IS BAR­GAIN OR BRAND BET­TER WHEN IT COMES TO TIRES?

Calgary Sun - Autonet - - YOUR CORNER WRENCH - Big-name com­pa­nies usu­ally have su­pe­rior prod­ucts, but lesser known brands can also of­fer sig­nif­i­cant sav­ings BRIAN TURNER

Whether you’ve pur­chased 20 sets of tires over the course of your ve­hi­cle own­er­ship ca­reer or are look­ing for your first set of win­ters, tires come in a dizzy­ing ar­ray of types, mod­els, tread de­signs and price points. So when you start kick­ing some rub­ber this fall, how to you sort the best from the worst?

If you shop at a na­tional brand tire store, such as Goodyear for ex­am­ple, you’ll sel­dom see off­make brands or names you don’t rec­og­nize due to re­tailer agree­ments with the tire maker. But at in­de­pen­dent shops, auto deal­er­ships, and larger depart­ment chains, you’ll of­ten see brands other than the rec­og­nized na­tional names. Prices on bar­gain brands can be sub­stan­tially lower and hard to re­sist. This is why com­pa­nies like Goodyear, Bridge­stone, Fire­stone and Miche­lin have sharp­ened their pen­cils on their main­line model pric­ing and have come up with com­pet­i­tive lines to com­pete.

The old adage ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch’ is ap­pli­ca­ble to tires as it is for many other re­tail goods and ser­vices among oth­ers. If a na­tional brand tire maker such as Miche­lin, for ex­am­ple, wants $276 each for a 17“ice ra­dial, and a lesser known maker such as GT Ra­dial lists the same size for only $145, you can ex­pect a relative drop in per­for­mance and wear if you opt for the cheaper tire.

Few bar­gain tire mak­ers pub­lish or of­fer tread wear war­ranties on their prod­ucts whereas al­most all na­tional brand com­pa­nies do for their sum­mer prod­ucts. Not too many tire man­u­fac­tur­ers of any type pro­vide tread wear war­ranties on win­ter tires. Miche­lin is one of the ex­cep­tions, of­fer­ing 60,000-kilo­me­tre wear cov­er­age on their X-Ice ra­di­als. When you con­sider that you might have to re­place your bar­gain tires at a faster rate than if you had stuck with a name brand, the over­all costs may likely be more with the lower priced tire.

Con­sumer tests are sel­dom pub­lished for bar­gain priced tires. So if you pe­ruse Con­sumer Re­ports’ ar­chives you’ll find de­tailed re­ports on most na­tional brand tires, but few if any on bar­gain units. Cred­i­ble con­sumer prod­uct anal­y­sis usu­ally in­cludes such things a stop­ping dis­tance, real world tread life, noise and vi­bra­tion lev­els. This doesn’t mean you won’t get ac­cept­able per­for­mance from a lower priced tire, but that you’ll only find out af­ter you buy it and ex­pe­ri­ence its per­for­mance first hand.

POST­MEDIA

Win­ter tires come in vary­ing qual­i­ties and prices.

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