One of the many joys of car ownership is finding out that you have to pay hundreds of dollars and spend several hours on something you didn’t even know was a problem. Case in point: at a routine servicing a couple of months ago, I found out that I needed new tires. (Buh-bye, $350.)
Being me (i.e., a semi-obsessive compulsive geek) I ran the numbers:
- Tires cost a little under a penny per mile.
- A $20/ton charge for CO2 emisisons would increase the cost of driving by…a little under a penny a mile. Of course, we couldn’t possibly do that, because it would would ruin the economy!! </sarcasm>
- Buying low rolling-resistance tires can boost mileage by about 1.5% to 4.5%. (More here.) At the current price of gas, that means that low rolling resistance tires can save you somewhere between $33 and $99 per tire!!
The thing that ticked me off, though, was that it’s well known that a tire’s rolling resistance affects gas mileage. And I was willing to pay more for the the privilege of buying more fuel efficient tires. But the tire “experts” at two different stores had no idea what I was talking about. One even tried to convince me that the idea that rolling resistance mattered was a myth! (Sorry, Les Schwab, you wound up losing a customer.) The other tire guy, who was willing to humor me, said something to the effect that it only made like a half-a-mile per gallon difference.
Dude!! Gas is $3 a gallon. I’m buying tires that are supposed to last 60,000 miles. My infernal jalopy that I can’t afford to replace gets just a hair over 20 mpg. So even if gas prices remain steady for the next 8 years or so, (ha!) half a mile a gallon saves me at least $200 bucks, not to mention a barrel and a half of oil.
At this point, with prices as high as they’ve been, I’d think that tire stores would leap at the chance to point out tires that can save fuel. But I’d be wrong. Apparently, business as usual means that everyone still assumes that gas is cheap. Time’s they aren’t a changin’ yet.
Clark,In the days before car-lessness, I had the exact same experience. I took a list of low-rolling-resistance tire models (from Green Seal, I believe) with me to three different tire shops: Les Schwab, Goodyear, and Firestone. None of them had any tire on the list. None of them offered to order me any of the tires on the list. Two of three tried to convince me that tires had no impact on fuel economy.Then I searched the Internet and phoned several specialty tire suppliers in the Yellow Pages. I found one in Tacoma that was willing to order a set of tires for me, but the high price plus the extra drive to get the tires were just too much.I gave up.(And then, six months later, the car was totaled anyway.)What I learned at the time was that low-rolling resistance tires are made almost entirely for the new-car market—where they contribute to fuel economy. You get them on some new cars. But they’re almost impossible to buy as replacement tires.I wonder if fleet operators, such as taxis, police departments, corporate and government motor pools, and Flexcar, are able to procure them.Policy solutions: mandatory testing and labeling of replacement tires for fuel economy? Feebates on tires? Government procurement rules? Consumer pressure on tire retailers?