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I need two new tires on my 1994 Toyota Camry, and I live in Minnesota. I have heard that choosing the right all-season tires can make a big difference for safety in rainy/snowy conditions. Suppose I go to Discount Tire, Midas, or Tires Plus--how can I know which tire is right to choose?

I did a bit of searching, and everything I see tells me how to interpret sidewall codes. That's easy and not the question. How do I know which tire to choose--which has the best safety for the buck--out of the four or five models they have to choose from? If I look up reviews, the shop never has the exact tire model reviewed. Last time, I just took the salesperson's recommendation and felt like a chump. How do I do better this time?

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3 Answers

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If the sales person is good then their recommendation should be fine. Ideally you should find someone you trust.

Most of the time a store can order certain models if they carry that brand, so if you find a tire online call ahead to the store and see when they could get the tires in. (Normally it is fairly fast).

Sidewall codes are a great way to compare brands, but some shops have their own rating system that is more detailed and can be helpful.

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Thanks. The problem is that I don't have anyone I trust that really knows tires. I've heard "you can't go wrong with a major brand" but that doesn't seem to be wise. I'd bet there are major brand tires that are bad choices and off-brand tires that are great. –  Patrick Szalapski Jun 17 '11 at 2:39
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@Patrick, yes, a major brand will have several levels of tires, so just because your tires have a name Brand doesn't really mean anything. –  jzd Jun 17 '11 at 12:02
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Perfect example, I swear by Michelin because they make some seriously good (albeit expensive) tires. However, a relative hates them and thinks I'm crazy to use Michelins because they managed to find some super-cheapo (if not 4 for $100, something close) Michelin branded tires that they had problems with... :-) –  Brian Knoblauch Jun 17 '11 at 13:52
    
OK, I'm going to go with Discount Tire's Michelin Destiny tires based on the salesperson's recommendation that this is the "absolutely safest" all-season tire. Also, the Michelin Harmony seems to be the best one on TireRack, and it seems other web site say that the Harmony and the Destiny are the same tire. –  Patrick Szalapski Jul 2 '11 at 18:41
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I have heard that choosing the right all-season tires can make a big difference for safety in rainy/snowy conditions.

If you can at all afford it, I would strongly recommend a separate set of winter tires here in Minnesota.

Until you have driven a car with winter tires in a good snow, you cannot possibly imagine the difference it makes.

the shop never has the exact tire model reviewed

Buy them online. Tirerack.com has never been more expensive than buying locally, although it is a bit more work involved transporting the tires.

You can also take notes on which models are available at the shop, and then go home and research reviews for those tires to choose between them.

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+1 for Tirerack - they win when it comes to supporting information –  Bob Cross Jun 18 '11 at 3:26
    
OK, so how do I choose the tires on Tire Rack? –  Patrick Szalapski Jun 18 '11 at 12:44
    
I went through their tire chooser and I have four choices separated by $35 per tire. How do I know which one is safest in rain, cornering, snow, etc.? –  Patrick Szalapski Jun 18 '11 at 12:52
    
If you cannot find a review for the tires that TireRack come up with, maybe go to a local store and buy from them. They will be able to recommend you and you can ask questions. Living in Canada, I will never use a 4 seasons tire on my car during winter months and since 2 years it is now required by law in Quebec to have winter tires from december 15 to april 15 –  Gabriel Mongeon Jun 22 '11 at 20:18
    
On winter tires: mechanics.stackexchange.com/questions/1281/… –  Patrick Szalapski Jul 2 '11 at 18:20
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I go for the simplest, oldest method - personal recommendation. Something that is so much easier now we have the internet. Simply find other people with similar cars to yours, who live in similar climates, and find out what they have used and either liked or didn't like.

However, I find that tyre choice can vary significantly according to vehicle type and driving style, so you'll rarely find two people who agree! For example I know a couple of people who swaer by Pirelli P6000, and others who hate them - in that case it seems to be a tyre that works best with heavier cars.

Never buy "budget" tyres, it's not worth the risk. I always go for either an upper-mid-range or premium tyre, quite often the latter is cheaper!

I'd agree with the answer above suggesting seperate winter tyres - in many parts of Europe this is a legal requirement and seems remarkably sensible if you're in a snowy area. Most cars here run on "summer" tyres all year, and people wonder why they struggle when it snows... (rarely enough that for most people it's not worth the extra cost of winter tyres - I simply left my car at home for the few days it was bad last winter)

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I'm not sure how to get a personal recommendation on my 1994 Toyota Camry 4-cylinder, so I'm not sure how to move forward. –  Patrick Szalapski Jul 2 '11 at 18:19
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Is there any form of owners club or web forum devoted to them? That's a technique I've used a few times –  Nick C Jul 2 '11 at 20:57
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