If you own a car, you’re going to end up needing tires for it sooner or later. Even if the tread looks great, if the tire is more than 6 years old it’s likely to need replacement soon, if not now. Tires are the only thing keeping your car stuck to the road, so you don’t want to shirk when it comes time to replace them.
But tires, especially for modern cars, are expensive, so it’s a good idea to try to save a little money when it’s time to get your car new shoes. While you could take it to the nearest chain tire shop, one way to potentially save money is to buy your tires online.
Tire Rack’s been around for more than 40 years. Co-founder Mike Joines was annoyed that he couldn’t find tires for his Opel in any tire shop, so he and his father-in-law started Tire Rack as a store that would stock a few of every tire. It started as a normal retail shop which shortly added a mail-order arm, and that’s when things started to snowball.
The mail-order side of the business soon got so busy that by 1990 the store was shuttered and Tire Rack began selling exclusively via the mail. The company built its first website back in the 90’s, when most of us still thought Geocities was cool. They used the site to publicize their new endeavor, testing the tires they sold. They’d post their test results and reviews on their new website for customers to peruse before phoning in an order.
By 1998, they’d added online shopping to their bag of tricks. Today, online shopping for just about anything is common but in the 90’s, it was a fairly wild idea. Since those early days, Tire Rack has grown their website into a robust, mature product that makes it easy to find tires that fit both your needs and your vehicle.
The most recent chapter in Tire Rack’s impressive history is being acquired by Discount Tire. Tire rack continues forward as a brand and the two entities are, for now at least, operating independently from the consumer-facing standpoint.
Online tire prices are usually less than in store
Buying tires from Tire Rack is pretty simple. Choose your tires, choose an installer, pay, then schedule an appointment with the installer to have them put on.
There are several ways to choose tires on Tire Rack. If your vehicle still has its factory wheels, the easiest way is with the Shop by Vehicle function. Simply enter the year, make, model, and trim level of your car, and the website will only show you tires that will fit your specific car.
If you’ve changed the wheels, check to see what size tires you have now. You’re looking for a string that looks something like “225/50R17”, and you’ll find it on the sidewall of the tire. Then type that measurement into the Shop by Size tool. Be sure to check both a front and a rear tire, because some cars have different sizes on each end.
You can even get new wheels through Tire Rack, either by buying new wheels separately or as part of a wheel/tire package. That’s a good option if you’re looking for winter tires that you’ll be swapping for summer or all season rubber in springtime. If you go that route, you will probably want to buy a rack to store the wheels you aren’t using. It should not be surprising that you can indeed buy tire racks at Tire Rack.
Tire Rack’s website has an automated “Tire Decision Guide.” Simply enter your vehicle information, then answer a few questions such as what kind of weather the tire will see, and what characteristics (handling, comfort, etc) are most important to you, and the Guide will recommend tires that meet your criteria.
The site also offers its own reviews and performance testing for the tires they sell, which can be a great resource to determine if the tire you’re considering will do what you need it to. If that’s not enough, you can call or email the company to get more personalized assistance in choosing your tires.
One way Tire Rack has always been helpful to consumers is its owner reviews section. One can read what owners of the tires you are considering say about them. It is even possible to search by your exact model.
As with anywhere, tire prices vary widely based on the specific tire. In general, if you drive a newer car with low-profile tires, you’ll pay more than for a car with high sidewalls. You’ll also pay more if you choose premium brands like Michelin. You’ll find prices around $100, above $300, and everywhere in between on Tire Rack’s site, depending on the tire you need.
Usually tires are shipped next-day, either to your house or to the installer of your choice. If you happen to live near a distribution center, you can also pick them up yourself for a discount. Those distribution centers are in Denver CO, Windsor CT, New Castle DE, Atlanta and Midway GA, South Bend IN, Shreveport LA, Minneapolis MN, Sparks NV, and Seattle WA.
You can choose an installer from the Tire Rack website. Installers they recommend have guaranteed standardized prices, so there shouldn’t be any install price surprises when you pick up your car. Tire Rack can ship the tires directly to the installer. All you do is make an appointment with the shop, and show up.
You can also have the tires shipped directly to your house, where you can choose any tire installer you want.
Online tire prices are usually less than in store
Returning tires to Tire Rack is pretty simple, as long as you haven’t used them yet. If you haven’t driven on them, you can return tires within 30 days after you receive them. You’ll get credited for the purchase price minus freight charges.
With the exception of the road hazard warranty, Tire Rack doesn’t warranty tires they sell. Instead, the manufacturer’s warranty for the tire will apply. Tire Rack will, however, try to help if you’re having trouble getting service under that warranty.
Most tires come with a 2 year road hazard warranty included, so if you run over a nail, repair or replacement will be covered. There are, of course, some exceptions. That warranty won’t apply, for instance, if you drive a commercial vehicle or you race your car.
Buying tires online can be a good way to save some money while getting the exact tire you want rather than having to choose only from whatever inventory your local shop sells. We’ve bought tires from Tire Rack in the past and have always had a good experience. The prices, while not the lowest, are generally reasonable, and the shipping and service have been up to par.
There are a number of online reviews of Tire Rack. Most are quite positive. Consumer Affairs user reviews give Tire Rack a score of just 2.5 out of 5. When we sorted by date we found that there was an even split between 1-star and 5-star reviews here. Trustpilot’s users give Tire Rack an overall score of 4.8 out of 5. However, sort by date and you will see that the past few months scores are almost all very low.
Tire Rack is one of the top online tire sellers. It has generally fair pricing and many positive reviews.
Yes, Tire Rack was recently acquired by Discount Tire.
Depending on the car, anywhere from $600 to $1500 for the tires, plus around $25 per tire for the installation. Special tires, or ones installed in expensive areas, may cost even more.
Yes, Tire Rack sells some of the top-rated tires on the market, including Michelin, Bridgestone, Kumho, and even Hoosier racing tires.
You really shouldn’t. Tires age from environmental effects even if they’re just sitting in your garage. Most car makers recommend replacing them every 6 years. Tire manufacturers often recommend replacing them at 10 years.
Yes, but oftentimes just because they can doesn’t mean they should. If you do decide to keep tires that long, inspect them often for dry rot, cracking, and other problems that could lead to a tire failure.
Ordering your tires online vs. the shop will save you money