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The day has come to buy new tires. Your current set is getting old, maybe cracking, too loud. Maybe one of them exploded while you were on your way to the grocery store, and now you’re on the side of the road looking up what to do and how to buy new ones.
Hopefully, you aren’t in that situation, but no matter what’s going on, we’re here to help you figure out exactly what you need to know when buying new tires for your sweet ride.
There are a ton of factors to keep in mind when buying new tires, all of which are important. And we’re guessing that some people miss a few of these and end up regretting their purchase one way or another- but that’s not going to be you because if you’re reading this, you’re clearly doing your homework—A+ for you, you responsible tire shopper.
Let’s start with the basics. Tires have different quality factors that fluctuate to fit specific needs. Some tires can go faster than others. Some can carry more weight than others. It’s important to be aware of your cars’ specific needs and your driving patterns so that you can narrow down your options to match what you should be buying.
This one is pretty general, but it’s a big one: Just knowing exactly what you need your tires to do is going to help the whole way through your purchase experience.
How fast do you drive? Don’t worry, we aren’t cops--we’re asking because tires have what’s called a speed rating. The Tire Speed Rating (TRS) determines just how much speed intensity the tire can handle before literally expanding and exploding.
Safe to say, you really don’t want that happening to you.
So how do you find this out on a tire? If you’re looking online at RentAWheel.com, for example, at a set of Ironman GR906 tires. You’ll see that under the size there is a string of numbers and letters that look like this:
185/65R15 88H (24.5")
To determine the speed rating we’re looking for the Speed Rating Letter, easy enough. This letter is even more convenient at the end of the sequence (before the height measurement in parentheses.) In this case, these GR906’s have a speed rating of “H.”
What does “H” mean? Well, we take that letter and check out the Speed Rating Chart available just about anywhere online. The Speed Rating Chart looks alphabetical at first, but pay attention because it jumps around sometimes. This is a perfect example, “H” actually shows up towards the end of the chart.
The chart tells us that a tire with an “H” Speed Rating can handle speeds of up to 130 miles per hour. Mind you, you probably shouldn’t be going that fast in a majority of circumstances, and at Rent A Wheel, we strongly condone following traffic laws and speed limits. But it’s important knowledge to have that your tires could go 130 miles per hour. Not that you would.
Speed rating is something to watch out for because you obviously wouldn’t want to buy an “L” rated tire that can only go 75 miles per hour. Even following most speed limits, you would be getting a little too close to capacity on the highway, and you always want to leave some room between what you typically do and what your max capacity is.
Let’s move on to the load index of your tire. This rating scale is what’s used to determine how much your tires can hold before crumbling into themselves. Or more likely exploding. And we’ve covered whether or not we want that to happen.
The Load Index Rating of your tire is found in the same string of numbers we mentioned earlier.
185/65R15 88H (24.5”)
(We’re still working with the GR906’s by the way.)
The Load Index Number we’re looking for is the number just before the Speed Rating letter, which is convenient if you’re looking for both quickly. The load index number represents a rating on the Load Index Chart, easily available anywhere online. So we look at our Ironman tire, see there’s an “88” before the “H,” and head over to our Load Index Chart to see that these tires are rated for 1,235 pounds.
Keep in mind that this rating is per tire, so in our case, each tire can handle 1,235 pounds. Multiply this by four tires for an overall rating of a maximum of 4,940 pounds.
When calculating the maximum weight you want for your tires, there are a few things to keep in mind. You can pretty quickly look up the weight of your car, but that’s just the car by itself. Take into account the maximum weight you might be putting on your tires. You’ve got a friend in every seat and a big heavy box full of bottles of liquid, we’ll call water for now, in the trunk. That’s going to add a couple of hundred extra pounds.
Like we said with the Speed Rating, it’s always good practice to overshoot what you think you might need. Because trust us, you would much rather not need as much as you have than be too close to exceeding your limit.
This one is fairly simple: Tires have certain seasons or occasions they’re specifically designed for. You’ll regularly see “all-season” on the spec list, which are fine tires to have throughout the year.
But if you live somewhere that snows a lot, you might want to consider tires that are specifically for snow, usually classified as winter tires.
Keep in mind, you don’t generally want to ride on winter tires all year because you will run down the tread faster if you’ve got winter tires hitting the pavement all summer long. But the extra grip and stability they bring to the table when winter comes will not go to waste.
Just make sure to have a set of summer tires to switch out to when the time comes.
Obviously, you want your tires to fit your rims. And when you shop at Rent A Wheel, we have several options to help you figure out just the perfect match for your wheels and new tire options. From our online Visualizer to our professional available to chat, Rent A Wheel makes finding the perfect tires quick and easy.
But let’s say you want to know for yourself just how big your tires should be because you like knowing everything about your car.
Back to the string of numbers and letters we’ve been working with, but this time we’re going to change it up because we can tell you’re thinking, “This is getting too easy.” Don’t worry--we know you love a little challenge.
Let’s switch to the Toyo Extensa A/S tires. All-season bad boys that will take you where you’re going no matter what the roads are like, and for just $28 a month with our flexible payment plan.
The Size information string on these tires looks like this:
225/55R16 99H (25.7”)
We can see that they have a Speed Index rating of our old friend “H” as well as a Load Index rating of “99,” which is pretty great. But now we’re looking for the size, and we can find that from the other numbers before the other ratings.
The first number, “225,” is the width of the tire from sidewall to sidewall in millimeters. The second number, “55,” is the aspect ratio of the tire. No, we aren’t watching movies with the tire. The aspect ratio, in this case, is the ratio of the height of the tire compared to the width. So these Toyo’s have a height that is 55% of the width.
Keep in mind that this is the tire’s height from sidewall to the tread, not from the ground to its highest point.
The “R” you see there is fairly common; it just means that the interior layers of the tire are constructed in a radial formation.
The last number we see here before the Load Index number is the diameter of the rim that this tire can accept. So, in this case, we would want a rim 16 inches in diameter to slip inside our Toyos.
At Rent A Wheel, we always want to provide you with the best price for the best tires--and with our flexible monthly payment plan, it’s never been easier or more affordable to get the best quality rubber you can.
But sometimes, these numbers start to get a little daunting, and you might want to just rush to the lowest option. Trust us, tires are an important investment and will last you six to ten years. You don’t want to go cheap on the only material between your perfect dream machine and the quickly passing pavement.
Alright, this one is serious. The biggest mistake anyone can make is simply not purchasing their tires from RentAWheel.com. Not only do we have the best prices on tires and rims, but our team of professional fitters is on deck to help you determine the best option to drive away with.
And not only that, but if you shop with us and come into a local Rent A Wheel location, we’ll install your new rims and tires for free. How great is that?
We want to make sure your tire experience is as smooth as possible, and we strongly believe we have the tools to make that happen. And with all the knowledge you have now after doing your homework, we’ve got a recipe for success on our hands.
Best Tire Buying Guide | ConsumerReports.org