How do I choose a good tire?

I need new tires for my Pontiac Aztek. I usually just let the tire store pick them out for me. However, after reading (often conflicting) tire reviews I am stumped as to how to choose a good tire. Can anyone offer a suggestion?

Read different reviews from different sources. Don’t take just ONE source as bible…

Personally, I would look at to find tires that fit your vehicle - look for ones with high test ratings and then look at the individual reviews for those tires to see if someone has used them on your particular vehicle. What constitutes a good tire on one vehicle does not necessarily constitute a good tire on a different vehicle.

That said, good luck finding other Aztek owners’ reviews. That isn’t a large crowd to look for… my Taurus and Camry, on the other hand, tend to give me a lot of fellow owners providing reviews so I can see what works well on those vehicles… and both have pretty good consumer feedback sections. Beyond looking at those and going to the tire atore with a few optional selections, there really is no way.

A few suggestions I have are
(1) avoid tire stores that won’t let you watch them work. They seem to have a tendency to do unauthorized things and/or say “your car needs XXX” and not allowing you into the shop to verify the need. A quick look-see of the condition of the suspension and steering components is normal and good, but honest shops will let you watch.

(2) if they suggest an alignment and you haven’t had one for a while, go for it. Like all work, they should let you watch.

(3) make sure they do a good job balancing the tires. If the tires have dots painted on the sidewllas they should be “indexed”, which means properly orienting the dots. has a good primer on this subject. After installing the weights, they should respin and verify the balance. I’ve seen some skip this step.

If you drive away and your car has new vibrations, go immediately back.

New tires will occasionaly have a defect. Any good shop should be able to verify the defect and will replace the tire without argument.

One more place to look is Consumer Reports, they do tire reviews. Don’t lose a lot of sleep over this, there are dozens of tires available, and most of them are at least OK, many are good.

I’m afraid your “dots” comment makes little or no sense. Orienting the “dots” to what? Are you sure you are not misunderstanding the DOT load index?

1st consideration; what do you think about the tires on the vehicle now? Did they wear well? Handle well? Was there excessive tire noise? How did they handle wet roads? Snowy roads? If you are happy with the current tires it might be best to replace them with like tires. If not, what were the shortfalls?

Most tires are pretty decent, but for folks who demand a quiet ride some tires might be too noisey. For some folks the good tire is one that last over 60K miles. For others it must do well in snow. It is hard to recommend a good tire, because good for me might be awful for you.

In my opinion Kumho makes a great line of inexpensive tires. If you can afford Michelin tires you will likely be happy with them, they last, handle, and generally have few defects. Michelin’s balance up and run smoothly until worn out. Toyo tires are almost as good as Michelin and generally costs less. Personally I’ve had too many bad experiences with Continental tires, so no more of them for me. I like Dunlup and Cooper too, but haven’t run those brands in recent years.

I have Bridgestones on a full sized SUV that have done better than I expected in winter conditions. I’ll probably get another set of them even though some other tires might wear longer. That way I won’t have to switch to winter tires and back every year. If I try a different tire on the SUV and it is bad in snow then I’ll be unhappy. In this case I’ll stick with a known good tire for me and the vehicle rather than experiment at replacement time.

No tyre is 100% balanced. The dots indicate where the errors are so they can be mounted on a rim to minimize the original misballance.

And to followup on that:

The “dots” sometimes indicate the radial high point of the tire just as the valve hole in the rim sometimes indicates the radial low point of the rim. Not all tire manufacturers use dots. Not all wheel manufacturers do the “valve hole” thing.

But if they both do, then the result is a “rounder” assembly.

Most shops, or at least the better ones, use a Hunter road force balancing machine which measures the actual high and low point of both the tire and the wheel, instructing the installer where and how much balancing weights to use, and/or to remount the tire if necessary. I have never seen these dots or read any reference to them.

Let me add to the great advice. If money is a concern, just trying to buy a top rated tire may not be what you want to do. Decide upon performance in each category with price in mind. A lower rated tire with trade offs you can accept (like road noise) may be a better bargain. The higher price tires (sometimes twice as much) just give you fewer trade offs.

IMHO for myself, if a tire is quiet, handles rain well and has winter capability it is excellent.

The truth is 90% of the time you drive any old tire from bottom of barrel to top tier work very well unless very noisy. It is those 10% times that separates tires from one another.

Al, I suggest you visit for a good primer on the dots and the subject of indexing, as well as other good information on tires.

Looked, didn’t see it, still don’t. I actually know quite a bit about tires, but had not run across this topic at any point.

Thanks to everyone that replied. The discussions and suggestions are very helpful!