I'm told that original equipment specification Firestone tires are not available to the ordinary consumer. True? Why?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Dec 01, 1998

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have 109,000 miles on the original tires of my 1994 Nissan truck. They are now
worn out. Obviously, I would like to get another set of the same tires to
replace the originals. The owner of the local tire store told me the other day
that such original equipment specification Firestone tires are not available to
the ordinary consumer. Is this true? -- Buddy

TOM: It very likely is true, Buddy, mostly because ordinary consumers wouldn't
put up with the cheap tires that come as original equipment on most cars and

RAY: You may have set a world record by getting 109,000 out of your original
tires. So either you take really good care of your tires, or those tires have
been so worn out for the last 30,000 miles that you've been able to see right
through them and see the air inside.

TOM: In most cases, manufacturers special-order inexpensive tires for new cars.
The manufacturer saves a few bucks (it adds up when you sell hundreds of
thousands of cars), the tire maker gets a huge order (that keeps the factories
running), and the consumer recognizes a good brand name and doesn't think twice
about it (he's more focused on the car itself). And these tires usually last
20,000 to 30,000 miles -- just enough so that the consumer doesn't complain.

RAY: Those tires are usually not available at tire stores because the tire
makers know you'd come back and complain if you only got 20,000 miles out of
tires you had to pay for yourself. So most of the tires they sell exceed the
quality of original-equipment tires.

TOM: There are some exceptions. Generally speaking, the more you pay for a car,
the better the chances that you'll get good tires as original equipment. Luxury
cars and performance cars often come with good tires that you can buy at retail.

RAY: But most average cars come off the lot with specially-made-cheaper-than-
usual tires. So you have been blessed, Buddy. Now thank your deity of choice,
and spend a few hundred bucks on a really good set of replacement tires.

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