Special File Wheels: Steel vs. Alloy

WheelsRecommend alloy wheels to your winter tire customers, and you’ll be doing them a favour.

If customers haven’t started flooding into your store yet for the annual changeover to winter tires, they will soon. While some parts of Canada have already seen a bit of the white stuff fall from the heavens, others are still glad it hasn’t arrived just yet.

Winter tire customers fall into two separate categories – those who have one set of rims and who pay you to remove their summer rubber from those rims to make room for winter tires, and those who prefer two sets of rims, one for winter tires and one for the other three seasons.

It’s the latter group that we’d like to focus on here for a moment. If they’re coming in asking to buy a set of rims from you for their winter tires, what are you offering them? Traditionally, here in Canada, many drivers have been content with plain (and ugly) steel wheels for the winter season. But a growing number of consumers are starting to realize that they don’t have to give up driving a great looking vehicle just because they want winter tires.

And let’s face it – the wheels can make or break the look of a vehicle. That’s why people spend hundreds, or even thousands of dollars on fancy wheels – they want their vehicles to look their best.

If you’re not recommending alloy wheels to these customers for their winter tires, you’re doing them a disservice. Whether they don’t know that alloy wheels are an option, or whether they believe that alloy wheels are too expen­sive, it’s your job to tell them otherwise.

True, there used to be a time when the price difference between steel and alloy wheels was considerable. But that’s no longer the case. So it’s your job to tell your customers that they have an option, and by doing so, you’ll be adding a few more dollars to your bottom line.


Would you believe that the wholesale price difference between steel and alloy wheels is somewhere in the neighbourhood of about $20 a wheel? Scott Luke, Product Manager, Wheels and Accessories, Atlas Tire Wholesale does the math for us.

“Let’s compare apples with apples,” Luke says. “When you consider a Toyota Camry, for instance, a hub centric steel wheel will cost you about $45, wholesale. An alloy wheel for that same vehicle goes for about $40 more.”

Now, let’s factor in the hubcap – something most consumers will buy when investing in steel wheels, simply because steel wheels are so darn ugly. Luke says these can cost another $15 or $20 apiece. When you do the math, the difference between an alloy wheel and a steel wheel with hubcaps is very small indeed.

Factor in your markup and the extra you’ll charge your customer for working on an alloy wheel vs. a steel wheel, and suddenly taking the time to upsell your customer to something he probably wants anyway, starts to make a whole lot of sense.

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