If you live in a place with temperate weather and little winter action, you can buy one set of tires and forget about it. People like yours truly who live where winter is hardcore don’t have it so easy. Picking a tire brand and a tire and then finding a model to fit your car can be a real pain, and that pain is multiplied when you have to own two sets of tires to make it safely through the year.
Tire Brands Key Features
Tread life is an estimate of how many miles your tires should last before needing a replacement. Remember that it’s an estimate and not a guarantee, in most cases, so you should treat it as if it’s something of a promise that you’ll get a certain number of miles out of a tire.
Speed and Load Rating
You may not be shopping for tires for racing, but it’s important to look at the speed rating of the tires you’re buying. Large truck and SUV tires tend to be rated for lower speeds, while summer and performance tires offer higher safe speeds. The same is true for load ratings, especially if you’re shopping for truck or SUV tires. The load rating is the amount of weight each tire can support.
There are a bunch of numbers on the side of every tire that denotes its size. For example, a set of tires for 17-inch wheels might be sized 215/55R-17.
- 215 is the tire’s width in millimeters
- 55 is its aspect ratio. In simple terms, the tire’s sidewall is 55 percent as tall as its tread is wide
- R means radial construction
- 17 denotes 17-inch wheels
It’s important to buy the tires that fit your vehicle precisely. Your speedometer, some safety equipment, and your vehicle’s suspension system can depend on a specific wheel and tire diameter, and up-or downsizing without regard for the overall size of your wheels and tires can cause issues with your car’s operation.
There’s a reason some people say: Just pay for the Michelins. The brand’s products are among the most advanced, best performing tires on the market. Michelin makes tires that offer stellar performance for professionals and weekend racers alike as well as with quiet, durable tires for the everyday family SUV and everything in between. Popular tires in the Michelin catalog include the Pilot performance tire series, long-lasting Defenders, X-Ice winter tires, and Energy tires for improved fuel consumption.
While it’s true that you get what you pay for when buying tires, some brands have defied that sentiment with tires offering decent performance and longevity at a reasonable price. Korean manufacturer Kumho is one such brand. It offers tires for vehicles of all types as well as high-performance tires. In the early 2000s, Kumho even manufactured tires for use in racing series such as Formula 3.
Continental tires is a German company known for making high-quality tires and other automotive components. The brand has been around since the late 1800s and has grown into the fourth largest tire manufacturer in the world, counting several sub-brands in its sprawling global presence, including General Tire in the United States. Several automakers have used Continental’s products as original equipment on new cars, including Volkswagen and Volvo.
Goodyear tires are an iconic product in the U.S. with a strong history and record of success. The company was founded in the late 1800s in Akron, Ohio, where its headquarters remains today. Beyond cars, Goodyear makes tires for many applications, including aviation, farm and heavy equipment, motorcycles, and powersports vehicles. Its motorsport resume is long and varied and includes the title for the winningest tire manufacturer in Formula 1 history. Goodyear is also the official tire supplier to NASCAR.
Pirelli is a name synonymous with racing and performance. The company has been the exclusive provider of tires for Formula 1 since 2011, and its consumer tires provide grip for some of the world’s quickest and most expensive cars. Pirelli also offers a strong selection of winter and all-season tires that perform well in everyday driving conditions.
All-terrain tires can be a mixed bag for some buyers, as their strong off-road performance often comes at the expense of ride quality and durability. While that’s the case with some of BFGoodrich’s tires, the company’s products are highly respected for their traction and performance. A strong history of winning in motorsport events doesn’t hurt either.
Even for vehicles with all- or four-wheel drive, winter tires can make the difference between a leisurely drive in the snow and a white-knuckle adventure. Bridgestone, the world’s largest tire manufacturer, makes the Blizzak, an advanced winter tire with excellent snow traction, good stopping capability, and decent performance on ice. The company makes a dizzying array of versions and types of its tires, Blizzak included, so search tires for your specific vehicle to make sure they’ll fit.