Ordering Wheels and Tires Online

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 rims as well. Different parts of the country are different so I can only write about what I deal with on the East Coast. There are a lot of tire retailers in my area. Most are set up to put stock size tires on stock wheels on stock vehicles and they do a ton of them. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s not helpful when you want to slap some non-stock wheels and oversize 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 the price becomes a big sticking point. When a wheel online costs $150 and a local store is over $200 more for the same thing it creates an imbalance. Some manufacturers use MAP to set a price that everyone uses. (MAP: minimum advertised price.) I like that and it works for the consumer. No matter where we buy from it’s the same price.

The other issue I run into a lot is sales personnel with no experience. Hiring high school and college kids is cheap and good experience for them. Retailers need to step up and provide training. Sales personnel need to understand bolt pattern, backspacing, offset, and rim width. How can someone sell me a wheel or a tire if they don’t even know what any of it means?

Online retailers offer huge inventories and warehouses all over the country. These mega marts can win on price almost every time. They have experienced phone operators who understand the wheel and tire information. That’s an advantage when you are ordering and need help to get the right parts.

It’s less convenient if you are only buying tires and you need to get them installed. Many retailers partner with certified local installers. Retailers offer warranties for the install service, and you support a local retailer. If you are buying wheels and tires most places will mount and balance them. They ship you the complete combo ready to mount and you can do it in your driveway.

For this article I ordered tires and wheels from two different online retailers. The idea is to compare the services.

The first set we ordered was from TireRack. I 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 site shows all stock optional wheel sizes. I could select options to limit or refine my search using several criteria. One area where the TireRack site could improve is offering a filter for backspacing. Several times I found wheels that were nice looking. After looking at the dimensions closer the backspacing was incorrect for my application.

Once I had found wheels and added them to the cart it was time to select tires. TireRack offered tires that matched the stock size. Click a change button by the size and you can search for any tire size you want. I chose a 315/70/17 to go with the new wheels. Pick the tires that meet what you want by selecting tire type, weight, or several other search terms.

Here is where TireRack excels. There is a prompt to add mounting and balancing, TPMS sensors if you need them, and add lug nuts to boot. You have to pay shipping costs but that varies from site to site. Shipping was quick. Everything came with cardboard on both sides of the wheel to protect them from damage.

The total price was $2300 with shipping and took about 4 days from order to our door. (Prices are full retail and may not represent what was actually paid.)
My other experience was with National Tire and Wheel. Based out of WV they specialize in off-road wheels and tires.

The shopping experience is like TireRack. Simple options that you can select and search by. 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 don’t need that info anyway.

When you add an item to your order you get a prompt for sensors, mount and balance, 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.

The total time from order to arrival was 3 days and that included Sunday. Faster but their warehouse is closer so both retailers are quick and efficient. NTW did not have cardboard on both sides of the wheels. They arrived with some nicks on a couple of the wheels on the uncovered inside of the rim lip. Not egregious but not how you want to receive your expensive brand new wheels.

The total price was $2751 with that extra price being the larger tires. 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. Mounting, balancing, and TPMS sensors are where the major differences were. The online retailers mounted and balanced 5 tires for $49.99. Local retailers wanted that per tire. They always charged an extra fee for larger tires. Some could not balance a tire over 35 inches 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. That 1K savings compared to shopping local is a lot of project budget. Is it the right answer for everyone? Maybe not, but it’s worth considering to save money.

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4 Wheels and a Motor