Welcome to a new Carsnip series we are calling ‘Basics’. It will be a set of articles quite simply designed to make sure that all of our readers and consumers have access to information explaining the important basic things involved in car ownership and good maintenance.
The first area? Tyres.
It’s fairly safe to say that motorists’ opinions and buying habits when it comes to tyres vary wildly. Some prefer to purchase the best tyres they can get their hands on and spend hours reading reviews and watching tyre comparison videos (which whilst interesting aren’t exactly riveting watching!) However on the other hand some prefer to buy budget tyres, the cheapest possible rubber they can acquire to merely ensure their car is road legal. Which is the better / more appropriate tactic? Read on to find out.
First a quick explanation of the 3 categories which tyres are lumped into in the UK; Premium, Mid-Range and Budget. Whilst they are categorised by price, of course not all are created equal!
The ‘Premium’ category is the most expensive, and holds within it the tyres that (dependant on size / width etc) you should expect you to cost £80+ per corner – although if for example you drive a large SUV with 22 inch rims then this could easily be £250+ per corner! The premium offerings are usually from known and recognisable brands; Continental, Goodyear, Pirelli etc, all of whom pride themselves on extensive testing to ensure their tyres are at the cutting edge of grip for maximum safety.
The name of the category is once again fairly self-explanatory here, as ‘Mid-Range’ tyres are exactly as described – they sit in the middle of the pack in terms of price (and usually the corresponding quality). The lower price point means that they are often from lesser known brands such as Toyo and Nankang etc, and may be as hard-wearing (long-lasting to you and me), and may have reduced grip and measurable stopping distances compared with the premium offerings. Pricing is usually 20-40% less than the equivalent sized premium tyre.
Are you noticing a pattern here yet? ‘Budget’ tyres are exactly as described, essentially they are the cheapest on the market and (generally) come from brands that you will never have heard of. (What’s Maxtrek anyway?) These tyres have statistically received the least amount of testing and have the lowest quality rubber compounds used in their production process – meaning usually they have the lowest levels of grip and therefore the least impressive stopping distances. Pricing is usually 50%+ lower than an equivalent sized premium tyre.
So now you know what the 3 categories are, and what each one means. So now which should you choose?
The answer is actually another question – how much do you value your life and the lives of those you care about?
Now of course everyone’s answer to that will be some version of “of paramount importance” – and that’s great. And yet a concerningly large number of those people would happily go out and put the cheapest tyres possible on their vehicle, thinking only of price!
The best way of thinking about tyres is that they are very much one of those products where you really do get what you pay for. Unlike with say, wine, where spending twice as much is no guarantee (although it can often help I will admit) of the taste being twice as good; when it comes to tyres the premiums really are leagues above the budgets. This is proven in any official rubber tests conducted – not only do the premiums consistently outperform the budgets and the mid-range’s, they do so by a comparatively vast amount! Stopping distances on premiums are considerably shorter in both the wet and the dry, handling is more responsive and predictable in all conditions, and things like rolling resistance is often lower too.
“The best way of thinking about tyres is that… you really do get what you pay for”
There is a reason that in the world of the petrolhead, budget tyres are not-so-lovingly referred to as ‘ditch-finders’. And whilst we can all appreciate and understand that not everyone will be taking their car to a track on weekends, or looking to get the most out of their car on a quiet stretch of road, does not mean that the extra quality of the premium tyre isn’t for you. For one, running on premium rubber not only will your car be more controllable but it will also be more predictable. And should the day ever come where you hit an unexpectedly slippy patch of road, or are required to swerve to avoid something (and these things to do happen to motorists every single day) then in those moments you will be glad you spent the extra cash on better quality products. There are also further benefits, premiums are often quieter than other categories of tyre – because the producers put major amounts of R&D into creating the ideal tyre for the motorist – and they often give better fuel economy, plus tend to last longer (as above).
It is important to mention here that the ‘fringe benefits’ above – economy, lasting longer and lower noise levels – don’t tend to apply to the top end premium tyres; which are almost uniform in their performance focus. These usually have even higher levels of grip and performance, but at the cost of noise levels and fuel efficiently etc.
So to summarise:
- DON’T buy budget! It’s a false economy!
- DO buy premium where possible.
- IF you can’t afford premium, choose the best mid-range tyre your budget allows.
- Within reason, always spend as much as you possibly can on tyres – good tyres can save your life!
If you want more information generally on tyres then you can check out our Tread Depth article, or our Seasonal Tyre Confusion article.
If you want more help choosing the specific tyre that is best for you, then you can look at the Auto Bild Tyre Test – published by TyreReviews. This German publication is widely viewed as the most thorough tyre test performed annually. They only tend to compare premium tyre’s though!
Let us know what else you would like to see from us in the upcoming ‘Basics’ series! We would love to hear from you.
Check out our Tyre partner Motorkiki; and see how cheap you can find your new set!
Carsnip is the UK’s largest used car search engine, with over 500,000 dealer sold used cars across the UK. We operate a natural language search engine, to help you find your perfect used car, and narrow down the choice by what’s most important to you.
About the Author
Sam Wardega is Carsnip.com’s very own in house car guru and journalist.
A lifetime Petrolhead who started with Hot Wheels aged 2, and now just spends his life savings on owning his dream cars. As they say, boys don’t stop playing with toys; they just get bigger and more expensive!