Is buying tires online a good idea?
Here's what we like, and what you should look out for.

(Plus our favorite online dealers)

Every year Americans spend roughly 20 billion dollars on tires. That’s a lot of money even when you divide it among the hundreds of millions of people in the US.

Many folks begin looking for the best possible deal when they realize it’s almost time to replace their worn out tires. That search typically leads to an online retailer like Tire Rack or Simple Tire where people think they can save a few bucks. But is it really a good idea? Should you buy tires online? We’ve actually purchased a lot of tires online and every experience so far has been very positive. Buying them on the internet can be a great way to save money, and time while avoiding day-long trips to the tire shop.

Don’t forget that many tire retailers also sell wheels as well. Discount Tire Direct, and Tire Rack are two great places that sell both tires and wheels all on one site. So if you’re in the market for wheels, this article is relevant to you as well!

Main Benefits of Buying Tires Online:

  • Easier to shop on your own time, at your own pace
  • Avoid “fear buying” (scare tactics used by some dealers to sell tires)
  • Allows for time to compare tires across a wide range of brands with adequate time to research non-biased reviews
  • Access to more brand and size options
  • Lower prices
  • Save time – Sidestep order wait times and avoid the initial trip to the tire shop
  • Get installation the way you want it
  • Tires ordered online can be installed by a professional right in your driveway or office in many cases
  • Allows for the ability to purchase tires that aren’t considered a “factory fit”
  • Shop with a company that you believe in
  • Read reviews from real people as you shop

Easier to shop on your own time, at your own pace

Not to touch on a huge pain point here, but you know the drill. The tire shop near your house opens at 9am and closes at 5pm. You’re not even sure what kind of tire you want. They’re always packed and the wait time is lengthy. You show up and it turns out they don’t even have anything in stock that will work for your application and your day off has been wasted (don’t ask me how I came up with this imaginary scenario.)

Typically when you visit the tire store it’s a 2-3 hour ordeal. You don’t know what you should buy and you take the salespersons advice on the best tires for your vehicle.

Most tire store employees are great! Their advice is usually spot on. However, you may be one of those people that likes to take your time and not feel rushed when you make a bigger purchase. There’s always that subconscious pressure to not waste the salespersons time while there’s a huge line of people waiting behind you.

Buying tires online gives you the ability to sift through various options and price ranges at a pace that you feel comfortable with.

Avoid "fear buying"

There’s two things to consider when visiting a tire shop. First, their job is to help you buy tires. Second, in the same way that a doctor may err on the side of caution when giving medical advice, a tire shop may do the same when recommending tires.

This is uncommon but we have heard of people going to a tire shop to see about getting a nail removed or some simple repair performed. But then they were told that the shop would not put the wheel back on the car because the tread was too low and they needed to buy a whole new set. A $43 dollar trip turned into a $400 situation without any planning or budgeting. For many of us, this is would put us in a really tough spot.

Should you drive around on tires that don’t have sufficient tread? No. Definitely not. But the best decisions are rarely made out of fear. Being able to make a comfortable, “non-emergency” buying decision will always result in a better outcome and less financial stress.

Allows time to compare tires across a wide range of brands with adequate time to research non-biased reviews

One of the biggest advantages of buying tires from an online dealer is being able to pick literally any brand you want. For example, when I decided that I wanted to try the Federal Couragia MT, no local dealers had them in stock. They offered to order them for me and have them in about a week. But it turned out that if I simply ordered them and had them sent to my home, it was quicker than having a dealer source them for me.

So I began comparing prices at various shops online. I researched and made sure it was the tire I really wanted to try. I ordered them and saved around $120 over what the local shop quoted me. Plus I got them much quicker.

Access to more brand and size options

Over 9x the options??

I did a quick Google search and found that there are over 18 well-known brand name tire manufacturers that make an all-terrain option for the Subaru Outback. I called the local nationwide chain tire dealer and asked them what they had in stock. They had two…

You may not have a particular preference when it comes to your tires. But if you’re like me, you really enjoy trying specific products and comparing them against manufacturer claims. Searching for that new hidden gem is always really fun. However, you might be limited to whatever your local tire shop has on hand.

Purchasing tires online may give you the option to try a new brand at a discounted price. It’s also a great benefit for folks in rural counties to access more tire options.

One retailer that we have used in the past, Tireamerica.com has roughly 33 brands on the books. The options are almost unlimited!

Lower prices

While not always the case, you can typically save a good chunk of money buying tires online if you plan ahead. Since brick and mortar tire shops often help people who “need tires right now” they can charge for the service of having a tire available on the spot. However, if you plan your tire purchase ahead of time you may be able to save a large chunk of money.

On one occasion, I decided I wanted a set of mud terrain tires on a whim. I looked on Prioritytire.com and found an affordable set that I wanted to try. They were $93 a piece shipped but wouldn’t arrive for 3 business days. I had a trip coming up in 2 days and wanted them asap. So I ended up paying a local tire garage $120 a corner installed plus tax. I paid a little extra for the choice of picking them up right when I wanted them.

Now keep in mind that the prices you see online may not include installation at a local shop. My tire purchase at the local dealer included mount and balancing costs. You’ll need to weigh that before making a final decision.

Save time

Save time by ordering online lol? Sounds counterintuitive right? But if you’re looking for a harder to find tire or a less common size, your local tire dealer may actually not have what you need and would have to order them for you. So if you took the day off just to be told that they’d have to order you a tire and that it’ll be here in 4 days, that might cause a bit of a headache.

Always call your tire dealer in advance if you think your size might be uncommon to avoid this problem.

Get installation the way you want it

As already mentioned, we love tire techs and salespeople. But the reality is that good help can be hard to find and some technicians may be new or not “up to par.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a friend post on social media about how they explicitly told the tire shop NOT to use air tools on their lug nuts only to find that the tech USED AIR TOOLS ON THE LUG NUTS and scratched a $2000 set of Volk wheels🤦

The overwhelming percentage of experiences at tire shops are fantastic. But if you’re super particular about how your wheels are treated during installation, you may not want to visit a large chain. There’s actually a really small garage here in my neighborhood that has mounted every set of tires I’ve purchased in the last 3 years. They’re good guys that know their stuff and have become friends over the years. I like being able to trust them with my car, pay a fair price for install, and support a small business. Buying tires online has allowed me to get exactly what I want and have them installed right by my favorite mechanic.

Tires ordered online can be installed by a professional right in your driveway or office in many cases

Many of the previous problems with online tire buying have been solved over the years. One of those problems is installation.

Most online retailers have contracts with mobile installers that come straight to your home or office. They can perform the entire installation while you enjoy the comfort of your own home.

If you’re a busy person with a hectic career situation, this may be the absolutely most convenient way to buy tires. If you factor in the time you save going all the way to a shop, waiting in line, and then waiting there for installation, this deal pencils out. Tire Rack even has a spot on their site that lets you not only find a mobile installer near you, but shows their reviews from other customers and lists their charges. Many of them can also perform basic maintenance, such as brakes and suspension components.

Keep in mind that most online shops will perform mounting and balancing for free if you purchase both items from them. This can save over $100 and is something to consider if you think you might want to upgrade wheels at some point.

Allows for the ability to purchase tires that aren't considered a "factory fit"

When you visit the tire shop, their job is to get you back on the road as safely as possible. One way they do this is by ensuring that every tire sold is considered an OEM factory fit. But what if you want something that’s bigger, wider, or has a lower profile than the original tires? For many of us that drive modified vehicles, this is the last thing we want!

I have had tire shops refuse to install a tire that was too far out of the size range of the original tire. For example, one of my cars is a lifted Subaru Forester. After I bought it I did all the research to figure out how to properly modify it to fit a 29″ inch tire – the factory size was only about 26.5″ inches… I know that my car can fit them because I’ve done the work and the research. But the people at some tire shops may have policies that prohibit them from installing a specific size on your vehicle. Buying online will allow you to either mount the tires yourself, or take them to a shop that has less “red tape” surrounding aftermarket options.

Shop with a company that you believe in

One of our favorite online tire stores Simpletire.com was ranked “best place to work” in Trevose, Pennsylvania. For some of us, shopping with a business that we truly believe in and that treats their employees and customers right is a huge deal.

Maybe you’ve had a bad experience at a local tire shop (hopefully this is rare) and prefer not to give them your money. Picking your favorite shop online might be the best option for you to still get the products you want.

Some retailers also contribute a portion of their profit to charitable causes. Tire Rack runs a foundation that helps educate young drivers in order to reduce teen-driver fatalities. It’s always a good feeling to support businesses that are giving back to the community.

Read reviews from real people as you shop

93% of customers actively seek out online reviews before purchasing a product or visiting a local establishment. We value what other people just like us are saying about a product or service. Buying tires should be no different.

Almost every online tire store has reviews that you can read as you shop. They typically show the mileage driven on the tire by each customer, their opinion of performance on a wide range of surfaces, and their overall rating. It’s extremely helpful to be able to get unbiased information before making a final purchase decision.

How to choose an online tire shop:

What should you look for when buying tires online? There’s a few things we look for before choosing to purchase tires from web-based dealer:

  • Do they pick up the phone? Call them and ask any questions you might have. If they pick up and are happy to help you, this is a positive sign that if you have an issue after your purchase, they’ll work harder to rectify the situation. If you spend an hour on hold, or they seem uninterested or bothered by your inquiries, thank them for their time and move to the next retailer.
  • Do they offer free shipping? All of the top online retailers will usually factor free shipping into their costs. They do enough business with freight companies that they can absorb the expense through quantity discounts and pass that savings along to you.
  • Price – Obviously price is a big reason why you’re searching online for a set of new tires. Open a few tabs and begin comparing prices side by side. Don’t forget to include ALL costs, such as installation, taxes, and shipping if applicable.
  • Reputation – Do they have excessive negative reviews? There’s always a few people that are impossible to please. But if you begin to see a pattern of shipping complaints, order mistakes, or poor customer service, you may want to wait until they sort out those kinks before taking the risk. Check their social media profiles to find people’s opinions in the comments or review sections. But always remember to take everything with a grain of salt. There’s two sides to every story and misunderstandings and accidents happen.

Our favorite places to buy tires online:

These are a few of our favorite places to check out if you’re looking for a set of tires. We’ve personally shopped each of these and were satisfied with the entire experience.

Full disclosure: we have arranged affiliate partnerships with some of these retailers in order to recommend their products to you. This means we may earn a small commission if you purchase from them after using our links. This helps us continue bringing helpful information to our readers:)

Tire Rack is probably one of the main reasons online tire purchasing has become more convenient. They took the hassle out of it by offering free shipping, local install options, and competitive pricing. They’ve been setting the standard in the industry for decades.

One reason we recommend them to you guys is their customer service. They’re extremely concerned with making sure you get the right thing. I ordered a set of oversized tires for my car through them and within 5 minutes I received a call from a customer service rep verifying that I meant to order a larger tire. 

The shipping was insanely quick and an overall stress-free experience. They even made the factory rebate process really easy.

Tire-America-Logo (1)

Tire America has one of the most easily navigated sites for purchasing new tires. It’s set up to be intuitive and convenient as you look for something that will fit your needs perfectly.

They have free shipping on every tire purchase and a low price guarantee. If you’re in the market for tires, check them out as you begin comparing prices.

Simple Tire Logo online tire store

This site is one of the most visually appealing online buying experiences. It’s very clean and easy on the eyes as it intuitively guides you to the right tire for your car.

Simple Tire carries over 300 brands and offers great prices on even the most hard to find tires. They have free shipping and regularly have great promotional deals.

If you’re looking for a quick, easy way to purchase well-known tire brands, Priority Tire is a great option. But we also love the wide selection of hard to find tires that they carry. We were looking for a set of Accellera MT-01 mud tires and they had the best price on them. This is a much lesser known tire and we were having very little luck finding the right size anywhere else we looked.

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