How Long Do Car Tires Last? Knowing When to Change Them

How Long Do Car Tires Last? Knowing When to Change Them

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Many different components are essential to your vehicle accelerating, handling, braking, and achieving good fuel economy.

The engine provides power for moving the car forward or backward, and the brakes help it come to a stop. The suspension absorbs bumps in the road, and the fuel injection system meters out a precise amount of gasoline, optimizing your miles per gallon.

But the tires are what interact with the highway surface and play a significant part in many aspects of road manners, like ride quality, traction, and fuel economy.

Like many parts of a vehicle, tires are subject to wear and tear and need replacement after a certain number of miles driven or passage of time since installation. 

How many miles do tires last? When is it time for tire replacement?

Let's look at the subject of when to replace tires and what to pay attention to as the miles add up.

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Different types of cars tires

Similar to the different categories of shoes for everyday walking, running, or hiking, many types of tires exist for varying conditions and driving styles. 

All-season tires, or touring tires, have all-around performance for just about anything you may encounter on the road. While all-season tires don't work exceptionally well in any one condition, they offer good performance whether driving in rain, snow, or just cruising on country roads. Touring tires also provide exemplary ride quality, lessening fatigue on long trips and helping to absorb bumps and potholes. And with their excellent treadwear ratings, all-season tires last for many years before needing replacement. 

Summer tires, or high-performance tires, are for those seeking the highest levels of grip and precise handling during warm weather months. Performance tires use a rubber compound designed for gripping pavement, hugging corners, and traction during acceleration. But when cold weather rolls around or snow and ice appear, summer tires lose grip and may be unsafe. Because performance tires use a sticky formulation, they tend to have lower treadwear ratings and need more frequent replacement than all-season tires. 

If you live in a climate with cold weather and ice or snow, winter tires offer increased traction and safety during hazardous road conditions. Winter tires use soft rubber that retains flexibility even when temperatures drop and use extra grooves and "siping" for handling snow and ice. Winter tires may be used year-round but can lead to increased stopping distances and sloppy handling. A typical practice is using a set of winter tires for four seasons of snow and ice, although some brands may last longer. 

Off-road tires, or all-terrain tires, are for the drivers of SUVs and trucks looking to explore off of the beaten path. With deeply grooved treads and thick sidewalls, off-road tires dig into dirt and mud, helping your vehicle tackle the most challenging conditions. However, off-road tires aren't the best for on-road handling, accelerating, and stopping with tall sidewalls and thick treads. And with their chunky blocks of soft rubber tread, they may wear out quicker than the average tire. 

Although some are road-legal, competition tires are for race tracks or other specialized events like autocross. Often using a flat surface using no tread, competition tires vary in composition to enhance grip during high-performance driving. With their slick surface resembling that found on a race car, competition tires are a serious piece of driving equipment. Due to their focused intention, competition tires tend to wear out quickly. 

One great way to save on wear-and-tear items like tires is opting to buy a used car instead of a new one because buying used can save you thousands. But where can you go for not only a great price but also a quality vehicle? Shift's certified mechanics perform extensive 150-point inspections on every car and have complete vehicle history reports, so you know your used car feels as good as new. Whether you want a muscle car for weekend drives or an SUV for winter roads, Shift has what you need.

How much is a new tire?

With so many different tires and sizes, pricing covers a wide range.

The cost for tire replacement depends on the type of vehicle you drive, the type of tire, and the size. 

For example, according to Consumer Reports, the current average price of a new tire according to vehicle type is:

  • Wagon/hatchback/sedan $137
  • Pickup truck $187
  • Coupe $170
  • SUV $162
  • Minivan $137

How long should tires last?

Just like a gallon of milk from the grocery store or a loaf of your favorite bread, a car’s tires expire after some time.

Many tire manufacturers recommend inspecting or replacing your tires once they reach six years of age and definitely exchanging them for new ones after 10 years, no matter how much tread remains.

That's because, as time passes, the materials making up tires degrade due to several factors like humidity, heat, oxidation, and more. Even if a set of tires sit in storage for years, never mounted on wheels and driven on the road, they'll still experience degradation over time, like dry rot. 

If you're unsure of tire age, you can find it by looking at the U.S. Department of Transportation's Tire Identification Number (TIN) on the tire’s sidewall. Composed of 15 alphanumeric characters, the DOT TIN may be a little confusing to decipher. But the part of the TIN you want to pay attention to is the last four digits. These numbers indicate the week and year of manufacture. So if the last four digits of a tire's TIN are 3518, they were manufactured in the 35th week of 2018. 

However, tires made before the year 2000 use a single digit to indicate the year of manufacture. So a tire from that era with a TIN ending in nine could be from 1999, 1989, 1979, or older.

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How many miles do tires last?

Inspecting tire tread is a simpler process than monitoring tire age.

The generally accepted tread depth indicating the need for replacement is 2/32 of an inch. 

But not all tires are the same, with different performance categories wearing out quicker than others.

A high-performance summer tire designed to stick to the streets for maximum traction may have a tread life of only 15,000 miles. But an all-season tire intended for years of reliable travel could last as long as 80,000 miles. 

You can also check a car’s tires' tread to see how close they are to the wear indicators. Manufacturers mold wear bars between the tread to alert drivers that it's time to replace the tire, too.

Proper maintenance, which can prolong the life of your tires, includes:

  • Inflating them to the recommended air pressure.
  • Performing regular tire rotations.
  • Have your car balanced and aligned periodically.

With cars having so many components subject to wear and tear, like the tires, brakes, and wipers, you'll want to purchase a pre-owned vehicle that'll stand the test of time. With Shift's best-in-industry service contracts, you know your new-to-you car's good to go, mile after mile. With a Shift Vehicle Protection plan, not only are essential components covered, but you receive roadside assistance if you run into trouble. So if you’re on a long road trip, you’ll have peace of mind knowing help is just a toll-free phone call away.

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Shift Editorial Team