Petersen says that out of 69 tires the organization tested last year, the Goodyear Assurance had the lowest rolling resistance. CR found that on a four-cylinder Chevrolet Malibu, versus the tire choice with the highest rolling resistance, an owner could save 3.1 mpg—that's over $100 per year. Most people who upgrade to low-rolling-resistance tires from the average vehicle tire are going to see about half that, said Petersen—still enough to save some money in the long run.
But you shouldn't buy a tire only for its potential to save fuel, cautions Petersen, or you might be disappointed. Since a new tire with deep tread is always going to have more rolling resistance than a worn, almost-bald one, if you're the type to hover over your trip computer you'll see only a slight difference at first. CR advises that you choose a tire that's right for your road conditions and driving season, then use rolling resistance as a tie-breaker.
Of course, the same advice that applies to other types of tires applies to these. That means you have to maintain the inflation pressure and manually check it monthly. Proper vehicle maintenance—including proper alignment and replacing worn suspension pieces—is also a must, and to get the most out of them you should be careful in how you load a vehicle.
proposed federal tire efficiency labelEnlarge Photo
Federal tire ratings coming soon
This March, the federal government proposed a tire rating system that would gauge tires on three attributes: Fuel Efficiency, tread life (Durability), and wet traction (Safety). The rating system might result in a new sidewall label, and perhaps a certificate that explains the attributes at the time of purchase.
The state of California has also been working on a system of rating tires for fuel efficiency, and make it mandatory for manufacturers to supply rolling-resistance information. The top 15 percent of models would have been awarded with something similar to an Energy Star rating.