Why Are Walmart Tires So Cheap?

Shopping for tires can be an arduous process if you don’t know what kind of tires you’re looking for. Fortunately, most tire retailers have handy configurators on their websites to help point you in the right direction when it comes to getting the proper tires for your vehicle. However, you may be tempted to shop for new tires based on their price, in which case, you might find that your local Walmart has cheaper tires than most other retailers. But why?

Tires at Walmart are only a little cheaper

When shopping for tires at Walmart, it’s easy to get confused since they have all kinds of different brands and tire sizes available. However, it’s important to note that a lot of the brands that they offer are of the lesser-known variety, so it’s up to the buyer to their own research as to which ones will work best for their vehicle and daily use. For example, some of the less expensive tire brands that Walmart offers are Lionheart, Atlas Force, Cosmo, and Achilles, just to name a few.

Upon doing some research of these tire brands, it looks like some of them are made in China, while others, like Achilles, are made in Indonesia. So if you don’t care about where your car’s tires come from and just need some rubber to drive around, then you could be OK using these lesser-known brands. However, if you would rather spend a little more on the well-known brands like Falken, Goodyear, and Michelin, then just know that Walmart is only a little cheaper.

A sign hangs outside of a Walmart store in Chicago, Illinois.
A sign hangs outside of a Walmart store in Chicago, Illinois. | (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

As a small example, I looked up a specific tire – the Yokohama Advan Sport A/S in 215/45-17 – and cross-checked Walmart’s price of $120 against well-known online retailers like TireRack.com and Discount Tire, which have the same tire priced at $124 and $123, respectively. As we can see, Walmart is really only a couple of dollars cheaper when it comes to more-expensive, well-known brands.

There have been rumors circulating the Internet about Walmart selling cheaper versions of the same “big name” tires that other retailers sell, but in our findings, it doesn’t seem to be true.

Walmart’s customer service is something to note

Now that we know that you can get cheaper tires at Walmart if you’re willing to go with a lesser-known tire brand, then the other part of the equation is the type of customer service that you can expect. And while I cannot speak for every Walmart tire location across the nation, I can at least speak for my own experience at my local Walmart location.

My personal Walmart Tires experience

I recently made an appointment at my local Walmart to get a set of tires put on my 2008 Honda S2000. The process was simple: Take the new tires, put them on the car, and then give me the old tires back (so I can sell them).

The reason I went with Walmart is that they quoted me $96 to do the job, when everywhere else I called quoted me well over $100 to do it. And since it was a one-time affair, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to save a little money.

After showing up to my appointment, I waited 30 minutes at the counter because the service writer had to get a manager’s approval for them to put my tires on. After (nervously) handing them the key to my car, they said they would call me and it should take about an hour and a half (to put on tires?!), so I made sure they had the correct phone number. I waited at home for two hours and ended up calling them, to which the service tech replied, “We tried to call, but I guess we have the wrong number. Your car is ready though.”

Stacks of old, used tires
Stacks of tires | Steve Christo/Corbis via Getty Images

How to Use the Penny Test to Check Your Tire Depth

I nervously drove back to Walmart and expected the worst. “Did they put the tires on correctly?” and “Did they drive my car unnecessarily?” were thoughts that legitimately raced through my head. And when I pulled up to my car, I inspected it immediately and found that they put the two tires meant for the rear in the front of the car and vice versa (it’s a staggered setup).

Fortunately, they corrected the mistake quickly and I paid for the service. As a double bonus, it looked like they didn’t drive my car much at all, so I gave them a pass there. But the moral of the story is that you can buy cheap tires at Walmart if you don’t care about the brand, but expect to wait a really long time for them to be installed, which seems to be a common issue.