Is it Worth Putting Expensive New Tires on a Car Before Selling?

You’ve decided it’s time to change your car and you obviously want to get the best possible price when you sell your current car, you might be asking yourself is it worth putting cheap or even expensive new tires on a car before selling?

If you want the best possible price for your car and the tires on it are getting close to the minimum legal tread depth, putting new tires on before selling will make a big impression with potential buyers. Even if there are at least a few thousand miles left in your tires it can still be financially beneficial to you to fit new rubber, but you then have to weigh up a number of issues before deciding which tires you are going to buy and fit.

Here are some of the questions you need answering before deciding about putting new tires on a car you’re preparing to sell:

  • How bad is the condition of your tires?
  • What’s the legal minimum tread depth?
  • How much do new tires cost?
  • What about fitting the cheapest tires possible?
  • Should you fit expensive tires?
  • Do buyers really care about tires that much?
  • What’s the difference between cheap and expensive tires?
  • Will nitrogen-filled tires help me sell my car quicker?
  • What about winter tires?

How bad is the condition of your tires?

Before you show your car, truck or SUV to any potential buyer, whether it’s a private buyer responding to an ad you’ve placed somewhere or a dealer, you should always prepare it properly to show it off at its very best. If you want to know more details about how to get your vehicle ready to sell for the best price possible, make sure you check out my article here.

One of the areas you need to examine when preparing your vehicle for sale is the state of your tires. Please do not underestimate how big an impression your tires make on a prospective buyer. If you’ve been properly maintaining your vehicle during the time you’ve owned it you really should know whether your tires are in good condition or not.

Even so, you should still examine each one carefully and look at them as if they were on a used car you were considering buying. The first thing to check for is whether they’re legal or not. If your tires are not legal you’re giving a potential buyer a big stick to beat you with when it comes to negotiating a price.

Don’t think that just because the tread is deeper than the legal minimum they are ok though. You also need to look at the date on them to see how old they are, you need to look for cracks between the grooves, and you also need to look for other damage and signs of uneven wear.

By the way, if you’d like to know about some of the very best products, services and companies I’ve found for buying, selling, and helping with vehicle ownership then please check out my recommended products and services page right here. As well as telling you where to go to get the very lowest prices on new and used vehicles, I also cover finance, insurance, parts, tires, detailing and other stuff too.

What’s legal minimum tread depth?

According to the law in the majority of US states, tires are legally worn out when the tread is at 2/32 of an inch or less. This is the LEGAL minimum, and I want to point out that for your own safety, you ought to be replacing tires before they get this worn out. Although your tires may still be technically legal, they won’t be working as well as they should by any means and they could be a threat to the safety of you and your passengers.

The best way to measure the depth of the tread on your tires is to use a tire gauge, and if you don’t have one you can get a really affordable and accurate digital gauge on Amazon right here. It’s a very small investment and you can continue to use it for years to come to make sure your tires are in an acceptable condition.

How much do new tires cost?

It’s impossible to say exactly how much new tires cost because it depends on so many different things. The size, the type, the quality and the brand all come into it, so the only way to know how much they will cost for your vehicle is to get a quote from a supplier. For a very rough guide, the average cost for a new tire is probably around $100 for an average car, $175 for SUVs and something like $200 each for trucks.

You can, of course, get tires for a lot less than this, and you can also pay an awful lot more too. What I would advise is that you shop online for your tires, and if you want free delivery, a huge selection and some of the most competitive prices, Priority Tire should be the first place you look. There are a lot of big companies like Priority Tire you can trust that offer great deals on all types of tires, and they’ll ship them directly to the service center you want to fit them for you.

Used tires can be an affordable option

What about fitting the cheapest tires possible?

There really is nothing wrong with fitting the cheapest new tires you can find if you are simply putting them on your vehicle to sell it. In fact, if your tires have to be replaced because they’re bordering on illegal, you can even go to a company like and get a set of used tires for not a lot of money that will be better than what you have on your vehicle at the moment.

As I said earlier, I really would tend to shy away from going for the really cheap new tires if you are going to be driving around on them yourself, but the look of a brand new set of rubber on your vehicle is going to help you sell it even if they are the cheapest out there. If you’re still going to have your vehicle and be driving around for a month or two, especially in poor weather, you might be better going for a set of used tires that are high quality.

You can shop online for quality used tires just the same as shopping for brand new tires by looking online, but they won’t have the same impact on a prospective buyers as new tires, even if they’re a cheap brand.

Should you fit expensive tires?

There’s no yes or no answer for this, I’m afraid, but there are definitely times when you might be better fitting really expensive tires to a vehicle you’re looking to sell, and times when you definitely shouldn’t. It really all depends on the vehicle you’re selling and the type of buyer you’re looking to attract.

Let’s say you have a seven-year-old Toyota Camry with 80,000 miles on the odometer that you are looking to sell, and it needs four new tires for its 17-inch wheels. A quick search online reveals you can get a set of Ironman tires for as little as around $66 each, while the finest Michelins will cost around $200 each. Are you going to spend $800 on four tires for a car you’re probably going to be getting around $9,000 for? Of course, you wouldn’t. Would you spend $264 to present your car for sale with brand new rubber all around and potentially prevent a seller beating you down by $500 or more? That sounds like good business to me.

However, if you are trying to sell a performance car like a Corvette ZR1 or a relatively young prestige car like a Mercedes S Class that’s a couple of years old, a set of cheap tires are probably going to do more harm than good. If you’re trying to sell a car worth many tens of thousands of dollars, a buyer could easily be put off the car entirely if they see a set of cheap tires from an unknown brand fitted to it. It will raise suspicions with them about the rest of the car and how well it has been maintained.

Do buyers really care about tires that much?

Do buyers really care about tires that much? You’d better believe that they do. In fact, in my experience, many buyers place a ridiculous amount of their focus on the tires fitted to vehicles they’re looking to buy. It could be because they don’t know what to look for under the hood, so they see tires as a way of showing they’re knowledgeable about the condition and it gives them a reason to beat you down on price.

It could also be that they’ve recently had to pay out for tires themselves, and the cost of those tires is still a very sore point with them. You’d be amazed at how much stuff some people will not notice with a used car but they get fixated on tires. If you have a brand new set of rubber on your vehicle a lot of buyers will take that as a sign that this is a well-maintained vehicle that’s definitely worth considering.

What’s the difference between cheap and expensive tires?

There are lots of products in this world where there are cheap versions that are every bit as good as expensive versions, but people prefer the expensive ones because of the brand. That’s rarely the case when it comes to tires.

I know it’s a bit of a broad statement to make, but with tires, you tend to get what you pay for. Unless you are a real gear head, there will be lots of tire brands out there you’ve never heard of. Just because you’ve never heard of a brand doesn’t mean they’re not top quality.

You might not have heard of Hankook or Yokohama, but they make some seriously high-end tires that can cost quite a bit of money. There are also a lot of brands you’ll never have heard of that produce very cheap tires, such as Advanta, Lionheart and Accelera.

On the whole, if tires cost more it’s for a good reason, and that reason is quality. If you fit a set of tires from the likes of Pirelli, Goodyear and Bridgestone to your vehicle, they won’t be the cheapest tires you’ll find by any means, but you will be getting outstanding quality. If you’re selling a relatively cheap car I’d say you’re wasting money fitting tires of this quality, but if you’re fitting tires to drive yourself I would definitely lean towards higher-end rubber.

Will nitrogen-filled tires help me sell my car quicker?

Nitrogen-filled tires have become a bit of a thing in recent years, but I’d say it’s because too many people have been watching too much F1, NASCAR and IndyCar. Nitrogen has the advantage of delivering more stable tire pressure, which is a big advantage for top-flight autosport applications. There are benefits to everyday road cars too, but it’s questionable as to whether they are enough to justify the additional cost involved.

Once again, if you’re selling a Ferrari 458 the Nitrogen-filled tires might be a selling point, but for everyday road vehicles, it’s a pointless and unnecessary cost, especially if you’re going to be selling your car soon.

Don’t fit cheap tires to one of these

What about winter tires?

Even if you live in Alaska or the northernmost reaches of the US or Canada, it’s unlikely you’re going to use winter tires all year round. If you do live somewhere with severe winter weather, you are selling in the winter, and you do have winter tires on your vehicle at the time, then yes, look at their condition in the same way as I mentioned earlier.

The thing is though; if you have winter tires on you should also have a set of summer or all-weather tires stored somewhere ready to fit when the bad weather subsides. Unless the vehicle you’re looking to buy uses the exact same tires as your current vehicle, you might want to offer the winter tires to prospective buyers as an extra, rather than just including them in the price.

If they don’t want the winter tires you can always sell them yourself separately, or you can offer them as part of the deal at the negotiating stage to reduce the amount of money a prospective buyer is looking to beat you down by.           

Sean Cooper

Former retail auto industry professional for almost a decade and an automotive writer and journalist for the last 8 years

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