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When I bought my car, I did a lot of research beforehand, reading all the reviews, etc. My sister has the same car (a Toyota Matrix), and her only complaint was that it wasn't great in the snow. This worried me until I saw that one of the car review magazines said you should buy a model with the 17" wheels, which have better traction than the standard 16" wheels.

So I dutifully plunked down the extra cash for a model that came with 17" wheels, which also came with a lot of options I didn't need or want, such as electric windows, a sun roof, wheel locks, etc.

Then winter came, and I learned to my amazement that snow tires are not made to fit my 17" wheels. Snow tires are required here in Québec, but I would use them even if they weren't required: all-season tires lose their grip when it gets cold. I had to buy new 16" rims and snow tires to go on them (at first I thought this would affect the accuracy of my speedometer and odometer, but it turns out the wheel-and-tire combination is the same radius).

After about six years my original tires for the 17" rims were worn and starting to develop leaks, so I decided to replace them. They had to be special ordered, and the four tires together cost about $900. And one of the new ones appears to not have sealed correctly on the rim and has a slow leak.

So my frugality lesson out of all this is: avoid non-standard wheels and tires for your car. I'm going to switch to my 16" rims and just have the tires changed on those rims every season; I'll see if I can sell my 17" wheels and the new tires. Ugh!
 

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Actually brad a lot of people have two sets of rims and tires. The nicer rims get the summer (aka "all season") tires and the uglier rims (usually crappy tire steel black ones) get the bridgestone blizzak tires. It's cheaper and easier to swap out the entire rim rather than swap the tires and have to deal with bead sealer etc. I fussed with changing tires off one set of rims for years and if I had to do it again and was in your shoes, I would keep the extra rims you have now. If you're careful about where you buy the tires from, some places will even store your off-season wheels in their facility for you. But you need to ask about this in advance, not many places do it.

There is no substitute for good winter tires.
 

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After about six years my original tires for the 17" rims were worn and starting to develop leaks, so I decided to replace them. They had to be special ordered, and the four tires together cost about $900. And one of the new ones appears to not have sealed correctly on the rim and has a slow leak.
Brad, did you explore buying tires in the US? I've heard from many people who saved a bundle by buying them in the US. Can't recall how much they said they saved. Also, can't recall if the savings accounted for the costs involved (apart from time) in driving down.
 

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If they are leaking, bring them back to the shop that installed them. They will fix it.

But the other point is: low profile tires are expensive, and mostly a vanity thing. They may perform slightly better, but cars work just fine with normal tires.
 

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I've always had a 2nd set of cheap steel rims for the winter tires. Probably $200 for a set?

As mentioned, it's cheaper and easier to keep all your tires on their own rims. I switch mine myself twice a year - it's good exercise. :)
 

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It's much better to have a second set of rims for the winter. It saves having to mount, seal and balance tires twice a year (and going back to have them resealed when they don't)

I use 16x6.5" wider, lighter alloy rims in the summer, and 16x5.5" steel rims in the winter

If I were you I would just keep the 17"s since you already bought and mounted new tires. If you ever sell the vehicle, most people prefer to see original alloy rims rather than hub caps or aftermarket rims

The states is cheap for tires. I always buy used tires because so many people sell barely used tires for dirt cheap - going on my 3rd year on $50 winter Toyos and 2nd year on $100 used sporty Kumhos
 

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Discussion Starter #8
If I were you I would just keep the 17"s since you already bought and mounted new tires. If you ever sell the vehicle, most people prefer to see original alloy rims rather than hub caps or aftermarket rims
Well, the car's five years old now and I'll probably keep it another five years at least, so maybe I will stick with the 17" rims for now and then when these tires wear out I'll see about buying a new set of 16" rims at that point so I can buy cheaper tires. By the time I'm ready to sell this car, it'll be so old that nobody who would buy it would be concerned about aesthetics!

And yes, once I find time I will bring it back to have that one tire looked at; it's a slow leak but it's losing about 0.5 psi per day. I only drive it once every week or two, so I have to pump up the tire before every trip.
 

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But the other point is: low profile tires are expensive, and mostly a vanity thing. They may perform slightly better, but cars work just fine with normal tires.
They perform better if you have a sports car that would overpower or crunch the sidewall of lesser tires

For most cars they actually reduce power to the ground (more rotating mass, more torque required) and make a hella rough ride.

I shake my head at kids with 18" rims on their "performance" civics. Stock rims are generally well suited for the vehicle
 

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17" are not "non-standard" tires. They are more expensive than 16" but a lot of the costs also depends on the other dimensions or characteristics of the tires. There are three numbers in a tire spec and they all mean something. Tires also have a speed rating which also impacts their price. The $900 you spent on the 17" tires may have cost $870 for the 16" version or possibly $750 or somewhere in between. If cost was a concern, you could have gone with a cheaper brand. Again, it depends on the total size of the tire, the tire spec, the brand of tires, where you purchased them from, etc. I am not sure you would have saved all that much.

BUT, it is much cheaper when changing tires from summer to winter to change tires that are already on rims. If you switch to go with your 16" rims all year, you will pay more to the mechanic twice a year. Because it takes longer (with greater chance of leaks) if the mechanic needs to physicially remove the tire from the rim and put the new one on the rim.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
The $900 you spent on the 17" tires may have cost $870 for the 16" version or possibly $750 or somewhere in between.
The four snow tires I bought for my 16" rims cost $450 new. But that was a few years ago -- I have to buy new snows this year (for my 16" rims) so we'll see how much they go for.

BUT, it is much cheaper when changing tires from summer to winter to change tires that are already on rims.
Yep, I understand. It only costs $26 to have my four tires changed when they're on the rims, which is so cheap that it's not even worth doing it myself, especially since I don't have a pneumatic lug wrench.

The expenses of buying new tires and the increasing number of repairs I'll have to start making as my car ages are making me start thinking again about getting rid of my car altogether and joining a car-share service (there's a Communauto car about a six-minute walk from my house). I've spent exactly $0 this month on gasoline and probably won't have to fill up the tank until mid-September!
 

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Brad, did you explore buying tires in the US? I've heard from many people who saved a bundle by buying them in the US. Can't recall how much they said they saved. Also, can't recall if the savings accounted for the costs involved (apart from time) in driving down.
CC, I looked at buying tires from the States for my Nissan X-Trail but in the end I went with Costco.

If you have a Costco membership, I think the prices on their tires are quite competitive, certainly on par with (or not much more than) what you got in the States without the hassle of driving down there and the time involved. They also have perks like free flat repairs. You can catch the occasional coupons as well.
 

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CC, I looked at buying tires from the States for my Nissan X-Trail but in the end I went with Costco.

If you have a Costco membership, I think the prices on their tires are quite competitive, certainly on par with (or not much more than) what you got in the States without the hassle of driving down there and the time involved. They also have perks like free flat repairs. You can catch the occasional coupons as well.
I get my tires at Costco as well. I simply don't have the time to spend 3 or 4 hours driving to the US and back for a new set of tires. I haven't compared prices but it is nice to know that Costco isn't all that more expensive.
 

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I get my tires at Costco as well. I simply don't have the time to spend 3 or 4 hours driving to the US and back for a new set of tires. I haven't compared prices but it is nice to know that Costco isn't all that more expensive.
It may be worth it to buy from the States if you are into cars and want to have performance tires and what have you. Tirerack.com and a couple of other sites can ship to the UPS store in Ogdensburg for a nominal fee and you can cross the border to pick them up.

For the rest of us who simply wants to get from Point A to Point B, I agree with you Costco tires are all we need. They also have very competitive deal for oil change, i usually drop the car off, do my shopping and come back in 1 hour to pick it up. Work well for me!
 

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I had to replace my summer tires this spring after 7 years as I have summer and winter tire/rim sets and do only 16k/year. The tires started to crack before I could wear them out.

I picked up some used tires a shop that had 9/32nds inch (usually new is 11-12/32nds inch) for less than half the price of new.
 

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I bought my last two sets of tires at Wal Mart. I shopped around, (not including buying in USA) and nothing was cheaper. Wal Mart also had the cheapest install pricing too.
 

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the four tires together cost about $900
Did you shop around? My car also has 17" tires (235/45/17) and I found a set of 4 performance summer tires on sale for just under $700. Not a high end brand but for a daily driver that never sees the track they're good enough.
 

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My wifes car has 17" aluminum wheels/all season tires and a set of 17" steel wheels and winter tires. The 17" size was harder to find and more expensive - around $1500 for wheels and tires. In reality the car is so much safer in the snow and ice that I would have paid a lot more for that security for my family.

My car has four wheel drive and my commute is 12 km of city roads so I don't bother with snows.

The van with snows is as good or better than a four wheel drive SUV with all season tires.
 

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From living in rural areas with twisty snow packed roads, we actually found the cheaper taller sidewall tires on 16 or 15" rims worked much much better in the winter

They are narrower and cut through the hardpack or slush rather than float on top if that makes any sense. There's more pressure/weight on a smaller surface to get down to the pavement or at least dig into the pack more. You also want higher tire pressure. The taller sidewalls are also much more comfortable for driving over frozen chunks of sluch and ice etc

On pavement however, the 17"s larger footprint does have much more grip. Studs are also worse on pavement, as they hold some weight of the rubber off the pavement. I learned this one day meeting a deer. Lower presser is better on pavement to spread out the weight/contact

Anyways just like softer rubber, it is smart to have smaller rims/higher inflation and studs on snow
 
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