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  Buying tyres: It pays to shop around


Back in my teens, buying decent tyres came way down on my list of motoring priorities. Step one was always to try and make a slow car marginally less so, usually courtesy of a ‘sports’ air filter. Step two was adding enough speakers to make sure my poor taste in music could be heard with clarity from the kerb. Step two thus negating any (marginal) gain from step one.

However, now I’m the wrong side of twenty five, tyres have made a welcome accent to the top of my priority list. Tyres are the unsung heroes of performance, affecting the way you accelerate, steer and stop. They also contribute to the ride comfort and amount of road noise that intrudes into the cabin.

At the time of writing, the calendar is edging towards mid March, and it will soon be time to remove the Michelin Alpin winter rubber that has served me well for the past few months. My previous summer tyres were a mid range brand and as is typical to some of the cheaper brands, whilst dry grip is roughly comparable with a premium tyre, wet grip can leave a little to be desired.

Choosing a tyre

To help me choose, I used the very useful website tyrereviews.co.uk where user data is aggregated to provide a rating system based on elements such as dry and wet grip, wear rate, comfort and road feedback. Having set my heart on some Continentals, I was intrigued to find many users reporting poor wet weather grip when the tyres where around 50% worn. As it rains an average of 171 days a year in the UK, wet weather handling is quite high up on my list. So after an extensive trawl through the options, I’ve plumped for some Michelin Pilot Exaltos, which seemed decent all round choice.

Getting a price

The tyre market has changed in recent years, with the rise of internet based firms such as Black Circles and E-Tyres who claim to offer a significant cost saving over high street rivals because of their lower overheads. In the case of Black Circles, you can either have the tyres delivered and arrange fitting yourself, or book it all online and have them fitted at an affiliated local provider at a time to suit. With E-tyres, fitting is included with the price and a mobile fitter will do the business at a place of your convenience.

Below is a price comparison from some of the major providers for the set of Michelin Pilot Exalto tyres including fitting. Size 195/50/R15 (V82)

 

Kwick Fit (online) £262.80
Black Circles £272.64
ATS (online) £280.96
Mytyres.co.uk £287.60
E-tyres £296.80
Halford Autocentre £310.48
Kwick Fit (local branch) £436.00
  Prices taken at 04/03/2011

The most interesting figures have to be the difference between the price quoted when I phoned my local Kwik Fit branch (£436), and the ‘online only’ price (£262.80). That’s a wapping £173.20 difference or put another way 66% more expensive if you just wander into the branch. Those numbers put Kwik Fit at both ends of the spectrum as the most expensive but also the cheapest overall compared with other online retailers.

Out of interest I also phoned my local Costco branch (who only sell Michelin) just to see how they would compare, given that they are a trade only retailer. A price of £260 before VAT and £312 with, meant there were no savings to be had here. 

So with a figure of £262.80 in hand, my final destination was a local independent who offered to beat Kwik Fit by a further 10% bringing the total down to £236.52. A bargain price for premium tyres.

So there you have it, there are savings to be made if you take the time to shop around. It could also mean your budget will stretch to a premium brand of tyre that may well enhance your driving experience and safety at the same time.

One final thought

Tucked away in my garage are a spare set of 17 inch wheels for my car that I removed and replaced with the original 15 inch items in favour of the greater ride comfort. These days big wheels are the fashion but under most circumstances I suspect the benefits for the average hatchback owner are more cosmetic than anything else.

To kit these out with Michelin Pilot Exalto tyres would have cost a massive £137.50 per tyre or £550 for the set fitted (Kwik Fit online price or £766 if you go in store). The price of vanity? About double.

Links:

Kwick Fit (online)
Black Circles
ATS Euromaster (online)
Mytyres.co.uk
E-tyres
Halford Autocentre
How to find your tyre size
Tyre Reviews

 

 

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