Tire Guide Part 1 – The Basics

how to choose tires

What You’ll Need to Consider When It’s Time for New Tires

Whether you’ve had a flat (as most drivers eventually will), failed a state inspection due to bald tires, or just know it’s time to replace your tire(s), here’s a quick tire guide to review when you’re shopping for new tires. Yes, tires are expensive (here’s what tires might cost you), but they’re critical to your safety, your vehicle’s performance and to fuel economy. It’s a worthy investment.
If you’re indifferent about the specific tires you want, that’s OK; lots of drivers are open to suggestion from service advisors, but you’ll still need to know the following before talking to any shops. For part two in our tire guide series, we provide some more detail on your tires, courtesy of an expert – read now.

How to Choose Tires

1. Tire Size

Buying tires would be easy if each vehicle were assigned a particular size, but it’s unfortunately way more complicated, and not easy to remember the size.
The fastest way to confirm exactly what you need is to snap a photo of your tire’s sidewall, so you’ve got it handy when dealing with a shop. Here’s the tire-size information you need:
how to choose tires openbay

2. Tire Brand

Most Openbay users don’t specify a tire brand, and prefer to take the shop’s recommendation.
Prefer a trusted brand? Here are a few name brands worth considering – Bridgestone, Cooper, Goodyear, Michelin, Pirelli – and given the high cost of tires, the strengths of each brand and type of tire you’re considering are probably worth researching. As a nonprofit, unbiased resource, Consumer Reports is always a fantastic place to start; here are its top picks for 2016.

3. Tire Quality

If you’re indifferent to the type of tire you’re buying, you’ll be asked whether you prefer “Good, Better or Best” tires. Here’s a quick guide for which category to choose:

  • Good:

    New tires are better than bald ones. This allows you to check the box by operating a vehicle on more firm footing. If you’re planning on selling your older vehicle soon, or on a budget and need to replace all four tires, this might be your best option.

  • Better:

    These middle-of-the-road tires will handle better and last longer than “good” tires, and will save a bit of money over the best option.

  • Best:

    If you plan on keeping your car for another few years, and place a premium on safety and handling.

4. Season

Unless you’re very passionate about tires, or live in an area with harsh winters and summers, you’ll probably want all-season tires.
If you have to endure harsh winters, snow tires are a worthy investment. Even rear-wheel-drive cars that are ill-equipped for the snow, but that have snow tires, can outperform an all-wheel drive vehicle that has all-season tires. Here’s a great example:

Some drawbacks to winter tires: you may need to mount them to a separate set of wheels, which is another large investment. Also, you’ll need a place to store the extra set. Some shops will store them for you for a nominal fee, and will switch them out for free, while others will charge a modest fee to remount the tires each time. If you experience very snowy and icy winters, that will be a small price to pay for your safety and peace of mind.
Summer tires provide maximum grip at high temperatures, but all-seasons will suit you fine, unless you’re a hard-driving tire expert.

5. Choose Run-flats or Regulars

If your vehicle already has run-flat tires, you should note whether you intend to replace them with run-flats when it’s time for new ones. There are pros and cons of run-flats.
On the plus-side, if you experience a puncture with run-flats, you’ll still be able to drive up to 50mph for about 100 miles until you have to replace it. That means you probably won’t have to call for roadside assistance (which Openbay now offers on-demand, free of any membership fees) if you get a flat.
On the negative side, run-flats are a good deal more expensive (sometimes twice the price of their regular counterparts), don’t handle as well as regular tires, and they can be more prone to pinches from curbs while parking, unless you’re very careful.

6. Choose Regular or Performance

If you drive a high-volume vehicle – think Toyota or Chevy – you’ll probably want regular tires. If you’re driving a BMW or a Corvette, odds are you’ll need performance tires. Performance tires aren’t cheap, but they’ll help your vehicle to perform as intended. Stick with the manufacturer’s recommendation here.

7. Selling the Car Soon?

If you plan to sell your car soon, and aren’t shopping for a full set of tires, you should opt for the same exact brand and model of tire(s) as the remaining ones already on the vehicle. Why? Car-valuation sites, like Kelley Blue Book’s KBB will dock your car’s value if your tires aren’t a matching set.
On the other hand, if your vehicle is pretty old (the average vehicle age is 11.6-years old), you plan to sell it soon, and you need a full set of tires, it might make sense to opt for a less expensive tire. Vehicles depreciate quickly enough where, after a certain age, you may not recoup the investment in high quality manufacturer-recommended tires.


Now that you know how to choose tires, you’re just about ready to hit the road! To recap, find the tire size on the sidewall; choose a brand; determine the quality you need; consider the season; select run-flat/regular; decide whether or not you want performance tires; and finally, make sure that you’re sticking to what’s on the car if you’re planning on selling it soon.
Happy tire shopping!