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My car tire shopping experience

May 25, 2011
I purchased my Avalon XLS because I wanted a smooth, quiet ride.  Then I put the cheapest, longest lasting tires I could find.  The result was a surprisingly loud ride I’ve endured for years.
I recently learned I had made a mistake since car tires are one of the top variables in a smooth quiet ride.
Now that I knew, I had no idea which tires were the quietest, or best quality, or best value.
Coming from the ground up.  I started at Les Schwab, my favorite tire store.  They recommended a Toyo Tourino II tire for $845 installed ($180/tire + expenses), indicating it was their highest quality tire, quietest ride, and that I couldn’t do better.
Since one tire was worn all the way through, the temptation to buy and be done with it was strong.  Les Schwab has a good reputation for value.
Instead, I got them to put on my spare in place of the most worn through tire so I could have a few more days to think/analyze.  I rarely make good buying decisions in the moment.
Research.  I googled “quietest tire” and read a few websites and consumer reviews.  Consistently the Michelin’s Primacy MXV4’s came up, along with Goodyear’s ComforTread, and Toyo’s Versado (I learned it was the same tire as the Les Schwab Tourino tire, just “rebranded” for Les Schwab).
I could get the ComforTread for $180/tire, the Versados for $180/tire, and the Primacy for $140/tire with a $70 rebate, for an adjusted cost of $122.50/tire.  Going from $122/tire to $180 is almost a 50% increase ($180/$122).
Which showed the Goodyear tires #1 and the Michelin tires as the #2 rated tire.
I called my buddy who loves cars, whose entire extended family is into cars and asked him.  He said he thought Michelin tires were the highest quality and Michelin tires were all he and his family bought. He said they bought from Costco.  He also encouraged me to focus on total cost; some tire companies charge very little for the tires and then kill you on the installation.  Good idea.
I then called 5 different tire stores (both large and small companies), asked for the manager, and asked their opinion on quietest tires and best brands.  Consistently managers indicated the Michelin brand was the highest quality tire and most likely to last as long as the warranty rating.  One manager told me he had every tire to choose from and the Primacy MXV4s were what was on his Acura.
Analysis.  Saving money wasn’t my highest goal here, but my analysis showed the least expensive tire was made by the most recommended brand, and the Primacy was the most recommended quiet tire in the most recommended brand.  It was praised by consumer reviews and nearly every tire shop manager I spoke with.  It was top-rated in rain, ice, snow, handling, and noise.
Where to Buy.  Now I knew which tire I wanted, I called around for pricing.  The exact same set of Primacy tires varied $175 from highest prices to $135 at lowest price store.
Costco offered the Primacy tires for $135 a tire and Discount Tire offered it for $140 a tire.  Costco is 30+ minutes roundtrip from my house while Discount Tire is minutes from my home.  To make the tires last longer, I intended to rotate them every 5,000 miles which on 60,000 mile tires equates to approximately 12 trips.  That’s at least 6-7 extra hours of drive time.  Valuing time at $12/hr, that saves time and/or money ($84 worth of time).
The Final Purchase.  I called and asked Discount Tire if they’d price match Costco’s $5/tire cheaper price? Yes.  ($20 savings – and now the lowest price available anywhere).
The installer asked if I wanted to sipe the tires.  Siping is the process of putting a series of micro-cuts on the tire which gives it greater surface area on the road, and a quieter more comfortable ride.  I quickly confirmed this with research on my iPhone.  He said it would cost $15 a tire (an extra $60).  I asked if he’d do it for less.  He said yes and dropped the price in half ($30 savings).
In the end, I paid only $530 after rebate.  The same option at Les Schwab for maybe, maybe not as good of a tire was $875 – 65% more.
The Final Analysis.  I purchased the quietest, very highly rated tire from the highest quality maker on sale at a substantial discount from the other two top options.  I looked at consumer reviews, consumer ratings, talked with my most knowledgeable friend, and talked with multiple store managers.
My Review of the Primacy MXV4 Tires.  Love them.  I feel like I’m driving a new car.
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