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Consumers often make mistakes when purchasing replacement tires

Experts say consumers are often unaware how tires affect vehicle performance

Car tires on rack
Photo (c) Marin Tomas - Getty Images
New car buyers rarely take much notice of the tires that are on a vehicle, as factors like colors and options tend to take precedence. But auto experts say the tires that a manufacturer selects for a vehicle are there for a reason.

“Tires are a highly engineered component of the vehicle, designed to very exact specifications, which influence how that vehicle performs,” said Brent Gruber, senior director of global automotive at J.D. Power. “With tire replacement, there’s a risk of negating some of those key characteristics and product benefits if expert recommendations aren’t utilized.”

In its annual survey of satisfaction with automotive original equipment, J.D. Power concludes that consumers aren’t that satisfied with vehicle tires because they often ignore recommendations by salespeople that would maximize vehicle performance. Instead, they tend to replace their tires with a different brand when it comes time for them to be changed.

“High levels of satisfaction typically yield loyalty, but we’re seeing many owners purchase replacement tires based on a narrow focus, such as solely on appearance or price,” said Gruber.

Brands that stand out

When new car customers do stick with the same kind of tires that came with the vehicle, a few brands stand out. In the luxury segment, customers who stayed with the same brand when it was time to replace their tires often selected Michelin.

On a 1,000-point scale, Michelin scored 830 points with customers. The brand is also popular with people posting reviews at ConsumerAffairs, earning 4 stars in our 5-star rating system. Richard, of Murfreesboro, Tenn., replaced his tires with Michelins and told us the right tires do make a difference.

“Buy the Sports Pilots in whatever size required,” Richard wrote in his review. “Get the lifetime rotate and balance, also the road hazard plan. Drive away. You will think you are in someone else’s car. Tires will last maybe 80k (miles), less with abuse which given the way the handling feels will be difficult not to do.

Goodyear tires were also popular with customers in the J.D. Power survey, finishing second in the luxury category. Goodyear scored 811 points in J.D. Power’s ranking and earned 4.1 stars from ConsumerAffairs reviewers.

“The Goodyear Triple Tread tire has served me well over the last 5 years,” Greg, of Los Alamos, N.M., wrote in his ConsumerAffairs review. “Excellent traction on dry, wet, snow-covered, and icy roads. It's the ONLY tire that's rated by US DOT for ALL 4 seasons.”

Few tire customers follow professional advice

Some other tire brands -- including Pirelli, Firestone, and BFGoodrich -- showed up well in the J.D. Power survey. While the study shows that 36% of respondents believe brand experience is an important criterion for purchasing replacement tires, only 17% of owners said they use the recommendation of experienced sales and service staff.

“It is concerning to see so few owners seek advice from tire sales and service staff, often relying instead on their own experience,” Gruber said. 

Gruber says tire customers appear to be putting themselves at a disadvantage by ignoring how original equipment tires are engineered to enhance their vehicle’s performance and not replacing them with the same type.

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