The price of tires and the price for having them installed has changed dramatically over the last few years as regulations change and the tires and wheels themselves become more complicated. The phasing out in some states (and we predict, eventually the entire nation) of lead wheel weights, the introduction of tire pressure monitoring systems, our apparent never-ending lust for larger rims and the trend of runflat tires becoming more and more common have made some tires more expensive, balancing more complicated (though often more accurate) and installation more time consuming. Because of these changes, the assumptions about what installation costs need to be revised as the process becomes more time consuming and requires more technological expertise from tire techs.
As an example of what to expect, I priced out a set of 15" tires for the family nerdmobile at Tom Lyons Tire, a local tire chain who consistently offers mid-range cost but high quality service. Bear in mind that if you have larger rims, fancier tires like runflats or rims that require a rare tire size, the prices you pay for just about everything will be greater than our little four door.
Here is what having four Bridgestone Ecopias installed on our vehicle with complete service would cost us:
Mounting and Balancing: $60.00
Valve Stems: $12.00
Tire Disposal: $16
Protection Plan: $48.00
Mounting and Balancing:
Expect to pay: $13-$45 dollars per tire industry wide, depending on the size of the tire. Mounting (installing tires on to the rims) and balancing (adding weights to make sure the wheel weighs the same all around.) varies widely for cars, SUVs and light trucks, and is highly dependent on the size of the tire. Some vendors charge by the aspect ratio and others simply by the diameter. Regardless, the larger the rim, the higher the price will be for mounting and balancing because the labor involved is greater and larger wheels generally require more weights.
We’d pay: $15.00 each for mounting and balancing. Our tires are a small, standard size and they are not run flats.
Expect to pay:
Most vehicles prior to 2007: $2.00 to $5.00 each for new standard rubber valve stems. It is good policy to replace rubber valve stems whenever replacing tires, especially in areas with extreme cold or heat conditions or in particularly salty areas.
Vehicles after 2007: $100-$150 per sensor for new TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) sensors. Don’t freak: Unlike standard rubber valve stems, you should not expect to replace TPMS sensors every time you replace your tires. The latest models of TPMS sensors are modular, so in many cases if the rubber or metal gaskets corrode, the small pieces can be replaced without replacing the actual sensor, which is the expensive part of the process.
A side note: If your vehicle has TPMS sensors, that is one reason to be particularly selective that an experienced, qualified tech is working on your vehicle. The reason why is that if your sensor breaks, even if it is the tech’s error, no tire dealer will cover the cost of replacing the sensor, so the cost will fall to you. In the hands of an experienced tire tech changing a sensor is rarely a problem, but in the hands of a novice, rookie or hack, a sensor is an easy thing to break. This is one of the reasons tire installation is a service you don’t necessarily want to contract to the lowest bidder so much as find a competent professional who can stand behind his or her work.
We’d pay: $4.00 each for standard rubber valve stems, except that we have TPMS.
Expect to pay: $2.00 to $6.00 each to dispose of the old tires, which are hazardous waste because they are made of petroleum. The range in cost depends on whether or not you are disposing of them yourself by taking them to the dump for recycling or paying the tire dealer to dispose of them. Or, you could always donate them to a worthy cause.
We’d pay: $4.00 each. With a reputable tire dealer you know that the tires are going to go to a legal hazardous waste facility and will not be dumped somewhere languishing for decades and causing a hazardous waste disposal problem.
Road Hazard Protection Plan:
Expect to pay: Around $50 for a set of four tires. Protection plans vary both in price and coverage. Some plans cover more than others, and like any kind of insurance, the coverage is only as good as the company you buy it from. I tend to be reluctant about protection plans, but as the company in question is local but fairly large tire dealer with an excellent reputation for standing behind their work, I would be willing to take that leap.
We’d pay: $48.00
Expect to pay: $90.00 to around $150 for the most complicated vehicles (Think Mercedes AMG for the top of the price range.)
Yes, you really should get an alignment with those new tires. I realize that the hit to your budget at having to pay out for a set of tires has you scratching your head wondering if you really need an alignment. It definitely adds insult to injury when you are adding up the costs. Consider the long term cost of not getting the alignment when you really need one: a misaligned car burns through tires much faster, meaning you will be right back where you started in as little as half the time you should be. Furthermore, riding on a misaligned car can wear out your suspension faster and makes for an uncomfortable ride. Alignment is a good, safe long term investment. I have seen customers come in needing to replace their tires as early as twelve thousand miles into a set because the alignment was so far off. That was an extreme case, but it is not unusual to see a customer come in with their tires spent at 20,000 miles on tires that should have gone 30,000 to 40,000 miles. It seems like a terrible waste for less than the cost of just one more tire.
We’d pay: $90.00. That is pretty standard for an ordinary passenger car. The higher end of alignments is for vehicles with specific quirky needs.