Many consumers find it difficult to know when to buy new tires, or which type of replacement tires they should buy. This confusion can lead them to purchase the wrong tires. Because tires are one of the most important safety features on a vehicle, choosing inadequate tires — or none at all — can be disastrous.

The following tips will help you determine when to replace your old tires, and what to consider while shopping for them:

Time for a Change

According to an article recently published on Cars-10.com, the easiest way to assess the condition of your current tires is with the penny test. By inserting a penny into the treads of your current tires, you will be able to tell if it is time to go shopping or not. If the penny is buried by the treads, your tires are fine. If the top of the coin sticks out above the treads, it’s time for replacement.

A Variety of Options

Different types of cars, and drivers, require tires tailored to their situation. If you’re a rugged driver who likes to cruise jagged back roads, you may need heavy duty Michelin tires from Discount Tires, while a more cautious driver in a minivan is fine with a lighter tire from their local auto repair shop. While looking for new tires, keep the following things in mind.

  • The terrain on which you primarily drive: If you drive a heavy vehicle on tough terrain, you may need heavy duty tires. Most other drivers will be able to get by with all-season tires.
  • The way that you like to drive: If you have a sports car, you may need performance tires that have been engineered for fast driving.
  • The type of tire that was originally installed on your car: For the safest choice, buy the same brand and model of tires that came with your car when it was new.
  • The price of your tires: Although price should not be your first consideration, it should be something that you keep in mind as you shop.

The Best Tires to Buy

Consumer Reports recently compiled data on which tires are the best in the industry. They agree that the best tires vary depending on driver needs. To make shopping easier, Consumer Reports divided their list of the best tires into the following categories:

All-Season Tires

All-season tires are quiet and comfortable, including these top four brands:

  • Continental ProContact EcoPlus+
  • Michelin Energy Saver A/S
  • Hankook Optimo H727
  • Goodyear Assurance TripleTred

Performance All-Season Tires

These four tires feature the same advantages as all-season tires, but with better braking and cornering abilities:

Ultra High Performance Summer Tires

If you want great performance, and you live in an area where you do not need to worry about snow and ice, you may like the following brands:

  • Michelin Pilot Super Sport
  • Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric
  • Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT
  • Michelin Pilot Sport PS2

Winter Tires

When snow and ice are working against you, you can lessen their effects by buying one of these two types of winter tires:

  • Michelin X-Ice XI 2
  • General Altimax Arctic

Winter Performance Tires

To maximize your control while driving in inclement weather, try:

  • Nokian WR G2
  • Hankook Winter Icept Evo
  • Michelin Pilot Aplin PA3

Whether you need high performance winter tires, or light, all-season radials, you should make your selection carefully. The right tires will improve how your car looks and feels, as well as boost its safety, while the wrong tires can create an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situation.