/ Motoring

Tyres: what’s more important to you – saving money or better performance?

EU tyre labels

The only contact your car has with the road are four patches of rubber. But how long do you take choosing which tyres to buy when you need new ones? And do you pay attention to the labels?

Without tyres your car won’t get very far. But how long do you spend picking out which ones to get? And is price your main consideration or do you think about fuel economy ratings, wet grip levels and noise levels that are now published with them?

According to a recent survey across the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy, most tyre buyers don’t pay much attention to the new labelling. They are swayed more by tyre retailers’ recommendations, price and brand loyalty – with performance proving less influential.

Price and popular brands of tyres

But what about you – do you scour our tyre reviews to find the exact ones you want or let the garage pick them for you? Or do you simply choose the cheapest?

The sheer choice of tyres can be baffling. If you drive a typical VW Golf with 17-inch alloy wheels, one popular website currently lists 423 tyres to choose from. Prices range from just £41.70 all the way up to £233.30 per tyre. So for the price of just one high performance unit you could get four budget tyres and have £66.50 change for a new spare and wheel.

Unsurprisingly, the budget tyres don’t perform particularly well in the ratings, scoring an F (A being highest, G being lowest) for fuel economy, an E for wet braking and a noise rating of 72db. You’d think that more expensive tyres would perform better in these tests, but it’s not that simple with one £118 tyre scoring a G, an F and 72db respectively.

Fuel economy versus wet braking

Judging purely on the labels, the top performer scores a B for fuel economy and an A for wet braking. So would that be the one you’d choose?

Call me picky, but I never let a garage choose tyres for my car and read lots of different tyre reviews, so I can be sure they will suit my driving style. I don’t drive to save money, so I consider how well the tyre performs for the price rather than just looking at the price and ignoring performance.

But what about you? Do you see tyres as the key part of your car or an unwanted expense to be dealt with as quickly and cheaply as possible?


I choose tyres for safety performance and stick with the same make and type on the vehicle. Much too important to mess with cheap or unknown brands. Continentals have done well for me in durability on an Espace. Always worth shopping around – initial prices can differ significantly. I haven’t tried it but my sons buy online and have them fitted locally – apparently can save a fair bit.
On a similar tack, one son had his car serviced at a BMW garage but supplied them with the (correct and branded) oil that he bought online much cheaper than the garage would have charged. To my surprise they were quite happy to do this. We olders may have a lot to learn about cutting costs from the youngers!

Nowadays, I tend to replace tyres with the brand and type fitted to the car. I ring two or three local dealers for prices and the nearest one is usually the cheapest and offers a discount for two or more tyres. This dealer often recommends Bridgestone tyres and I once bought a pair because they were in stock and I had a puncture just before going on holiday. They wore rapidly, just as Bridgestone tyres did when I was a motorcyclist in the 70s.

I replace my tyres in good time and don’t wait until they are barely legal. I check the tyre pressures each weekend and inspect them for damage and objects in the tread. The spare gets checked every two or three months.

Brian says:
12 December 2013

My last new car came without any spare wheel at all, it had Contiseals fitted all round, I don’t think I have much choice but to continue with the same tyre.

I read the reviews and choose ones based on 1) Wet braking then 2) Noise then 3) economy.
Always ended up with Continentals.

I’ve gone through a lot of tyres over recent years, due to the extreme mileage I have to do. I’ve tried a few others, but now always buy Michelin Primacy tyres. They have the most longevity on my car, and were the same type that the manufacturer supplied when it was new.

I always order them online, and then once the tyre outlet have them in, I turn up for fitting. This is the cheapest way, as opposed to ringing the garage directly or just turning up. No idea why that makes such a difference, but it’s like 1/3 cheaper. Even booking the tracking online is cheaper, crazy.

Chris E says:
17 December 2013

These EU tyre labels are all very well, but the answers are on the tyres and they have been for years. Unfortunately it’s not in layman’s English and therefore gets overlooked:

See the UTQG ratings, with particular attention paid to the Treadwear:



– for a normal mid-sized car, treadwear above 300 indicates hard tyres, suited to heavier cars. In the mid to high 200s the tyre longevity will suffer, with the upside of increased grip. A trackday tyre, essentially a road-legal racing tyre, will have treadwear of 100 or less.

Michelin traditionally straddle a line on durability and grip with the constituents used to create their tyres, as do other premium brands, and somehow have their cake and eat it, but at a price.

A few years ago I had a set of Avon / Cooper tyres. I’d got given them, and felt obliged to use them up. That particular model had Treadwear >300 on the walls, so I knew what I was getting even before I fitted them. Predictably they offered less reassuring turn-in and the car understeered as a result. I used them in the Summer (higher treadwear rating = harder rubber = warmer tarmac to make them work at their best) and made sure they were on the front of the (front wheel drive) car where they would wear out faster due to the weight.

So when changing tyres, skip the EU labels tedium, research it using base principles and cut out the marketing waffle. None of this is hard, and just by looking at a tyre tread pattern, the sidewalls and the weight if a car, you can develop a far better understanding of what the manufacturer intended to be fitted from the outset and what therefore is a good rule of thumb to follow for replacements.

Nobody in their right mind is interested in tyre noise else Land Rovers and the like would be banished from the roads. Winter tyres have far more cuts in them, and consequently make more noise as a result, but never a mention in the self-serving rush to encourage the motorist to invest in two sets of tyres.

Very informative, thanks for that.
Would be useful if the tyre outlets published this information online for each tyre that they sell.
I’ve just spent quite a while digging around the net trying to find a table or something, it sems to be quite elusive information!

NukeThemAll says:
30 December 2013

My car has ‘energy-saving’ tyres and supposedly they contribute to its low CO2 output and thus zero VED. But what if I don’t like them and decide to replace them with tyres which (in my opinion) offer better wet or dry grip, or less noise, or better life, or…..? (you get the idea). I could even put winter tyres (or ‘all-season’) on and ‘forget’ to switch them. So with my new tyres, my car’s CO2 output increases, and it may no longer qualify for zero VED. In theory. So what’s the legal position?