There's not much I can say to compare with the real adventures which avid off-roaders have, but as an experienced tire dealer, I can offer some suggestions as to how to get the most for you money from tire dealers.
My ideas are based on the thought that you'd rather keep your adventures to the time when you get off the beaten trail and not starting at the point where you bought your tires. Actually, I'm willing to bet that you'd most likely like to leave the tires themselves out of your adventures, except for the fact they help you to get in and out of the places you want to go.
To start with, choose your dealer with care. If possible try to find one who either specializes in off-road equipment, if that's what you're into, or a dealer which at least has experience in the kind of driving or vehicle you use.
For example, if you are an off-roader, look for a tire dealer where some of the staff are avid off-roaders. Naturally, if you have friends who share your passion for off-roading you would want to ask them where they get their tires.
Use your dealer's knowledge and experience. Tell him as much as you can about what you want to do and what kind of results you want. Think about what you like to do and where you expect to go.
The kind of tire you're going to get best service from when you're planning to climb the side of a snow-covered volcano in Iceland is far different from what you'd need if you're traveling through the scorching desert in Baja California or slogging through some bog in a tropical jungle.
Plan out the kind of terrain, weather, time, speed, distance and other conditions you're most likely to be experiencing. Also discuss your traveling habits -- do you usually travel alone or do you travel in a group with other vehicles? Are you prepared to change tires in mid-journey or do you expect to make it from start to finish with the same wheels?
All of these things can influence what would be the best tire for you, and when a particular recommendation is made, ask if they can put you in touch with someone who has tried those tires and get in touch with them. Compare notes. See if their experiences match up with what you plan to do, if their vehicle, driving skills and other characteristics are similar or different from your own.
Another consideration which might be important is what you would do if your need to replace only one or two tires. This might be because of a planned change or because of some unexpected accident -- possibly in the middle of a journey. If you stick with major brands with wide distribution you might find it easier to make a quick replacement, but if you choose a specialty tire, you may want to consider purchasing an extra spare which you could either leave in a convenient place where it might be easily shipped to you, or even carry it with you, according to your circumstances.
Finally, if you want to get the very best service from any dealer, be prepared to let them profit from being "your dealer". This doesn't mean that you shouldn't try to find a good price for your tires, but don't try to squeeze the last nickel out either. Don't try to schmooze the dealer by telling him that Joe's tires on the other side of town will give you the same tire for 20% less, when you know that what Joe offer's isn't really the same tire.
If you really want to increase your value, try asking for some additional services without cost -or at a discount- rather than getting the lowest price for the tires.
One idea which many dealers will go for if you're buying a complete set of tires is to ask for free rotation of your tires every 10,000 miles or so. They'll like the idea because it gives them the chance to do some extra services for you, like balancing or alignment, if the need shows up when the rotation is being done.
And when you're done with your installation and services, consider giving a nice tip to the guys who did the work to make sure they know you appreciate good work ... they'll be falling all over themselves to help you the next time you visit the shop.
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