UTQG provides a grade for the tire’s traction and temperature management and displays it on the sidewall of the tire.

The standard has been criticized for its limited testing scope, so it shouldn’t be the only thing you consider when choosing a tire. The traction grade is determined by measuring the friction the tires are able to generate on wet asphalt and concrete. The test consists of a car with locked brakes being towed at 40 mph. The traction grades represent the following outcomes.

Traction GradeAsphalt G ForceConcrete G Force
AAAbove 0.540.38
AAbove 0.470.35
BAbove 0.380.26
CLess Than 0.380.26

The temperature grade is easier to understand. It grades the tire’s ability to dissipate heat effectively. The higher the grade, the higher speed that tire can travel at before heat management starts to become an issue.

Temperature GradeSpeed in mph
AOver 115
BBetween 100 and 115
CBetween 85 and 100

Tire Load Index

Another number that you will find on your sidewall is the Tire Load Index. Typically found next to the tire size, it will rank between 75 and 100 for most passenger vehicles. This index tells you how much load the tire can handle safely.

As an example, an index of 93 will mean that the tire can handle 1,433 pounds. Multiply that by four, and you get 5,732 pounds of the total load. For your new cheap tires, you should look for an index that is the same or higher than your existing set. If you get tires with a lower than recommended load index, then you risk prematurely deteriorating your tires.

Tire Speed Rating

Next to the load index, you will find a letter. This letter is known as the tire speed rating. Ranging all the way from the letter ‘A’ to ‘Z’, it represents the highest speed that the tire can safely operate at. The higher up in the alphabet you go, the higher, the safer speed is.

So, for instance, a B rating means that the maximum speed the tire can handle is only 31 mph. While a W rating means that the tire can handle speeds of 168 mph. Cheap tires will most likely not have high-speed ratings, and the ratings such as W, Y, and Z will only be found on high-performance summer tires. If you plan on going that fast, then you shouldn’t be looking at cheap tires in the first place.

Basically, all car tires sold will be capable of handling highway speeds and a little beyond. If you somehow find a cheap tire with a rating of P (94 mph) or lower, then reconsider your choice.

Tire Braking Distance

How effectively a tire can stop a car is probably the most important metric to look at. It is unfortunately not one that you can simply determine by looking at the information found on the tire’s sidewall.

For this type of information, you will have to look up any reviews for the cheap tires that you are considering. Thankfully, even moderately cheap tires should do a well enough job. But going ultra-cheap will put your safety at risk.

Consumer Reports tested very cheap Chinese tire brands and found their performance to be abysmal. Saving that extra few dollars won’t matter if you get into a serious accident due to poor grip.

Check out the Amazon link below for cracking Hot deals on tires.

Amazon Tires

You may find the following posts useful:

Goodyear vs Pirelli

Should I buy tires at Walmart?

Goodyear vs Bridgestone

Is changing a flat hard?

Should I buy used tires?

Are Bridgestone tires good?

John Cunningham

John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. I've been a mechanic for over twenty-five years, and I've worked for GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Landrover, and Jaguar dealerships. My passion is cars. I use my knowledge and experience to write articles that help fellow gear-heads with all aspects of car ownership, including buying advice, maintenance, and troubleshooting.

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