Your customer, the next generation

Feb. 28, 2012

How does your average Internet shopper shop for ultra-high performance tires? To find out, we asked someone who seemed to fit that description how he bought tires for his 2004 BMW M3.

He was happy to help us out, although he requested that we didn’t use his name. We’ll call him Bob.

Bob is 29 years old and lives in Redondo Beach, Calif., with his wife and baby girl. He works as a Web producer in his family’s business.

“Every time I’ve gone to a tire shop looking for performance tires, they haven’t been in stock. That’s a waste of my time,” he says. “I didn’t ask what they would have charged for the tires, but expect that the cost would have been more than the price I found them listed for online.”

Now he shops on the Internet. When asked how he bought his last set of high performance tires, Bob laid out a 14-step process that started with research on the Web.

1. Usually, I begin the process at night, after work, after dinner, and after attending to all my other family responsibilities.

2. If it’s the first set of replacement tires for my car, I search on or another website to figure out what size I need. I could go into the garage or outside to check, but then I’d need to find a flashlight and it might be cold outside, and I’d probably get dirty touching the tires. Going online and checking the fitment seems the best way to find out. I also can learn from the comments if others are using a particular size and getting better results from it, possibly better handling or grip.

3. For this particular car, the wheels aren’t standard. They were upgraded to the staggered M3 CSL wheels, so I searched “e46 m3 csl tire size” on Google.

4. In the Google search results, I saw this link relating to the CSL tire fitment: Most people were recommending to run a 245 front and a 275 rear.

5. Then I returned to to see the available tires.

6. I unselected “All performance categories” and checked  the “Extreme,” “Max” and “Ultra-High Performance” summer tire categories (and wondered what the difference was between them). I then had 13 results from which to choose.

7. First, I checked off three or four tires and did a quick price comparison. The prices generally ranged from about $200 to more than $400, which meant the total could be almost $1,700! That’s a lot of money even for a guy with an M3, so I stayed away from the really expensive tires  and didn’t add them to the comparison.

8. The four brands that I chose to compare were: Michelin Pilot Super Sport, Continental ExtremeContact, Bridgestone Potenza RE-11 and Hankook Ventus V12 evo.

9. I liked the customer data that I saw, especially the “would you buy again” rating, and from what I read, the Pilot Super Sport appeared to be the best of the bunch. At $275 per front and $311 per rear, they were about the most expensive, just $12 less than the Potenza’s. The Hankook’s were the least expensive ($196 front/$239 rear), totaling more than $300 less than the Potenza’s. I decided on the Hankook tires.

10. I wanted to make sure I was getting the best price (including shipping). Tire Rack had them for $196. A quick search showed another place online had them for $168. Then I found them for just $161.93 at website Sold!

11. I knew there was a tire dealer near my office, so I checked Google Maps to get the address and phone number: Allen Tire on Hawthorne Blvd. Great.

12. I ordered the tires online and had them shipped to the tire shop c/o me. I made sure I had the packages tracked by UPS so I knew when they would be there.

13. Once I got the tracking info in my e-mail, I called the tire shop to set up an appointment. (Most of the time, I’ll set this up the day after the expected arrival of the tires since they usually are delivered late afternoon.)

14. The day of the appointment, I was in and out in less than 30 minutes — and had time to get some food before getting back to the office.

 “I’ve done this about four or five times and have been satisfied with the results,” says Bob. “I’ll usually return to the same tire shop for the install if they are clean, not overpriced and, most importantly, on schedule.”

Latest in Consumer Tires