Tires are some of the most important equipment on your car. They’re the only contact point between your car and the road. If they aren’t up to snuff, you could get stuck in the snow, have traction problems in the rain, or if they fail spectacularly at speed, could even cause a wreck. That’s why it’s important to keep an eye on your tires, and replace them before they’re too worn out.
One way to save some money while shopping for tires is to get them online, and Discount Tire is one of the most popular places to do just that.
Discount Tire has been around since the year JFK was elected president, 1960. It started in a former plumbing store with an inventory comprising all of six tires. Founder Bruce Halle was the only employee, and had such limited equipment that he’d have to borrow an air compressor from a neighboring gas station just to inflate his tires.
Fast forward to today, and Discount Tire has become considerably more successful, with upwards of 1,000 locations nationwide, and a lot more than six tires to choose from. Shortly before his death in 2018, Forbes estimated Bruce’s net worth at around $6 billion.
Along the way, the company started a mail-order arm, Discount Tire Direct, which became one of the two online portals through which you could buy tires. And that’s where it can get a little confusing. You can buy tires from discounttire.com and from discounttiredirect.com. While both websites look very similar, the tire options presented to the shopper can differ between them. More on that later.
Online tire prices are usually less than in store
Discount Tire has two websites. One, discounttire.com is meant for customers who live near one of the company’s physical store locations. The other, discounttiredirect.com is for everyone regardless of how close they are to a retail store. Both websites look almost identical and work in very similar ways, but there are a few differences.
The Discount Tire website will charge you up front not only for the tires, but also installation and a fee for disposing of your old tires. That’s because the Discount Tire website is only meant for customers who will go to a brick and mortar Discount Tire store. You don’t have to worry about shipping because the store will handle stocking the tires you buy.
On the other hand, the Discount Tire Direct website doesn’t assume you’ll take your car to a Discount Tire store, so it’ll only charge you the price of the tires. While you still don’t have to pay for shipping if you live in the lower-48 states, you will have to tell the company where to ship the tires. And unless you tell them to ship it to a Discount Tire store (also called America’s Tire in some areas), you’ll have to make your own arrangements for getting that new rubber installed. Of course, you’ll have to pay for that installation, so be sure to factor that into your budget.
A more confusing difference is in the tire selection. Putting the same information into both websites can return very different results. We shopped for tires on one of our cars, a 2016 Lexus ES with 18” wheels. We put in the same information and requirements, but the tire selection we were offered wasn’t at all the same. Here’s a side-by-side of the first tires offered on each site:
Some of the difference in offered tires appears to be based on what’s in stock at the nearest Discount Tire or American Tire store, as moving our preferred store to a different state resulted in a third set of results:
If you’re close enough to a physical Discount or American tire store, it’s a good idea to shop both websites to make sure you can see all of the available options. We did see some price differences on the same tires across the two websites, but the differences we found were very minor. For example, the Goodyear Eagle Sport A/S tires we selected for our Lexus test case were offered at different prices on the two sites, but the difference was only four cents.
Both sites have an automated system for helping you select tires, branded Treadwell. It’ll ask you some simple questions about what kind of driving you do, and where you do that driving. The tool will then recommend tires based on your answers. If you use the Treadwell tool and still aren’t sure, you can email the company or call their 800 number for more personalized help.
As with any tire shop, the price of tires on Discount Tires websites varies widely depending on which specific tire you’re looking at. On our Lexus example car, per-tire prices ranged from $78 to $125 for tire brands you’ve probably never heard of, all the way up to $278 if we wanted to wrap our rims in Michelin Primacy 3’s.
Shipping time depends first on which site you’re using. The Discount Tire site can range from immediate if the tire’s in stock at your local store, to a few days if they have to bring it in from far away. On the Discount Tire Direct side, the company says shipping usually takes between two and four business days.
If you order from the Discount Tire site, you’ll pay for installation when you order your tires. Then you simply take the car down to the Discount or American tire location you picked on the website to have them installed.
On the other hand, if you order from Discount Tire Direct, they’ll be shipped to the address you give them - often your house. Then you’ll need to bring the tires, and your car, to a shop of your choice to get them mounted.
Discount Tire customers can return their purchases to any Discount Tire or America’s Tire store. While the company doesn’t guarantee it’ll accept all returns, it does promise to “make it right.”
Discount Tire Direct customers can also return their purchases to any Discount or America’s Tire store, or they can call an 800 number to make return arrangements. Tires returned to the Discount Tire Direct warehouses must not have been driven on or mounted. If you’re returning tires because they were damaged in shipping, defective, or not what you ordered, you’ll get a full credit. If you’re returning them because you changed your mind, you’ll get a refund minus freight charges.
We’ve bought tires through Discount Tire in the past. We’ve had generally good experiences through the company and wouldn’t hesitate to go back if the price and selection were right.
Discount Tire gets pretty good reviews overall online, with a 3.8 out of 5 score at Consumer Affairs. Trust Pilot users are more generous, with an overall rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars. Consumer Reports speaks highly of the company as well.
Online tire prices are usually less than in store
Discount Tire doesn’t make the tires it sells, but it sells tires that represent a wide range of quality. You’ll want to do your research before buying any tire from any store.
Simply choose the tires you want, order, and pay. If you ordered from the retail site, you’ll bring your car to a Discount Tire for installation. If you ordered from the direct site, you’ll bring your car and the tires to any tire shop for the install.
Tires. You also have the option of purchasing a road hazard warranty for $16 per tire.
You’ll have to talk to a salesperson to try. If you can find the same tire for a lower price elsewhere, you’re more likely to get a discount. Military members also enjoy a 10% discount.
The best month to buy tires is the month you need tires. Don’t drive around on worn out tires in the hopes of saving money later.
Anywhere from around $250 to over $1,000, depending on what you drive and what tire you select.
Ordering your tires online vs. the shop will save you money