We’ve reported in the past how wheel-size differences affect several aspects of vehicle drivability and one important facet of ownership: replacement costs for tires and the wheels themselves. So we figured we’d check into our own 2020 Hyundai Palisade Limited — which we purchased after giving it our Best of 2020 award — to see how much it would cost to replace one of its big, 20-inch wheels and tires in comparison to the smaller rims that are standard on lower trim levels. The results weren’t surprising to us — but they might be to you if you haven’t followed the trend of larger wheels and what they can mean for your finances.
There are just three Palisade trim levels, so this story is pretty simple: The base SE trim level has 18-inch wheels; the top trim, Limited, has standard 20-inch wheels; and the SEL trim in between has 18s standard, but 20s are optional. The only thing complicating matters is that there are two styles of each size, but all are aluminum-alloys.
We checked with two Hyundai service centers in different parts of the country and received identical quotes for the replacement price of a 20-inch Palisade wheel: $700. That’s for one of either design, tire not included. If you’re wondering how much the wheels cost initially, it’s hard to say because they’re standard on the Limited and packaged with other options for the SEL — on the other hand, the Convenience Package costs $2,200, which is less than the $2,800 you’d spend to replace four wheels, and it also includes many additional features: the self-leveling rear suspension, LED taillights, front collision Warning, hands-free smart liftgate, digital instrument panel screen, rear occupant alert, rear side-window sunshades, wireless device charging, third-row USB outlets and a 115-volt household power outlet. (Sounds like a bargain when you put it that way.)
The costs for the 18-inch wheels are $420 for the SE and $540 for the SEL, which also isn’t cheap, but that’s what you get with alloy wheels. And though we’ve become desensitized, 18 inches is pretty big from a historical perspective — and, consequently, they’re pretty expensive. The difference in cost between these and the 20s is also typical. But how about the tires?
Tire Parity, at Retail
The tire-price quotes were a pleasant surprise. Uninstalled, the 18-inch tire retails at $210 and the 20-inch tire at $220. One of the biggest pain points about larger wheels is that they have resulted in more expensive tires, and tires must be replaced eventually even if wheels go undamaged. Granted, $210 isn’t cheap, but if 18 inches is the new normal, an extra $10 for a 20 ain’t bad. Now, bear in mind that these quotes don’t necessarily represent apples versus apples; automakers use multiple suppliers, sometimes for tires of the same size, so we have to temper our excitement over the $10 difference.
To dig deeper, I checked the excellent TireRack.com, which flags original equipment when you search for tires based on a vehicle’s year, make and model. Three different brands of tire popped up for either of the Palisade’s wheel sizes — and were, in fact, the same three brands and tire models (which isn’t always the case). Attempts to prove my point were foiled in two cases by prices listed as “special” for two of the 18-inch tire options, but there were no discounts on either size of the third option, the Michelin Primacy Tour A/S: $187.09 for the 18-inch and $239.53 for the 20-inch — a difference of $52.44 per tire or $209.76 if you were to replace all four.
But don’t overlook my mention of special prices above. Discounts are to be found both here and at the dealership, especially if you have time to shop and replace four worn tires. If you were wondering, 18-inch Pirelli Scorpion Zero All Season tires were on special for $106.80 apiece with free shipping. Bridgestone Dueler H/P Sport AS 18-inch tires were $227.60. That doesn’t seem very low; the 20-inch versions of the same tire list for $242.97.
Bear in mind that you don’t have to stick with original equipment, either. Other tire models or brands of the same size may suit your needs as well or better for less money.
Do You Really Need or Want Larger Wheels?
We’ve asked this question before, but it always bears repeating (and we’re not picking on Hyundai, only using it to illustrate the greater reality): Larger wheels serve primarily to fill out the wheel wells, which we’re told looks better, but at what cost? We already answered one aspect of that above. For perspective, note that complete wheel replacement is seldom necessary. A rim with some curb rash can be repaired; it’s only the bent, cracked or stolen wheel that must be replaced. A downside of a larger, more expensive wheel is that it’s more prone to this level of damage in the first place, as well as the superficial type, because the fitted tire has a shorter sidewall and provides less protection against potholes and other trauma. (The outer diameter of the tire stays the same; the sidewalls are shorter to compensate.)
Lower-profile tires can improve handling, but it typically comes at the expense of ride comfort — as we believe it does in our Palisade. In a vehicle as large as this one, the handling advantages, if they exist at all, seem unnecessary. Unfortunately, if you purchase a Palisade Limited, 20-inch wheels are your only choice. Once again, this isn’t exclusive to the Palisade or Hyundai. In the Palisade’s case, at least, the tire-replacement cost isn’t much greater than it is for 18s.
Writer: Joe Wiesenfelder
Published: 15 April, 2020
Photo Credit: Hyundai Palisade