Tyre buying overview

How do I know which tyres I need? Separating the truths from the myths

When it comes to fitting the correct tyres on your car, prepare to be faced with a number of factors. Some of it will be relevant, some of it won’t be. Just working out what’s true from what’s false can be a minefield!

Investing a bit of time in researching how to choose the right tyre for your car – before your final purchase – will be well worth it in the end. Once you sift through all the mumbo jumbo, you’ll be left with just a few key things to consider. Here’s our essential guide to buying tyres.

I can find the tyre size on the tyre itself

100% true. This is the best place to start when buying tyres. Knowing this information will accurately tell you which size tyre fits your vehicle, and ensure you’re not palmed off with the wrong ones. A number of tyre manufacturers, including Continental, have made this information easy to find – it’s embossed at the top of your tyre sidewall, like the example shown below. If you want to double check the size, you can also find it in your vehicle manual or car documentation. If the numbers below look confusing, worry not. Here’s a handy guide to sidewall markings.

Tyre size isn’t that important

This one is definitely a myth. Your vehicle’s tyre size is extremely important. You need to identify this information to find tyres that are compatible with your car so that they’ll be able to support the weight of the vehicle (otherwise known as load index). There’s also the maximum speed that the tyre is capable of to consider. The speed rating can be found on the tyre sidewall, where it appears as a letter. Its value must be at least as high as the vehicle’s top speed. Failing to check this information and choosing a tyre with the wrong speed rating, could put you at risk of invalidating your car insurance. Again, refer to the sidewall markings guide, as above.

I have to fit the same brand of tyres on all wheels

Yes and no. Legally, you need to fit the same tyres across the same axle, though not necessarily on all four wheels. However, it’s an industry-wide recommendation, and we advise our customers to stick with one tyre brand for their car. Why? Because having a combination of tyres from different manufacturers will alter your vehicle’s performance and is detrimental to control, making it inconsistent and potentially dangerous for the driver. This is especially the case if you illegally have different tyres on the same axle.

Why? Because tyre manufacturers create their products differently from one another, such as with differing compounds, materials and variations in tread patterns. This means they’ll all perform differently, such as when clearing water from between the tyres and the road – something that needs to be done evenly.

OE – Original equipment

The good news for those with brand new cars needing to make a new tyre purchase is that some of the hard work has already been done for you. Many car manufacturers choose to fit specific makes and models of tyres to their vehicles, before they leave the factory floor. This isn’t a random choice, rather one made in collaboration with leading tyre makers. These tyres, known as ‘OE’ – Original Equipment – have been designed and developed with a specific vehicle make and model in mind, and are optimised to bring out the maximum performance and safety characteristics of the car.

One tyre manufacturer dominates the OE sector, with nearly one in three of all cars that leave the factories of Europe fitted with their tyres – Continental. If you purchased your vehicle brand new from an authorised dealership and they came with OE, it makes sense to replace the tyres like for like. OE tyres are identifiable by the vehicle makers’ code on the sidewall (example“AO” for Audi, above). Here’s a handy list of car manufacturer OE codes.

I need to change my tyres throughout the year

Truth and myth. Your tyre choice, or need, will largely depend on where you live and the weather conditions you face. There are dedicated summer and winter tyres which offer optimum performance in warm and cold temperatures respectively. However, nowadays it’s very common for cars to be fitted with all-season tyres, such as Continental’s award winning AllSeasonContact™. These all-round, general-purpose tyres provide a good, broad range of driving characteristics which perform throughout the year in areas with moderate climates.

I should always buy brand new tyres

Yes, yes, YES! Whatever you do, don’t even consider fitting ‘part worn’ or second-hand tyres, even if they were originally made by a ‘premium’ brand. Simply put, with the worst examples of these second – even third – hand tyres, could very easily kill you and your passengers. Avoid part worns at all costs!

To maximise your safety, opt for fitting high quality premium tyres. Continental’s award-winning summer, winter and all-season tyres scooped the top spot in all the Auto Express tyre tests in 2018. They have also just won the Auto Express Product of the Year for 2019, too. These tyres dramatically improve stopping distances, especially in wet weather conditions, and provide you with optimum safety and performance.

Premium tyres are better than budget tyres

True, and the independent tyre testing community agrees with BestDrive. Premium tyres always win these tests. Similar to other goods purchases, cost is often a reflection of quality. Cheaper tyres, also known as ‘budget tyres’, will not have the same investment in research and development or high quality of materials and compounds as more expensive ‘premium tyres’.

The extra investment in your driver safety is worth it. Budget tyres tend to deliver inferior safety and performance characteristics in comparison to premium tyres, particularly when it comes to stopping distances and grip. That makes all the difference when it comes to braking.

You can compare this difference in performance at a glance by looking at the EU tyre label, which you’ll find on all unused brand new tyres. It showcases three tyre characteristics, including the very important ‘wet grip’ rating. The label is only a snapshot of the tyre’s characteristics, however, so be sure to research independent tyre tests, or speak to an expert – like BestDrive.

Unsure about buying tyres? Speak to one of our team.

If our truth versus myth guide has still left you with a few questions about which tyre is right for your vehicle, why not speak to a member of the BestDrive by Continental team? You can find your nearest branch at the top of this page.

BestDrive by Continental – You drive, we care.