How Long Do Tires Last?

Several factors can affect the longevity of the tires on your vehicle.

DOT code and production date on a tire sidewallShutterstock

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A variety of things can affect tire life, including mileage, age, climate, tread compound, air pressure, rotation schedule, wheel alignment, and driving habits. The all-season tires that are commonly installed on sedans, crossovers, SUVs, and trucks typically last around 50,000 to 70,000 miles if they are properly maintained. The aggressive performance tires on a powerful sports car, however, may need to be replaced after less than 15,000 miles. In general, summer and winter tires, and staggered fitments (where the tires can’t be rotated because the front and rear sizes are different) will wear quicker than all-seasons that are regularly rotated.

Drivers also need to be mindful of the age of their tires. Regardless of the mileage or the condition of the tread, tires should be replaced when they are 10 years old. The date code on the tire sidewall can be used to determine when a tire was manufactured. Remember, for tires made since the year 2000, the Department of Transportation has required four-digit tire identification codes: two digits for the week of the year and two that match the last two digits of the year. A tire with the code “3317” would have been made in the 33rd week of 2017.

While there’s no simple way to determine how long the tires on your vehicle will last, when it comes time to replace them, there are a few things you can do to find tires that will go the distance. Here’s what you need to know.

How to Buy Tires That Last

Your best option for finding long-lasting tires is to rely on a reputable organization that conducts its own research. Consumer Reports incorporates real-world wear testing into its tire ratings (you’ll need a subscription to see the results), and Tire Rack surveys customers to gauge buyer satisfaction. You may also try reading customer reviews on tire-manufacturer and retailer websites, but beware of fake reviews or a few angry people skewing the overall picture. Look for themes that pop up repeatedly in multiple comments.

What Is a Tire Treadwear Rating?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requires that most road tires undergo testing and receive a treadwear grade that indicates approximately how long the tread will last in comparison to a reference tire. If it matches the wear of the reference tire, the test tire earns a baseline rating of 100. If the manufacturer determines the tread should last twice as long as the reference tire’s, it gets a rating of 200; three times as long, 300. The higher the number, the longer the tread should last.

While NHTSA meant for these ratings to provide consumers with useful information about tire longevity, we wouldn't recommend comparing the numbers across brands. That's because tire manufacturers conduct the testing and may interpret and market the results differently than others. So while a tire from Michelin may have the same treadwear rating as one from Goodyear, that doesn't necessarily mean they will wear equally. It’s best to use these numbers to compare ratings within the same brand.

Understanding Tire Warranties

Many tire manufacturer warranties are limited to defects in materials or workmanship, but it’s possible to find tires with a mileage warranty (also known as a treadwear warranty) guaranteeing they will last up to 80,000 miles. A warranty may give you more confidence in a tire’s longevity, but know that you’ll have to present a rock-solid case to actually make a claim and see any benefit.

These warranties are only for replacement tires—they don’t cover the tires that were installed at the factory when your car was built—and they only apply to the original purchaser and if the tires are exclusively used on the vehicle they were originally installed on. Mileage warranties also have a time limitation, usually four to six years from the date of purchase.

You’ll want to keep all paperwork pertaining to your tire purchase and maintenance. To make a claim you’ll have to prove that the tires were properly cared for by maintaining the correct air pressures, following the recommended rotation schedule, and keeping your car’s alignment in spec. One or two tires that have worn unevenly are unlikely to be covered by the manufacturer. If you successfully prove that your tires wore out prematurely, the manufacturer will usually issue you a prorated credit for replacement tires. For example, if tires with an 80,000-mile warranty wear out after 40,000 miles, the tire maker will cover 50% of the cost for the comparable replacement tire from the same brand.

Tire companies put these hurdles in place for good reason: The surest way to make your tires last as long as possible is by checking the pressure and rotating the tires regularly and adjusting the alignment as necessary.

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Dennie Edwards
Dennie Edwards repaired cars for 18 years as an auto technician at Saturn dealerships before joining a commercial-truck manufacturer to help develop a diagnostic tool. He currently authors diagnostic content for construction-equipment technical manuals. As a freelance writer, he enjoys educating consumers on all things automotive with a focus on parts, repairs, and technology.