Tire Tread - Measure the Treads!
Use a gauge or a penny as below
If you are on a budget but still need to drive around, you probably want cheap tires. Notice that the tire market is huge. There are millions of tires floating around out there. With a little time, effort, and patience you can get good value and still maintain a margin of safety. Read on to find out how.
Tire prices are sort of like Dental prices. They are pretty close to the same in a lot of places.
When shopping for a cheap tires, you will likely find that most tire stores have similar prices.
Tires do their best when the tread is closest to new. New tires on cars and light trucks typically have around 10/32" to 11/32" or 8-9 mm of tread depth. The minimum tread depth allowable by law in the U.S. is 2/32" or 1.6 mm.
Do not go too cheap. Make sure you have a margin of tread on your tires. The legal minimum is 2/32nds of an inch. However, you want around 4/32" of an inch for safety on rain soaked roads. For snow you want to go to around 6/32" of an inch or 5 mm.
What you need to do to get the best price
Notice that cheap tires might mean used tires, though there are new tires sold on the open market as well.
First of all, you need to decide how soon you need the tires. If it is not a situation where you have flats and no spare, or really bald unsafe tires, slow down. This is the hardest part, but the key to savings.
Second, get the right size! Tire size is printed on the sidewall, so make sure you get it right. You can also check your car or truck owners manual or specs on the web.
Next look at the kind of tire you want and look at new prices online or go to the shop and get an estimate...that part is free. Note that the bigger and wider the tire the more it will cost you. Using the size recommended by the manufacturer will ensure the best fit for your vehicle.
Then do some tire shopping. This is where you can save some clams.
Check your local tire dealers for both new and used tire prices. This will give you a baseline to work from and help you understand the market. Estimates are free!
Then check an online listing like Craigslist. Go to the auto section and type in the tire size you are looking for. People don't always get the naming just right, so you should look under a general category like "tires" as well to make sure you get all the listings.
This is where you need some patience. If you don't find your tire right away, don't panic. Most medium sized cities for instance get a lot of new listings daily. So keep checking for at least a week.
Scrap yards: auto dismantlers take tires off too! Call your local auto recycler with your tire size information.
Check other local sources you know of like the newspaper (online too many places) and even ebay...though there are shipping charges with ebay.
Finally you find a deal you like. You buy the tires. Before you buy, line up a tire shop to mount and balance your new treads. We like smaller used tire shops. They have less overhead than the large outfits and can mount and balance your tires for a low as $10 per wheel.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that you can save big on cheap tires. However, don't go too cheap. The best idea is to get
good value for your money, get where you are going, and and be safe at the same time.
The penny test says there is about 5 mm of tread left on this tire...matches the gauge!
The penny says that the top of President Lincoln's head is the minimum allowable tread depth and the nose means plenty left.