A new tire is placed on the tire storage rack in the car workshop. Be prepared for vehicles that need to change tires.

Chonlatee Sangsawang/istockphoto

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When I asked family and friends where I should buy new tires, the answer was always the same: Costco. It’s easy to see why. Costco’s Tire Center offers Michelin tires and other top-of-the-line brands at affordable prices, all while including an impressive five-year road hazard warranty and lifetime maintenance.

You can also order new tires and make appointments online. So for my first set of tires, I put my membership to use and went to Costco. And ... the experience was just okay. (Not already a Costco member? You can apply here.)

An Overcomplicated Appointment Portal

My tire journey began with an online purchase of Bridgestone Weatherpeaks, which were a hair over $600 for the tires and labor thanks to a $150 rebate. The website and appointment system themselves were functional but overcomplicated. A new Costco account just for the appointment center? Another password? Costco, please integrate your websites!

For $600 out the door, however, I was willing to overlook the tire service’s backward website. And the wholesaler’s follow-up emails were reassuring. I made the right choice, I thought to myself.

Dude, Where’s Your Car?

But when I arrived at Costco promptly at 8:45 a.m. for my appointment at 9 a.m., a few things irritated me. Per Costco’s instructions, I arrived 15 minutes early — only to discover that neither the Tire Center nor the warehouse were open. It was a minor inconvenience, but they began to add up.

Cosco Tires
Nowhere in the email did it say where I should park my car or check-in, so I drove up close to the Tire Center (still shuttered at 9 a.m.) and waited. When a mechanic emerged, I discovered that I needed to check-in inside, where I found a long line of people with and without appointments.

Once I got to the check-in counter 15 minutes later, the technician told me that I should have parked in one of the Tire Center’s designated parking spots. Again, it seems like Costco could improve their service simply by communicating these points in an email and streamlining check-in.

The wait itself was fine. I killed time in Costco’s warehouse, bought enough ibuprofen to last a lifetime, and watched people at the food court devour hot dogs and pizzas for breakfast. A little less than an hour and a half later, my car was ready.

I’m not an auto expert, but the tires and tire installation seem high quality, and they served me well on my 400-mile road trip from Sacramento to Los Angeles. But would I go with Costco again? Maybe.

The Competition

After doing more research, it seems that other members complain about long wait times at Costco, and Discount Tire (aka America’s Tire) continually came up as a top competitor. Like Costco, they offer free rotations for the lifetime of the tires, free prorated hazard protection, and a comprehensive three-year warranty (at an additional cost). They also price match, which means that Costco’s affordability advantage might not mean much in a head-to-head tire price matchup.

Final Thoughts

My Costco auto center experience wasn’t bad; it’s just that with a few extra tweaks, like sending a detailed appointment email and improving the appointment website, Costco could turn an okay service into an excellent one.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much are four tires at Costco?

That depends entirely on what tires you need. Generally, you’ll spend between $500 and $1,000, including the cost of installation.

Does Costco fix flat tires?

Provided you purchased your tires at Costco and have followed the terms of the warranty (rotating your tires, for example), then the Tire Center will fix flats for free during the first five years.

Does Costco offer tire alignment?

No, Costco doesn’t align tires, though they may tell you if it looks like they need to be realigned. (This happened to me).

What perks does Costco's Tire Center offer?

Costco tire perks include free tire rotations, tire balancing, flat repairs, and inflation checks for the life of the tires. Warehouses also have nitrogen tire inflation stations. Tires inflated with nitrogen retain tire pressure for longer than air from a conventional inflation station.

How do you buy tires at Costco?

Go to the wholesaler’s Tire Center website, enter information about your car, and select the tires you want. After purchasing the tires, you can make an appointment for installation on a separate website.

What’s included in Costco’s five-year road hazard warranty?

As long as you keep up with the tires’ recommended maintenance, all Costco tires come with a hazard warranty, which includes repairs and replacements for “tires damaged during standard legal vehicle operation.” For more information, read the policy.

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