Prius Tires

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imageThe Prius doesn’t need much, but it does go through tires.  The first generation—a small, heavy car thanks to its hybrid components—calls for Bridgestone Potenzas, which can be safely inflated to 50psi to maximize fuel economy and tread wear.  After learning the hard way, many owners attest to getting the most for their money both in tires and gasoline with this product. 

The second generation Prius comes stock with a different, more standard-sized tire, the Goodyear Integrity P185/65R15 86S, which lasts 40,000 miles at best (consistent inflation to 40psi and rotations every 5000 miles) and less than 30,000 miles at worst.  It’s designed to get optimal fuel economy results for EPA certification (numbers listed on the label when the car is for sale), the top priority for Prius buyers, and therefore compromises on other performance specs such as endurance and traction.  Given their short lifespan, Gen 2 Prius owners have been quickly posed with the question of tire replacement and how to improve on the original.

Being specialists, we have been vetting the plethora of choices for some time (OMG PriusChat) and have currently settled on the Goodyear Assurance FuelMax, in the standard size of 185/65R15 86T (slightly higher speed rating than original).  I like this tire because it keeps with the OE brand of Goodyear; it’s specially designed to maximize fuel economy while tipping its hat to the most common complaints of poor traction and short tire life, all at a reasonable price.

LG does not maintain its own tire equipment, for lack of space and, frankly, lack of profit (tires are a highly competitive market and they don’t require our technical expertise to change).  That said, we do advocate for informed, responsible tire choices and therefore carry the Potenza and Assurance FuelMax in stock (Potenzas are also the best for the Insight, and we carry that size too).  Because the market is often slow to respond to hybrid trends, the correct tires are occasionally on backorder—problematic when you need tires now for a multiyear, high-dollar investment.

We purchase through Tire Rack at wholesale prices and mark them up to compensate for our expertise and the convenience of having them in stock.  Individuals can also purchase from Tire Rack directly at a slight cost savings. 

imageWe sublet tire mount and balance to Larkins Brothers Tire a little over a mile away; they’re as green as any regular shop (which is to say, no greener than what’s required by law) but they’re honest, inexpensive, fast, and their employees seem well treated.  (We also use Robert’s Tire around the corner when we’re in a rush, they’re a little more expensive and not quite as fast, but proximity allows us to leave the car and walk back to work and they’re equally capable and honest.)  We do not mark up for installation ($25 per tire) but are willing to facilitate the service as a courtesy of getting it done while your car is already with us and not having to deal with a separate service facility.

All told, the cost of a tire, installed, is as follows:

Gen 1 Prius (model year 2001, 2002, 2003):

Bridgestone Potenza P175/65R14 RE92 XL – $108.80
9.5% Sales Tax – $10.34
Mount/Balance/Fees – $25
Total – $144.14/tire

Gen 2 Prius (model years 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 with the standard package)

Goodyear Assurance FuelMax P185/65R15 86T – $106.53
9.5% Sales Tax – $10.12
Mount/Balance/Fees – $25
Total – $141.65/tire

Gen 1 Insight (model years 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006)

Bridgestone Potenza P165/65R14 78S – $111.80
9.5% Sales Tax – $10.62
Mount/Balance/Fees – $25
Total – $147.42/tire

imageTires are critical to safety: evidence pics from a 2006 Prius tire that literally wore through the steel belts and blew on the San Francisco Bay Bridge last Saturday.  Many people swear by Costco; just yesterday a customer was telling me how he got 90,000 mile Michelins that originally lost on fuel economy (a common complaint with Costco tires) but is now getting 2 mpg better than original (which he and the salesman attributed to the treads “firming up”) for $400 out the door (though he suggested this was a special sale price).  Other popular choices are Yokohamas and Kumhos.  Just last week I put a customer into Nexans because his car was a city workhorse and he didn’t mind current vehicle traction. 

Obviously tires are high consumers of natural resources and the lifespan of the tire entails its own built-in fuel economy.  Traction is another serious concern, in terms of safety and the resources entailed in repair and tow after an accident.  The second generation Prius remains fairly new, and few have gone through enough tires to really know how long the replacements will last and what the lifetime fuel economy and other performance specs are.  At some point the question is a Buridan’s ass, and there are as many tires available as there are advocates for buying them. 

For more information on tire choices in the paradigm of fuel economy, check out:

Tire Rolling Resistance, Part 1 via
Tire Rolling Resistance, Part 2 via
Tire Rolling Resistance, Part 3 via