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Posts Tagged ‘costco’
By Daddy Clay Thursday, May 8th, 2008
I suspect that there are a number of Americans that would rather buy a new car than a new set of tires. Buying tires may be the most arcane, arbitrary, and opaque of all major purchases in the American consumerist universe. What is worse than buying tires? Dentistry? Is there anything that involves more secret codes, more rating systems, more shibboleths and buzzwords that getting a set of radials for the minivan? International arbitrage is a cinch by comparison.
The reason I have to buy new tires is that I pay off my minivan in two weeks. That’s just how it works. Pay off the note after five years, then immediately get slammed with new tires, bad oxygen sensor, need for transmission fluid change and oil change. At least a grand, all told. Could I please just keep paying for the car a little longer instead? You can keep the title. I could just go to Costco and be done with it. Just take what tires I get.
But I refuse to be bested by this thing. It’s the information age. So I crank up the Google machine and: 1) Consult How Things Work to learn about tires and all those numbers 2) Go to Consumer reports to figure out what tires they rate the highest 3) Go to Costco.com to learn that my 2003 Mazda MPV has exotic tires that they don’t carry (same with Walmart) 4) Consult NTB, Discount Tire, Goodyear, and Firestone 5) Get really depressed Because it turns out that, in addition to being difficult to understand and evaluate, tires are incredibly expensive. This may have to do with the price of oil, or may be a function of the system described above. My initial study leads me to believe that if I want to replace my tires with anything like the original Dunlops, I’m in for a bill from $800-$900. Now, I could go cheap. There is a rubber ocean out there. The problem with this is that Consumer reports only rates expensive tires. If I want something off brand, or cheaper, then it’s up to me to understand the interlocking rating systems (H vs T speed rated, Uniform Tire Quality Grading, whatever). The prospect of being defenseless and information-free in the face of a tire salesman makes me queasy. And even cheap tires are going to be $450, installed.
And then I think of my kids. Do I really want cheap tires? Isn’t this a fairly important component? Braking, wet performance, where the rubber meets the road, etc. I finally decide. I want Goodyear Triple Treads. I call the Goodyear guy and get quoted $875 installed. I decide I do not want Goodyear Triple Treads. I want Michelin Hydroedges.
At this point I decide that all the big chains are trying to price gouge me and I resolve to go local. I search all the local search sites. One shop rise above all the rest, with consumer raves all over the web — a father/son spot. I resolve to go local. I call. I get the son. I tell him Michelin Hydroedge. He laughs. “On a minivan? On some crappy minivan? You, really…Dude, if I was you, I would slap some cheap-ass Toyos on that an be done. It’s a minivan, right? Who cares? Like you need good tires on a minivan.” And on like that. But if I really want those Michelins, $800 out the door.
Let me be perfectly clear: I love my minivan. I think my minivan rocks. The “it’s only a minivan” argument doesn’t really work so well with me. So I ditch my “buy local” thing, go back to the internet, spend about a hundred hours researching tires, stores, prices. Finally, finally, I settle on a discount tire warehouse. Time spent obsessing and researching: 12 hours. The following day, I’m picking up some party supplies at Costco. On a lark, I stop in the tire dept. Turns out they special order. Turns out their price is $50 cheaper, and I get a $60 cash card. Turns out that spending hours of research and thinking you can out smart the system and running all over town does not necessarily mean a great return. But I do speak P215/60R17 95H. And I’ll never forget it.