It’s Okay to Pay for Value

I’ve spent part of the week shopping around for new tires for one of our cars. I’m not looking for anything extravagant, just something simple and reliable.

I was thumbing through the price tags and getting ready to settle for a mid-quality, mid-rated tire, when it hit me.

“It” was something J.D. Roth said in a recent Consumerism Commentary podcast when being interviewed about frugality. Rather than being frugal, J.D. says, he’s been looking for quality in everything he buys lately.

Based on the type of tire I wanted and the ratings I had checked, I felt I basically had the choice between two tires for the car:

  • Tire set 1, at a total cost of about $450, had average tread life and water performance (based on Consumer Reports) and would come with a 60K mile warranty. It’s a good quality tire from a respectable company.
  • Tire set 2, at a total cost of about $570, has excellent tread life (one of the only tires with that distinction), excellent hydroplaning and water performance, and boasts a 90K mile warranty.

Neither is a high-performance, $1,000-a-piece tire, but I wasn’t looking for that. My criteria were pretty basic:

  • Safety in wet weather/downpours (which are all too common in our part of the country).
  • Long tire life, preferably with a warranty to back it up, so I can guarantee I’m getting my money’s worth.
  • Ride comfort, because there’s nothing worse than noisy, rattly tires.

My first thought was to go with Tire 1 for the initial expense and call it a day. But clearly, Tire 2 was the better choice for us. At a premium of $120, we were getting an additional 50% in tire life, and the peace of mind I wanted for driving in bad weather.

Having said that, better quality doesn’t always mean a higher price. One of the best feelings in the world is finding a product that’s a real value gem: awesome quality at a more than reasonable price.

We just did it with a car purchase, and it feels like you’re stealing, honestly. I’ll be sharing with you exactly how we made that decision in a few weeks!

With all of this in mind, how do we go about defining what constitutes the best value? For me, it’s a balance of price and performance. It’s probably why I love Consumer Reports so much–the work is done for you most of the time with their “best value” recommendations. These aren’t always the highest performers–but they have all the basics and more, at a price that’s surprisingly low.

Many people will shy away from more expensive products simply because of the price. But it really is okay to pay more for a good value product! Frugality is not about being cheap–it’s about finding the best use of your money for the long-term.

In the case of my tires, if we keep the car for a very long time (which we definitely plan to do), we are probably looking at replacing the tires one more time, rather than 3 or more times with lower quality products!

With the added safety and comfort benefits, that’s definitely worth the price!

Photo by ericcastro

27 thoughts on “It’s Okay to Pay for Value

  1. I recently bought new tires for my 5 year old vehicle. It was the first time I’ve replaced all the tires since I got the car! When tires started to go, I would get a used tire here and there. I got tired of patching, filling with air, and the car being “unbalanced”. I recently purchased 4 top brand new top quality tires and I feel the difference.
    .-= Lakita (PFJourney)´s last post: Manners & Money: Gift Registries =-.

    1. Yeah, it’s pretty amazing–I would give my mechanic a list of seemingly unrelated symptoms, and he would just nod his head and the response to every one was “tires,” “tires,” “tires.” 🙂

  2. Frankly speaking, it depends on your financial situation doesn’t it. When you are in debt to your eyeballs, price always comes first. When you are making a decent income, have no debt like JD, then yeah, you tend to go for quality…

    If you have studied psyhology, it’s really Maslow’s hierachy of needs at work here.
    .-= Mr Credit Card´s last post: Credit Card Still in My Credit Report Even After 341 Meeting =-.

    1. Yes and no, in my opinion. I think you have to keep a long-term perspective in mind, even when you’re in debt. Quality products save you money over a normal period of use, which in turn appropriates more money to debt repayments.

      Now, if you’re buying quality just for quality’s sake, that’s a different story.

  3. I always go back and forth on which products I should use more of an analysis approach like you did vs the cheapest product I can find and just replace as needed.

    A lot of the time I have to stop myself from suffering “paralysis by analysis”
    .-= Evan´s last post: What is Wrong With Chasing Bank Rates =-.

    1. Yeah, I do have to stop myself a lot of the time, too, but the extra effort once in a while has resulted in the fact that most of the things we get are both functional and last a long time, limiting returns and replacements.

  4. We have been going the same route for a while now. I am lucky that my wife likes to do all the necessary research, because I don’t think I would have the patience for it. She also likes Consumer Reports where we feel we get pretty unbiased and extensive reviews on many products.

    1. My wife enjoys having me for that purpose as well! 🙂 The $26 we spend every year on CR is worth every penny (the website, not the magazine), since we have 24/7 access to the most recent reviews on mostly everything.

  5. I mosied over here since it looks like Wojo abandoned the fight over at Penzo’s; good thing he was paying us for the comments, huh?

    We have our tires rotated periodically so they wear as evenly as possible. When it came time to replace all four tires on my car, we also needed two fronts on my wife’s van. I’m thinking ahead of time that this is going to hit us for $1000 if it costs a dime, and maybe we should have handled the timing better. I was wrong.

    Since we needed to buy six tires, we got the bulk discount! We got six medium grade tires, with a 60,000 mile warranty for $440! Buy the time the warranties are up, it’ll be time to repace the vehicles.

    This was a happy accident, I’m not smart enough to plan such a thing. But maybe there’s something to be said for going in with two cars rather than one.
    .-= Kevin@OutOfYourRut´s last post: Since when are you the quitting type? =-.

    1. Interesting tip! Fortunately, the other car doesn’t need tires yet, but most people could probably time it that way!

    1. You have a point…but unless I buy from certain outlets, the balancing is going to cost me some money, too.

      Assuming I take care of them in a similar, good manner, the more expensive tire is still predicted to last me much longer based on testing…(and as backed by the warranty).

  6. You have to agree totally with him here….

    I recently purchased a pepper mill that cost 1/4 the price of a quality item and broke after two fillups…. So went and got the quality one and its had 5-6 fill ups with no sign of breaking (and probably never will)….. Just a small example but it transcends to all walks of life.
    .-= Forest´s last post: Trade in Your Car for a Horse, Would It Be Cheaper? =-.

    1. Great example, Forest! My Mom just bought me a small handheld camera from Vivitar. Unfortunately, let’s just say that it’s the worst piece of junk I’ve ever laid my hands on (she felt bad, too). The photos are horrible and we’re returning it as we speak.

  7. The trick for me, Wojo, is trying to figure out the times when higher cost does not legitimately constitute quality.

    For example, there are some high-priced cars out there that are notorious for bad quality – Jaguar’s XF immediately comes to mind as a current example.

    There are similar cars out there that are much cheaper and more reliable.

    There are similar examples of much-lower cost items, but I am drawing a blank this morning.

    Bottom line: We must be careful not to always directly correlate cost with quality. 🙂


    Len Penzo dot Com
    .-= Len Penzo´s last post: Your Money Horoscope #2 =-.

    1. No doubt about that! Cars are definitely a great example (and not to mention that more expensive cars are also more expensive to maintain).

      I’m starting to think that people misunderstood my post. I am 100% for VALUE, not necessarily quality or price. (I look for the best deal that balances price with quality). I hope that came through in the post!

  8. Great discussion here. I can see all sides. Sometimes it’s really worth it to pay a little more for value; sometimes you truly can’t afford to pay for better value; and sometimes you don’t know whether you’re really getting better value or not.

    All we can do is know our own financial situation, do some good research like Wojo, and make the best choice we can at the time. You win some and you lose some!
    .-= 2 Cents @ Balance Junkie´s last post: Financial Literacy Update #1 =-.

  9. There are also (sadly) some cases in which quality really does not pay off. For instance, suppose you could buy a superbly engineered $100 pair of running shoes or a cheapo $15 pair that will fall apart after one year of use. The $100 pair is only a better deal if it will last at least 6.7 years, because otherwise, you will pay less buying a new pair of cheap shoes each year. (This is assuming that the cheap shoes are still a reasonably good fit and will not actually hurt your feet.) But experts say that regular runners should replace their shoes every 6 months anyway. So there is no way you will ever get your money’s worth out of those $100 shoes. The same probably holds true for any product that needs to be replaced on a regular basis.
    .-= haverwench´s last post: Partying like it’s 1899 =-.

    1. True, though I’ve had people who run regularly tell me that the experience of running in $100 shoes is like heaven on earth compared to the $15 pair. Personally, I still run in my beat-ups, but I wonder…

  10. Hey Wojo,

    I just ran across this post today. Most times I do prefer quality over price especially when the “value” is considered. I just try to find the cheapest price for that quality item. You didn’t state in the post where you were considering purchasing the tires, but I found a great online resource to purchase tires cheaper than anywhere in my local area ( I had the tires delivered to my home and mounted by my dealership with no problems. You may be able to save a few more dollars. Good Luck!

  11. I’m here a bit late on this (I got here by reading your helpful posts about hertz rent2buy). Remember that there’s a tradeoff between tread life and grip. Softer tires don’t last as long but provide better traction. Even if you are a driver who doesn’t push the limits, grippy tires can help you in an emergency situation. They provide an extra safety margin that hard, long-tread-life tires don’t have. I buy performance tires for the value of safety.

    1. Thanks! I had never thought of that before, so it’s definitely something we’ll look at in the next month (getting ready to re-tire the other car now).

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