Best Cheap Car Tires
Published on By Jeremy Bender
General Altimax RT Review
(From $63.00 Best)
Best Cheap All-Season Tires. The General Altimax RT offers top value with a UTQGS rating of 600-A-B, speed capacity of 118 mph, and a treadwear warranty of 70,000 miles. This all-season tire earns high marks in reviews for overall performance, including in light snow.
This all-season tire offers excellent value for the money, according to General Altimax RT reviews at sites such as Walmart. Drivers who posted reviews of General Altimax RT tires at Tread Depot are likewise impressed, commenting on their quiet, soft ride. According to one post, the Altimax RT holds the road better than any other tire the driver has used, even in the rain; elsewhere users say the tire performs well in all types of winter driving conditions. Some drivers demur, however, saying performance in slush, snow, and ice aren't the tire's strong points. Overall, though, reviewers award it high marks for comfort and for the control drivers experience on both wet and dry roadways.
The General Altimax RT (starting at $63, Amazon) features a UTQGS rating of 600-A-B (tread wear = 600, traction = A, temperature resistance = B). The manufacturer offers a treadwear warranty of 70,000 miles, and a self-described conservative driver who posted a review on a consumer products testing site says the tires are still going strong after almost 80,000 miles. The speed capacity is rated T, or 118 mph. In addition, this tire comes equipped with a replacement monitor that indicates when the tire's tread has worn down and a Visual Alignment Indicator to help identify when the tires should be realigned to better extend the tread life.
The General Altimax RT receives high praise from users as an all-season tire despite some assertions that it could do better in winter weather. While this may not be the best all-season option for drivers in regions where snow, ice, and cold bear down for months, it's an excellent choice for moderate climates and for drivers who switch to snow tires during the winter.
Where to buy
General Altimax Arctic Review
(From $65.00 Best)
Best Cheap Winter Tires. This is the best winter tire for the price. The Altimax Arctic wins accolades for its handling on snow, ice, and slush; optional studs offer extra grip.
In reviews posted at several sites, drivers laud the General Altimax Arctic winter tire for its traction on ice, in light and packed snow, and on wet, slushy roads. Users who commented at Tire Rack offer up superlatives about traction and grip, the sense of security, and the absence of aimless spinning on slick roads. A resident of New York State with a Saab 9-5 says driving in a few inches of snow is like driving on a clear road. General Altimax Arctic reviews at other sites concur, with posts at Tire Buyer going so far as to call these tires "life savers." A commuter in Chicago said he had these tires installed just before a foot of snow fell and then barreled through without any problems whatsoever.
The General Altimax Arctic (starting at $64, Amazon) is a studdable winter tire for sedans, coupes, sports cars, and family vans. A Honda Accord driver notes that the metal studs provide welcome extra grip on slushy, icy, roads. (Tip: Before adding studs, check state and local regulations.) The maximum speed capacity is 99 mph, denoted by the letter Q.
The General Altimax Arctic seems to have no trouble handling all kinds of winter weather conditions. User reviews indicate that this is a smart buy for consumers on a budget.
Where to buy
Falken Sincera Touring SN211 Review
(From $77.00 Good)
Good Cheap All-Season Tires. Solid handling and quiet ride define Falken Sincera Touring SN211 all-season tires, according to reviews. They boast a UTQGS rating of 720-A-B, maximum speed of 118 mph, and an 80,000-mile tread warranty.
These all-season tires receive high praise in Falken Sincera Touring SN211 reviews. At 1010 Tires, drivers report the Sincera SN211 feels solid and grounded on the road, providing responsive steering on both wet and dry surfaces. One says it makes a world of difference in performance with an SUV and another deems it a better tire than the name brand that came with a Mustang. Several drivers ditto the Mustang owner in Falken Sincera Touring SN211 reviews at Vulcan Tire Sales, saying this model delivers better handling and better cornering and traction as well as a quieter ride than big-name tires it has replaced. A number of reviewers, however, say traction and braking falter on snow and ice. But in a show of trust, 95 percent of reviewers at this site indicate they would buy the product again.
The Falken Sincera Touring SN211 (starting at $77, Amazon) is an all-season tire with a UTQGS rating of 720-A-B (tread wear = 720, traction = A, temperature resistance = B). The manufacturer offers a treadwear warranty of 80,000 miles, although some reviewers are skeptical, suggesting that driving only on straight, flat roads and minimizing braking, would hit that mark. The speed capacity is rated T, or 118 mph. Additional features include specialized indicators to let you know how much tread is left on the tire .
The Falken Sincera Touring SN211 was introduced in 2009 and user response has been very positive. This is a solid all-season tire that performs well on both dry pavement and wet roads.
Where to buy
Michelin X-Ice Xi3 Review
(From $78.00 Good)
Good Cheap Winter Tires. Michelin tires enjoy a solid reputation and the X-Ice Xi3 is a worthy exemplar. It handles well in snow and ice, although performance in loose snow and slush may be a tad messy.
The Michelin X-Ice Xi3 is a studless winter tire that claims a following for its utility on dry and wet roads contrary to the usual limitations of snow tires in these conditions. Most Michelin X-Ice Xi3 reviews at Tire Rack laud the responsiveness on-road and off (as in country mud). Of the four winter tires tested by the review site's experts, the Michelin X-Ice Xi3 scored highest for "road manners" regardless whether the surface was dry or wet. This tire also rates well with reviewers for the quality of the ride, although a few note it can seem a bit loud on the highway.
Many drivers say the X-Ice Xi3 (starting at $72, Amazon) rolls securely over snow; one from North Dakota with a V8 Mustang insists it is among the best tire he has used, adding that the only insurmountable challenge was snow higher than the wheel wells. However, a minority dismiss the X-Ice Xi3's claim to winter-tire capabilities. Over at 1010 Tires, for example, some posts critique its sloppiness in slush and on ice, with one review likening the road feel to having slippery carpets underneath the wheels.
The Michelin X-Ice Xi3 is a studless ice and snow tire for sedans, coupes, and family vans. Its maximum speed capacity is rated T, or 118 mph. It comes with a 40,000-mile treadwear warranty, something you don't often find on a winter tire.
Despite what seem to be some limitations on ice and slush, the X-Ice Xi3 admirably handles packed and deep snow. This is a good choice for drivers in states that restrict the use of metal studs or in regions hit with occasional heavy snowfalls.
Goodyear Wrangler ST Review
(From $73.00 Think Twice)
Don't Bother All-Season Tires. Many reviewers say these all-season tires are unsteady and loud, and others cite slippage on wintry roads. The UTQGS rating is 340-B-B, the maximum speed is 112 mph, and tread-life warranty is unspecified.
Terms such as unsafe, risky, and "scary dangerous" appear in Goodyear Wrangler ST reviews. At Tire Rack, for example, one driver of a Jeep Liberty says these all-season tires feel safe only at low speeds. In other Goodyear Wrangler ST reviews, a Chevrolet Silverado owner worries about driving in the rain and another driver says the slightest slippery patch sends a Jeep Grand Cherokee sliding across the road.
Drivers veer into nearby territory with Goodyear Wrangler ST reviews at 1010 Tires, calling them horrible, garbage, and the loudest they've ever owned. These tires are not suitable for any kind of winter weather, the posts continue, and one driver reports that they fail to scale even the slightest snow-covered incline. Other reviews report blowouts, punctures, flats, and poor treadwear.
Although some reviewers express satisfaction with this tire, many assert they need replacement in short order, thereby eliminating any cost savings from the budget price.
The Goodyear Wrangler ST (starting at $73, Amazon) sometimes comes as original equipment on light trucks and SUVs. Its UTQGS rating is 340-B-B (tread wear = 340, traction = B, temperature resistance = B). It has a speed rating of S, or 112 mph.Given the proliferation of negative reviews posted by drivers, we can only conclude that another all-season tire would be a far better choice.
Hankook Icebear W300 Review
(From $116.00 Think Twice)
The Icebear W300 tire looks promising on paper, but drivers give it mediocre reviews for traction and handling on snow and ice, and for treadwear. There are cheaper and more reliable winter tires out there.
While some drivers are pleased with the performance of Hankook Icebear W300 winter tires, many reviews express disappointment with the traction on ice and in the snow. A Hankook Icebear W300 review at About.com cites an assessment by the Canadian Automobile Protection Association that claims this tire is not "optimized" for roads covered in winter-style precipitation. Reports posted at 1010 Tires seem to corroborate that conclusion, noting problems with road grip when temperatures dip below 15 degrees Fahrenheit, sliding when cornering on snow, and mishaps such as being stranded in deep snow. One driver shares a longing for the car's all-season tires after a post-snowstorm road trip with the Hankook Icebear W300s, and some owners fret that the tread wears out before even reaching 10,000 miles.
Other reviews, however, say traction is just fine regardless of weather conditions and icy hills pose no particular challenge. Hankook Icebear W300 reviews award this tire points for a quiet ride.
Based on user reviews, the Hankook Icebear W300 seems to perform well enough on dry and wet roads, but poorly when faced with the conditions it is meant to vanquish. Dependable performance on ice and snow is exactly what a prospective buyer wants in a winter tire. This model just doesn't cut it.
Where to buy
Car tires may seem like the last place you would want to scrimp and save money. After all, car tires don't exist for their entertainment value; their functionality is vitally important for safe driving. As the old Michelin saying goes, "there's a lot riding on your tires." The allure of a recognizable name often encourages drivers to spend more money on well-established brands such as Goodyear, Firestone, or Michelin. But our reading of reviews found that drivers and experts often give high marks to lesser-known but equally reliable, and certainly cheaper, tires from the likes of General, Cooper and its Mastercraft brand, Falken, Nankang, and Hankook.
Car Tire Basics
Our research identified all-season and winter tires for less than $100 that deliver on handling, longevity, and comfort, not to mention peace of mind. The No. 1 pick is General Altimax RT (starting at $63), which earns kudos for its smooth ride, 70,000-mile treadwear warranty, and road-handling chops in all seasons (but for the most extreme winters). Falken Sincera Touring SN211 (starting at $77), parked in second place, comes with an 80,000-mile tread warranty and also provides a comfortable ride, although users brake their enthusiasm slightly for its handling in snow and wet weather. The Goodyear Wrangler ST (starting at $73) pales in comparison to the top contenders. Its specifications don't measure up and users raise doubts about longevity and reliability.
Tires, of course, are always round and made of rubber but differ from model to model in many respects. In other words, after putting aside quality and value, there is no single right tire. Your choice ultimately depends on the car you drive, the way you drive, the roads you regularly traverse, and where you live -- all factors addressed by, and reflected in, a tire's specifications -- its size, speed tolerance, tread wear, and heat resistance. The up-market Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar G:2 (starting at $288), for example, is a race-inspired, high-performance tire designed to withstand extremely high temperatures generated from racing at top speeds. As superlative as this tire may be, it's likely that the average driver has no need for such capabilities.
To provide the most help to the greatest number of people, our buying guide focuses on the best cheap all-season tires with a complementary section devoted to the best low-cost winter tires. All-season tires are a compromise classification developed to provide reliable handling throughout the year, except in extreme winter weather when their functionality may be hampered. All-season tires are never as good as dedicated winter (or summer) tires, but they have become ubiquitous due to their ease of use and general dependability. Winter tires are, as the name suggests, specifically equipped to provide better traction and steering on roads slick with snow and ice, but their performance falters in warm weather and on dry pavement.
Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table
General Altimax RT Review
UTQG Rating 600-A-B
Tread-wear Warranty 70,000 miles
Speed Rating T (118 mph)
|63||All-season||600-A-B||70,000 miles||T (118 mph)|
Falken Sincera Touring SN211 Review
UTQG Rating 720-A-B
Tread-wear Warranty 80,000 miles
Speed Rating T (118 mph)
|77||All-season||720-A-B||80,000 miles||T (118 mph)|
Michelin X-Ice Xi3 Review
UTQG Rating N/A
Tread-wear Warranty 40,000 miles
Speed Rating T (118 mph)
|78||Winter||N/A||40,000 miles||T (118 mph)|
General Altimax Arctic Review
UTQG Rating N/A
Tread-wear Warranty N/A
Speed Rating Q (99 mph)
|65||Winter||N/A||N/A||Q (99 mph)|
What We Looked For in All-Season Tire Specs
A lot of information is visible on the sidewall of a tire. Unfortunately for the average tire shopper, these critical details are displayed in a code of numbers and letters that stand in for specifications like speed, tire width, height-to-width ratio, maximum tire pressure, maximum load, and treadwear. We'll discuss the most important.
Tire Size.The best cheap all-weather tire for your car is partially predetermined by tire size. Car manufacturers specify the required dimensions, and there's no room to fudge here. Size matters because it affects the car's suspension and handling. Before you shop, find the car's tire placard -- it should be located on the driver-side doorframe or doorjamb. The placard should indicate the proper tire size, how much weight each tire should carry, and the appropriate speed rating. The tire's load index should match or exceed that found on the placard.
Speed Rating.Tires are rated for speed according to a letter system. There are 12 letters, starting at H, then jumping to N and ending at Z, each denoting a maximum miles per hour that the tire can handle without loss of performance. (Oddly, the maximum speed for H -- 130 mph -- places the letter between U and V.) A higher tire speed rating generally suggests better handling, but high-performance tires (rated V, W, Y, or Z) manage higher speeds at the cost of less effective performance in wintry conditions. For the other letters, driving below the rated maximums (which are way above speed limits) should provide a good balance between speed and grip on the road.
Both the General Altimax RT and Falken Sincera Touring SN211 carry a T rating, a very generous maximum sustained speed of 118 mph. These cheap all-season tires are approved for use in both family sedans and vans.
Tire Tread and Longevity.Tire manufacturers provide a rough estimate of how many miles a tire can roll (under optimal conditions) before the tread wears out and the tire needs replacing. Elevation and climate also affect a tire's life expectancy. In general, tread life for standard, all-season tires extends between 40,000 and 100,000 miles; high-performance all-season tires have a shorter lifespan, on the order of 40,000 to 70,000 miles. Pay attention to the tire's estimated life because a slightly pricier model could potentially yield savings by lasting longer than the cheaper alternative.
The best cheap all-season tires on our list fare comparatively well on the longevity scale. The Falken Sincera Touring SN211, our runner-up pick, comes with a treadwear warranty of 80,000 miles. The General Altimax RT, our top pick, is backed by a 70,000-mile warranty. Out in the world, drivers report that both live up to their billing. Goodyear doesn't specify a tread life for the Wrangler ST.
Tires also are assigned a treadwear rating that indicates how many miles the tread should last relative to other tires. For example, the useful life of a tire with a treadwear rating of 300 should be twice that of a tire with a rating of 150. The actual lifespan, however, depends on driving style, climate, and maintenance (are those tires properly inflated?). Falken assigns the Sincera Touring SN211 a rating of 720, which suggests the company has high confidence in its product, and General gives the Altimax RT a rating of 600. The Goodyear Wrangler ST, on the other hand, carries a tire treadwear rating of 340. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), only 8 percent of tires are rated 501 and above.
Uniform Tire Quality Grading System.The NHTSA established the Uniform Tire Quality Grading System (UTQGS) to help consumers evaluate the features of all-season tires. The system comprises three measures of tire quality: treadwear (baseline of 100), traction (scale of AA, A, B, C), and temperature resistance (scale of A, B, C). Grades are determined by the manufacturer based on specific test criteria set by the U.S. Department of Transportation. UTQGS ratings are most helpful for comparing the relative strengths and weaknesses of different all-season tires from the same manufacturer. The General Altimax RT and Falken Sincera Touring SN211 both score well, with UTQGS scores of 600-A-B and 720-A-B, respectively. The Goodyear Wrangler ST presents with 340-B-B.
Car Tire Reviews
When zeroing in on all-season tires for your car, both consumer and expert reviews can tell you a lot about the tires' performance; i.e., the road grip, riding comfort, and overall driver satisfaction. In making our picks, we paid particular attention to review sites that display an average score for the tire across multiple categories. By doing so our conclusions account for drivers whose experience and subsequent assessment might have been skewed due to driver error, such as improperly rotating the tires, failing to keep them fully inflated, and the like.
All-Season Tires Traction.How well a tire grips the road is largely a function of the tread. And tread ultimately has an effect on driver confidence and vehicle performance. Dozens of all-season tire reviews indicate that our top picks provide the traction that drivers can count on.
The General Altimax RT (starting at $63) enjoys a reputation for an excellent grasp of the road, with traction that stands up to dry and water-slicked pavement. The average of dozens of all-season tire reviews at Tire Buyer give the Altimax RT close to top scores for performance on dry and wet roads, traction in light snow, and resistance to hydroplaning. Some drivers also say the tires deftly manage ice, although others assert they slip and are unsuited to harsh winters. Still, there is strong consensus in all-season tire reviews that these are some of the best around.
We also found positive reports for the Falken Sincera Touring SN211 (starting at $77) all-season tire. Reviews at Vulcan Tire Sales assign very high marks for dry traction and wet traction, but slightly lower grades for hydroplane resistance and traction in light snow, and just average scores for traction on ice and packed snow.
By contrast, Goodyear Wrangler ST tires (starting at $73) take plenty of heat in reviews for poor traction on wet roads (especially when covered with snow), and some drivers report difficulty rounding corners even on dry roads. Some all-season tire reviews of the Wrangler ST also claim the tread wears down quickly.
Riding Comfort and Handling.A good marker of buyer satisfaction with a product is repeat purchases. We read many all-season tire reviews that noted drivers previously had used General Altimax RT and Falken Sincera Touring SN11 tires and had already bought, or would in future buy, them again. Part of the appeal, no doubt, are their budget prices. But drivers also say they like the feel of the ride, the handling, and the low noise level, which no doubt up their value quotient.
General Altimax RT tires attract a strong following for a smooth and quiet ride as well as for responsiveness, even in emergency maneuvers. One diesel-car owner says the noise level is so minimal that it's possible to believe you're driving a gasoline-fed vehicle. All-season tire reviews of the Falken Sincera Touring SN211 tout their steering responsiveness and smooth cornering, and place them on par with higher-end tires. This tire also wins points for being incredibly quiet. Passable reviews for riding comfort and noise accrue to Goodyear Wrangler RTs but many disgruntled drivers pan this tire for inadequate traction, which leaves them feeling uneasy about the ride.
Cheap Winter Tires
Winter tires differ from all-season tires in several critical respects. Good all-season tires perform well in a variety of weather conditions, including light snow. Winter (a.k.a. snow) tires, with their deeper and more aggressive tread design, are made for plowing through snow and ice while their rubber compound retains flexibility in very cold temperatures. These virtues come at a price, though: shorter treadwear longevity and less responsiveness (including longer stopping distances) on wet and dry roads. That said, the best cheap winter tires are a worthwhile investment, and arguably indispensible, in regions where snowfall is heavy and prolonged and temperatures sit in frigid territory for days on end. Just remember to swap them out for all-season tires once the weather turns.
Again, a General Altimax tire holds the No. 1 spot on our list of best cheap winter tires. The Altimax Arctic (starting at $65) routinely garners top scores in winter tire reviews for its smooth handling and excellent traction regardless of the challenges posed by winter. Michelin X-Ice Xi3 (starting at $78) is our runner-up choice for winter tires, although we read some reports indicating these tires strain to stop in loose snow. The Hankook Icebear W300 (starting at $116) fails to make the grade owing to user reports of poor traction and limited tread life.
Some winter tires, including the General Altimax Artic, can be installed with studs for extra traction. Recent improvements in tire design, however, have prompted some experts to argue that studs are obsolete. But if studs hold some appeal, be sure to consult local laws -- many states regulate their use.
What We Looked For in Winter Tire Reviews.
For obvious reasons, the most critical factor in choosing a winter tire is traction on snow and ice. Although riding comfort is important, a tire's ability to chomp down on the white stuff while securely grabbing onto the surface deserves heavier weight in the decision-making process.
Winter Weather Traction.Snow, ice, wintry mix, or whatever combination of cold and wet land on the ground, dependable traction is the measure of performance for a winter tire. Reviews at sites such as Tire Buyer are larded with kudos for the General Altimax Arctic's traction on snow and ice, with some drivers asserting it's the best winter tire they have ever purchased. Reviewers also report that the tires have a sturdy feel and the tread is long-lasting.
Drivers likewise commend the Michelin X-Ice Xi3 Tire in online reviews, saying they hold up well in various settings -- that would include city and mountain -- and provide the predictability that drivers crave on wintry roads. Still, a handful of winter tire reviews note minor slips when gripping ice and loose performance when pushing through slush. Tire Rack's expert review hits on similar themes, praising traction on snow and ice and performance on clear roads, but adding that cornering on ice could be improved.
The Hankook Icebear W300, on the other hand, leaves drivers cold. We read positive winter tire reviews at 1010 Tires about handling on dry and wet roads but this performance doesn't compensate for weaknesses in other dimensions, notably its grip on snow-covered roads and its mediocre durability (i.e., tread longevity).