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Buying new tyres: Where do I start?

16th August 2019

It doesn't happen that often, but at some point we'll all face a time when we need to choose and purchase new tyres for our car. At first, the thought of this undertaking can be a little daunting, because there can be a fair bit of nitty gritty to get your head around. As much as you might want to avoid it, it’s better to face the inevitable than ignore it.

Avoiding changing your tyres, or getting the wrong ones fitted may have serious consequences, unless you want to join the 830,000 people who last year failed their MOT due to insufficient tyre tread depth.

Before you end up with 'failed' paperwork from your local garage and make an uninformed, rash tyre purchasing decision, why not invest a bit of time in researching the right tyres for your car.

Factors such as price, efficiency and quality are all of equal importance, but anyone who's searching online for tyres knows how saturated the market is, and how confusing it can seem. Our helpful guide to buying tyres has a step by step process to make it as straightforward as possible. Panic over!

Locate the tyre size.

Finding the tyre size for your car is the fundamental starting point. Many tyre manufacturers, like Continental, have made it really easy to find, as shown in the example below where you'll see it embossed at the top of your tyre sidewall. Tyre size is crucial because it tells you which tyres are compatible with your car. The right tyres will be able to support the weight of the vehicle (otherwise known as load index) and indicate the maximum speed that the tyre is capable of, a value that must be at least as high as the vehicle's top speed. If you were to fit an incorrect tyre with the wrong speed rating, you’d be at risk of voiding your car insurance.

To be on the safe side, you can also find a list of compatible tyre types in your vehicle manual and documentation but for further information on tyre size and type, take a look at this useful guide to sidewall markings.

How do I know which tyre brand to choose?

Let's start at the beginning because some of the decision-making process may have already been done for you.

Quite often, car manufacturers will fit specific makes and models of tyres to cars that drive off their factory floors, and this happens across a range of automotive brands. The fitting of such tyres is as a result of a partnership between the car and tyre brand. These tyres, known as 'OE' - Original Equipment - have been designed and developed with the specific make and model of the vehicle in mind, and are optimised to bring out the best performance and safety characteristics of the car. Continental tyres in particular dominate the OE sector, with nearly one in three of all cars leaving the factories of Europe being fitted with their tyres.

There is even a list of car manufacturer OE codes. which helps to identify your tyre (e.g. AO for Audi, as below). What this means is that when it comes to replacing your tyres, if you brought your car brand new you should buy the same ones. This way your vehicle will continue to perform as intended by the car maker.

But what if your car isn't brand new? Whatever you choose, you should always have the same tyres on each wheel from the same tyre brand. This is essential to maintaining even performance and control, particularly in the case of tyres on the same axle - which should never be mixed. Remember, tyre manufacturers make their products differently. Different compounds and materials, and with a wide variety of tread patterns means that there is a difference in their performance characteristics. For instance, they'll have different levels of grip, and remove water from the road differently, too. By mixing tyres, it affects how they all perform on the road, and as a consequence risks your driver safety.

Finding the right price and product.

There are many different tyre manufacturers in the marketplace, ranging from 'budget' to 'premium'. Like most 'big-ticket' purchases you make, cost is often a reflection of quality. Cheaper 'budget' tyres do not have the same investment in research and development, or high quality of materials and compounds, as more expensive 'premium' tyres. This means that cheaper budget tyres tend to provide inferior safety and performance characteristics compared to premium tyres, such as with stopping distances and grip. This is potentially dangerous for motorists that drive on this type of cheaper tyre.

Independent tyre tests are informative

If you're tempted to pay less and opt for budget tyres, consider the fact that your tyres are the only thing between your car and the road. Tyres are vital for your driver safety. Our recommendation is that premium tyres are a must, and well worth the extra investment. What price your life?

Fitting high-quality tyres, like those from multi-award winners Continental, dramatically improve stopping distances, and provide you with optimum safety and performance. That's why Auto Express, the UK's number one selling weekly car magazine named Continental as the winner of all three of its annual summer, winter and all-season tyre tests in 2018, and Product of the Year for 2019.

Another way to compare a choice of tyres based on their performance is to look at the EU tyre label. While not comprehensive compared to independent tyre tests, the label showcases three important tyre characteristics; wet grip, fuel efficiency, and noise level rating. This information must legally appear on all tyres purchased as (unused) brand new. However, for information, we recommend that you search online for independent tyre test results. Premium tyres always win.

Summer, winter or all-season tyres?

When buying tyres, you'll also need to consider all-season or dedicated summer or winter tyres. The good news is that nowadays, many new cars come equipped with all-season tyres, such as Continental's award winning AllSeasonContact™, which provides a good, broad range of driving characteristics for all-year round performance in moderate climate regions.

One final warning. Whatever you do, don't even consider fitting 'part worn tyres' to your car! Simply put, the very worst examples of these used tyres could very easily kill you and your passengers. They're at the end of their life, offering little or no grip, and in many cases can have unseen damage within their structure. Don't ever endanger yourself or your passengers with these lethal tyres.

Still unsure about which tyres to fit? Speak to Merityre

Following our step-by-step guide to buying tyres should provide you with enough information to make a good purchasing decision, but we realise that there’s a lot to take in. So, if you're still unsure which tyre is right for your vehicle, speak to the expert team at Merityre. Our team of highly trained and qualified tyre specialists can point you in the right direction. Find your nearest Merityre location here.