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If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That sums up the mentality of most replacement-tire buyers. But there are downsides to conventional all-season tires. Cold weather, for instance, can stiffen them so much that they struggle to keep their grip. And besides, specialty tires just make sense sometimes. A run-flat, for example, is a great insurance policy if you often travel through remote areas. And if you have a souped-up sports car, why not run it on the most responsive rubber you can buy? Here are the pros and cons of each of the four major tire types.

Life span: 80,000 miles

Buy Them If:
You want to put tires on your car and forget about them for a few years-rain or shine. If you want slightly better handling but still no maintenance, several companies now offer “touring” tires designed to bridge the gap between all-season and high-performance tires.
Think Again If: You do a
significant amount of serious winter driving. They’re far less capable than dedicated snow tires.

Life span: 4,000 to 40,000 miles

Buy Them If:
You like to feel connected to the road. Their larger width and diameter provide more grip, which means better handling.

Think Again If: You like a nice quiet cockpit-the higher a tire’s speed rating, the stiffer its construction and the more noise it makes. Also, if you don’t consider tires an investment in your car’s performance, you may balk at spending a grand or more for a set of four.

Life span:
3 months a year, for 4 years
Buy Them If:
You live in a cold climate with lots of snow and ice. These tires have much softer treads than all-season tires, so when they stiffen in cold weather they don’t lose as much traction. Also aiding their grip: specially designed lateral tread grooves.
Think Again If: You’re lazy about car care. If you try to use snow tires year-round, you’ll almost certainly shred them before the next winter.

Life span: 80,000 miles
Buy Them If:
You often travel through sparsely populated areas, as the tires last 125 to 150 miles at 55 mph after going flat. Also, they come with an electronic tire-pressure monitoring system, so it’s easy to keep them at the recommended psi, which optimizes your gas mileage.
Think Again If: You didn’t order them with the car. Run-flats are an expensive retrofit, mainly because of the monitoring system.