Are Cheap Tires Worthwhile?

Brendan McGuigan

Tires are, for most vehicles, pneumatic rubber fittings that cover the wheels of the vehicle to help it function better. Tires assist in all sorts of things on a car or truck, including helping achieve better braking by offering a gripping surface, offering better traction, especially on wet roads, and giving finer control over steering. Tires also act as a bouncy cushion between the road and the car itself, making the ride much smoother than it would otherwise be. Tires come in all shapes and sizes, and also come in all sorts of price ranges, from extremely high-performance and very expensive tires, to more middle-of-the-road cheap tires.

A vehicle tire.
A vehicle tire.

All tires are worthwhile, whether they are expensive tires or cheap tires. After all, without tires a vehicle can’t run properly, and with old and worn out tires a vehicle’s performance suffers immensely. While it is often ideal to have higher-end tires on a car, in terms of handling and comfort, it is nearly always better to have cheap tires than to continue to run on tires that have been stripped bare of their tread, or tires that have worn so thin they are in danger of popping.

Several cheap tires.
Several cheap tires.

Of course, when someone talks about cheap tires, they can be talking about two different things. On the one hand, someone might talk about cheap tires and be referring to the level of quality the tires have: whether they have good tread, whether they are rated for high speeds, whether they are able to brake suddenly. On the other hand, someone might be simply referring to the price: many places offer higher-end tires at affordable prices, making them de facto cheap tires.

A woman filling her tires up with air.
A woman filling her tires up with air.

The trick to making cheap tires worthwhile is to determine what your precise needs are, and to find tires that meet those needs, without including extraneous qualities that will simply cost you extra. Usually cars come new with expensive brand tires, which actually are capable to doing much more than most people need. To figure out what sorts of cheap tires you can afford to get, you’ll want to sit down and determine a few things about your driving habits and the conditions you drive in.

First of all, figure out how fast you tend to drive on the highway. If your top speed is usually only around 75 MPH (120 KPH), then it is very unlikely you would need tires rated at more than 100 MPH (160 KPH). Many Americans tend to think they drive much faster than they actually do, leading them to spend the extra money on higher-rated tires, when they could make do with cheap tires rated at lower speeds. Generally, only those with high-performance sports cars, those who know they like driving well above the speed limits, or those driving in Europe regularly will need high-speed tires.

The other main factor you need to look at is the traction rating of your tires. Grade A tires have the best traction, and therefore are able to brake much more suddenly than Grade B tires. If you live in a dry environment, without much need for sudden braking, then Grade B tires will be much cheaper, and may work as well. If, on the other hand, you live in a rainy climate, cheap Grade B tires could endanger you, and should be avoided.

Cheap tires tend to have less tread which makes it harder for them to grip the road.
Cheap tires tend to have less tread which makes it harder for them to grip the road.

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Discussion Comments


I've bought cheap tires. They usually lasted a year or so, but when I needed them, I could get them and then save up to buy a set of better tires.

I'm just glad I don't have a truck or an SUV. My sister drives an SUV and I think she paid $800 for tires the last time she bought them. I drive a sedan and mine were about $300. I got them on sale, thank goodness!


Sometimes, cheap tires are what people can afford, especially if they have to have a vehicle for work. Tires are extremely expensive. In fact, that's probably the most expensive item of the "routine" maintenance on a car.

Good tires are worth saving up for, but sometimes, cheap tires are what you buy when you have to drive to work every day.

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