Buying Tires at Costco

January 5th, 2010 · 25 Comments

The week before Christmas I took my car in for some service and to get a state inspection, and just my luck, they determined that I needed new tires for my car.  Why does this kind of stuff always happen around the holidays or when you are least looking to shell out money for this kind of thing?  In any case, the quote from my dealer was for $1,192.00 for four new tires and installation.  And while my car doesn’t have cheap tires, from anyone, I figured I could get a better deal at Costco. I quickly verified through the online Costco Tire Center website that indeed I could get a lower price at Costco and have a great warranty to boot.  Not to mention, at the time there was a deal for $70.00 off a full set of tires.

Michelin Energy MXV4 S8 from Costco

Michelin Energy MXV4 S8 from Costco Tire Center

When I looked online, I was able to see that the tires, Michelin Energy MXV4 S8 P235/55R18 99V, would be $205.99 per tire.  Which isn’t cheap, by any means, but was less than the $233.00 per tire from my dealer.  Where the biggest difference came though, was the installation price; just $14.00 per tire at Costco versus $65.00 from the dealer.  Yes, that’s a whopping difference of $51.00 per tire just for installation, not including the difference in price of $27.01 per tire, for a total difference of $78.01 per tire.  Yikes!  So, needless to say I decided to go with Costco for my new tires.

The most unfortunate thing in this story is that the Costco Tire Center at my warehouse in Austin doesn’t take appointments.  I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this.  So, I took the car in on a Thursday morning, not too long after they opened because I thought that would be a time when not everyone else would be there.  It’s hard to tell how many people were there before me because no one stands around the tire area waiting for their car to be worked on.  But it wasn’t a quick process.  However, the tire center guy did prepare me, and he wasn’t wrong, when he said it was going to be about two hours.  It ended up being just five minutes short of two hours that I was wandering around Costco.  I love Costco but there really is only so long I can browse around when I’m not in an actual shopping frame of mind.  Okay, the truth is that I sat down in one of the office chairs that they were selling and answered email and IM messages on my phone (I love my iPhone) for at least an hour.

When they were finished with my car it was spotless inside (not always the case when you’re having your car worked on, sadly) and they hadn’t gotten greasy hand prints on the outside either.  And, what pleased me even more was that they hadn’t damaged the wheels either and everything was lined up properly too.  Last time I had someone (not Costco) put tires on a vehicle they had scratched up the wheels and then tried to act like it wasn’t them.  But this time the car came back looking just like it had when they took it, only with new tires.

I wanted to make sure that I pointed out some of the benefits to getting your tires at Costco:  lifetime balancing and rotation, fixing of flat tires, and of course, their road hazard warranty (I scanned this from my receipt and made a PDF that you can view).  Plus, they also use nitrogen to inflate the tires, instead of regular compressed air.  Now, you might wonder why you would want nitrogen in your tires and it has to do with maximizing vehicle handling, fuel efficiency and tire life.  The nitrogen helps to stabilize the tire pressure, so it stays at the correct manufacturer’s operating pressure.  With regular compressed air, the oxygen molecules, which are smaller than nitrogen molecules, escape from a tire three to four times faster than the nitrogen.  There is also more moisture in regular air, and that moisture will expand and contract with air temperatures and tire temperatures when driving to change the level of tire inflation.  For more details and information, you can read all about the advantages of using nitrogen in this brochure from the Costco Tire Center.

All in all, I am really pleased with my Costco Tire Center purchase.  Of course, I have only had the tires for a couple of weeks.  But the pricing was more than competitive and the installation went well too.  So, once again, Costco has made me happy through good pricing and great service.

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25 Responses so far ↓

  1. 1 Springleaf // 2014.07.25 at 5:03 pm

    I’m fairly new to costco (in Illinois). Would a full set of tires be eligible for that 2% cash back reward? Also, I’m not buying the tires with their american express card, just cash or debit. Thanks.

  2. 2 Gopal // 2014.07.01 at 6:32 am

    I have always been purchasing tires from Costco since they opened the store in Austin for all my cars. Although I hate the wait at the tire center,but I put up with it because I love Costco, and have been very loyal for many years. I had the fortune of never using their warranty until now. I had a bubble on one of the tires that we purchased less than 3 years back. The tires are BF Goodrich, and came with 60,000 mile warranty. Before Costco was opened, I always bought tires from Discount Tire, where I always bought the warranty “Certificate”. Discount Tire would replace the tire if it is damaged under the warranty if it is beyond repair. I thought that the Costco warranty worked the same way, bad on me I should have read the warranty. Costco’s warranty is only pro-rated replacement after first year. I read the warranty, and it was very clear on pro-rated replacement.

    Now, I got educated on the warranty, so I was fine with it. But there is a problem with how Costco cheats you on calculating the prorated discount from the new tire price. I was told that the tire had only enough tread depth left that they calculated the prorated discount to be 38%. I knew that the tire had good tread depth left, and it should be more than what they calculated. I asked them if they measured the tread depth, and they told me that they did and it calculated to 38%. I did not argue with them, they ordered the new tire as it is not in stock, put the tire in a bag, put it in the trunk and mounted the spare on the car. I drove my car to the Discount Tire and asked them to measure the tread depth. They measured at 3 different locations on all treads and told me that I have 6/32 tread left, which is about 60% tread depth. They told me that the new tires will have 10/32 tread depth, and my tire had 6/32. They also told me that their warranty covers to a tread depth of 2/32. I wanted to have another opinion, and there was a NTB store close by, and I took it there to verify again. Same result. It had 6/32 tread depth left. The difference between 38% and 60% on a $150 tire is $34 which is about 23% of tire cost. I felt that it was not right.

    I love Costco, their warranties and their customer service. Now, I do not feel the same way about their tire warranty. I am not going to buy tires from Costco any more. I am going back to Discount Tire for my future tire purchases. There, the tire cost is comparable to Costco, but their warranty “Certificate” costs slightly higher. I feel that it is worth the extra cost for a warranty with full tire replacement than Costco’s disingenuous prorated replacement.

  3. 3 Keith // 2014.03.31 at 1:28 pm

    Costco carry many products that are specially made for Costco. Do Costco tires identical to the tires stacked by car dealer? My experience with Costco is that the Costco tires easily have defect and do not last long.

  4. 4 James // 2013.08.31 at 10:55 am

    I went to Costco for tires they always seem to have a problem they stripped my lug nuts and said this is how they were brand new truck these guys suck they don’t know what there doing the rookies that work on your cars are scary ever have a wheel fly off well you will get it at Costco there a grocery store not a tire center don’t be fooled the wait times the procedure are ridicuous I Have chunk of metal in a brand new tire and they are trying to plug it it is 2 1/2 center meters wide and into the tire be careful And recheck your lug nuts yea they might be cheaper but my life is worth more than a few tires I feel strong about this because I know they don’t know what there doing !

  5. 5 Rizzo // 2012.12.20 at 12:37 am

    I went to costco in South SF on a sunday and they told it would be a 3 hour wait… they told me to come back on monday first thing and it would be 45 min to an hour. I came back on monday at 10AM they told me it was a 2.5hr wait. I don’t care if this is going to be a “normal car maintenance” thing where I drop it off in the morning and pick it up after 6pm for a 15 minute oil change. but I don’t have 3 hours of shopping to do at costco!

  6. 6 Victor // 2011.10.11 at 6:54 pm

    Costco’s so called “lifetime rotation and balancing ” is really only good for five years or 60,000 miles. I just brought my van in to get the free rotation and balancing and they refused to do it because the tires were bought more than five years ago. I hardly drive this van so there is almost no wear on the tires, so its not like they were worn out. And they make you wait so long most customers will probably give up using the free service.
    I checked with Discount Tire and they said their lifetime rotation and balancing really is lifetime, no time limit.

  7. 7 Michaeil // 2011.05.31 at 10:39 am

    Anyone know if they use Road Force balancing at Costco? I was told that this is considered necessary nowadays to get proper balanced wheels.

  8. 8 Costco Michelin P235 Tires | All Wheels Blog // 2011.03.30 at 8:57 am

    [...] costco michelin p235 tires addictedtocostco.com [...]

  9. 9 Ernie // 2011.03.19 at 8:59 am

    Hmmmm. I switched from Discount Tire many years ago because every, and I mean every time I was in the store to buy tires the guy waiting on me would take a phone call and talk for however long it took to whoever it was asking about tires. Then he would finish my order. I found that unacceptable. I switched to NTB and had stellar service until about the time they were bought out and the service and their integrity dropped significantly. I will try the Costco solution.

  10. 10 Ozzy // 2010.10.19 at 2:34 pm

    Tampa, that CONSUMER REPORTS TEST was not a real world test and really misses the point of Nitrogen. I would like to see if tires leaked less pressure when DRIVEN ON rather than just sitting statically. Yes Nitrogen should bleed/seep less through the natural pores in rubber (of a tire) and the pressure should fluctuate less with changes in temperature but those are only added/side benefits. The real reason much of the industry is switching to Nitrogen (with Costco leading the way) is because of that little tire pressure sensor attached to your wheel. All new cars and most trucks are now required to have a TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) due to the TREAD act passed by congress in response to the massive Firestone tire recall in 2000. That sensor is an electronic device and would not be happy existing in a tire filled with air containing a lot of moisture. Ever fill your tires at a gas station? Bad idea, push the tip of the nozzle with a pen or you keys first and see how much water vapor shoots out before doing so. Many gas stations, and repair shops for that matter, have poor or poorly maintained equipment for removing water from their air compressors. When air is compressed the moisture condensates in the tank and must be removed or it will rust out the tank internally and spew that water into your tires. For this reason almost all air compressors have a pressure relief valve on the bottom to bleed air/drain water. Costco uses a device that bleeds the water automatically from their compressors a few times each hour. The machines that produce Nitrogen remove almost all the moisture during the Nitrogen manufacturing process. Costco has been using Nitrogen for many many years and is always looking out for their customers’ best interest whether they know it or not.

  11. 11 Clue // 2010.01.09 at 12:20 am

    No offense Jake, but I’m quite sure that I never patronized the particular location that you managed and I’m very, very glad! In over 25 years of buying my tires at Discount Tire, I have never waited more than maybe an hour-ish. They have most often had me in and out the door for inspections, rotations, small repairs etc. in 15-20 minutes, maybe 30 if they are very busy. For full sets of tires, about 45 minutes-to-an hour has been the rule.

    There have been maybe 4 or 5 occasions over the years when I’ve arrived at one of Discount’s locations and they’ve told me straight up that feel that they are too busy to give me service that is both fast and high-quality, and they let me make the call as to whether to stay or come back later. I have always chosen the latter and upon my return I have always been treated like royalty. I have found that they appreciate good customers every bit as much as I appreciate great service.

    • 12 Mike // 2013.02.02 at 8:16 pm

      Clue…really get a clue! In all your visits to discount tire shops, it’s only taken them less than an hour to change out 4 tires, balance and mount them on your car. Let’s work the math, put car on lift, remove wheels, mount tire on tire machine, dismount tires, install new valve stems, mount new tires, inflate, remove tire from tire machine, mount tire/wheel on spin balancer, bang on tire weights, remove tire/wheel from balancer, navigate through shop, install on car, torque to proper specs, quick wipe down (to remove any greasy prints), then remove car from lift. So, that’s 4 tires divided by, let’s see an hour-ish, that equals 15 minutes a tire. Auh\yeah…NO. It takes at least 5 – 7 minutes just to put the car on the lift and maybe another 5 minutes to find the proper tires and on and on and on…. Must have gone to a NASCAR pit team discount tire shop.

      As far as the nitrogen goes, nitrogen will not fluctuate with outside air temperatures or with warming up of the tire as it rotates and builds up heat. As a result, steady tire pressure is achieved with the uses of nitrogen at all temperature ranges. Duh

      Yeah, it makes sense to spend up to 15% more for the same tire.

      Go to the discount tire shop… Stupid.

  12. 13 Jake // 2010.01.08 at 11:31 am

    You people who are complaining about a 2-hour wait at a tire store obviously don’t have much experience with tire stores! I managed a Discount Tire store in Texas for many years. A 2-hour wait for service is not uncommon at Discount Tire or its competitors. It’s the nature of the business. Costco’s wait times are not unusual.

  13. 14 Tampa Slim // 2010.01.07 at 7:39 pm

    http://blogs.consumerreports.org/cars/2007/10/tires-nitrogen-.html
    This is a consumer reports blog regarding nitrogen versus standard air. From what I read – the results are so tiny and nebulous to even worry about. Good marketing, little science.
    It’s basically a push!!!

    Regarding Road Hazard Warranty – Costco’s Warranty is tightly written and no better or worse than a Standard Warranty issued by a Tire Center. Warranties have “out’s” in them, such as the user MUST at all times keep his tires properly inflated. Who can honestly say they do that 100% of the time? So again no benefit for outside or inside Costco Tire Purchase.
    Most all Tire Centers (as well as Costco) offer free tire rotation and pressure checks, so it’s another push. My experience has been that Tire Centers are quicker than Costco for a standard rotation.

    So IF a Costco is properly located to your home and IF a Costco has a well reported Tire Center and IF you can get a decent coupon discount, you’ll be better off going with Costco.
    But if you have to drive a long ways, don’t want to wait, or the Tire Center has poor management or over worked guys in there, I’d shop around.

  14. 15 Dan // 2010.01.07 at 7:34 pm

    I use Costco for tires because, like you said, they’re cheap, and they’ll honor the warranty even if you lose your receipt!

    I’ve been to the Austin location four times (three of which were to take advantage of the road hazard warranty), and the wait has varied between two to four hours. I’ve tried early evening and late evening, and those have been worse than the morning, for me. I’ll typically hop over to the Arboretum and work from Primo 360, or have a friend drop me off when the work is done. I’ve never done the rotation though; it’s just not worth the time to get a ‘free’ rotation.

  15. 16 Clue // 2010.01.07 at 1:39 pm

    Nitrogen’s benefits have not been proven to be especially useful in passenger cars, for a number of reasons. A product is only as useful as its particular application. That said, using nitrogen probably isn’t going to hurt anything, its just of dubious actual benefit in passenger vehicles.

  16. 17 ERIC // 2010.01.07 at 3:30 am

    Nitrogen has real world benefits!

    They have been using it in nascar/jet tires for years!

    Compressed nitrogen contains less moisture than compressed air. When the tire heats up, moisture in the tire vaporizes and expands, causing the pressure inside the tire to increase. Even small changes in tire pressure can noticeably affect the handling of the car. By using nitrogen instead of air, the owner has more control over how much the pressure will increase when the tires heat up.

    Kimberly you will still need to bring in your car every 8,000 to 10,000 miles for a “rebalance” the dealer would charge you extra for this and it ensures the tire does not start cupping, this would help to keep a smooth and quitet ride.

    Costco tire centers tend to be very busy in the morning/weekends, this is due to the large amount of safety policies they employ more so then any other tire center I know of, this is good and bad, bad due to the fact it creates longer wait times and good do to the fact that it ensures proper cleaning of the hubs/mating service and hand torque to vehicle spec so vehicles wheel won’t come loose and fly off the road!

    • 18 Kimberly // 2010.01.07 at 8:23 am

      Eric, thanks for the additional information about Nitrogen’s benefits in your tires. Also, thanks for the tip about rebalancing…I wondered what that was and if it was something I really needed to do.

      So, when do you think the best time to visit the tire center would be? Afternoons? Early evening?

  17. 19 Kimberly // 2010.01.06 at 6:44 pm

    The wait was the worst part of the experience by far. But maybe if you’re prepared for a bit of a wait, it might not be that bad. I think I’d aim to be there right when they open next time, in the hope that that might reduce the wait time too.

    By the way, they do have another $70.00 off coupon for a set of 4 Michelin tires in the coupon book that starts tomorrow (my post about the new coupon book will be up tomorrow morning).

  18. 20 Bree // 2010.01.06 at 5:36 pm

    Glad to hear you had a good experience. I’m planning on getting tires this month b’cuz I heard there was another coupon for $70 off. I’ve never got tires from Costco before and usually have visited Discount Tire. However now that I have a Costco 3 min from house (thats a good and bad thing ha) it doesn’t pay for me(in time and money) to drive to another town for tires at DT. I’m just not excited about the wait with a 8 month old baby. Also wanted to give a thumbs up about the business center costco. Me and my husband visited one a few months ago and picked up some cool kitchen/restuarant gadgets and the muffins come individual wrapped. That may be the best thing ever to us b’cuz it saves us from coming home and wrapping them ourselves and the hubs can just take them straight to work.

  19. 21 Nabeela // 2010.01.05 at 6:49 pm

    I know this is unrelated to Costco tires but I felt I HAD to tell you this. Costco has separate “Business Centers” where they sell a really huge variety of items and in much larger quanitities. For example, at my local Costco I get a 24 variety pack of Clif Bars but at this business Costco, I can get a 12 pack bag and I have 7-8 different varieties to choose from. This costco also carries a huge number of restaurant items, like very inexpensive serving dishes, chafing dishes, lots of kitchen tools etc. The one I went to was in Hayward, California. They have a few all over the USA. Try searching for “business costco” on google and a number of locations will pop up while typing(through the automatic form fill feature of google).
    They also have a HUUUGE selection of cheese to choose from :)

  20. 22 Clue // 2010.01.05 at 5:27 pm

    Tires are pretty much the one thing I won’t do at Costco. Locations are spaced way too far apart to be reached when I need a quick repair and they take way too long for things like rotations. As much as I love them, and we know I do, tires are where Costco and I part ways. Also, the nitrogen thing is controversial and several independent stuidies don’t uphold Costco’s assertions of any real benefits, I’m afraid.

    Discount Tire is my go-to for tires. Their prices are very comparable to Costco’s, they have a much wider selection, they take and actually honor appointments, give accurate time estimations for completion and they have lots of locations. Moreover, I have been to probably a dozen different Discount Tire locations in no less than 3 states and have never, not once, had anything less than stellar, uber-polite service. With service like that, I have to believe that they must have a company culture not unlike that of Costco.

    FYI: they also go by the name of America’s Tire Company in Oregon, Washington, and most of California.

  21. 23 Tampa Slim // 2010.01.05 at 12:50 pm

    Had less than positive experiences with Costco Tire Dept, which is sad.

    Most have a very positive experience from Costco Tire Dept and I’m glad you love your new tires.

    Thanks for the excellent write-up.

    Caveat emptor, (Latin for “Let the buyer beware”)

  22. 24 Kimberly // 2010.01.05 at 11:54 am

    That wait was a killer and not something I want to do very often. My dealer always rotates tires as part of my normal service anyway, so hopefully I’ll be able to avoid the long wait again.

  23. 25 meesha.v // 2010.01.05 at 11:49 am

    I almost never use rotation because it always ends up being the same 2-3 hour wait. Which is unfortunate but I can spend that much time waiting.

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