Your vehicle left the factory with a specific set of tires for a specific set of reasons. Original equipment tires are usually referred to as OE, or OEM (Original Equipment, Manufacturer).
Part of that set of reasons is cost, of course; like any part on a vehicle, the manufacturer will look for the best price from a supplier, as long as the part meets performance expectations. But more than that, the vehicle’s design team has specific targets for traction, handling, braking performance, ride quality, road manners and steering response, and tires are a critical part of that package of targets.
Why OE vs Aftermarket?
Sooner or later, your OE tires are going to wear out and need replacement. It’s important to remember that OE tires aren’t “average” tires to start with, so if you like the kind of performance that your original tires delivered, then you should try to replace them with that exact tire.
Bear in mind, though, that different models from the same manufacturer will have different tires, and sometimes vehicles that are the same year/make/model might have different tires because the manufacturer made changes partway through that year’s production run.
But, let’s say there were things about those OE tires that you didn’t really like. Maybe they were too noisy, or you didn’t like the wet traction or cornering or braking performance. If that’s the case, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t switch to a set of aftermarket tires that are more in line with what you really need.
Remember, though, that tires are a “you-get-what-you-pay-for” proposition in just about every case. A budget set of tires is likely to be noisier, rougher-riding and may not have the treadwear you want, so do your homework carefully. It’s advisable to look at tire comparisons online or on resources like Consumer Reports, looking for:
- Treadwear warranty
- Ride quality
- Handling on wet or dry pavement
- Winter traction (this can be a pretty big factor depending on what part of the country you’re in
- Braking performance
- Cornering ability and steering response
- Road manners and straight-line stability
Another thing that might enter into your tire buying decision is the age of your vehicle. If you’re driving something that’s more than eight or ten years old and has high miles on it, it’s understandable that you might not want to sink a lot of money into a set of tires. Again, just bear in mind that top tire manufacturers offer sub-brands that can offer an excellent value, while tires at a too-low price point might not give you what you need.
Something to bear in mind with aftermarket tires
When it’s time to buy replacement tires, whether you go with the OE brand or aftermarket, you will want to be very careful with changing tire or wheel sizes. Getting a wider tire can change traction and braking performance, as well as adding rolling resistance (which will cut fuel economy). Going with a taller tire effectively changes the final gear ratio, which can affect handling, speedometer readings, braking and other parts of the driving experience.
If you do decide you want to change tire sizes, there are very specific formulas for going about that, and in some cases a change in tire sizes might even void a new-car warranty if problems result.