The RAC's complete guide to tyre buying

The RAC's complete guide to tyre buying
Buying new car tyres is not something anyone looks forward to. However, as the only contact point between the car and the road, they are arguably the most important component on a car. It is thus important you choose the right tyres.

Here, we explain how to easily buy the best tyres for your car.

What do I first need to know before buying tyres?

Before you can buy new car tyres, you need to know the size of tyre fitted to your car. This is printed on the outside edge of the tyre, in raised lettering. It’s sometimes small and hard to find at a glance, but it will be printed somewhere on the sidewall of the tyre.

The tyre speed rating is also important, but often overlooked. Choose a tyre with the wrong speed rating and you could invalidate your car insurance. It is a vital single letter to understand. To find out more about tyre speed ratings, see our comprehensive tyre speed ratings guide.

When shopping for car tyres, you also now need to know about tyre labels – they’re mandatory for all new tyres on sale in Europe. Car tyre labels look similar to those found on white goods such as refrigerators.

Don’t worry, the tyre labelling scheme is easy to understand once you are familiar with its three aspects. And it will help you buy a safer, grippier tyre, which will save you fuel and make your car quieter.

Car valuation

​Find out how much your car is worth with the free car valuation tool at RAC Cars.

READ MORE: The RAC's complete guide to tyre safety including what different types of tyres are available

What do I first need to know when buying car tyres?

Before you can choose a new car tyre, you’ll need the exact measurements for your car’s tyres. This information is printed on the sidewall of a tyre.

All car tyre size information is standardised, so it is the same for all tyres.  An example is a tyre carrying the size lettering: 205/55 R16 91W.

205: the tyre’s width, in mm

55: the tyre’s side profile, as a percentage of the width (a smaller number here indicates a ‘low profile’ tyre)

R16: the diameter of wheel the tyre will fit, in inches

91: the tyre’s load index – the load capacity of the tyre (91 = 615kg)

W: the speed rating of the tyre – so you can match the ability of the tyre to the top speed of the car (W = 168mph)

READ MORE: Have you ever wondered how modern eco tyres differ from normal rubber? 

What to think about after you have bought your tyres

After you have invested in the right tyres it is just as important that you ensure they are well maintained and kept in the correct state.

Regularly checking the state of your tyres isn't just crucial for your safety but is also essential to make sure your tyres are in the correct legally-required state.

For a quick and informative video on how check your tyres, including the tread depth, you can catch up with one of our patrolman Matt Woodbridge as he outlines quick and easy checks you can perform at home.

In addition to road-legal checks it is also important to carry out regular tyre pressure checks, especially before a long journey, for a quick and informative video click here.