What is the Difference Between Cheap and Expensive Tires?


A closeup is shown of a snowy tire on a snow-covered road.

When shopping for new tires, it is always tempting to save some money and go with a less expensive option. After all, what is the difference between cheap and expensive tires? Surely you are just paying for the brand name, and one piece of rubber will do just as well as another, right? Well, it turns out that there is actually a lot of advanced engineering that goes into the high-performance tires produced by premium tire manufacturers. Everything from tread design to rubber compounds is the product of intensive work, and an expensive premium tire from a large manufacturer will provide vastly better performance across a broader range of road conditions than a cheap budget tire from an unknown company.

This performance advantage of premium tires can be readily seen in testing and has a real impact on your safety. In one recent test of the braking performance of fifty different tires, the worst performer took some 30 feet more distance to come to a stop on dry pavement than the top performer did. And on wet pavement, that difference grew even larger with the worst-performing tire taking 47 feet more distance to stop. Out on the road, that can easily be the difference between having an accident and a close call, or between totaling your car and having a minor fender bender. No matter how powerful your brakes are or how sophisticated your all-wheel drive system is, your tires are the only connection between your car and the road. And using premium tires will ensure that your car can perform as well as possible should you ever be in a situation where that performance is necessary.

But not only will expensive tires improve your car’s braking and handling, but they will also often have numerous other benefits over cheap tires. These can include reduced road-noise, improved ride quality, longer tread life, and even better gas mileage. It is not at all an exaggeration to say that quality tires can transform a car, giving you a safer and more comfortable driving experience. And while the improved gas mileage and longer tread life of expensive tires may not save you money (although allowing you to avoid an accident certainly will), it will reduce the difference in sticker price between cheap and expensive tires. So the next time you are shopping for a new set of tires, consider spending a bit more on a quality product. You will not just be buying a brand name, but purchasing one of the most important and least expensive improvements, your car can have.

Like anything you buy, the quality and name brand of tires can make a big difference in how much they cost. Typically, the higher the quality, the more the tires will cost. But that doesn’t mean that when you go shopping for discount tires in Cincinnati your only options are to get poor quality tires if you want to save a few bucks. There are many factors that go into the price of tires, and quality is just one of them.

By understanding the different factors that influence the price of tires, you can better evaluate your options to get good tires that are also affordable. Here’s what you need to know about what can make some tires cheap and others expensive:


The durability of the tires is one of the most important factors in determining whether you will get your money’s worth. After all, tires that are more durable will last longer, thereby saving you money on new tires. 

Durability is determined by a number of criteria. If a tire has softer rubber, it will perform better. Unfortunately for drivers, this also means the tread will wear down faster over time. Tires that have harder rubber will last longer.

Tires that are reinforced and that have sturdy sidewalls will also last longer. These are not characteristics that you can see for yourself since the tread covers up the steel frame. You will have to talk to your tire sales person about the construction of the tire and do a little research yourself before you go shopping.


Better quality tires handle better, and that can drive up the price. Yet handling isn’t something you want to compromise on to save a few bucks.

The best tires will improve the handling of your car. They will grip the road better so that the car does not lose control as easily, whether the road is wet or the car is driving at higher speeds. The tires will also take turns better.

With better handling, your car will be safer on the road. You’ll be able to react to emergencies more quickly, and you’ll be able to avoid obstacles and make fast stops.


The thickness and pattern of the tread can sometimes factor into the price. Thicker tread with wider grooves will help your car handle better in snow, ice, rain and mud. However, the thicker tread will also make more noise while you’re driving, which some find distracting.

Summer tires typically have thinner tread for dry driving conditions. The tire drives more quietly, but it doesn’t have as much grip.

Tread is an important consideration for choosing tires that will best meet your driving needs, such as choosing winter tires for icy conditions. Tires with thicker tread may cost a bit more, but tread alone is not typically a big factor for cost.

A closeup is shown of a gloved mechanic holding a discount tire in Cincinnati.

Breaking Distance

A shorter braking distance is preferred since it helps you to react more quickly to obstacles and emergency situations. Each tire has an estimated braking distance. The shorter the braking distance, the more effective the tire is and the more expensive it is likely to be.

Tires aren’t typically designed just to achieve a certain braking distance. Typically, braking distance is just one of the many results of the tire’s overall design.


Tires that have a higher drag will make it harder for your car to work, thereby driving up your fuel consumption. They will put more wear on your car and cost you more money in gas and repairs in the long run. 

Tires with less drag have a sophisticated design and will typically cost a little more. You’ll have to talk to your tire salesman about the drag associated with the tire and how the performance is measured.


Many of the characteristics that help tires perform better also help to improve the comfort of the ride. Higher-quality tires tend to offer a more comfortable driving experience. They are designed to better absorb the bumps and shocks along the road. 

The ride is much smoother with a higher-quality tire. Of course, with that higher quality often comes a higher price tag.


Cheaper tires are often made with less rubber and do not have a very strong construction. These tires tend to be a lot louder while driving, which can be distracting and annoying. Higher-quality tires tend to offer a quieter ride as they are designed for precise performance.

Many other factors can contribute to the noise level of a tire, such as the tread depth. Therefore, you cannot use noise level alone as an indicator of quality.

Name Brand

Like with anything else you buy, choosing a name brand will cost you more money. A name brand typically becomes a name brand because it has developed a reputation for high quality. In most cases, you can trust that buying a name brand will result in you getting a high-quality tire that will give you great performance and will last for many years.

However, the name on the tire isn’t the only thing to consider. There are plenty of discount tires in Cincinnati that are of equal quality to the name brands. These tires just haven’t developed the reputation as the name brands yet. One day, they could become as well known as some of the big names. In the meantime, you can get a great deal on a great tire.

Two tire displays are shown in a Cincinnati tire shop.

Where Tires are Made and Why it Matters

Today, tires are made around the world. One study in 2015 by Consumer Reports tested 72 tires from 21 manufacturers and discovered that they were made in 19 different countries. This finding can be rapidly confirmed by a quick survey of the big-name premium manufacturers, which will reveal that they hail from many countries. For example, Goodyear is American, Michelin is French, Continental is German, and Bridgestone is Japanese. And no matter where they are headquartered, all of the significant manufacturers operate tire factories in multiple countries across the globe. Michelin, for instance, has production lines in no fewer than seventeen different countries, including several here in the United States.

However, this does not mean that where a tire was made plays no part in its quality. While those premium manufacturers are international companies and tires with their names on them are produced around the world, they all are reputable manufacturers that follow industry guidelines and have licensed dealers and often production facilities here in the United States. The same cannot be said of foreign budget tire manufacturers, particularly many of the relatively new Chinese companies. These Chinese tires not only have the poor performance expected of all budget tires, but they also tend to have poor quality control and lack warranties. This leaves you with no assurances that the tires you are purchasing actually meet any standards for durability or performance or if they will quickly fall apart after limited use. Some of the most notorious Chinese tire companies to avoid are Westfield, Telluride, Compass, and AKS tires.

But overall, tire quality is determined more by market segment than by manufacturer location, and there are plenty of budget tires made by large American, Japanese, and European manufacturers. While these budget tires are much safer and more reliable than the cheap Chinese tires, they will still not perform as well as the more expensive high-performance tires. This is simply because building the top performing tires requires premium materials and expensive engineering. If you want the best, then you will have to pay more for it.

Tire Warranty

Tires are a wear item and have to be replaced regularly to maintain their peak performance. But occasionally, a tire will fail sooner than expected and leave you with an unexpected bill. This could be the result of actual damage while driving or merely the product of poor quality control on the manufacturer’s part. However, if you bought tires made by a reputable manufacturer, then you will likely have access to warranty coverage that will reimburse you for some or all of the cost of the replacement tire. And you can also often purchase additional coverage from the shop that installed your tires.

The most common type of tire warranty is a tread life warranty. All road tires from major brands come with a factory rating for tread life measured in thousands of miles. If you do not manage to reach that mileage rating before your tires have been worn out, then the manufacturer will recompense you the difference. For instance, if you buy a $100 tire rated for 100,000 miles, but it needs to be replaced after only 50,000 miles (half the estimated mileage), then you will get $50 back (half the cost of the tire). However, it should be remembered that this warranty will only be honored if you properly maintain your tires. This means keeping your car in alignment and following your car’s maintenance guidelines for tire rotation intervals. Manufacturers also do not typically offer tread life warranties for specialty tires that are easily damaged, including winter tires and off-road tires. However, Michelin winter tires are one exception to this rule and do come with a tread life warranty.

The second type of tire warranty is a road hazard warranty, which will cover any tire damage sustained while driving. This includes damage from events such as hitting a pothole or debris in the road. Unlike tread life warranties, road hazard warranties are generally offered by the shop that installed the tires rather than by the tire manufacturer. This will often be an option that must be paid for separately from the tires themselves. But there are exceptions to this rule. Bridgestone and Continental, for instance, both offer manufacturer road hazard warranties on some of their products. So if you feel that this type of warranty is important, some research will likely reveal a tire that suits your needs with a manufacturer road hazard warranty. However, be aware that manufacturer road hazard warranties are generally quite limited and will usually only cover damage sustained during the first year of the tire’s life.

When you are shopping for discount tires in Cincinnati, it is important that you go to a trusted provider with a good reputation in the community. You can rely on the experience and leadership of the shop to provide the information you need to evaluate your tire choices. You’ll be able to find the best tire for your car and your driving needs, while also making the right selections for your budget. Visit us today to explore our selection of quality yet affordable tires and get the performance you need for your vehicle.