tires

The table below shows prices our undercover shoppers were quoted by a sampling of local tire dealers, including big chains, independents, auto repair shops, new-car dealers, and online sellers, for four specific models/sizes of tires—two for a Ford Explorer and two for a Honda Accord. All of the stores were asked to quote on a set of four tires for each tire model, including mounting, balancing, valve stems, and disposal fees.

The table also reports Checkbook’s price comparison score for each store or chain. These scores show how each store’s prices compared to the average of all stores’ prices for the tires we shopped. We adjusted the scores so that the average of all stores equals $100. A score of $105, for example, means prices averaged five percent higher than the all-store average.

Note that for online-only retailers, which don’t offer installation services, we added an average installation fee ($90) to their prices for each set of tires.

Here’s what our undercover shoppers found:

  • Major price differences. For example, prices for a set of four Michelin Latitude Tour tires for the Ford Explorer ranged from $719 at the Les Schwab Tire Center in Brentwood to $1,279 at the Wheel Works in Oakland—a difference of $560.
  • Among local stores, chains America’s Tire, Skip’s Tire & Auto Center, Les Schwab, Sears, Costco, and Walmart offered low overall prices, but we also found low prices at some independent tire dealers, repair shops, and even new-car dealerships.
  • Not all of the big chains or big-box stores offered low prices. Surveyed stores for Big O Tires, Firestone Complete Auto Care, Pep Boys, Toscalito Tire & Automotive, and Wheel Works quoted prices that ranged from slightly below average to higher than average.
  • Although Costco and Walmart offered low prices, a big advantage to using a conventional tire shop is that selection at the big-box discounters is fairly limited.
  • Online sellers Amazon, OnlineTires.com, and TireRack.com also offered consistently low prices—with incomparable selection. These retailers will ship tires to your home or to a local shop for installation. (On our price table, we added an average installation fee of $90 to the online sellers’ prices.) Among the online sellers, we found that Amazon’s prices were the lowest—about four percent lower than prices offered by OnlineTires.com and seven percent lower than TireRack.com’s.
  • Stores that had low prices for one tire model tended to be competitive for others, but you can’t count on that. Some stores quoted low prices for one tire model but average or higher-than-average prices for others.
  • When shopping for price, specify exactly what you want. If you want mounting, balancing, and valve stems to be included, make that clear. And because there are so many tire models, many with very similar names and specifications, cite the tire model precisely, preferably by the parts number.
  • Stores tend to specialize in certain brands, order some upon request, and refuse to handle others. They are likely to offer their best prices for their specialties. Indeed, some of the stores we shopped would probably have looked better if we had shopped for other brands.

Illustrative Tire Prices

Prices are for a set of four and include mounting, balancing, and valve stems. For online retailers, which do not offer installation services, we added an average installation fee ($90) to each set of prices.

2014 Ford Explorer 2014 Honda Accord Checkbook's price comparison score
($100 = average)
Michelin Latitude Tour HP (88062) Bridgestone Dueler H/L 400 (133272) BFGoodrich Advantage T/A (02107) Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max (738638571)
America’s Tire
1610 Broadway St, Redwood City, 650-366-4003
$993 $697 $489 $585 $87
Pacific Tire Outlet
100 S Main St, Milpitas, 408-946-6828
$1012 $792   $492 $87
Skip’s Tire & Auto Center
5855 Cottle Rd, San Jose, 408-226-5110
  $760 $484 $580 $87
Amazon.com
888-280-4331
$841 $746 $486 $672 $88
Les Schwab Tire Center
6361 Lone Tree Way, Brentwood, 925-513-3432
$719 $872 $500 $635 $88
America’s Tire
2000 San Ramon Valley Blvd, San Ramon, 925-552-5860
$1017 $801 $489 $585 $91
Marin Honda
2 Shoreline Pkwy, San Rafael, 415-927-0833
$946     $607 $91
Sears
2180 Tully Rd, San Jose, 408-239-1100
    $503 $611 $91
Skip’s Tire & Auto Center
231 Mt Hermon Rd, Scotts Valley, 831-438-0296
$1000 $784 $496 $592 $91
Costco
2201 Senter Rd, San Jose, 408-961-3808
$974 $828 $508   $92
Costco
1900 Davis St, San Leandro, 510-562-6708
$974 $828 $508   $92
OnlineTires.com
877-465-8473
$1034 $705   $642 $92
Cain’s Tire
1531 4th St, San Rafael, 415-453-2942
$952 $792 $552 $616 $93
H & J Tire
160 Bellam Blvd, San Rafael, 415-457-2952
$908 $860 $532 $604 $93
Walmart
2203 Loveridge Rd, Pittsburg, 925-427-2022
$1020 $744 $508 $686 $94
Walmart
301 Ranch Dr, Milpitas, 408-934-0304
$1020 $744 $508 $686 $94
TireRack.com
888-541-1777
$991 $826 $536 $645 $95
Tires Unlimited
3744 Stevens Creek Blvd, San Jose, 408-418-2111
$1059 $823 $535 $591 $95
Bruce’s Tire Service
6144 Industrial Way #A, Livermore, 925-443-8473
$940 $860 $580 $620 $96
DiscountTireDirect.com $1015 $828 $544 $650 $96
Tims Treads
1435 Francisco Blvd E, San Rafael, 415-454-7810
$962 $865 $567 $616 $96
TireBuyer.com
866-961-8668
$1086 $830 $526 $642 $97
Big O Tires
15745 Monterey Rd, Morgan Hill, 408-778-1222
$1000 $952 $496 $652 $98
Big O Tires
2160 S El Camino Real, San Mateo, 650-212-2446
$1000 $952 $496 $652 $98
Diamond Tire Center
1133 E Francisco Blvd #K, San Rafael, 415-459-3808
$1073 $873 $553 $617 $98
Napa Ford Lincoln
570 Soscol Ave, Napa, 707-255-2580
$932 $932 $572 $656 $99
Skip’s Tire & Auto Center
317 1st St, Los Altos, 650-948-5047
$1010 $871   $665 $99
Toscalito Tire & Automotive
668 Irwin St, San Rafael, 415-456-2324
$1036 $880 $604 $600 $99
Certified Tire & Service Center
3935 Alhambra Ave, Martinez, 925-228-8900
$1060 $828 $512 $739 $100
Sam’s Club
1225 Concord Ave, Concord, 916-781-8160
$1103 $848 $592 $619 $100
Toscalito Tire & Automotive
850 Redwood St, Vallejo, 707-643-8271
$1004 $876   $684 $100
Auto Options
1445 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, 510-526-9800
$960 $920 $612 $652 $101
George Oren Tire Specialist
1350 International Blvd, Oakland, 510-534-0575
$1094 $929 $552 $628 $101
Les Schwab Tire Center
36761 Fremont Blvd, Fremont, 510-796-1985
$1084 $895 $535 $680 $101
Five Points Tire Imports
2115 El Camino Real, Redwood City, 650-365-0280
$1150 $944   $598 $102
Pep Boys
1087 Old Country Rd, San Carlos, 650-632-1522
    $585 $657 $102
Pep Boys
170 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, 408-774-0159
    $585 $657 $102
Goodyear Auto Service Center
15498 E 14th St, San Leandro, 510-276-1363
$1180 $960 $580 $592 $103
Wheel Works
1499 Franklin St, San Francisco, 415-614-4308
$956 $896 $632 $712 $103
Firestone Complete Auto Care
3214 Delta Fair Blvd, Antioch, 925-238-7842
$1177 $797 $593 $705 $104
Malugani Tire Center
493 Miller Ave, Mill Valley, 415-388-1800
$1018 $1002 $626 $610 $104
Wheel Works
2359 Harrison St, Oakland, 510-899-5536
$1279 $830 $586 $626 $104
Don’s Tire Service
820 Gilman St, Berkeley, 510-526-0335
$1117 $972 $602 $637 $105
Firestone Complete Auto Care
1895 Tully Rd, San Jose, 408-520-7025
$1249 $797 $593 $705 $105
Frontier Ford
3701 Stevens Creek Blvd, Santa Clara, 408-247-6591
$968 $1004 $608 $692 $105
Lloyd’s Tire Service
303 River St, Santa Cruz, 831-426-4363
  $980 $564 $700 $106
Albany Tire & Automotive Service
742 San Pablo Ave, Albany, 510-525-6427
$1203 $951 $603 $663 $107
Honda Redwood City
601 El Camino Real, Redwood City, 650-364-1011
      $705 $108
Rouse Tire Service
2340 Harrison St, Oakland, 510-834-9938
  $1085   $624 $109
El Cerrito Tires
578 Cleveland Ave, Albany, 510-526-7878
$1106 $982 $662 $698 $110
Larkin Brothers Tire
370 S Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, 415-863-5730
$1247 $987 $603 $687 $110
Livermore Ford Lincoln
2232 & 2266 Kitty Hawk Rd, Livermore, 925-294-7700
$996 $1084 $636 $720 $110
Serramonte Ford
999 Serramonte Blvd, Colma, 650-301-7065
$1028 $1032 $644 $744 $111
All Tire
359 Potrero Ave, San Francisco, 415-626-1557
$1274 $1012 $620 $700 $113
Goodyear Auto Service Center
486 N Winchester Rd, San Jose, 408-246-1171
$1272 $1024 $660 $652 $113
Paul’s Battery & Tire
4620 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, 415-221-9100
$1215 $959 $679 $739 $114
Redwood General Tire Pro
1630 Broadway St, Redwood City, 650-369-0351
$1263 $1075 $631 $723 $116
Honda of Stevens Creek
4590 Stevens Creek Blvd, San Jose, 408-247-2550
      $856 $131