Most people hate spending money on car tires. Not only are they expensive, they're just not especially sexy or appealing (unless you're a gearhead like we are). Tires seem to be the least prominent aspect for most car buyers. They care about the way the car body looks, the upholstery, the infotainment system, the audio system… just about anything but the actual tires. Some car owners even scrimp on tires and buy the cheapest ones they can (my mother-in-law buys used ones from junkyards!), thinking that tires are unimportant and don't deserve their hard-earned pay. But if you take a closer look at what goes into tires, how they're designed, and what they actually do when it comes to your car's performance, you'd reconsider. Here are three reasons why buying good car tires really matters.

Tires are the Only Points of Contact with the Road

It seems like a no-brainer, but most folks don't pay attention to the fact that a car's tires are the only parts of the vehicle that come in contact with the road (unless your muffler is dragging, of course, but then you have other problems). These four “contact” patches aren't especially large, which makes the reality of their significance even more stark. If the tires are of poor quality, they're underinflated, or worn out, they will severely affect the safety of the car and its occupants. Everybody wants to save money and get the cheapest tires they can, but that would be an unwise choice. It doesn't mean that you have to buy the most expensive tire, but don't purposely try to scrimp and get bargain basement tires.

The average car tire contact patch or footprint is surprisingly small, about the size of your hand. That's where the tread of the tire comes in contact with the surface of the road. Obviously, if you have a big SUV, half-ton pickup truck, or a high-performance sports car, then that contact patch is slightly larger but not significantly so. If that contact patch is compromised with bad tires, that means it affects the way your car handles in both regular driving and emergency situations. A good set of properly maintained tires ensures that the contact patches are secure and right-sized.

Buy the Right Type of Tires for the Kind of Driving You Do

When you buy a set of tires for your car, keep in mind what kind of driving you do on a regular basis. If you're in mostly dry climates and it's pretty warm most of the year, you can get away with summer tires. If you do a lot of driving in all kinds of weather, all-season tires might work for you but you need to make sure which are the driven wheels in your vehicle, as well. If you have all-season tires but have rear-wheel drive and you drive in deep snow, that might not work during those times, especially if you have a higher horsepower vehicle. You might need to get a separate set of dedicated winter tires. If you drive mostly on trails, consider all-terrain tires. Don't go based on the looks of the tire, but take a closer look at the type of road surface the tires were made for.

Also, consider things like treadwear, water dispersion, the roundness of the tire (which means certain brands or tires require less balancing with weights and cause less vibration/harmonics when you drive). Remember not to drive on winter tires in warm weather because they're made of a softer rubber compound and wear out prematurely in warmer weather. Don't buy tires just because they're on sale, either. You could get the wrong tires for the kind of conditions you're driving in.

Buy the Same Tires for All Four Wheels

We get that tires are expensive. If one of your tires gets a blowout flat and you need to replace it, you're tempted just to get a cheap tire, but that would be a horrible (and unsafe) idea. You might not notice anything when you drive in normal conditions, but if you have one tire with a different tread pattern, rubber compound, or sidewall height, your car could lose handling and/or braking capability in an emergency situation. Think of wearing one dress shoe and one sneaker while sprinting, and you have to make a quick turn. Do you think that would turn out well for you? It's the same with tires. Like tires that are in good condition and properly inflated will yield consistent results with no surprises.

It's always recommended to replace car tires in pairs or all four at the same time. That's not always realistic financially, so make sure you at least get the same make/model of tire if you're replacing just one. If the manufacturer no longer makes that specific model, then opt to replace the pair (front or rear). When possible, replace all four tires. It's just smarter to do it that way for the safety of everyone in the vehicle.