If you’re considering buying a car that’s equipped with run-flat tires, you may wish to give some attention to the following run-flat tires pros and cons.

First, know what run-flat tires are. In essence, they’re a self-supporting tire that’s usually found on high-end sports cars and sedans with limited space for a spare tire. Models such as the BMW 3-Series, Chevrolet Corvette and Toyota Sienna with all-wheel drive are likely to have run-flat tires.

Pros of Run-Flat Tires

According to numerous sources, including Consumer Reports, the chief advantage of run-flat tires is the added security they give drivers.

Specifically, since run-flat tires are designed to allow driving an additional 50-plus miles with no air in them, this means that drivers don’t have to change a tire on the side of the road in unsafe locations or foul weather.

There’s also the added benefit of saving time. Since you can continue driving, you won’t be stuck on the side of the road changing a tire. That can save you an hour right there.

You also save space in the vehicle’s trunk or storage compartment by not having to house a spare tire there.

And there’s no speed penalty on the highway, since you can drive normal posted speeds in cars equipped with run-flat tires – as evidenced by the high-performance Chevy Corvette, which comes with advanced-technology run-flat tires.

Keep in mind that technology is improving in run-flat tire manufacturing all the time, and this cannot be discounted in any consideration of run-flat tires versus regular tires and a spare.

Cons of Run-Flat Tires

There’s no question that there are some quite obvious disadvantages to run-flat tires. Here’s a partial list:

  • Higher replacement cost – Expect to pay a tidy sum to replace run-flat tires. In the case of the all-wheel drive 2011 Toyota Sienna, replacement run-flat tires from Bridgestone could set you back more than $200 per tire – about $50 more than for conventional tires. The larger and pricier Turanza EL run-flats will cost even more to replace.
  • Uneven and premature tread wear – In certain applications, many owners of run-flat tires have complained of uneven and premature tread wear.
  • Lack of availability – If you’re out in the middle of nowhere – even driving an additional 50-plus miles on a “flat” tire (it isn’t really flat, since run-flats automatically seal up holes and thus permit you to continue to drive) – not every gas station or garage will have replacement run-flats in stock. You might need to spend the night at a motel while a replacement is ordered.
  • Limited replacement choices – Other owners of cars with run-flat tires who’ve had to replace them are not too happy with limited choices for the replacements. It’s best to know what’s available in the way of replacement run-flat tires – before you buy a vehicle equipped with them.
  • Quality and performance – According to CarsDirect, tire performance suffers with run-flat tires versus conventional tires. The online publication says that run-flats don’t provide as much traction as regular tires, since there’s less grip on the road.
  • Stiff ride – In the Consumer Reports piece, owners complained of a stiffer ride in cars equipped with run-flat tires. But then, considering that run-flats typically come with higher-end sports cars where a stiffer, performance ride is desired, it probably evens out.

Bottom line: Know run-flat tires pros and cons before you plunk down your cash to buy a car equipped with them. They may be just what you want or they may not, depending on your needs.

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