The road recently implanted a nail in one of my tires, and the tire was sufficiently worn that it wasn’t repairable. After 40k miles, it’s not unexpected. So time for a new set of tires. Option A is to visit my neighborhood tire store and see what they have. Option B is to see what I can find on the net. Of course, the shipping cost for a set of 4 tires from a net supplier would be prohibitive. And also would be the trouble finding someone to mount them.
But I found the Tire Rack. There are four things that I was pleasantly surprised by.
First, they have lots of review data performed by themselves and comments/ratings from customers. This info is very helpful. You can see how tires are rated on a number of criteria. That helps you balance criteria for what is important for you (i.e., snow/ice performance vs. road noise vs. tread wear). Unless you have a lot of knowledge of tires, I found this to be invaluable in helping me make a purchase choice. They have a really good database of automobile info, so just select your car and they will tell you exactly what the OEM tire is, and list the other tires that match that size. You can see how the tires are ranked for each category (based on ratings, not sales popularity).
Second, they have a lot of articles on general information in the Tech Center area. Everything from air pressure principles to a vibration diagnosis flowchart. They are concise and understandable. It’s really good education. Even if you don’t buy tires from Tire Rack, read these articles.
Third, the shipping cost was way less than I thought it was. For my 4 tires, there were shipped via FedEx (not overnight) at a cost of $40. They arrived in 3 days. I had them delivered to my house. Even with the shipping cost included, I saved $130 on the set versus buying them from the local store. They didn’t arrive in a box, just bundled together with a strap and a shipping label affixed right to the tread.
Fourth, the local tire store was happy to install the tires I ordered via the net. They have a usual fee of $25 per tire for mounting, balancing, valve stem, disposal, etc. That’s twice the charge as if I had bought the tires from them ($12.50), and they also didn’t include lifetime rotation/balance. I just put the new tires in the back of my car, and drove it to the store, and asked them to do the work. The tires I got are asymmetric (there is a particular side that needs to face out), and the installer at the tire shop mounted one of them backwards, so I had to ask them to correct that, which they recognized as a mistake and corrected.
All in all, making a tire purchase on the net, doing it in an informed way, and having the installation performed locally went better than I thought. I’ll do this again next time.