“things are not the way they used to be when I was a lot younger. I would just expect decent tires on a $19,000 car.”
@cardud–The “good old days” weren’t always so good.
When my father bought his new '66 Galaxie 500, it came equipped with BF Goodrich Silvertown tires, which looked nice but which were totally worn out by 16k miles!
Even as a teenager, I was a bug on car maintenance, and I personally kept the tires properly inflated, and made sure that my father paid for an alignment shortly after he bought the car, so poor maintenance can be ruled out in the case of these prematurely evenly worn-out tires. Those tires–like most OEM tires both then and now–were selected by the car manufacturer mostly because of their low price and their soft ride.
Fast forward to 2010, when I bought my current vehicle, a 2011 Subaru Outback Limited 3.6R. On the Outback.org website, many people were griping about the poor quality of the OEM Continental tires–chiefly because they didn’t seem to “hold” their balance, but there were other complaints as well. I wanted to form my own opinion about the tires, and I decided that they were…okay. Not great, but…okay. Then, I too found out that–unlike any other tires that I ever owned–these Continentals did indeed seem to “lose” their balance, and I wound up having to re-balance them every year.
Finally, even though there was still ~5/32 of tread remaining, I decided to treat myself to a set of Michelin’s new Defender tires, and…What a difference!
In addition to having a smoother ride and better steering response, the Michelin Defenders are quieter and provide a slight boost in gas mileage, as compared to the OEM Continentals. And, in winter conditions, the Michelins provide better traction than the Continentals ever had.
The difference between OEM-quality tires and high-quality replacement tires can be substantial. So can the price differential, but…you get what you pay for, and I have learned to not pinch pennies when it comes to tires.