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Australia is very well served by world standards when to comes to car tyres and light commercial tyres. We not only have a wide choice – among the best in the world – but local pricing is also pretty competitive. Not every country is as lucky as us when it comes to being able to choose tyres on a budget or for a very specific, high-performance application. Or anywhere in between.
Since local production of cars tyres stopped a few years ago (with the demise of the local car-making industry) all Aussie tyres have been imported. China is the production powerhouse at the moment, and many of the tyres we recognise as 'Western' brands, in fact, now come to us from China. So while some our best brands once came from overseas, now all our tyre brands do.
Choosing a new set of tyres is often viewed as a tough choice, but if you stick to a few rules, you’ll get the tyres you want and can afford. We talked to independent tyre retailer, Widetread Tyres in Ferntree Gully in Melbourne’s outer east, for the low-down on how to make that choice and what’s hot in replacement rubber right now.
According to Widetread, the dual-cab utes that are taking the new-car market by storm are also skewing the types and brands of tyres that are the hot sellers. But one thing hasn’t changed; the tyres you end up buying need to be fit for the purpose you have in mind and must fall within your budget. So those are the two factors to keep in mind.
In fact, Widetread reckons that’s where the sweet-spot in tyre choice is…when you’ve found the tyre that does exactly what you want it to do in terms of its wear and performance characteristics, as well as a price you can live with. A good tyre shop will start the process with two questions: Do you like the tyres fitted to your car now, and; how much do you want to spend?
Beyond that, Widetread’s customers tend to fall into two camps. Those who are willing to pay for extra performance at extra cost and those who simply want a safe, durable tyre that won’t break the bank. Conventional passenger cars and mainstream SUVs fall into that second category, while owners of off-road four-wheel-drive and high-performance road cars tend to be the buyers who are prepared to pay more.
That said, some high-end cars with oddball wheel and tyre sizes can often cost more to re-shoe, as limited competition from other tyre manufacturers mean the importers can creep the prices up. Generally, though, Widetread assured us, tyre makers try their best to contain prices and offer good value for money.
While different brands tend to leap-frog each other in the market as technology changes and new designs are developed, right now, there are some best buys in various sectors of the market.
Starting with the 4X4 off-road market, where performance on bitumen, gravel and mud (and everything in between) tends to take precedence over other factors (including price) there are a few brands and models of tyre that tend to dominate. That starts with the BF Goodrich All Terrain T/A. With a heavy-duty construction and good on and off-road performance, it’s rare to find somebody who has used these tyres and not liked them.
The Mickey Thompson ATZ P3 is another popular choice and is probably a little more off-road oriented than the Goodrich. The American-made Cooper AT3 is another good all-rounder which is also known for its low wear-rate and mileage guarantee. Emerging as good tyres, too, are the Dunlop ATG 3 and the Maxxis Razor A/T.
When it comes to high-performance road cars, Michelin’s Pilot Sport 4 is a great choice. It’s used by a lot of really high-end car makers as their original equipment fitment and it’s easy to see why with superb grip and good feel. The Pirelli P-Zero is another long-standing popular choice for similar reasons, but the compound and design of the Michelin probably puts it just ahead. This is particularly relevant in this market, because the advice from Widetread is that, unlike the old days where a wider tyre was seen as a better thing (based purely on a tyre-size comparison) these days, a better quality tyre will make more difference than simply a wider one.
Other high-performance road tyres that are strong sellers include the Continental Sport Contact. This is another tyre that is a popular original equipment fitment, so for many car owners, these are replacing like for like, which guarantees they’ll maintain the car’s handling and braking. MyCar – formerly K-Mart Tyre and Auto – is having a big push on these tyres right now, so there are good buys to be had. Another brand worth considering is the Yokohama Advan Sport AE50. Yokohama have slipped back a bit in terms of market domination, but the AE50 is a very good tyre.
For mainstream cars and SUVs, the choices are even more bewildering. Widetread recommends to start looking at the Falken FK510 which offers good performance, decent wear and a good price. The Dunlop Sportmax 050 falls into the same category and Goodyear’s F1 Asymmetrical 5 is overlooked, but doesn’t deserve to be if the reviews are anything to go by.
Down at the more budget-conscious end of things, there’s also lots of choice and an assurance that just because you’re saving a few dollars, doesn’t mean you can’t get a good quality, safe tyre that will last well. Of the tyres that fit that description, Hankook’s extensive range of tyres will be suitable for many makes and models. Toyo is another brand with similar credentials, but due to a tricky supply chain, they’re not as easy to find in some tyre shops.
Also tailored for customers looking for a cheaper alternative is a relatively new brand called Winrun. While they’re generally not the best performing tyres, they are known as being cheap tyres (as in, budget tyres, not poor quality) and deserve a look on a price basis alone.
Maxtrek is an emerging brand in Australia, with product imported from Asia and a prices squarely at the budget end of things. Kenda has been around as a brand here for a while and specialises in smaller production runs of tyres. Kenda probably sits somewhere between Hankook and Winrun in the bigger picture and is an example of decent tyres for less outlay than a lot of brands.
So where do you shop? Well, you can certainly buy tyres online now, and some operators even offer a mobile fitting service which is super convenient, many still prefer to visit a traditional tyre shop That way, they can be advised on the latest offerings, catch shop specials and can have the new tyres fitted balanced, and even a wheel-alignment done at the same time.