So you got the lift picked out, every color matched accessory, and LED lights bright enough to rival the sun. Then you look at those sad stock wheels and tires.
What’s an owner to do? You have a couple of options to make this happen.
You can go to a local tire store, get a nice set of tires and maybe a set of rims as well. Now different parts of the country are different parts of the country so I can only write about what I deal with. There are a lot of tire retailers in the area, they are set up to put stock sized tires back on stock wheels on stock vehicles and they do a ton of them. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just not helpful when you want to slap some non stock wheels and over size tires on your ride.
There are several custom wheel and tire shops around as well. Some cater to cars, some to trucks, and then there are some off road specific shops. I like to try to shop local when I can but price becomes a big sticking point. When a wheel online costs $150 and a locally purchased wheel is over $200 for the same thing it creates an imbalance. Some manufacturers don’t allow resellers to alter the price and everyone has to sell them for the same price. I like that for the most part and it works for the consumer in that no matter where they buy it’s the same price. It hurts the consumer when we can’t get a better deal because the price is fixed by the manufacturer. The other issue I run into a lot is inexperienced sales personnel. Hiring high school and college kids is good money and good experience. Retailers need to provide training so they understand what bolt patterns, back spacing, off set, and rim width means. How can someone sell me a wheel or a tire if they don’t even know what any of it means?
Lastly is online retailers. With huge inventories and warehouses all over the country these mega marts can win on price almost every time. They generally have experienced phone operators who understand the wheels, the tires, and what the information means. That’s an advantage when you are ordering items. What’s inconvenient is if you are only buying tires you need to get them installed on the wheels you have and then on your car. Many retailers are partnered with certified installers to make this simpler, they have excellent warranties for their service, and going this route actually means you still support a local retailer while saving money. If you are buying wheels and tires most places offer mounting and balance and ship you the complete wheel ready to mount and you can do it in your driveway.
Recently I ordered tires and wheels from two different online retailers. The idea was to compare the services and we needed two different sets of wheels and tires for Project Overland.
The first set was ordered for our Silver JK from TireRack. We purchased 5 Dick Cepek GM7 wheels and 5 Kumho Road Venture AT tires. (Read the review here…) Ordering was as simple as clicking through the website. We selected what our vehicle was and then picked shopping for a wheel and tire package. The stock wheel size and all optional sizes were displayed and we could select options to limit or refine our search. One area where the TireRack site could be improved for aftermarket is the ability to sort or search by backspacing. Several times we found wheels that were nice looking and were perfect other than the back space dimension was too large to fit with aftermarket larger tires.
Once we had found the wheels and added them to the cart we were sent to tires that matched the stock tire size. Click a change button by the size and you can search for any tire size you want. We chose 315/70/17 to go with those new wheels. Pick the tires that meet what you want by selecting tire type, or weight, or several other search terms and add that to the cart.
Here is where TireRack really excels. They immediately prompt you to add mounting and balancing, TPMS sensors if you need it, and throw in lug nuts to boot. You have to pay shipping costs, that ran about $225. Shipping was quick and they came with protective cardboard on both sides of the wheel to protect them during shipping.
Total price was $2300 with shipping took about 4 days from order to our door. (Prices are full retail and may not represent what was actually paid.)
Our other experience was with National Tire and Wheel Off Road tire retailers. Based out of WV they specialize in off road wheels and tires.
The shopping experience is very similar to TireRack. Simple options that you can select and search by with a couple minor differences. There are two major differences. One is there are more options for narrowing your searches on NTW. The other is you need to know your wheel and tire details, no shopping by vehicle and getting the stock information. If you are shopping for aftermarket wheels and larger tires you probably don’t need that info anyway.
Same deal when you add tires to your order you get prompted to add TPMS sensors, mount and balance with lug nuts, and wheels or tires depending on what you selected first.
In our case buying the wheels and tires from NTW was not quite apples to apples. They were running a free shipping offer on Mickey Thompson wheels and tires. We purchased a set of Mickey Thompson Classic III’s and 37/12.50/17 inch Mickey Thompson Deegan 38 tires.
Total time from red to arrival was 3 days and that included Sunday. Really fast but their warehouse is closer so both retailers are quick and efficient. NTW did not have cardboard on both sides of the wheels and they arrived with some nicks on a couple of the wheels on the uncovered inside of the rim lip. Not egregious but certainly not how you want to receive your expensive and brand new wheels.
Total price was $2751 with that extra price being the larger tires significantly higher price versus a 35 or 315 sized tire. The 37 was $360 and the 315(35) are $212 per tire. That’s a big difference in price and the only reason the totals are as close as they are is the free shipping. (Prices are list price and may not represent what was actually paid.)
I shopped around locally to try to match the price and never even came close. The average price for similar wheels and tires ranged from $3000 to $4000 dollars and up. The low end was a 35 and the high end a 37. Mourning, balancing, and TPMS sensors are where the major differences were. The online retailers mounted and balanced 5 tires for $49.99. Local retailers wanted double that or more and always charged an additional fee for the larger tires. Some could not balance a tire that size on their machine.
To be fair I want to reiterate that your area may be different. I know for us and our project getting a 37 inch tire mounted on wheels for under 3K is a great deal and would save over 1k compared to shopping local. Is it the right answer for everyone? Maybe not but it’s worth considering to save money on those new wheels.