Why are Tires So Expensive?

why are tires so expensive
Why are tires so expensive?
Written by Jim Malkovich

Tires play a significant role in a car’s performance and safety. And your safety, obviously. Therefore, a lot of engineering, research, development, oil, hand labor, and testing is involved in design and manufacturing. A modern tire has to deal with challenging curves, wet and greasy surfaces, gravel, etc.

Poor tires. Don’t you feel sorry for them? Think about that small contact patch which is, in fact, everything that’s between you and the asphalt. And when you brake, the grip needs to be tight. The tires have to deal with that every day and live for at least 35,000 miles. So tire manufacturers have to produce technological miracles that will be able to show truly satisfying results and represent the best of modern technologies in every detail. Billions of dollars go into the development to ensure the product is safe, comfortable, and environmentally sound. That’s what you pay for.

Making a high-quality, durable tire that will provide ultimate performance requires a lot of investments. Such tires are also rigorously tested to find their stopping distances in both wet and dry conditions. And then there are also commercials, advertising, tax issues (competing with Chinese production), and sponsorships (e.g., racing). Remember those race cars, how often they get their tires changed? Think about that.

Tire size matters too, as well as low/high profiles, and then there are treadwear ratings – the higher the number, the harder the tire, likewise, the softer it is, the more the traction with the road but the less it lives. We can’t pass on speed ratings here as well – the higher the rating, the higher the cost of the tire, because the more oil is needed for the tire production so that it doesn’t blow up at high speeds.

Have you ever seen a tire from the inside? If you haven’t, this may change your whole perspective. There are several separate major layers of different scientifically-advanced materials and everything between them is made of multiple layers as well – all to achieve certain features/parameters and your trust. And all of that is compressed in thin rubber products.

Cheaper or unpopular no-name tire manufacturers don’t pay for advertisements or commercials, so they don’t “pass on” the expenses to you in a tire price tag.

More expensive tires have a relatively closer range between new and worn condition. Which can’t be said about expensive models. This leads to a more consistent driving experience over the tire life. There are, of course, exceptions like Michelin Premier with the tightest stopping distance between the new/worn testing.

Anyway, you should look for tires that work best for you – it doesn’t have to be the most expensive ones, or the cheapest ones – look for great deals, read reviews, and ask for test results. There are cases when highly expensive tires from a well-known manufacturer have almost the same driving characteristics as tires from the average price category.

At the same time, unknown (and therefore, cheap) tires may well become the winner in the next tire test conducted by some car magazines.

Tire shops may surprise anyone these days – the price difference between expensive tires and “regular” ones of the same size may vary quite a bit. And the most important thing is that an ordinary customer has less and less understanding of the reasons for that.

Is it always that “expensive” means quality, and SHOULD quality be expensive?

I asked Jacob of TireGet to comment, and here’s what he said: “Tire manufacturers with loud names, which have long captured huge market shares around the world, are constantly playing games to reduce their own costs. As a result, tires with bright names and eye-catching designs appear on the market. Lush presentations are often given to celebrate their birth, but they go about the same way as tires from “cheaper” manufacturers.”

For me, expensive prices are clear – presentations and advertising campaigns should be funded. In turn, young tire manufacturers, who have not yet managed to win a significant market share, produce tires that not only meet but often exceed the expectations of drivers.

Such tires are often able to compete on equal terms with models from well-known concerns in everything, from the innovative design ideas to the quality of the finished product. Still, a yet unknown manufacturer often fails to capture the buyers’ attention. Does it mean that the saying “expensive and tasty, cheap and nasty” has lost its value nowadays? Partly, yes.

Selling Ability

Apart from the “ability to produce well”, the  “ability to sell well” has long been much more valuable in our world. All large corporations of the world have a huge staff of “salespeople”, those who develop strategies to sell this or that product. The amount of attention and resources given to these people by the management of any company is almost as much as the attention and resources allocated to people engaged in production itself.

Car tires are the same product as any other, and therefore, sales strategies are also developed for them. And there is no doubt that these strategies work, otherwise, where would all that negative customer feedback, dissatisfied with their new tires, come from?

As for expensive premium tires, designed for high-end cars, any tire manufacturer has a special attitude here. The production cost of such tires does not differ much from the production cost of any other model, but the net profit from their sales is much higher.

That’s why major forces and resources of the manufacturer are involved in developing the sales strategy for premium tire models. Hence the magnificent presentations of new models and large advertising campaigns with large budgets.

Customer Subject

Today, the end customer can easily get into a difficult situation. If you want to buy expensive tires with outstanding driving characteristics, you can spend a lot of money and get regular tires but with a famous brand on the sidewall. Or vice versa, you can try to save money and buy some unknown tires that run no worse than the proven “pedigree” models. In the end, the greatest value is information.

Before you buy a tire, you need to find out as much information as possible. What does the automotive press say about these tires? What are the reviews on the Internet? Who (among your friends) has real experience using these tires?

To avoid getting caught by “corrupt strategists,” all the information found must be the same. That’s when the tires will meet your expectations.

Choosing Tips

  • First of all, pay attention to the manufacturer. Well-known brands provide high-quality products, but such a rubber will cost more than less known brands with comparable characteristics. Read/watch reviews, find information on certain brands. Investigate! Do not buy tires of unknown manufacturers, questionable in terms of quality, and thus, safety.
  • The high price is determined not only by brand popularity. More expensive tires reduce braking distance, noise level, fuel consumption, improve controllability and dynamic characteristics of the car.
  • Pay attention to the ratings. They indicate the position occupied by the tire of a certain model, according to the test results. This information is useful when comparing tires with similar characteristics of the same group. The ratings help assess tire quality tested in practice, without detailed immersion in various nuances.
  • When choosing tires, focus only on the range of sizes recommended by the car manufacturer, as any deviations can worsen the handling. Such changes also lead to false speedometer readings.
  • Tires with different tread patterns and tires for different purposes should not be mounted on the car – the wheels will have different grip, which is unacceptable.
  • Do not use worn tires. The minimum tread depth for passenger cars is 1.6 mm. (0.06″), 4/32″ – for trucks.
  • To ensure that the tires wear evenly, change them every 3-4 years, provided you ride 12,000-15,000 miles annually.
  • When buying, pay attention to the date of manufacture – rubber has a tendency to age. Tires can be stored for 3 years (in proper conditions, of course) without losing their properties. Buying older tires is quite risky.

Storage Tips

  • After dismantling the rubber, wash and dry it thoroughly, remove the stones stuck in the tread. Remember that accumulated dirt and stuck objects can significantly speed up tire aging.
  • Do not expose your tires to direct UV rays, moisture, or high temperatures. Store them in a dry, dark area with a temperature of no more than 68F (+20°C). There should be no sudden temperature spikes that cause condensation in the premise. You can use a pantry, brick garage, dry basement, or a special tire warehouse for storage.

Remember that you trust them with your life every day, if you treat them well they can last a long time. Watch out for the cracks and splits on the sidewalls.

FAQ

Is it worth it to buy expensive tires?

Partly. It depends on your needs, plans for your car, your budget, and what kind of expensive tires we are talking about. Some expensive tires don’t show good results over time, which can’t be said about cheaper tires. You should remember that changing tires less frequently will save you money on installation costs. However, if you don’t plan to keep your car for too long, then saving money on tires is the right idea.

You have to know what you are buying.

How much do tires really cost?

$70-$250 on average.

Why do tire prices vary so much?

Just like anywhere else – it depends on the brand, quality (material cost/volumes), durability (25.000 miles vs 90,000 miles), design, and manufacturing technology, mainly. Consider Michelin, Continental, Firestone, and Bridgestone brands.

Why are Michelin tires so expensive?

Quality (advanced construction, lower defect rate), warranty, and a satisfaction guarantee.

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