Expensive research and development, manufacturing process, material, design, and tire structure are the common reasons why tires are so expensive. Other reasons include supply issues, inflation, warranty issues, and environmental regulations.
These are the common reasons why bus, truck, motorcycle, and ATV tires are expensive nowadays. Moreover, there are specific factors why motorcycle, bus, truck, and ATV tires are expensive. Those factors are also discussed here in detail.
All major global tire brands are taken into consideration here including Continental, Michelin, and Pirelli. To get into every nook and cranny of why tires are so costly, continue reading.
Common Factors Why Tires Are So Expensive
These are the common factors that make a tire expensive regardless of whether they are used on a bus, truck, motorcycle, or ATV.
Reason 1: Research And Development
Nowadays, extensive research and testing are done before mass producing a tire. This requires a manufacturer to spend a lot of money. This led to an increase in tire prices.
Even though tires look relatively simple, a significant amount of research and development goes behind the scenes of tire manufacturing. The process takes a lot of time and effort by engineers which leads to tire price rise.
Each step in tire manufacturing adds extra cost; from research about material, manufacturing methods, and design, Prototyping and testing to Mass production.
Before designing the physical prototype, manufacturers conduct various tests on the tire material, and compound, and develop a computer model of the physical product. Then this model is used to evaluate performance criteria.
Non-destructive lab tests are done on physical prototypes including the infrared, ultrasonic, microwave, and holography test. Also, performance tests are done to evaluate;
The tires are tested for endurance in high speed, durability, Electrical resistance, Air retention, Uniformity, traction, ride and handling, NVH, aquaplaning, and rolling resistance.
Previously, this level of testing was not done before mass-producing a tire. With the emergence of new technology and testing methods, tire research now is a stand-alone branch in the automotive industry.
Since manufacturing a tire from raw materials is a complex process; engineers focus on four main sections. These are,
- Tread Pattern
Tread pattern refers to the design of the grooves and blocks on the tire’s surface. The tread pattern is responsible for providing traction, water drainage, and noise reduction. There are many different tread patterns available, each designed for specific driving conditions.
Contour refers to the shape of the tire’s sidewall. The contour affects the tire’s handling and ride comfort. A tire with a more rounded contour will provide a smoother ride, while a tire with a more squared contour will provide better handling.
Construction refers to the materials and methods used to make the tire. The construction affects the tire’s durability, performance, and price. A tire with a more expensive construction will typically be more durable and perform better, but it will also be more expensive.
Compound refers to the rubber compound used to make the tire. The compound affects the tire’s grip, wear, and temperature resistance. A tire with a softer compound will provide a better grip, but it will also wear more quickly. A tire with a harder compound will wear more slowly, but it will also provide less grip.
Research and development of these parts are dependent on each other and are often performed parallel to one another. All of these complex tests and procedures require a large number of skilled manpower with expensive equipment.
As a result, tire prices go up. So as a rule of thumb, any brand that spends a lot of money on the research and development part of tire manufacturing will charge customers more per tire.
Reason 2: Manufacturing Process
Due to the high cost of machinery and expert labor to manufacture tires, the market price of tires is higher as compared to other car parts. Specialized tires will be more costly for the same reason since they require special machinery and skilled people to operate them.
After getting approval from the R&D department, the manufacturer will start the mass manufacturing process. According to Continental, one of the leading tire manufacturers in the world, this is how the tire manufacturing process goes;
- Ingredients like steel, rubber, chemicals, fabric, etc are sourced and then made into compounds in a Banbury mixer using computer control to maintain uniformity.
- Then different components of the tire are manufactured like steel cord, tread, textile cord, steel bead, sidewall, and inner liner.
- After that, all the components are assembled together to make a complete tire which is often called a green tire.
- Then the curing process begins on the green tire to make the raw materials flexible, and elastic. All of the steps in the tire manufacturing process are under intense quality control.
All of these steps require heavy machinery and equipment that can withstand extreme pressure and temperature. Also, expert manpower is required to run the machinery and the process smoothly.
Those manufacturers who have better, more efficient machinery for making tires will charge their customers more. At the same time, making specialty tires will require a more complex manufacturing process, which makes them more expensive to buy.
Reason 3: Tire Size
The cost of raw materials, bigger machines, and more complex processes for tires contribute to the price increase of bigger tires. Comparatively, smaller tires cost less since they require less amount of raw materials than bigger tires.
Larger tires weigh more and are generally used in commercial vehicles or off-road trucks. These tires are designed to support massive amounts of load hence the bulky design.
Light-duty trucks and passenger cars need only 19% rubber while truck tires need 34%. At the same time, commercial tires use more steel which is 21% than passenger cars which use only 12%.
Reason 4: Material
There are natural rubber, synthetic polymers, steel, textile, fillers, antioxidants, antiozonants, sulfur, and zinc oxide inside a tire. These expensive raw materials are the reason for tires being high priced..
However, the percentage and the compound characteristic vary from tire to tire depending on the manufacturer. At the same time, manufacturers always experiment with new compounds to get the best performance.
Even a few decades ago tire making was not this precise or complicated and as a result, tires were not this expensive. Now you can buy a tire to meet your exact driving condition that tire makers made with a specific material composition for optimal outcome.
Reason 5: Performance Design
Manufacturers design tires suitable for specific scenarios such as winter, summer, all-season tires, maximum traction tires, off-road tires, mud tires, etc. To design these tires, manufacturers need to do dedicated research and development which in turn makes the tires expensive.
Winter and Snow Tires
In the winter season, tires need more traction and regular tires are not sufficient for optimal performance and safety when there is black ice, snow, etc. Winter and snow tires have special tread rubber, depth, and patterns with biting edges which makes them more costly.
Summer tires come with a special tread design and rubber that can work well in broad temp. range ( 44F and up). These performance tires are suitable for warm climate urban driving and are usually more expensive than regular tires.
This type of tire is designed for performance driving in dry and rainy conditions since they provide extraordinary grip while cornering, braking, or accelerating the vehicle. It has amazing hydroplaning resistance which is required while driving in rain.
Mud tires are designed with a special tread design that provides the necessary grip on muddy terrain. Each spike of the tread is spaced out in a way that mud and water sludge can move without getting stuck.
At the same time, mud tires have strong and flexible sidewalls to drive smoothly in unpredictable off-road scenarios. Another type of tire used while off-roading is an all-terrain tire. It has deeper tread and reinforced sidewalls with comparatively soft rubber.
All-terrain tires are the best choice while hauling loads through gravel and dirt. Another suitable off-road tire is the max traction tire that is used in SUVs for maximum traction.
All the factors mentioned above make the mud tire and all-terrain tire and max traction tires more expensive since they are specialty products. And, both Goodyear Reliant and Assurance WeatherReady tires offer amazing traction on dry roads.
As the name suggests, all-season tires are suitable for all-season driving. However, it is optimal in only light winter conditions. For driving in heavy snow, snow tires are a much better option.
All-season tires can withstand a broad temp range (as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit) with a special tread design. However, this tire is a jack of all trades but a master of none. But the versatility of this tire makes it costly.
Reason 6: Tire Structure (Tread Pattern and Ply)
Complex and intricate tread patterns cost more money to manufacture than simple tread designs. This makes today’s tires much more expensive than before when tires used to have simpler treads.
More than 100 years ago tires used to come with smooth treads then manufacturers like Continental and Dunlop introduced tread patterns as anti-skid features. Nowadays tires have major four tread patterns that can be divided into more specialized categories.
The four main types of tire tread are;
- Directional- asymmetrical
The main parts of a tire tread are ribs, grooves, tread blocks, and sipes that differ in different tread patterns. Also, tires come with radial ply and cross-ply constructions for different objectives like low rolling resistance and high vehicle stability.
Source: Footman James
All these details in tire structure require skilled machinery and labor to produce. This is why tires are so expensive nowadays.
Reason 7: Fuel Efficiency
By introducing unique tread and wheel designs and maintaining proper tire inflation, tire manufacturers are now designing tires that are more fuel efficient. This will cut down the gas price of the vehicle owners but manufacturers charge more for this tire.
Up to 30% of the fuel consumption of a vehicle comes from tires. So, tires that improve fuel economy are always in demand. Specific tread design and size of your tire make a significant difference in gas cost, hence the high price of these tires.
Reason 8: Supply Issues
Due to the pandemic, tire prices went up by 30% in 2022 from all major manufacturers like Continental, Michelin, Pirelli, Dunlop, Bridgestone, etc. This is due to low and uneven supply and distribution from tire manufacturers.
During the pandemic, tire shipping was disrupted and even in 2023 the effect of that continues in the tire industry. Also, there was a natural rubber shortage in Asia that led to supply issues and eventual price hikes.
Reason 9: Custom Design
In high-end vehicles and race cars, custom design tires are used. These tires are not mass-produced and often take specific expertise in order to improve their performance characteristics. As a result, these tires are more expensive than regular tires.
Moreover, tires designed for electric vehicles have special designs and generally cost more than regular tires. For example, Tesla tires are notorious for being super expensive since they need to carry the extra weight of the batteries.
Reason 10: Longevity
Tires last longer now than they did a few decades ago due to improved technology used in tire making. All major tire brands make tires that have superior durability and longevity that can run 3 to 4 years on road. This makes the initial purchase expensive since manufacturers know drivers are not coming back frequently to get new treads.
Reason 11: Inflation
The ongoing inflation in the global economy led to a significant rise in tire prices. So, global tire manufacturers are raising the price due to market volatility. As a result of inflation, raw materials and logistics prices are rising every day.
Reason 12: Warranty
Usually, with an expensive tire purchase, you would want to get a warranty to secure the loose ends. There are various warranties on tires such as tread life warranty, road hazard, workmanship, materials, and manufacturer special warranty. These warranties will significantly increase the cost of your purchase.
Reason 13: Environmental Regulations
With an increasing number of environmental regulations on tires, manufacturers are pushed from all directions. This makes tire prices higher since manufacturers constantly need to update their production process and find green alternatives.
There is existing regulation on chemicals, manufacturing, raw materials, waste handling, etc. Moreover, scientists and activists are pushing for more regulations.
Considering all the factors above, if you find it hard to choose the right tires for your car, the linked guide will help you.
Why Are Motorcycle Tires Expensive?
Motorcycle tires are different from passenger cars and commercial truck tires in design and capacity. Other than the common reasons mentioned above, there are three distinct factors behind motorcycle tires being so expensive.
Reason 1: Smaller Market
More people drive passenger cars and trucks than motorcycles. It’s considered a hobby for the majority of the riders. So, tire manufacturers’ main focus is not on motorcycle tires. Due to this low market demand, motorcycle tires are expensive.
The small number of motorcycle tires manufactured has a lot of variations depending on the make and model. This makes it hard to spread out the initial cost for the tire makers.
Reason 2: Special Design
In the research and development phase of the manufacturing process, motorcycle tires need to meet more engineering requirements than car tires. Since in a motorcycle you are sitting on two wheels instead of four, your life depends on the tire quality and stability.
These tires have a curved profile to enhance performance during cornering. Also, motorcycle tires’ rubber compounds have a higher coefficient of friction. This enables the tires to have more contact and grip on the road while riding.
Moreover, there are specialty tires used on motorcycles for a specific boost in performance and handling. As a result, the cost of making these specialty tires will increase.
These are the special tire types you can use on a motorcycle;
- Cruiser Tires
- Slick Tires
- DOT Race Tires
- Sports Touring Tires
- Hypersports Tires
The engineering and testing cost of these tires is higher than regular tires. The dynamic tests are done on many different driving scenarios and weather conditions that require time and effort which in turn increases the market price.
Reason 3: Labor Cost
The cost to install and balance a motorcycle tire is higher than car tires. This is because the replacement takes a long time and it is harder to find a skilled motorcycle mechanic than a car mechanic.
A mechanic needs around an hour to replace and align the four tires on a car. However, the same process on a motorcycle can take up to three hours to complete. All of this makes the tire price go up.
Why Are Bus Tires So Expensive?
Bus tires are so expensive because of their larger size, integrated safety technology, and special design to suit both paved roads and abrasive surfaces. Noe, let’s examine the reasons in more detail.
Reason 1: Size
Bus tires are significantly larger than passenger car tires. The standard bus tire size width is 315mm whereas for cars it ranges from 195mm to 275mm. Since larger tires require more raw materials, they are costlier than car tires.
Reason 2: Safety
When transporting kids to school or a large number of people to their destination, the number one priority for bus tires is to be safe and reliable. So when making bus tires manufacturers go the extra mile when it comes to safety tech like e-balance. This makes the tires expensive.
Reason 3: Road Condition and Design
There are two types of road surfaces a bus will travel on; paved roads and abrasive surfaces. Tires that can travel well on the highway and rough surfaces without much wear, takes time and effort to manufacture.
Also, the tread design needs to be optimal for all road conditions and weather scenarios for a bus. Usually, the service-type rib tread pattern is used in US bus tires. At the same time tires that provide superior traction are used for buses. All this leads to the tire price increase.
Why Are Truck Tires So Expensive?
Truck tires are so much more expensive than car tires since they need to handle more load for a long period of time without wearing out fast. All three types of commercial trucks; light-duty, medium-duty, and heavy-duty trucks need larger, robust tires to handle a large amount of payload.
At the same time, off-road trucks need special designs and will cost more. Another factor is tire size which leads to the price rise. Truck tires are bigger and bulkier, and have more raw materials in them. This makes truck tire cost more to produce.
Why Are ATV Tires So Expensive?
ATV or quad bike tires are expensive because this is a very small niche in the tire industry where raw materials and manufacturing processes are expensive as well as the labor costs.
Reason 1: Expensive Manufacturing
The ATV industry is a distinct sector of the automotive industry where mostly hobbyists or enthusiasts lurk. As a result, the ATV market is small with the high cost of raw materials. At the same time, the manufacturing process is highly specialized.
Mass manufacturing is not on the same level as cars in terms of volume and availability of equipment. These are some performance tires for ATVs that are even more expensive due to their design;
- Mud tire
- Snow tire
- Youth tire
- Racing/sport tire
- Rock / Hard crawler tire
- Sand tire
- All-terrain tire
Reason 2: High Labor Cost
The manufacturing process and the installation of ATV tires require skilled engineers and mechanics. Also, the labor cost will be higher than regular tires because it is a highly specialized area. Tires become more expensive as a result.
The whole process requires a human touch and cannot be fully automated. This makes the profit margin of the tire manufacturer smaller. This is why each tire costs more.
Do Tires Last 70K Miles?
Yes, tires last 70k miles. Tests show that all-season tires that are used on family cars last as long as 70,000 miles or sometimes even more. However, high-performance tires wear out faster.
How Much Should I Expect To Pay For 4 Tires?
Moderately priced tires will cost you approximately 300$ each. So a total of four tires will cost you 1200$. However, if you get high-end tires then the price for four tires can go up to 4000$.
Is It Ok To Replace Only 2 Tires?
Yes, it is ok to replace only 2 tires. However, make sure you install two new tires on the back and put the old tires on the front axle. Also, if you are driving an all-wheel drive vehicle, it is recommended to replace all four tires for better grip.
Hopefully, this article gave you all the reasons why tires are so expensive with a sufficient logical explanation. Even though the initial purchase is expensive, a good quality tire will give you your money’s worth.