Tires do not last forever and replacing them can be an expensive proposition. If you know your tires are getting near the end of their useful life, then you can budget for the expense more easily, but that might not be possible. Tires fail unexpectedly due to punctures and other damage, so there might not be the opportunity to figure the cost into your budget. Even if you do have plenty of time, the expense is considerable. The good news is that there are affordable cheap tires that are safe and reliable.
We're not going to recommend that you go buy a $25 budget tire from some guy on a street corner who also sells t-shirts and mystery meat hot dogs. That is never a good idea. Good tires are essential for safety, so don't take that kind of chance. Instead, our recommendations are from reliable brands that, while maybe not as well-known, still produce a good tire.
We considered both customer reviews and expert evaluations when choosing the tires on our list with tires for a wide variety of needs. There are best tire picks for everything from SUVs to performance sedans along with summer, winter and all-season options. Here are out top picks for cheap tires.
Our best overall pick for cheap tires is a grand touring all-season tire with strong reviews. General Tire is a tire brand that has been around for over 100 years and its Altimax 365 AW gets high marks for wet and dry performance as well as strong ratings for its performance in snowy weather. Designed for cars, crossovers and SUVs, it features the three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMSF) symbol for severe snow service. If, however, you frequently drive in severe winter conditions, a dedicated winter tire may be a better option.
These touring tires have a high-silica tread compound with a symmetric pattern that provides grip in all types of weather. The center rib enhances steering feel while reducing noise and improving overall ride quality while lateral channels and circumferential grooves pull water away from the tire for better traction on wet roads to lessen the chance of hydroplaning. The tread also has biting edges, which improve traction in winter weather. A six-year or 60,000-mile treadwear warranty is included.
Riken is an established tire manufacturer that has been a subsidiary of the Michelin Group for 30 years. Its Raptor HR is a grand touring all-season tire designed for cars, minivans and crossovers. This is a budget tire that receives high marks from customers with good performance in wet, dry and even lightly snowy road conditions. It's also rated highly for its comfort along with treadwear, which adds to its affordability.
The tread compound in this affordable tire features a symmetric design with a single center rib that ensures good contact with the road and consistent grip. There are four circumferential grooves to pull water away from the contact patch and reduce the chance of hydroplaning. There is no treadwear warranty for this tire.
This BFGoodrich all-season tire is designed for crossovers, SUVs and light trucks. The Advantage T/A Sport LT delivers good handling and receives high ratings from customers with excellent marks for performance in both on wet roads and dry conditions. It also receives good marks for its performance in winter weather and features the three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMSF) symbol for meeting industry standards for sever snow service.
The compound on this tire has a symmetrical design with a continuous center rib for consistent contact with the road. It has a deep tread and wide circumferential grooves for keeping water away from the contact patch to prevent hydroplaning. The tread pattern also promotes strong traction in snow. There are internal sidewall stabilizers to improve handling while cornering and two steel belts for better stability and ride quality. A six-year or 65,000-mile treadwear warranty is included with these BFGoodrich tires.
Our runner-up for best cheap SUV tire is the Kumho Crugen HP71. This is an all-season tire designed for crossovers, SUVs and even light duty trucks with strong consumer ratings. It does best in wet or dry conditions, but can also handle light snow. It also delivers a comfortable ride with a minimum of noise.
It features an all-season tread compound with a symmetric design that incorporates Kumho's Variable Pitch Technology for a quiet ride. There's a rigid center rib and strong shoulders to improve handling and reduce the chance of irregular wear. Four circumferential grooves help pull water away from the contact patch to avoid hydroplaning and two wide internal steel belts provide strength. A six-year or 65,000-mile warranty is included.
This tire from Kumho is suited to pickup trucks, vans, crossovers, and sport utility vehicles. It provides all-season traction with excellent ratings in wet and dry conditions. The Crugen HT51 also received good ratings for its performance on snowy roads with the three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMSF) symbol on the sidewall indicating its severe snow service rating. Ride quality was good as is road noise. Treadwear was also rated well, which helped make this tire our pick for best cheap truck tires.
The tire's tread compound is formulated for all-season use with a five-rib design for stability and traction. Four circumferential zigzag grooves help keep water away from the contact patch for better traction in wet weather with edges designed to improve traction in the snow. Two steel belts add stability at highway speeds and enhance durability. This tire includes a six-year or 70,000-mile treadwear warranty.
This Michelin all-season tire for vans, pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles is designed to handle all kinds of weather and provide a long tread life. The Defender LTX M/S delivers a smooth quiet ride with excellent comfort ratings from customers. It's also rated well for both wet and dry conditions and even gets strong marks for use in snow and in light off-roading.
It has a unique compound that provides extra strength for enduring more rugged driving conditions with four circumferential channels to lead water away from the contact patch and provide better wet weather grip. There's also a contact patch constructed to more evenly distribute the forces exerted on the tire during high-speed driving, which helps reduce treadwear. A six-year or 70,000-mile treadwear warranty is included on these affordable premium tires from Michelin.
Designed for cars, crossovers and minivans, this cheap tire from Yokohama provides a smooth ride with minimal noise and all-season traction. The Avid Ascend GT gets high marks for both dry and wet traction with good hydroplaning resistance. Customers also note good treadwear, which enhances affordability over the long term. A part of Yokohama's BlueEarth series, this is also an eco-friendly tire.
It has a symmetric tread pattern designed to provide good grip in all weather conditions with a contact path that provides excellent traction and reduced wear. There are four circumferential grooves that help push standing water away from the contact patch, which lowers the chance of hydroplaning. There are also notches on the inside shoulder that further aid in wet traction by letting water pass away from the tire. A five-year or 65,000-mile treadwear warranty is included.
This Firestone all-season grand touring tire is suited to cars and crossovers. The WeatherGrip delivers a combination of comfort that's ideal for highway cruising with good grip on wet and snowy roads. It features the three-peak mountain snowflake symbol (3PMSF) symbol on the sidewall indicating that it's rate for severe snow service, which makes it a good all-season option for winter driving.
The tread compound in this Firestone tire is designed to maintain the correct flexibility in both warm or cold weather with a tread pattern that has a rounded footprint to push through standing water to avoid hydroplaning. There's also Firestone's Snow Traction Claw technology that helps improve traction in snowy weather and two steel belts for added strength. A five-year or 65,000-mile treadwear warranty is included.
This Hankook all-season tire is designed for cars, crossovers and minivans to provide good performance with a long tread life. It gets high marks from customers for its performance in dry and wet weather as well as for providing a comfortable ride and a good tread life. The rubber compound of this tire maintains the right flexibility through a wide range of temperatures from high heat to extreme cold to ensure consistent performance in a variety of conditions.
The tread pattern design on this Hankook includes circumferential grooves to pull water away from the contact patch to maintain traction when it's wet and help with performance in light snow. It's also designed to reduce noise for a more pleasant ride. Two internal steel belts help stabilize the tire and provide better steering response. A six-year or 70,000-mile treadwear warranty is included.
This Continental performance summer tire comes in a wide range of sizes with an affordable starting price. It gets high marks for both wet and dry traction and it provides a comfortable ride making it a great choice for longer drives. It uses a compound designed only for summer to maintain the right flexibility as temperatures rise. Wide tread blocks provide good lateral grip and high-speed handling with a unique tread compound that improves grip in damp weather.
Further aiding these Continental performance tires' wet traction are deep circumferential grooves that pull water away from the contact patch to reduce the risk of hydroplaning. There's a two-ply sidewall that adds stiffness without producing a harsh ride with two steel belts for better handling at highway speeds. A six-year or 30,000-mile treadwear warranty is included with this best performance tire pick.
This ultra-high-performance summer tire from Yokohama is highly rated for driving on dry roads. It also gets good marks for ride comfort and treadwear. Designed for those who drive performance cars, the Advan Fleva V701 is not intended for use in snowy conditions or in cold weather. A special blend of polymers and silica are used to provide traction while also improving the overall treadlife of these cheap tires.
These performance tires have a tread pattern that helps reduce noise while providing controlled, precise handling during high-speed driving. Special attention was given to the contact patch to ensure pressure is evenly distributed for consistent traction and braking. There are also circumferential grooves that both resist hydroplaning and improve stopping distance when roads are wet. There is no treadwear warranty for this Yokohama high-performance tire.
These Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 snow tires are widely recognized as some of the best you can buy and they come at a surprisingly affordable price. They receive top marks for performance on wet, dry and snowy roads with the three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMSF) symbol for severe snow service. Designed for cars, minivans and crossovers, this snow tire can handle extreme cold and snow and features winter wear bars to help show drivers when the tread is getting too low for optimum winter performance.
There's a tread pattern with block edges designed to grip in the snow with a greater contact area. It uses a special compound that removes the water that often sits on top of ice, which helps the contact patch find better grip, so you won't slip. There's also silica in the compound to further improve grip on both snow and ice. There is no treadwear warranty for this Bridgestone Blizzak winter tire.
This studdable winter tire from Firestone is designed for crossovers, minivans, light trucks and SUVs. The Winterforce 2 UV provides great traction on wet, dry and snowy roads. The three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMSF) symbol on the sidewall to indicates that it's rated for severe snow service. It also gets high marks for treadwear and delivers a comfortable ride.
The compound of this Firestone snow tire is formulated specifically for cold weather to remain flexible rather than becoming hard. Its tread has deep circumferential grooves and open shoulder slots for pulling both water and slush away from the contact patch. The tread also features an intricate pattern with lots of edges to provide the grip you need on snow and ice. There is no treadwear warranty for this Winterforce 2 UV tire.
Comparison of the best cheap tires for 2022
|Best cheap tires overall||General Tire Altimax 365 AW||15-20 inches||$120|
|Best cheap tires overall runner-up||Riken Raptor HR||14-18 inches||$85|
|Best cheap SUV tires||BFGoodrich Advantage T/A Sport LT||15-20 inches||$139|
|Best cheap SUV tires runner-up||Kumho Crugen HP71||16-20, 22 inches||$150|
|Best cheap truck tires||Kumho Crugen HT51||15-22 inches||$145|
|Best cheap truck tires runner-up||Michelin Defender LTX M/S||15-22 inches||$146|
|Best cheap tires for rain||Yokohama Avid Ascend GT||15-20 inches||$112|
|Best cheap tires for snow||Firestone WeatherGrip||15-19 inches||$136|
|Best cheap long-lasting tires||Hankook Kinergy ST||13-18 inches||$80|
|Best cheap summer tires||Continental ExtremeContact Sport||15-20 inches||$144|
|Best cheap high-performance tires||Yokohama Advan Fleva V701||15-19 inches||$120|
|Best cheap winter tires||Bridgestone Blizzak WS90||14-19 inches||$96|
|Best cheap winter SUV tires||Firestone Winterforce 2 UV||16-18 inches||$115|
What to know about cheap tires
Tires are expensive and they can be tough to afford when your budget it tight. Does buying a cheap tire mean you're getting a bad tire? Not necessarily.
"Tire technology requires compromise -- gain here, lose there. To eliminate compromise, it takes expense, and very experienced engineers and designers cost money," said TJ Campbell, tire information and testing manager at Tire Rack. "Inexpensive tires typically don't perform at a high level across the board. They may excel in one area but be bad in another."
That makes it even more important to determine exactly what your priorities are in a tire and to find a tire that does well in those areas, whether that means snow, wet roads or a long tread life. While there are some very cheap no-name tires, we don't recommend that route since their performance can be questionable.
Campbell said, "Look for a subsidiary of a bigger manufacturer." This might require some research on your part, but the information is out there if you see a brand you don't recognize and want to be sure of its reputation. "Also look for trusted third-party testing, not just testing from the manufacturer," he added.
He also advised checking the scale used in any comparison graphs and to make sure there are brand names listed. "Look for a name, not just Competitor A or Competitor B," he said. Otherwise, they could merely be telling you they perform better than another brand that's horrible, which means the tire you're considering isn't that great either.
Types of car tires
All tires are divided into several categories. It seems like a lot to figure out, but it's all designed to help you get the best tire for how you drive your car.
- Touring: This is a good all-around tire suited to most cars. It provides a smooth ride with a nice balance of comfort and traction.
- Grand touring: These tires put a higher priority on reduced noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) to deliver an even smoother, quieter ride. They also come at a higher price.
- High performance: Designed for a wide range of performance vehicles, high performance (HP) tires provide the stability and traction required to maintain traction during more spirited driving.
- Ultra-high performance: Similar to a high-performance tire, but with an even stronger focus on high-speed driving and often larger available sizes. You may see this described as a UHP tire.
- Highway: A highway tire delivers a well-mannered ride that focuses on passenger comfort during highway driving, much like a grand touring tire. It also makes high-speed traction and cornering a priority. These often include H/T in their description.
- Summer: A summer tire is designed to provide peak performance during hot dry weather. It has compounds formulated for higher temperatures, so it won't get too soft in the heat and suffer premature treadwear.
- Winter: Best when temperatures are below 40 degrees or in significant snow, winter tire compounds won't get stiff or brittle in the cold. Look for the three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMSF) symbol to ensure you have a tire rated for severe winter weather.
- Off-road: Off-road tires are at their best on rugged terrain. Terrain tires have deep tread patterns that often extend up onto the sidewall for added protection against sticks and sharp rocks that can puncture those sidewalls. The downside is they aren't as quiet or comfortable for passengers. You may see an A/T for all-terrain included in the names of these tires.
- Run-flat tires: A run-flat tire is designed to remain inflated for a short time even when it's punctured. That doesn't mean that it can run forever, but it should be able to go long enough to find a place to repair or replace the tire. These tires include RFT in the name to indicate that they are run flats.
Reading a tire sidewall
The sidewall provides specific information about a tire. There's a method to the madness so once you know the formula, you can read the sidewall on any tire and know exactly what kind of tire is on your vehicle. Let's break down the basics.
Example: P 225/50 R 17 98 H
- Tire class: P stands for a P-metric or passenger tire. Light truck tires have an LT.
- Width: This number (225) is the width of the tread in millimeters from side to side.
- Aspect ratio: This number indicates the height of the sidewall as a percentage of the width, which is 50% in our example.
- Construction type: The R stands for radial, which is pretty much all you'll see these days.
- Rim diameter: This is the diameter of the wheel that this tire will fit. Our tire fits a 17-inch wheel.
- Load index: Covering a rating range from 70 to 126, this number lets you know how much weight a tire can safely manage and is something you should pay close attention to if you plan to tow or carry a payload in your truck.
- Speed rating: Depending on the letter, your tires may be rated anywhere from 75 mph to 186 mph. An H tire falls in the middle with a rating of 130 mph. Regardless of your tire speed rating, always obey posted speed limits.
Caring for tires
No matter what kind of tires you have, caring for them is key. "One of the most important things you can to do maintain your tires is to keep air pressure at optimal levels as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer," said Ron Henegar, senior product marketing manager at Goodyear. An underinflated tire, whether it's cheap or expensive, will wear prematurely. You may notice uneven spots, wear on the edges of the tire tread or even the whole tread wearing down. Once this happens, the damage cannot be undone and your tire's life is shortened.
You can't just check your tire pressure once and assume it will be good forever. According to Campbell, "Tire pressure drops about 1 psi per month." You're going to need to add a little air to your tires every month or so. The weather can make the change in pressure even greater "Your tire pressure changes 1 psi for every ten degrees the temperature changes," he added. Pay extra attention to your tire pressure as the seasons change and temperatures dramatically rise or fall.
In addition to preventing premature tire wear, proper inflation ensures your car gets optimal fuel efficiency. If you want to do everything you can to reduce your gas budget, then make sure you check your tire inflation and keep it set to the manufacturer's recommendation.
Tire rotation is also a part of tire maintenance. Campbell suggests rotating every 5,000 to 7,500 miles, but you can rotate them sooner. And just because you have new tires doesn't mean tire rotation isn't important. "Being even slightly out of spec has a big effect on new tires," he added. Make the time to get your tires rotated, even when they're new.
As for rotation patterns, this all depends on your vehicle and your tires. It may be front to back, side to side or a mix of the two. Check your owner's manual and follow your manufacturer's tire rotation guidelines.
Proper alignment is also important for keeping your tires maintained. Broken pavement, potholes and off-roading can ruin your alignment. You may feel a vibration in the steering wheel, but not always. Have a professional check your tire alignment regularly, especially if you've been driving on rough surfaces.
When should you replace a tire?
Severe tire damage is cause for tire replacement. Bulges, bald spots, tears or cracking can make a tire fail unexpectedly and cause an accident.
A punctured tire, even if it's a run-flat, is cause for immediate attention. A professional might be able to repair the damage, but that's not always possible. Take the tire for inspection so an expert can tell you if a repair is safe to attempt or if the tire should be replaced.
Worn treads are also cause for replacement. This includes overall treadwear or uneven spots on a tire. Take a good look at your tires to inspect for damage visually or try running your hand around the whole tire. If the tread feels the same, without bald spots or torn areas, then that's a good sign. If the tread is worn to smooth in spots, then it needs to be replaced.
A tread that is too low, even if it's consistent around the tire, is also cause for replacement. There are sometimes wear bars that appear in the tread so you can easily see that it's wearing low and will need replacement soon. Without those wear bars, it's still easy to check to see how much tread is left on your tire. Insert a penny all the way into the tread with Lincoln's head down. If you see the top of his head above the tread, then it's below 2/32 of an inch and should be replaced. This is a recommended minimum for a tire and it's the legal minimum in some states, which will be checked if you have an annual state inspection. While that's the minimum, it's not necessarily a good idea to wait that long.
"Drivers should begin the process of shopping for new tires before their tread wears to these levels," said Henegar. Instead of the penny test, try the quarter test. It's the same process, but you're looking to see if Washington's head is visible. This shows a tread of 4/32 of an inch. While your tires are technically still okay, you should be budgeting for a new set and doing your research.
No matter how well you maintain your tires, they do have an expiration date. As tough as they look, the rubber in your tire degrades over time and eventually becomes unsafe for driving. Ten years from the date of manufacture or six years after a tire is placed into service, it's time for a replacement no matter how many miles you've driven.
Checking your tires is easy, but if you're uncertain, then rely on a professional. They can tell you if your tires are still good or if you need to replace them to ensure your safety.
What makes for a good tire?
Tires maintain traction, which is essential for you to maintain control. There's no one right tire for every car and every driver. Instead, you need to find the right tire for your vehicle and your driving style. Consider whether you go off-road, visit the track or deal with lots of cold and snow every year.
Established brands are a better choice than no-name brands, especially when you're looking for cheap tires. "They have the ability, know-how and skill to make tires that perform at a high level across the board," said Campbell.
The big brands extensively test their tires to ensure they perform as advertised. This includes having the right tread patterns with the right rubber compounds for conditions. They're also continually making advancements in tire design, so you get better tires with a known brand.
When looking for a cheap tire, look for a known brand's less expensive options. If you see a name you don't know, then do a little research. Many big brands have multiple labels, some of which may be more affordable. This can save you money while still providing the security of an established brand name backing your tire.
Do you need to replace all your tires at once?
Never replace only one tire, even if only one is damaged. A new tire will have a thicker tread than the ones already on your vehicle. This can have an adverse impact on handling and cause all your tires to wear unevenly. In rare instances when your tires are new and only one is damaged you may be able to replace a single tire. Have a tire professional evaluate your tires to see if that's possible and heed their advice even if it means buying a new set of tires.
It's best to replace all four tires at once so treadwear is uniform. If your budget is too tight for that expense, even when you choose cheap tires, then replace either the two front tires or two rear tires at the same time. These have similar wear, which reduces issues when mixing old and new tires. Look for the same tires you have in order to get the best match possible.
All-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicles often include manufacturer's recommendations to only replace all four tires at once. In that case, follow those guidelines and replace all your tires at the same time to ensure proper performance.
Written by Nicole Wakelin for CNET.
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Cheap tires FAQs
What are the best cheap tires?
There's no one tire that is the best cheap tire. Instead, it's a matter of finding the best tire that fits your needs. This includes your driving style, the kind of weather in which you drive and your budget. It's also important to look for a brand name rather than one that's completely unknown. Many tire companies have multiple brands with some coming in at a premium price while others are more affordable. Do your research and you'll find a cheap tire that's safe, reliable and perfect for your needs.
What affects the cost of tires?
Behind the scenes there are experts who careful design tread patterns for optimum wear and traction. They also formulate the rubber compounds of a tire for peak performance, often in specific conditions including winter weather. This expertise impacts the cost of a tire as do the tests reputable brands perform to ensure reliability. All this knowledge, testing and attention to design detail impacts the cost of a tire. The size of the tire also raises cost with larger tires and those for SUVs and trucks often costing more.
How can you identify a quality tire?
You can't simply look at a tire and tell if it's a good tire or a low-quality one. Instead, you need to look at the company that made the tire. We recommend always going with an established brand along with purchasing your tire from a reputable company. This way, you know that the tire you're getting is more likely to perform as advertised rather than a knockoff with questionable standards. It's also important to check consumer and expert reviews of the tire you are considering.
Is it cheaper to order a tire online?
It may be cheaper to order your tires online, but that's not always the case. If you want cheap tires and every penny counts, then you need to shop around. Look at multiple sites and inquire with local tire retailers to see what kind of offers they may have available. Sale prices and special deals constantly change, so if you check for pricing and then wait a few weeks, it's a good idea to check again to see if the best deal is at someplace near you that'll include installation costs instead of buying cheap tires online.
What is the cheapest tire website?
There are multiple websites that offer good pricing on tires online with a range of sales, deals and closeout offers depending on the site and its inventory. Tire Rack, Discount Tire, SimpleTire and Priority Tire are three good places to start, but the more you search, the better the chance of finding a good deal. Include the tire manufacturers in your searches as they may have good deals or rebates not available elsewhere. The key is to shop around to find the best price on cheap tires.