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Car Buying

Car Tires: What Are The Differences?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro

If you're choosing a new or used vehicle, you might be surprised to learn about all the types of car tires available. It's no longer just "all-seasons" or "winter tires" -- there are now many varieties, and they can serious affect performance and cost. We've examined a few of the more unusual tires you might see on today's cars.

Run-flat tires

Run-flat tires, as their name suggests, allow you to drive even after they're punctured. Of course, there are limitations. One is that the puncture can't be very large. And you can't go very far (usually around 100 miles) or very fast (usually around 55 miles per hour). If you live in a major city with a lot of road debris or in a rural area where flats are common, run-flats might be a good idea. But they have drawbacks, including premature wear and high cost -- sometimes as much as double the price of a normal tire.

Low-rolling-resistance tires

Some automakers advertise the fuel-saving benefits of low-rolling-resistance tires. These tires give less friction when a car is driving. The result is better gas mileage, though the improvement may be small -- in some cases less than one mpg.

Still, as gas prices creep higher, any fuel-economy benefit helps. And low-rolling-resistance tires haven't been demonstrated to offer worse grip or premature wear compared to normal tires.

Performance tires

Performance tires are a reality of many sporty cars. While a normal family sedan can use all-season tires with no problems, a sporty vehicle may require low-profile performance tires for increased grip and roadholding. These tires can sometimes be costly to replace -- but many drivers feel they're worth it for the added performance benefits.

Model-specific tires

Some high-end and sporty cars take performance tires a step further by offering model-specific tires. That's right; certain vehicles come with tires unique to that car's make and model.

It's true that drivers don't have to replace model-specific car tires with the exact tires when it comes time for a replacement set. But choosing a different tire could lessen the car's performance. As a result, we recommend checking to see if the car you're considering includes model-specific tires -- and how much they'll cost to replace -- as it could save you headaches in the future.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
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Car Tires: What Are The Differences?