At the risk of being overly dramatic, buying the right tires for our cars is one of the most important decisions you can make. Tires affect most aspects of driving, whether we are talking about performance or safety. Now Consumer Reports says low-rolling-resistance tires can give you better gas mileage. In these times, every extra mile counts.
Do tires affect gas mileage?
Tires are one of many factors that can impact your car’s gas mileage. Tire pressure, type, size, tread, and more can change how our cars drive. But one of the biggest factors contributing to tires’ relationship to gas mileage is the rolling resistance.
After some testing, Consumer Reports found that the rolling resistance can affect gas mileage more than we may have thought before.
How much do low-rolling-resistance tires affect gas mileage?
According to Consumer Reports, “Rolling resistance refers to the energy it takes to rotate the tires, affected by the friction caused when the tire surface meets the road. The Department of Energy estimates that 4 to 11 percent of fuel consumption is due to tire rolling resistance.”
There have been some significant strides made to lower rolling resistance. Of course, consumers are eager to find any way to save a buck at the pump these days. However, the main driving force of this research is for automakers to comply with increasingly stringent fuel-economy standards.
Outside of just CR’s study, industry studies show that a 10 percent drop in rolling resistance equates to about a 1 percent improvement in fuel economy. I know this doesn’t feel all that significant, but fuel economy savings compound over time, even numbers as small as this.
What are the best tires to improve gas mileage?
CR says that while testing all-season tires, there was a 34 percent difference between the best and worst-performing examples.
“There are many tires that have excellent grip, long tread life, and low rolling resistance,” says Ryan Pszczolkowski, Consumer Reports’ tire program leader. “These are often the tires that rise to the top of our ratings and can be smart buys. Because shoppers have so many factors to consider, it is important to look beyond the Overall Score to understand how a tire performs in the factors that matter most to you.”
CR’s testing measured tires and fuel economy over 12,000 miles of driving. In that time, they noticed a 34 percent difference in resistance equaling 14 gallons of fuel. Based on $5 per gallon, that equally $70 a year difference and $360 over the life of the tires. Granted, that isn’t a life-changing amount of money more many drivers, but savings are savings.
The low-rolling-resistance tires don’t mean that you necessarily sacrifice all your grip either. CR says that some of the lowest resistance tires scored in the top half of the best overall ranked tires.
Despite that fact, CR still recommends that you prioritize safety (braking, weather, etc.) over resistance. But this is still another tool to help you pick your next set of tires.