I recently purchased tires online. I am delighted with how much I saved. Joe kindly agreed to post my description of the experience.
About a year ago I bought a 2003 Honda Civic. It had two, almost new Pirelli Four Season tires in the front and two, cracked and almost bald Firestones in the rear. I decided to drive my new used Civic one year with the worn rear tires and then replace them.
I am a retired mechanical engineer, so when it comes to buying tires, they all have to match. A few years ago my local tire store sold me what I thought were four good tires at a fair price and with good service. I paid a little over $200 for the four tires back then. Recently the same tire store quoted me $225 for the out-the-door price for the two Pirellis. This is much more than that to which I have become accustomed for my Hondas (I am on #3 Civic now). The local store also said I would have to wait a few days, because it did not carry the Pirellis in stock.
I went home and called another local tire shop. It too wanted around $225 out-the-door for the two new Pirellis. I pondered. I had never paid more than about $100 for two new tires. I am on a budget. I began to question my engineers’ they-have-to-match thing. Yet the Pirellis have an 85k mile tread warranty, and it is my preference to have four tires that are alike. I thought of the internet and how much I have been using it lately for all sorts of purchases. It seemed like it would be ridiculous to buy online, because the shipping costs surely
must be high and so would eat up any savings one would get by going the internet route. I asked the question at a Honda forum. Several people posted back within a few days to say they only buy tires on the internet and then have most any tire store (including Wal-Mart and Pep Boys) do the mounting, installation of valve stem, balancing, and old tire discard. Some interesting dialogue on the forum. I googled and found many more articles about buying tires online and found Probargain Hunter to be the best.
I checked the prices at some of the many places the online buyers suggested. For the tires I wanted, the best shipped price seemed to be at DiscountTires.com. I made my purchase from it on a Friday. Two business days after the purchase I received FedEx tracking information. The tires arrived as promised by the FedEx site on Thursday at 6:15 PM in an amazing, and rare for my area, heavy snowstorm.
I had researched carefully where I would go to have the new tires installed. Some internet debate occurs about the quality of tire service at Wal-Mart. But I think the majority feel that, given how fool-proof balancing machines are, Wal-Mart is pretty safe. I once took a course in automotive suspension and actually operated a wheel balancing machine. Many years later my recollection is that it is indeed not difficult once one has balanced a dozen or so wheels. Check out Wal-Mart.com for quotes for its tire service prices.
The next morning I reported to Wal-Mart, nearly swimming through parking lot snow and slush. Everyone at the Wal-Mart Automotive Department was professional, efficient and courteous. The waiting area was tidy with a new-looking television tuned into a morning talk show. In 15 minutes the new tires were mounted and balanced. Granted I think the snowstorm gave me a big advantage when it came to service that day. The store was almost empty. Wal-Mart charged me only $15.01 for removing and discarding the two old tires; mounting the two new tires; adding two new valve stems; and balancing. I told the cashier that I thought it should be more; was she sure she included the discard cost, counted both tires, et cetera? She said all was included. Wal-Mart either had a promotion that week; charged me less because I took off the wheels myself; or its staff took pity on me lugging the wheels and tires through the mess in the parking lot. This is one of the rare times I did the Wal-Mart online survey, to praise the staff and pricing there. (Note: My parents do not approve of my shopping at Wal-Mart. But let me save the latter topic for one of the JoeTaxpayer political columns. )
The total price I paid for the two new tires installed was $140. This compares to the price the local tire stores wanted: $225. I saved over $42 per tire by buying on the internet and installing locally. Now I am empowered to make a charitable donation or two.
(Note from Joe: First, thank you very much Elle, until you mentioned it, I’d never considered this and I’d bet many of my readers, savvy as they are probably haven’t either. Second, is the required FTC disclaimer. Neither Elle nor I have received any compensation from any of the companies mentioned in this article. Now, if you can find the company “card member services” that keeps calling me, despite my being on the “do not call list” and doing it from a spoofed caller ID number, I’d be really happy, and might write an article how the FTC helped me out. I’d do it for free and have to write this same disclaimer I suppose.)