Tires are arguably the most important component on a car. After all, where would we be if everybody still rolled around on wooden wheels? Still, it is a component that gets paid little attention until it is time to replace it. But as consumers across the country are finding, prices on tires are escalating at a rapid rate due to numerous market forces at work.

A full report of the rise in tire prices comes from the Wall Street Journal.

Picture: Mark Gearhart

There are many reasons for the mark-up in prices, not the least of which is consumer ignorance. It is safe to assume that most of you on these websites are performance enthusiasts to some degree and are more capable of arguing with a salesmen than the average American. But many people opt for “performance” or “sport” packages for looks rather than actual performance. These packages often add large wheels with higher speed ratings that are costly to replace. For example, a replacement tire for a new Camaro outfitted with the RS package can cost upwards of $500 each.

Another contributing factor is an upcoming tariff on Chinese-made tires. A 35% tariff would make the cheapest tires that are much more expensive, driving down the availability of economical tires for many car owners. Vehicles have also gotten increasingly heavy, causing tires to wear out much more quickly than many of us are used to. Higher-end, stickier tires help heavy vehicles handle better, (and according to the WSJ) 13% of new cars in 2007 come with 149 mph-rated V-class tires, compared with just 4.6% five years ago. No doubt that number is rising. Even hybrid and economy models now come with low-rolling resistance tires for increased gas mileage, and many industry experts say these wear out faster than harder tires. It might be a good time to invest in rubber.

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