I bought tires last week. The last time I bought tires, I bought road hazard insurance without even thinking about it. This time I thought about it, and asked “How much?”
It was $130 and change.
I did some very quick math in my head, and said no, rather emphatically. Maybe too emphatically.
Here’s the math. I last bought tires four or five years ago. On my car, I’ve needed the road hazard coverage once. Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t in position to use the coverage, so I paid someplace else $20 to patch the tire.
But it only happened once. And my average for the last 19 years has been roughly one flat tire every 4-5 years. That happens to be about how long a set of tires usually lasts for me. So the last time I bought tires, I spent $130 to save $20, and then I didn’t even save the $20.
So what if the tire is damaged to the point of needing to be replaced? Well, that’s actually happened on my wife’s car. But when it happens, they don’t just give you a new tire. They look at how much tread is left, then give you a pro-rated discount on a new tire. So when we had to use the road hazard coverage on my wife’s car, what we got was about a 25% discount on some no-name tire because they didn’t even have a matching tire in stock.
For some reason, my wife’s had a run of bad luck the last few years, and she’s actually had four flats, two where the tire couldn’t be repaired. But one happened far from the store, so we couldn’t use it. Had we been in position to actually use all of the coverage I paid for, we still would have only saved about $80.
So I opted not to spend $130 for questionable protection of my $330 set of tires. If road hazard coverage is included with the purchase price and the purchase price is competitive, there’s no reason not to take it. But there’s no reason to pay $30+ per tire for it.
A smarter use of that money is to pay to fix flats as they happen, and consider getting an extra rim and a fifth tire to use as a full-sized spare, and rotate it in. Then, in the event of a tire issue, you don’t necessarily have to drop everything and take care of it right then. Put on the spare, get where you need to go, then when you’re in position to shop around, weigh your options and get the flat taken care of.
And since your tires will last about 25% longer by virtue of one tire being out of the rotation 25% of the time, the full-sized spare comes close to paying for itself anyway just in a matter of dollars, not even factoring convenience in.
If a tire is damaged to the point of needing replacement, replace it. Use the money left over from not buying the coverage. Match the tire if at all possible, and if that’s not possible, replace the other tire on the same axle.
Or the other thing I could do is just deposit that $130 into the bank account I use for emergencies, because chances are, I’m not going to spend $130 on emergency tire maintenance. But I spend enough time on the road that buying a rim and another tire seems prudent.