Owning a car gets expensive. There’s gas, oil changes, engine maintenance, insurance… the costs can seriously add up.
So, shouldn’t you take every possible opportunity to save on your car expenses? That’s why choosing the right time to buy tires makes a difference.
Tire prices rise and fall throughout the year. On top of that, there are certain times that will be better for your car’s maintenance and your personal budget. You can save hundreds if you buy your tires at the right time!
To help you decide when to buy your new tires, I put together this comprehensive buying guide. The rest of this article will walk you through the best times to buy tires, what to look for in new or used tires, and everything else you need to know before you buy.
Buy new tires before you need them
The first and most important way to save money on your replacement tires is to buy tires before you need them.
Tires wear down over time and will eventually become unsafe if you wait too long. A responsible car owner plans to buy new tires ahead of time, before the age of their tires will impact their safety. That also gives them time to find the best deals.
You shouldn’t be waiting for a popped tire to buy your next set. By planning ahead, you can get your tires at a serious discount, and you’ll be prepared whenever an accident does occur.
Think of it this way: if you have a popped or worn-down tire and take your car into a mechanic, you’ll have no choice but to buy the first set of tires they offer you – whatever the price! Buy your tires ahead of time to save money and avoid the stress.
Buy all 4 tires at once
On top of buying your tires before you need them, you should always buy a full set – not one tire at a time.
A set of 4 tires is obviously more expensive than a single tire, but cheaper overall. If you buy one tire at a time, you’ll have to pay for taxes, warranty, and mounting 4 different times.
Not to mention, it’s incredibly dangerous to let the tread on your other tires get too low after making a single tire replacement.
Seasonal deals: October & April
If you’re looking for the best time of year to buy new tires, your best bet is in the fall or early spring. Most tire brands hold their major sales in October and April.
Does that mean these are the only months to buy new tires? No – remember, you should always buy your tires before you need them. If the tread on your tires is wearing down or your mechanic suggests a replacement, don’t wait until October or April just to access the sale. You’ll end up paying more in repairs later on down the road.
That said, if you time it right, you can get some of the best deals on brand new tires in these months.
A lot of experts claim that October is the best time of year to buy new tires. That’s because as the weather gets colder, a lot of vehicle owners are searching for their winter tires. As demand for new tires goes up, prices go down.
That doesn’t mean every single tire store will have great deals in October. Sales come and go, and it’s possible to find a good deal any time of year if you’re looking for it.
However, it will be easier to find an awesome tire sale in October. Pep Boys, for example, regularly offers October sales. In 2020, you can get up to $150 off your purchase of select Good Year tires.
Need new tires in the spring? April is the best month to find deals.
Because people tend to do more driving in summertime (going on vacations, road trips, beach trips, etc.), tire sellers generally offer early spring sales to help people get prepared for the summer months.
If you head to your local tire store like Les Schwab, you can find deals between $70-$200 off a set of 4 tires. The same goes for most major tire stores and manufacturers.
These deals are most common in April, but keep your eyes peeled – it’s not uncommon to see a random spring tire sale in May or early June.
In the old days, the only way to find a good deal on tires was to wait for your neighborhood tire store to lower their prices. Today, things are different.
You can shop for tires online, just like anything else. Online shopping allows you to scout for the best prices, instead of taking whatever you can get in-store. You can also track prices and get notified whenever a sale occurs.
Online deals, just like in-store, will generally be better in October and April. But that’s not always the case, so be sure to keep an eye on prices year-round.
Buying directly from tire manufacturers
Some tire manufacturers like Goodyear offer online shopping. This is an easy way to find the best prices if you’re loyal to a certain brand.
If you check Goodyear’s website regularly, you can spot seasonal or random sales as soon as they start. You won’t have to waste your time checking multiple retailers’ websites or driving by your local tire shop.
Buying from an online tire store
There are plenty of online retailers that exclusively sell tires. If you aren’t loyal to one brand and just want the best possible deal, these sites are a great place to shop.
Buying from a major online retailer
The cool thing about buying your tires from an online retailer is that they often have sales that aren’t related to tire brands. For example, Amazon Prime Days are a good time to get a discount on anything, tires included.
If you’re in a rush to buy tires in the middle of the winter or summer and can’t find a sale at a tire store, buying from a big retailer could be the best solution.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday
If you’re shopping for tires online, you shouldn’t ignore Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. Tire manufacturers, online tire shops, and major retailers will all lower their prices on these days.
There’s a good chance you can also find an awesome in-store deal on Black Friday, if you would rather buy your tires from a shop.
When you first start looking at tires online, you might be surprised by how low the prices are compared to in-store. But remember: those prices don’t account for shipping costs.
A set of 4 tires is a big package that will cost to ship. It’s rare to find free shipping deals when you’re shopping for tires. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it to shop online – just remember to account for shipping costs when you’re comparing prices.
Exact shipping fees depend on where you’re shopping. In general, you should expect to pay at least $20 on top of the retail price for your tires.
Buying winter tires
Need a new set of winter tires for your car? You should make your purchase as early as possible before the winter months.
Most tire shops and online retailers begin stocking up on winter tires during the summer months. That means that by late September or early October, they’re ready to let go of their supply at a cheap discount.
Again, October is an awesome month to take advantage of seasonal sales, especially if you’re shopping for winter tires. You will find tons of deals on specific brands and surplus tires.
But there’s a catch: the longer you wait, the less variety will be available. If you shop for your winter tires at the end of October, you might be stuck with the bottom-of-the-barrel discounts.
Head to your local tire shop or browse online as soon as the Autumn sales start. By starting early, you’ll be able to get the brand you want at a discount. Then you’re prepared once the snow starts falling!
Buying all-season tires
All-weather or all-season tires can be bought at a discount throughout the year, but the best time to find sales is in late winter or early spring.
Most tire sellers post their biggest sales in April, before the busy summer months. If you’re looking for the newest models or a specific brand, you should definitely take advantage of those deals.
On the other hand, it can help to start browsing for deals around mid-March, just when stores are preparing for spring. As new tires come into stock, some online and in-store sellers will be looking to get rid of last year’s supply. That’s when you can find an awesome discount.
You can also find sales on all-season tires in October. However, most October sales are geared toward shoppers looking for winter tires, so tires with a lighter tread aren’t as drastically marked down.
Winter vs. all-season tires: what’s the difference?
The best time to buy winter tires is in the fall, and the best time to buy all-season tires is in the spring. But what’s the difference between the two – and do you need both?
I’ll break it down in the next few sections.
The main difference that sets winter tires apart from all-season tires is the traction.
While all-season tires are designed to grip the road in a variety of conditions, winter tires are designed with deep grooves and sharp, irregular edges to grip snow, ice, and slushy surfaces. You can clearly see the difference if you look at both types of tires side-by-side.
The tread on winter tires is generally thicker and lined with more ridges, but that isn’t the only thing that gives them better grip.
Winter tires are made with a different chemical compound, so the tread stays soft and flexible in all weather conditions. This helps to prevent slipping and sliding on snow. All-season tires, on the other hand, will get stiff and lose their grip when temperatures drop below freezing.
Because the tread compound of winter tires is more flexible, they are less durable on paved roads. A winter tire will wear down quickly after a few months of driving on hot, dry pavement.
All-season tiers are designed for a smooth, quiet ride. One of the main reasons people change their tires once the snow melts is simply for their own comfort – you’ll notice the difference when you’re driving on dry pavement.
The most important consideration when it comes to winter tires vs. all-season tires is your safety.
Winter tires are made to keep your car from slipping on snow, ice, and slush. They make it much safer to drive in dangerous winter conditions. All-season tires are great for wet or dry pavement but will not keep their grip on snow and ice.
If you drive in snowy conditions throughout the winter, you should invest in winter tires for your own personal safety. On the other hand, if you only drive in snow when you’re on vacation, winter tires probably aren’t necessary. You can always put snow chains on your all-season tires to stay safe.
5. Studded winter tires
For additional protection when you’re driving in snow and ice, you can also invest in studded winter tires.
These tires have the same complex traction and flexible tread compound as standard winter tires, but come with enhanced metal studs embedded into the tread. This gives them better grip on ice.
Studded winter tires are pricier than standard winter tires, but it’s worth the investment if your roads regularly freeze over during the winter.
When should you replace your tires?
To save money on your tires, it’s important to not only look for the best seasonal and online deals, but to buy tires before you need them.
The question is: how do you know when you need them?
According to the experts, a standard set of all-season tires can last around 6-8 years without being replaced. In that time, the tread will slowly wear down and the tires will lose their grip.
But you shouldn’t just trust that your tires are safe because you haven’t had them long. Here are a couple of easy ways to know when you need to buy new tires:
Check your tire tread
Take a look at the tread on your tires to see if they are wearing down to dangerous levels.
Of course, the tread will look different on every tire, depending on the brand, size, and weather status (standard vs. all-season vs. winter tires). As a general rule, your tire tread should never wear below 1/16 of an inch.
You don’t really need a ruler or measuring tape to check your tread. You will be able to see the wear on the surface of your tires just by looking at them – if the tire has lost its pattern and grooves, it’s time to replace it.
Tires that have become “bald” or lost their tread are unsafe to drive. They will slip in wet conditions and can puncture easily when you’re driving off-road.
Ask your tire manufacturer
There is a numeric code on the side of your tires that tells you when they were made and where they came from. If you aren’t sure whether or not it’s time to replace your tires, you can call the manufacturer and give them the code to learn more.
This is another reason why it’s important to replace all 4 of your tires at the same time. When every tire has a different code or manufacturer, it’s hard to figure out when they’re getting too worn out and need to be replaced.
Have your tires aligned
Every car needs a tire alignment, or wheel alignment, every few years or so. This is a great time to ask your mechanic if your tires need to be replaced.
A tire alignment doesn’t actually involve changing the tires. It adjusts the vehicle’s suspension to make sure that your tires are connecting with the pavement at a straight angle. If the alignment is off, your tires could be wearing down faster than usual.
Your mechanic will let you know if your tires have become unsafe while they’re working on your car. They may suggest replacing them in the same visit — if you’re prepared to make the investment, it’s a good idea to take care of it all at once.
Replacing winter tires
If you use winter tires, you don’t need to buy a new set every winter. Store your tires in a safe, cool place throughout the warmer months. They can be reused multiple years in a row.
That said, remember that the tread on winter tires can wear down quickly. Keep an eye on your winter tire tread and call your manufacturer to ask when they should be replaced. For your own safety, you should invest in a new set of winter tires every 3-4 years at least.
Steps for buying your new tires
Buying new tires doesn’t have to be complicated. As long as you plan ahead, know what you’re looking for, and buy at the right time, you can get the tires you need at a serious discount.
Here are a few simple steps you can follow when it’s time to buy new tires for your car:
1. Make a plan
If you’re regularly checking the status of your tires (using the tips described above), you should be able to plan ahead and get your tires at the right time. Check in with your mechanic, then schedule a date on your calendar to start looking for deals.
Why plan ahead? It’s the easiest way to make sure the date you need new tires lines up with one of the best times of year to buy tires – whether that’s an October or April sale, an online sale, or Black Friday.
2. Shop around
You shouldn’t buy the first discounted tires you see. Shop around, do some research, and find the tires that will work best for your vehicle and climate.
Buying the wrong tires actually wastes more money than it saves, even if they’re on sale. That’s because the wrong tread can wear down faster depending on where you drive. Instead of buying a new set of tires in 6 years, you’ll have to buy them in 3 years.
For example, driving flexible winter tires on hot, dry pavement will wear them down within a year or two – and you’ll be right back where you started again.
When in doubt, ask your mechanic about the tires that work best for your vehicle, lifestyle, and region. They’ll give you advice on the brand and model that will last longest.
3. Find your sale
Once you know what kind of tires you’re looking for, find out when they’re going on sale. Most brands and retailers advertise their sales before they start.
Get to the sale early to find what you’re looking for! If you wait too long, you’ll miss out on the brand of tires you need.
4. Ask about a warranty
Anytime you make a big purchase, you should ask the seller or manufacturer about the warranty. Tires are no exception.
A warranty ensures that you won’t have to pay out-of-pocket if there is some kind of defect with your new tires. Most warranties will cover the full cost of the defective tire for the first month or two that you use them.
After that, if you have been using the defective tires for a while, your warranty might offer a discount on a new set, instead of a full reimbursement.
It’s always worth it to get the warranty on your tires – even if there is a charge of a few extra dollars.
If your tires do come with a warranty, make sure you save your receipts and all other documents from the purchase. That way, if anything goes wrong with your new tires, you won’t have any trouble getting your reimbursement or discount.
5. Factor in additional costs
Remember, the retail price of the tires isn’t the total price you’ll have to pay.
If you’re buying tires online, remember to factor in the cost of shipping. This might be between $15-$20, or higher – be sure to check shipping costs before you make your purchase.
Beyond that, there’s the price to have your tires mounted.
Unless you are 100% confident in mounting your tires yourself, it’s safest to have a mechanic do it for you. The last thing you want is for something to go wrong that could damage another part of your car or shorten the lifespan of your new tires.
Fortunately, mounting tires is not the most expensive service a mechanic offers. A standard fee ranges between $15 and $45 per tire. This is also a fast, easy service – you’ll be on the road again in no time.
Once you factor in the additional costs of shipping, taxes, warranty, and mounting, you’ll have the total cost of your new tires. If you played your cards right and planned ahead, that total cost should be $100-$200 less than what you could have paid!
What about used tires?
So far in this article, I’ve been talking about the best times to buy brand-new tires. But what about used tires?
Buying used tires is a totally valid option. You will save tons of money compared to buying new, and it’s pretty easy to find the brand and model you’re looking for at a discount.
But if you choose to shop for used tires, you have to be careful – there is no guarantee that the tires will be in great condition. Used tires generally do not come with a warranty and will not last as long as a brand-new set.
Here are a few tips to help you find the right set of used tires for your car:
Get some help
If you aren’t super knowledgeable about tires (it’s okay; most people aren’t), you should recruit the help of someone who is. Shopping for used tires takes a lot of expertise.
Have a friend or family member who knows tires help you as you’re shopping. They’ll know what to look for and make sure that the set of tires you’re buying is high-quality. This is especially important if you’re buying from an independent seller!
Check the age
The age of every tire is stamped on the sidewall. It’s the last four numbers at the end of the numeric code.
The first two numbers in the stamp indicate which week of the year the tire was made, and the last two numbers indicate the year. So, a tire that is stamped with “4716” was made in the 47th week of 2016.
The lifespan of a standard tire, with frequent use, is 6-8 years. Beyond 10 years of use, it becomes unsafe. Ideally, your new tires should be no more than 1-2 years old.
Check the tread
Just like you should check the tread of your own tires to determine when they need to be replaced, you should check the tread of used tires to see how much longer they will last.
One great method for this is the penny test. If you have a penny, insert it into the tire’s tread with Lincoln’s head facing down.
A brand-new tire will cover Lincoln’s entire head. If you can see his face on the penny, the tire is too worn down and won’t be a safe purchase. Worn-out tires lose their grip and become unsafe to drive on slick roads – this is a risk you should always take seriously.
Shop for used tires in-store
I don’t recommend buying used tires online, or through a digital marketplace like Craigslist. The only way to guarantee the quality of the tires you’re buying is to see them in person.
Plenty of tire shops sell used tires as well as new. The price may be a little higher than some online alternatives, but it’s worth the investment to know you’re making a smart purchase.
The pros and cons of buying used tires
Used tires are better for your budget. If you buy a gently used, high-quality set, you won’t have to worry about buying replacements for years.
On top of that, used tires are also better for the environment.Making new sets of tires uses a lot of natural resources, so you can feel good about your personal impact if you choose to shop used.
The only major downside is the age. Used tires simply will not last as long as a new set. If you decide to buy used instead of new, make sure you check the tread and date for your own safety!
Where to buy your tires
I mentioned a few great places to look for new or used tires in this article already, but those are only some of the options. There are hundreds of places to shop for your tires, online and offline.
In the interest of saving time, I won’t go through a full list of the best places to buy tires right now. Check out this article from CNet for a detailed list!
When in doubt, you can always ask your mechanic for advice. Even if they sell tires in their own shop, chances are they don’t make a commission on sales, so they’ll give you honest advice on the best places to buy affordable tires.
The bottom line: Planning ahead saves money
We’ve covered a lot of information in this article: seasonal sales, online deals, the difference between winter and all-season tires, etc. Feeling overwhelmed?
Don’t stress. Buying your new tires at the right time is easier than most people realize. The key takeaway from this article is that you need to plan ahead and buy your tires before you need them.
As long as you do that, you’ll have nothing to worry about! Make a plan, choose your tires, and find a great sale before it starts. That’s all it takes to shave hundreds off your next set of new tires.