Why Costco May Be a Better Tire Retailer Than You

Bob Ulrich
Posted on June 23, 2017

I have written in the past about how progressive and tire-dealer-like Costco Wholesale Corp. is. It just doesn't sell tires like a wholesale club, and it even sells online.

Readers of Consumer Reports (CR) seem to agree. In a recent survey of 48,525 subscribers in the U.S. and Canada, Costco finished tied for first in a ranking of places with the best tire-buying experiences. It finished with 90 points, and had overall "Excellent" scores in 1) price paid, 2) quality of installation, and 3) returns and exchanges. It also had three "Very Good” scores (sales service, free perks, checkout ease) and three “Good” scores (selection, tire for installation, waiting area).

Costco tied with Tire Rack, Les Schwab Tire Centers, Discount Tire and “Independent retailers.” Based on survey results by category, I would have thought Les Schwab would have scored higher: It had six Excellent scores, one Very Good and two Good (although the two Good scores were for price paid and selection). No one with 90 points had a Fair or Poor score.

Three dealerships each finished with 89 points: Fountain Tire, Tire Barn and – if this doesn’t scare you, nothing will – Amazon.com, which received Excellents in price paid, selection and checkout ease. Ouch.

Another four retail outlets finished with 88 points: Tirebuyer.com (American Tire Distributors Inc.), Belle Tire Distributors, BJ’s Wholesale Club and Kal Tire.

Sears Auto Centers did not fare nearly as well, with 80 points; one Poor rating (free perks), three Fair ratings and five Good ratings will do that to you. Pep Boys and NTB tied with Sears.

Two independent tire dealerships, however, finished lower than Sears with 79 and 78 points respectively. In all, more than 30 large national and regional tire retailers, including tire company-owned stores and car dealerships (as a group), were ranked. The latter finished with 86 points. Smaller “independent retailers” also were treated as one group.

According to the accompanying story by CR’s Jeff Bartlett,

* 86% of the respondents researched tires before buying them.

* 61% bought a different brand than the one they previously had on their car.

* 21% purchased their tires from “independent retailers,” which was the highest share percentage for any group or chain. Discount Tire came in at 15%.

* 15% said they needed to replace their tires because of damage; 6% of the 15% said the cause of the damage was “defect.”

“Once the replacement tires are selected, there are many retailers to choose from,” wrote Bartlett. “The best ones often have compelling tire prices and high installation quality – although all the retailers in the survey did a decent job of satisfying consumers overall.”

My take? Great information. Also, low tire prices – either real or perceived -- seemed to greatly affect the rankings for the better (or worse, depending on your business point of view).

Related Topics: car dealerships, company-owned stores, Consumer Reports, Costco, Discount Tire, Jeff Bartlett, Les Schwab Tire Centers, mass merchandisers, Pep Boys, Sears Auto Centers, Tire Rack

Bob Ulrich Editor
Comments ( 2 )
  • See all comments
  • jerad

     | about 7 months ago

    How about warranties? I find that Pep Boys, Sam's, and Costco don't handle warranty claims with ease. I agree with previous comment.

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