Budget vs Premium - What's the difference?
First, let’s start by tackling the question ‘What’s the difference between a cheap tyre and an expensive tyre?”
It’s important to note that all tyres manufactured or sold in Europe must conform to EU regulations, so you don’t have to worry about a budget tyre being any less safe than a premium tyre. However, there will be a performance difference. You can assess the primary performance of a tyre using the EU tyre label.
What does the EU tyre label mean?
Tyres must first be tested for specific performance characteristics before being sold on the European market. These characteristics include:
Wet Braking (rated from A to F)
A set of A-rated tyres will stop up to 18 metres shorter than a set of F-rated tyres, assuming an initial speed of 50mph.
In other words, your braking distance will increase by a car length for every drop in rating.
Fuel Efficiency (rated from A to G)
The difference between an A-rated tyre and a G-rated tyre could mean a reduction in fuel consumption of up to 7.5%* As a real-life comparison, that means you could save more up to 10 litres of fuel every 1,000 miles.
Assuming an average price of £1.22 per litre of petrol and a tyre life of 20,000 miles, that equates to a £244 saving over the tyre’s lifespan.
Of course, you will also positively impact the environment by using less fuel and reducing CO2 emissions.
Road Noise (rated in dB and a score between 1 and 3 in sound waves)
A loudspeaker with black waves is used to show how noisy a tyre is. The more waves there are, the louder the external noise of the tyre*
1 Wave = Quiet
2 Waves = Moderate
3 Waves = Noisy
We’re not going to get into the science behind decibel ratings and how they are calculated, but know that an increase of just a few decibels can represent a big difference in noise levels.
Choosing tyres using the EU label
You could argue that the EU has selected these parameters as they are the most crucial considerations when testing a tyre’s safety and overall performance.
So if we were to compare tyres using these as our guide, you could conclude that purchasing a budget tyre is the superior option, providing both tyres have the same EU tyre label ratings.
Finding a budget and premium tyre with the same EU ratings isn’t as difficult as you might think. After just one Google search and few minutes of entering my vehicle details, I found two tyres that matched up like-for-like. Yet, the price difference was over £20 each!
Have we found the answer? Is the game up for premium tyre brands? No, not yet.
You see, there is more to a tyre than just wet grip, fuel economy, and noise. For example:
- Dry handling and braking
- Cornering in the wet
- Treadwear/wear resistance
- Environmental impact during manufacturing
- Aquaplaning behaviour
- Manufacturer warranty
- Straight-line stability
Budget tyre manufacturers will care more about producing tyres at the lowest possible price, so it’s safe to assume that consideration for all these characteristics will be minimal compared to a premium tyre brand.
What defines a premium tyre?
You’ve heard all the names: Michelin, Bridgestone, Goodyear, and Pirelli. These are the tyre market’s Daddies, producing tyres for over 100 years and being trusted by the top vehicle manufacturers to design the best possible tyres for their cars. Just the name alone gives you peace of mind that your vehicle is safe and will grip the road perfectly in any weather condition.
And making tyres is not as easy as you might think. There is a severe amount of research, engineering, and testing required when designing a new tyre compound and tread pattern. It takes a wealth of knowledge and experience to make an excellent quality tyre, which you can only guarantee from a premium tyre manufacturer.
There are strong arguments to suggest that high-quality tyres save money and lives. Yes, they are more expensive in the short term, but they can last much longer than cheaper tyres.
It also can’t be overstated how essential your tyres are for the safety of your vehicle, so it’s harsh to say that paying for expensive tyres is a waste of money. After all, what price can you put on safety? The general advice given to customers is that you should spend as much as you can afford on tyres when the time comes to change them.
So what’s the conclusion? Should you pay more for peace of mind and possible performance improvements? Or are you throwing money into the wind?
Unfortunately, we can’t answer that yet. There are still a few more factors to consider.
Real life considerations
It doesn’t matter what tyre brand you buy; all tyres are made of rubber and inflated with air, meaning they are vulnerable to punctures at any moment.
A pothole doesn’t care that you’ve spent hundreds of pounds on a new set of expensive tyres. So if you live in an area where the road conditions are poor, or there is regular residential traffic (such as a tip), then the chance of picking up a puncture or having a flat tyre will increase.
Also, most tyres these days seem to be perishing after as little as two to three years. Why? It’s hard to say. Blame could lie in the manufacturing process, where less carbon-black is being used in tyre compounds to reduce their carbon footprint. But there is no evidence to prove this.
From experience, we can say that premature perishing is a common problem among almost all new tyres, regardless of how premium the brand is.
What does this mean for the average consumer?
If you don’t drive many miles, then treadwear doesn’t matter. Your tyres will only last three to four years anyway, so you would be better off going with a cheaper tyre.
Does the type of vehicle matter?
Most definitely! I would consider my tyre choice more carefully if I owned an Audi R8 versus a Nissan Micra. In our opinion, high-performance vehicles should always have high-performance tyres. There is no doubt about that. But for a standard car, the decision is not as black-and-white.
Budget tyres made by premium manufacturers
Did you know that premium manufacturers make some budget tyre brands? That’s right. There are tyre brands on the market right now made by Michelin, Continental and Pirelli, yet they come without the price tag.
So while they may not have the name of a premium brand, you can still rest easy knowing your tyres have the pedigree of a quality manufacturer behind them.
Here’s a list of some of the most well-known tyre companies and some budget brands they make:
- Riken, Komoran, Taurus
The final verdict
If you’ve made it to the end of this article, pat yourself on the back. As crucial as tyres are to your safety, it can be a chore to read about them. However, we can’t end the article here without finally answering the question, “What tyre brand should you buy?” so let’s do it.
To find the right tyre for your needs, you’ll need to write a score between 0 and 5 for several statements:
- What is your annual mileage? 0 being less than 5,000 – 5 being over 15,000
- What are the road conditions like in your area? 0 being very poor – 5 being very good
- How would you describe your driving style? 0 being slow and steady – 5 being fast and aggressive
- How much money do you have set aside for tyres? 0 being very little – 5 being “price doesn’t matter”
- What is more important to you, price or peace of mind? 0 being price – 5 being peace of mind
Once you’ve scored each statement, add them up to get a final score.
If your final score is between 0 and 9, then a budget tyre will be your best option.
A score between 10 and 17 would mean you should consider a mid-range brand at the minimum.
And finally, if your score is 18 or over, we would recommend buying a premium brand.
Now that you know what tyre quality would suit your needs, the search now begins for what particular brand is the best for the budget, mid-range and premium market. Well, to set you off in the right direction, we’ve got some recommendations for you.
Budget – We recommend Riken, Taurus, Komoran, Barum and Ceat. As stated previously, the best tyre brands in the business make these tyres, so you can have your cake and eat it too!
Mid-Range – We recommend Roadstone Nexen, Firestone, Uniroyal and GT Radial in the mid-range brands.
Premium – Any premium brand is a great choice, but the king for us is Michelin.
Personal Choice – For most of our customers, we recommend a tyre with good EU ratings, is affordable and comes with a two-year warranty against accidental damage. The only tyre brand that ticks all these boxes is Vitora. To find out more about Vitora Tyres, contact one of our team members today!