In rough climates, expensive specialty tires will boost vehicle performance and handling significantly compared to cheap all-season tires. But among two all-season tires, expensive tires make at most 5% enhancement. So, if your situation requires expensive tires, they’re worth it.
In general, expensive tires improve braking, skid, NVH, driving comfort, tread life, durability, and drag of a vehicle. Whether the increase in performance is worth your money or not, will be discussed in the next segment.
To know all the secrets about expensive tires and whether the big companies are fooling people, continue reading.
Do Expensive Tires Really Make A Difference?
When it comes to performance in terms of acceleration, cornering, braking time and distance, skid, and NVH performance, expensive tires do make a difference.
However, the question is whether these differences are statistically significant in relation to their expensive price. At the same time, the type of vehicle you are driving and what you want from your vehicle matters when it comes to choosing expensive vs cheap tires.
For sports cars and high-end luxury vehicles, performance tires are recommended which cost more than regular tires. But for everyday family cars, you have vast arrays of options to choose from. Here, we discuss passenger cars and light-duty trucks like the Ford F150.
Advantages Of Expensive Tires
Expensive tires perform better in terms of braking, skidding, NVH, road comfort, cornering, durability, and drag. These are the obvious benefits of having installed expensive tires instead of cheap ones.
The data presented in Braking, skid, and NVH performance are for Ford F150 and a Toyota Camry. The tests were conducted by AAA on two different sets of tires; cheap vs expensive ones.
The high-end tires here are Michelin, Pirelli, and Bridgestone whereas the cheap tires come from Fuzion, Kumho, Hankook, and Cooper. The price difference between these tires is approximately $50-$100. Also, these are all-season tires.
Generally, expensive tires have better braking performance than cheap ones. Braking performance refers to the small braking distance and short braking time. So, among all tires, the ones with the smallest braking distance and shortest braking time are the winners. The tests are done in wet condition with brand-new tires on Toyota Camry and Ford F150.
This is the braking distance of four tires on the Camry. It is clear from the graph that Michelin has the shortest distance while Fuzion has the longest one. There is a 4.86% Difference between expensive and cheap tires.
Among all four tires, Michelin tires have the shortest braking time while Fuzion has the longest one. At the same time, the graph clearly shows expensive tires perform better in terms of braking time by 2.97%.
This is the braking distance data for a light-duty truck Ford F150. From the graph, it’s clear that expensive tires such as Michelin, and Bridgestone have shorter braking distances than Cooper and Hankook which cost less.
On the testing ground, the Ford F150 has better performance in terms of braking time with Michelin and Bridgestone tires. The expensive tires show a 5.27% and 4.02% performance enhancement compared to cheap ones on a Ford F150.
Expensive tires have better skid performance than cheap tires. A skid pad test is done to see the lateral acceleration and speed of a vehicle. This is the lateral acceleration and speed the tire is able to hold without sliding. High lateral acceleration and speed on the wet surface mean better-performing tires.
This is the lateral acceleration of the Camry when driving on a wet surface. The expensive tires show a higher g value than the cheapest Fuzion. There is a 3.77% performance increase with expensive tires on the lateral acceleration of the Camry.
At the same time, the average speed is higher with expensive tires on skid tests. This data is obtained from a Toyota Camry.
On Ford F150, there is a 1.94% skid performance increase with expensive tires. Here Michelin is the best performing and Cooper is the worst performing tire for lateral acceleration.
From the graph, it is evident that Michelin and Bridgestone outperform cheap tires like Cooper and Hankook. So, overall the verdict is that expensive tires perform better in skid tests than cheap tires in both passenger cars and light-duty trucks.
The NVH test shows tire noise, vibration, and harshness levels on different surfaces. In this test, both cheap and expensive tires perform differently mathematically. The drivers didn’t find one set to be noticeably better than the other in terms of NVH but expensive tires are less noisy on average.
The noise, vibration, and harshness test is performed on passenger vehicles as well as light-duty trucks on bumpy asphalt, smooth asphalt, and uneven concrete. Some drivers noted that expensive tires make less noise on the road than cheap ones.
Expensive tires provide better driving comfort than cheap tires. With cheap tires, during cornering, there is a high possibility of understeer. Understeer is when a driver moves the steering wheel but the car doesn’t turn as much as the driver’s input. Expensive tires usually don’t have that problem.
If a car is an understeer, then it is difficult for the driver to handle it optimally. This is because the driver needs to put in more effort to go around a corner. With expensive tires, cornering can be done with ease, and without much sweat.
Usually, specialty tires like winter, all-terrain, mud terrain, snow, and summer tires are more expensive than regular tires. These tires perform far better in those specific weather conditions than an all-season tire.
So, if you live in a cold climate, then investing in a good set of snow/winter tires is always worth the money. The same thing goes for sports tires. For example, if you are driving a Corvette, you don’t want to dumb down the car by installing cheap tires.
Major manufacturers invest heavily in the R&D department to prolong the tread life of a tire. So, between two all-season tires, the expensive one that had more research done on it, has better tread life performance.
Better tread life means, you won’t have to replace your tire as often and the gas mileage won’t be affected due to worn-out tires. At the same time, high-end tires come with a tread life warranty that cheap tires don’t have.
The expensive tires are on average more durable than cheap ones. The durability of a tire depends on the rubber’s hardness, sidewall sturdiness, etc. For example, Michelin tires last between 45,000-85,000 miles whereas Hankook on average lasts about 50,000 miles.
Expensive tires with sophisticated designs have less drag which results in low fuel consumption. Cheaper tires with higher drag will cost you more gas money. However, not all expensive tires have better drag performance. The amount of research performed to make the tire less drag-prone depends on the brand.
Almost always, expensive tires offer a warranty that covers maintenance, parts replacement, mechanic cost, etc. So, buying an expensive tire will give you peace of mind when you have a flat tire.
Downsides Of Expensive Tires
It’s not always true that expensive means quality. The biggest downside of expensive tires is the cost. The fact that expensive tires provide at best a 5% performance boost raises the question of whether they are worth it.
Expensive tires can cost up to a thousand dollars. So, the initial cost of tires will be much higher with expensive tires. It will be a hassle when eventually you run into a flat tire. The replacement will be a lot more expensive than if you were using cheaper tires.
At the same time, the warranty for expensive tires is also not that much different from regular one. So, overall it’s a lot of money to spend. But you are only getting around a 5% performance boost at best.
This is for all-season tires.
But, when it comes to weather conditions, it is recommended to get specialty tires. They will boost vehicle performance significantly. At the same time, if you are driving off-road, invest in good quality tires capable of running in a four-wheel drive which will cost more.
What Makes the Tires Expensive?
These are the main reasons why tires are so expensive these days;
- Intense research and development
- Costly Manufacturing process
- Variations in tire sizes
- Expensive raw material
- Specialty and performance-enhancing designs
- Intricate tread pattern and ply rating
- Fuel efficient design
- Custom Design
- Supply issues
- Environmental Regulations
Do You Really Need Expensive Tires?
Whether expensive tires are worth it or not depends entirely on your driving situation and your vehicle. If you are living in an area where the temperature doesn’t go on either extreme but stays pleasant throughout the year, then an all-season tire is good to go.
However, for heavy snow or hot summer, it is recommended to use specialty tires like snow tires or summer tires which are usually costly. It is true for mud tires, off-road, and all-terrain tires as well.
Even with pleasant weather, using expensive all-season weather will give you a performance enhancement but it is not statistically significant. Similarly, with a luxurious sports car, you need performance tires that can handle the power. These tires are more expensive than family car tires.
Why Do Michelin Tires Last So Long?
Michelin tires last so long due to their superior design that allows for uniform load distributions. This equal load on the tire tread evens out the wear and tear of the tire rubber. This makes them last longer than other tires.
How Can You Tell A Good Quality Tire?
A good quality tire has excellent brake performance and provides stability while driving. At the same time, a good quality tire must have good wet and dry handling capabilities. Quality tires are known for good grip on slippery surfaces.
What Is The 3% Rule On Tires?
The 3% rule is that you must get your replacement tire within 3% of the diameter of your current tire or manually recommended tire. So, stay within the 3% limit for your replacement tire diameter.
Hopefully, this article has everything you need to make an informed decision before your tire purchase. Now, you know if expensive tires are worth it or not.