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I recently needed to get my left rear tire replaced because of a bulge in the sidewall. Upon the recommendation of the serviceman at the chain tire store I replace both rear tires.

He showed me a range of tires rated 2, 3 and 4 stars. A 4 star Michelin tires were $114, a 3 star Kuhmo tire was $99, and I didn't even consider a 2 star tire which was probably in the $60-70 range.

I basically went with the Kuhmo tire...I figured that it probably doesn't have the bells and whistles of the Michelin, but probably is better than the 2 star tires.

My question is how do I know what I need? If I went with the 2 star tire would I have regretted it later on?

What differentiates the different tiers of tires?

Are more expensive tires safer in general? Do they last longer? Do they handle better? Safety and handling are my major concerns because carrying precious cargo (my family). :)

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

In general you are correct, in that the really cheap tires will not be as good quality, so will probably wear out faster and have poorer grip.

However cost is not linked completely to this.

There are a range of tires I buy from £150 to £350 and the core differences in them are about trade-offs in water clearance, grip, wear, break away when losing grip, performance in low temperature conditions etc. (so for example Pirelli P-Zero Rosso has a longer life in my car, but I prefer the Bridgestone RE050's for their more predictable break away, despite them not lasting as long)

You should look at the manufacturer specs and comparison websites but to reassure you, Kumho had a good reputation. (For my car I'd prefer them to Michelin)

Example comparison site: Caranddriver.com

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That's a great article on tires! –  milesmeow Jan 26 '13 at 16:51
    
Grip and wear can be the qualities somewhat opposite from one another. Mayhaps, you suggest that cheaper tyres would not live up to, say, wear rating stamped on them? If so, how would they get this rating? –  theUg Jan 26 '13 at 20:37
    
No, you misunderstand, @theug, I am not suggesting that. Grip is often compromised for wear, but they are both factors you need to weigh up. How important are the factors to you. –  Rory Alsop Jan 27 '13 at 1:51
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