Quick review from the last session: soft compound (performance) tires perform great, but may sacrifice quietness, tire life, and comfort in the process. Harder compound tires (all season, touring) give up performance so you get quietness, tire life, and comfort. Don’t cheap out on tires – good ones will give you a blend of everything.
Now, let’s line up tires with you and your car.
If you have something like a Honda, Toyota, Lexus, mini-van, or SUV, you’re probably not driving NASCAR-style. Your car is designed to be durable, comfortable, and quiet. Look at a good all-season or touring tire.
If you have a true performance car (Porsche, Ferrari, //M, AMG, Corvette, etc.), it probably doesn’t get driven daily. You don’t care about wet traction, because your car doesn’t go out in the rain. You don’t care much about tire life, because your car doesn’t accrue much mileage. And noise isn’t a big concern because either your car is loud, or you drive with the windows down on that nice day. In that case, you can sacrifice the niceties to get all-out performance and feel…you’ll be looking for a summer tire, typically called a max performance tire (i.e. Dunlop Direzza or Michelin Pilot Super Sport).
If you have a sporty car (Mazda, BMW, Audi, Infiniti, small Cadillacs, etc), the type of tire you buy depends on your driving personality. If you’re easygoing on your car, then get something more like an all-season or touring. If you tend to drive aggressively, get a performance all-season tire – it gets you a good blend of everything. There’s still no need to go all-out performance on a car you drive every day. 90% of your driving won’t utilize the tires’ potential, and you’ll probably be frustrated by noise/tire life.
Brands: I tend to veer towards Michelin, Continental in a pinch. I’ve tried similarly priced tires (Goodyear, Continental, Bridgestone, Yokohama) and some of the cheap ones (Sumitomo, Kumho, General, Bridgestone, Cooper, etc.). In the end, I had to deny my inner cheap-Indian and pony up for the better tires because they give me such a great blend of everything (performance, life, and comfort)…enough to justify the extra cost. That said, do your research on the specific tire model before buying – http://www.tirerack.com is a great resource.
The general idea is this – when you buy a car, you usually pick the one that fits your personality the best. Do the same with your tires – because that’s one of the few things you buy for your car that actually makes it feel different.
Now go have fun.