Portrait of a mechanic replacing tire

Minerva Studio/istockphoto

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Finding parking is often the worst part of my day. That’s partly because I live in Los Angeles, a sprawling, car-centric megacity with horrific public transportation. But I’ll also readily admit that I’m someone who has sub-optimal parking skills — a penchant for tapping bumpers and bouncing off curbs.

My ineptitude and impatience caught up to me last week. While I was parking in front of my apartment, I hit a jagged mess of crumbling concrete (the curb) a little too hard and tore my tire’s sidewall. And so I found myself at the Costco Tire Center a year after my first review, testing out the wholesaler’s Road Hazard Warranty firsthand. While many of my complaints remain the same, the experience was bad enough that I’m retracting my tepid endorsement of the Costco Tire Center. Even with the savings, Costco's flat tire repair service isn't worth a visit to the tire center.

CostcoPhoto credit: jetcityimage/istockphoto

Ordering a Replacement

My saga begins at home, where I tried to contact my local Costco Tire Center. Before driving on my spare — which damages your car the more you do it —  I wanted to make sure they had a replacement tire in stock. The operative word here is “tried,” because, despite calling three times during open hours, no one picked up. There’s no way to leave a message either (how convenient!), so I drove to Marina del Rey without knowing if they had a replacement.

Of course, they didn’t have the tire in stock. In fact, the employee told me that none of the Costcos in Los Angeles had my tire, so I’d have to wait three to four business days for delivery. What choice did I have? So I paid $109 for the new tire and drove home on a flat, decade-old spare.

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Costco Tire ShopPhoto credit: hapabapa/istockphoto

Costco’s Warranty, Explained

As an aside, let me explain why I paid $109 for a replacement tire despite having a warranty.

All tires purchased at Costco come with a Road Hazard Warranty at no additional cost. According to the retailer’s website, this covers cuts, non-repairable punctures, and impact damage for 60 months (five years) after the tire’s purchase or until the tire reaches 2/32 of an inch or less in tread depth — whichever comes first. The warranty also includes lifetime maintenance services throughout the life of the tire, including inflation, pressure checks, balancing, rotations, and flat repairs.

While there are a lot of additional stipulations — vandalized tires aren’t covered, for example — the main one is that you have to take care of your tires for the warranty to be valid. That means rotating them on schedule, keeping them properly inflated, etc.

Provided you meet those criteria, Costco tire repairs will be free in that 60-month or 2/32-inch tread window. But if your tire is irreparable (lucky me), you’ll receive credit toward a new tire based on how much tread is left. In my case, Costco discounted the tire by $87, which doesn’t seem like that much given that my tires have fewer than 10,000 miles on them. But the installation, disposal, and other fees add up, too.

Costco Tire CenterPhoto credit: Maxwell Shukuya / Cheapism

The Long Wait for a Tire

It took four business days (six days altogether) until I received a call that my tire had arrived. While that isn’t awful, a quick look at the America’s Tire (aka Discount Tire) website shows that they have a faster turnaround, with comparable tires available within one to two business days. What I found more frustrating than the actual wait was the lack of communication.

Before Costco called me, I wanted to check on the status of my tire. After all, not having access to my car for nearly a week was a pain, and for those who commute, it could be devastating. But no matter when or how many times I called, the Tire Center never picked up. I even tried calling the administrative desk and getting them to leave a note for the Tire Center employees. But even then, they never called back.

The Verdict: Consider Competitors

As I said in my original review: The Costco Tire Center may be frugal, but it’s also frustrating. And after dealing with a flat tire, I’m not sure that the savings compensate for the terrible service. Imagine if I had to commute to work. Could I have waited four business days and taken off of work to get it installed? Probably not. Plus, there are other options out there.

America’s Tire (aka Discount Tire) price matches, and their certificate warranty is more generous, covering the full price of a replacement tire at no additional cost. That said, certificates do cost extra, so you’ll likely end up paying more than you would at Costco. But since America’s Tire is a dedicated shop — one that will answer its customers' calls — I’m apt to try my luck there next time I need new tires.

A new tire is placed on the tire storage rack in the car workshop. Be prepared for vehicles that need to change tires.Photo credit: Chonlatee Sangsawang/istockphoto

Frequently Asked Questions

What does Costco’s tire warranty cover?

Costco’s tire warranty covers lifetime maintenance (inflation, pressure checks, balancing, rotations, and flat repairs). On top of lifetime maintenance, there’s a 5-year Road Hazard Warranty that will partially cover tire replacements depending on the tire’s wear.

Does Costco fix flat tires?

Yes. If you’ve purchased your tires at Costco and they’re still under warranty, flat repairs are free.

How does Costco's flat tire repair work?

Either make an appointment or show up at the Costco Tire Center between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. If your tire is still under warranty, they’ll repair it free of charge.

Does Costco offer tire alignment?

No. Costco does not align tires.

Does Costco balance tires?

Yes. Costco balances, rotates, repairs, and inflates tires.

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