According to a recent Consumer Reports survey,1 the average cost of a new tire was $194 in 2022, compared with $167 per tire in 2020. That doesn’t include the cost of installation, an average of $27.
If you can’t afford to buy new tires, the biggest challenge is finding free tires in good condition that fit your car and will last.
In this post, we’ll show you:
- Where to find free and affordable tires
- Ways to pay for tires over time
- How to get help putting tires on your vehicle
Plus, I’ll share expert advice on how to make the best tire choice for the type of vehicle you have.
If you don’t qualify for financial assistance to purchase tires, Tire Agent is an A+ BBB rated online retailer that offers tire and wheel financing with:
- $0 down
- Financing up to 18 months
- No credit check
How do you get free tires if you can’t afford them?
There are a three main ways to get free tires:
- Charities that provide financial assistance or free tires
- Programs that provide financial assistance
- Websites where people give away free items (like on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or Freecycle)
Help for low-income families who need new tires or rims
Many programs that offer financial assistance such as grants or emergency cash base their eligibility criteria on the federal poverty guidelines:
|Number of people in family/household
* For families/households with more than 8 people, add $5,140 for each additional person.
To find programs that will help you get money for new tires or rims, get in touch with the following:
- Case workers: If you receive government benefits like SNAP or TANF, ask your case worker about programs or places you can go to get help with replacing your tires
- Nonprofits and charities: These are good places to find programs for emergency cash assistance to help with car repairs or transportation to work and school
- Tire businesses: Some businesses offer discounts to low-income families, especially if you work as a teacher, nurse, or first responder
- Nonprofit garages: These garages offer free or affordable car repairs and installation, but you may have to purchase the parts yourself (such as tires or rims)
- Community action groups: These groups are focused on promoting self-sufficiency in their communities, including helping people get to work
And don’t forget to ask your family, friends, and co-workers about places where you can get free or affordable tires and rims. Word of mouth is a powerful resource. They may know sources that you can’t find through an online search.
Nonprofits and charities that help with replacement tires
Some nonprofits and charities may offer programs to help you pay for tires if you meet income requirements.
The United Way is a great place to start. Dial 2-1-1 on your landline or cellphone or visit 211.org to ask about local nonprofits or charities that provide financial assistance or help with free tires.
You can also search online for “nonprofits that help low-income families near me” or “charities that help with free tires near me” to find out what resources are available in your area.
These are some nonprofits that may help you purchase new tires, though services vary from branch to branch:
Catholic Charities USA
Catholic Charities serves communities all over the United States with programs that help people in need. While services vary depending on where you live, some branches offer financial assistance, including help with replacing tires.
The Catholic Charities Diocese of Arlington, Va., offers an emergency assistance program specifically for car repair. If your tires fail a state inspection, Catholic Charities will pay up to $800 to replace them.2
Modest Needs is a charity that helps low-income working households with emergency cash. You can apply for a grant and explain why you need new tires — i.e. to get to work, school, medical appointments for you and your children. If selected, you can receive financial help to cover or apply to the cost of tires for your car.
According to the Modest Needs website, most people receive between $750 and $1,250, though payouts vary on a case-by-case basis.3
The Salvation Army has locations across the U.S., and each one caters to the needs of the community it supports.
The Lakewood Salvation Army in St. Paul, Minn. helped repair two tires that went flat for a woman in their community.4 The Salvation Army in Port Jervis, N.Y., helped a single mom purchase new tires so she could get to school and drive her children around.5
Local churches are a great resource when you need help in your community. Search “churches near me” to get a list of churches you can call to ask for help. Even if the churches do not have the funds to directly help you purchase new tires, they may have resources to point you in the right direction.
Community action groups
Community action groups are nonprofit organizations that help individuals and families reach financial independence and reduce the effects of poverty. If you need tires so that you can get to work or school, a local community action group may be able to assist.
Search “community action groups near me” to find organizations in your area that may be able to help.
Government assistance for free tires
While we could not find specific government programs that provide free tires, if you meet certain eligibility requirements, you may be able to get government help to purchase new tires.
Here are some options to consider:
VA tire assistance for veterans
While not free, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers tax-free, discount tires through PatriotStoreDirect.6 The VA works with approved service centers to deliver this helpful service.
TANF help to get tires
If you receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), ask your case worker about programs that help you get to work.
For example, in Oklahoma, a TANF recipient can get help with purchasing tires if they own a vehicle that is unsafe or inoperable without them.7
Learn more about EBT cash and what you can buy.
Buy-now pay-later payment programs for replacement tires and wheels
There are several tire companies that offer payment plans on tires, so you can pay over time with a payment plan. Some offer this service at a 0% annual interest rate if you pay off your balance within a certain amount of time. Call local tire companies and tire shops to see if they offer buy-now pay-later options.
Discount Tire Direct uses Synchrony Pay Later, a no interest, fee-free option that allows you to break your purchase up into four monthly payments with no initial payment upfront.
Here are some other tire businesses that offer a buy-now pay-later option, as well as payment plans for tires (no credit or bad credit):
- Tire Agent
- Tires Easy
- Tire Rack
Tire Agent, Tires Easy and Tire Rack are online retailers that sell tires and rims online. You just enter your make, model and year, and they'll match you up with a variety of tire options. They ship the tires to you and, in the case of Tire Agent, will ship them for free to your local auto shop. During the checkout process, you can review several wheel and/or tire package financing options.
There are also businesses that offer lease-to-own tires and wheels with no credit check such as Dan the Tire Man in Madawaska, Maine.8
Help with tire installation
Once you find new tires, unless you know how to put them on your car properly, you will likely have to pay for a professional installation. However, you may be able to find a nonprofit garage that offers free or affordable tire installation.
Good Karma Garage is a nonprofit garage in Harrisburg, Pa., that offers tire services as part of its Working Class Hero program. The program helps vehicles pass state inspection. The shop only charges clients for the inspection fee.9
You can do a search for “nonprofit garage near me” to find out what’s available in your area. These garages are often staffed by volunteer mechanics and other automotive experts and may also be a good resource for free tires.
Otherwise, you can take your tires to a mechanic or auto body shop to install them for a small fee. Walmart charges $11 per tire.10
Used tires: Should you buy used tires?
Used tires in good condition are OK to buy if that is what you can afford, says Michael Dominguez, a certified Master Mechanic and founder of Car Fixer Guide.
However, he says it’s important to buy used tires from a reputable source to avoid:
- Potential safety risks
- Unknown tire history
- Shorter tire life span
Tires should be tested for tread depth (tire thickness), proper inflation, air leaks, and visually inspected for signs of damage or wear. Ask for a tire test from the seller to ensure that you are getting a good product.
If you have already purchased tires, Firestone Complete Auto Care says you can check your tread depth easily with a penny. Just place a penny head first into a tire tread. If you can’t see the top of President Lincoln’s head, the tires are safe to drive.11
You’ll also need to choose the right tires for your vehicle. Dominguez says to check your owner’s manual but also consider the climate and road conditions where you live. All-season tires suit moderate climates, while specialized winter tires are helpful in snowy regions.
Picking the right tires takes some consideration, says Todd Bialaszewski, a mechanic and founder of Junk Car Medics in Newark. N.Y. You’ll have to think about your travel needs, as well as how you drive.
“One customer had a little sedan she used to zip around town,” he recalls. “Her tires had to be different from an SUV that often goes off-road. It's not just if the tire fits — you must match it to how the car is driven and what it's used for.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers an online tire guide to help you understand tire labels, identify tire recalls, and get general information on purchasing and maintaining tires.
What about used wheels? Are they worth it?
You can buy used wheels or rims, but they come with the same caveats as buying used tires. If you don't have an expert that can look them over before you buy them, you could be purchasing defective wheels. This poses a safety risk for you, your family, and others on the road.
Bialaszewski recommends having a pro check them thoroughly before mounting them on your vehicle.
“Once, a customer brought rims he got from a yard sale that looked brand new, but we found cracks that could've been super dangerous,” he says.
Dominguez adds that it's crucial to buy rims that fit your vehicle's specific make and model. Any structural damage or bends can impact driving safety.
Places to find the best used tires
There are several places where you can find legit used tires. Bialaszewski recommends having an expert inspect the tires before you purchase and place them on your car.
“It's not just about the cheapest option — you want the safest choice that works well long-term,” he says. “Always talk to a mechanic you trust who understands your ride.”
Local auto shops, garages, and used car stores
Bialaszewski says that auto shops usually have sales on tires that did not sell as quickly as expected. Tires may be used or new depending on the shop’s inventory, but you’ll get them at a lower price.
Used car shops may also sell used tires in good condition.
People on Reddit confirmed this is good advice:
Bialaszewski says people are constantly looking to get rid of barely used tires once they upgrade to a new set. These boards can be found at libraries, grocery stores, and other places where people gather.
Alternatively, you can use an app like Nextdoor, which allows you to create a free account and connect with your neighbors to search offers for free, used, or affordable new tires. You can also post a request so your neighbors know what you’re looking for.
“Buy Nothing” Facebook groups are another option to ask people in your area for free tires.
Online tire stores
Even though they aren’t as cheap as used tires, discount online tire stores are another way to find affordable tries. Dominguez says stores like Tire Rack and Discount Tire Direct often have discounts and specials to help you save money — especially when you buy a full set of tires.
You can search sites like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or ebay to find used or in some cases new tires being resold at a discount price. When using these sites, it’s important to read all descriptions thoroughly, ask questions, and research the reputation of the seller if possible. Look for high shop ratings and reviews on ebay.
When browsing online classified sites like Craigslist, inspect tires closely before you buy. Look for signs of excessive wear or damage.
Scrap and salvage yards
Scrap and auto salvage yards are another place to find used tires, but you should ask an expert to inspect any tires you get before putting them on your vehicle.
More transportation help
If you don't have a car or need more help getting around, check out these posts:
And our other resources for low-income families:
|Help for single moms: 16+ resources
|$500 monthly single mom grant
|Free Christmas gifts
|10+ charities that help single mothers
|Free gift cards
- “How to Save Money When Buying Replacement Tires,” Aug. 9, 2023. Consumer Reports. https://www.consumerreports.org/cars/tire-buying-maintenance/how-to-save-money-when-buying-replacement-tires
- “Emergency Assistance Guidelines: Financial Support for Car Repair” Catholic Charities Diocese of Arlington. https://www.ccda.net/need-help/rent-utility-and-emergency-household-assistance/car-repair-assistance-details/
- “Frequently Asked Questions for Individual Applicants,” Modest Needs. https://www.modestneeds.org/for-applicants/faq.asp
- “Fight for Good Series: Women vs. Car Repairs” December 20, 2017 Salvation Army https://centralusa.salvationarmy.org/northern/maplewood/news/fight-for-good-series-woman-vs-car-repairs-1/
- “Salvation Army kicks off effort to ‘Rescue Christmas’” November 19, 2020 Time Herald-Record. https://www.recordonline.com/story/news/local/port-jervis/2020/11/20/salvation-army-kicks-off-effort-to-rsquorescue-christmasrsquo/114992406/
- “PatriotStoreDirect Automotive Tires,” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. https://www.vacanteen.va.gov/VACANTEEN/PatriotStoreDirect_Automotive.asp
- “Library: Policy. TANF Work support services. September 15, 2021 Oklahoma Human Services https://oklahoma.gov/okdhs/library/policy/current/oac-340/chapter-10/subchapter-2/temporary-assistance-for-needy-families-tanf-work-support-services.html
- “Lease-to-Own FAQs,” Dan the Tire Man. https://danthetireman.com/faqs
- “Working Class Hero,” Good Karma Garage https://www.goodkarmagarage.com/working-class-hero
- “Auto Care Center services,” Walmart. https://www.walmart.com/cp/auto-care-center-services/2686220
- “Tire Tread Depth” Firestone Complete Auto Care https://www.firestonecompleteautocare.com/penny-tire-test/#