Replacing the tires on your vehicle is an expensive yet necessary process. A new set of high-end boots, like some Bridgestone Blizzak tires, can set you back as much as $1,000. That doesn’t have to be the case, however. Two of the cheapest tire brands on the market are Kumho and Cooper.
These are not the best as far as performance goes, however, they are the best as far as saving you a little money goes. Kumho makes some decent winter tires along with some decent high-performance tires. Cooper on the other provides some decent all-season tires, both at affordable prices.
What's In This Guide?
Having been founded in 1960, Kumho was originally known as Samyang Tire, and started its journey in Gwangju, South Korea. When the company first started it made around 20 tires a day. Fast forward a generation or two to 2018, Kumho became a part of the Doublestar family as a subsidiary.
For the first few years, Kumho supplied tires to East Asia but by 1966, Kumho got the US Department of Transportation (DOT) mark, making the tires legal within the American market. Before this, however, Kumho took a big step by establishing ties with US tire company Uniroyal.
The ties with Uniroyal allowed Kumho to expand into the world market. By 1977 Kumho created the subsidiary, Kumho Tyre which began expansion in the UK. The total number of tires Kumho produce hit 30 million by 1983.
By 1990, Kumho achieved a total number of 100 million. Only two years later Kumho was awarded 10th place on the TOP-10 ranking of tire manufacturers worldwide. This was only the first time and Kumho carried this momentum forward, becoming number 9 in the same ranking.
Kumho has had some hard times however and they were hit hard in the 2008 crash. Now how they have a number of production facilities and research centers all over the world including the USA. Though much younger than most of the large tire companies, Kumho makes good quality tires due to their dedication to research.
Kumho’s Tire Families
Shopping for Kumho tires can be confusing as some of the tires seem to crisscross between tire type and vehicle types, however, with the saving you will make from shopping at Kumho, a little confusion is worth it.
The ECSTA is the main tire line for passenger and performance car tires. Kumho’s performance summer tire line consists 100% of ECSTA tires in addition to some of their all-season tires.
There is a wide selection of ECSTA tires that range from dry to wet performances to wear resistance and comfort/noise. When purchasing an ECSTA tire be sure to identify which tire suits your needs the most. Additionally, there is a low-profile ECSTA tire made for SUVs.
The SOLUS tire line can mainly be found in the all-season selection along with one selection in the winter tire line for passenger vehicles. The SOLUS tire line is overall better than the ECSTA tire line when it comes to all-season tires.
Not only are they more durable but their performance is better in every metric. This does mean that they are more expensive. The winter tire variant of the SOLUS is not as good as the WINTERCRAFT tire, however. They are classified as winter / all-weather tires though, so they have a larger working temperature range.
The WINTERCRAFT tire selection supplies winter tires for both passenger vehicles and SUVs/light trucks. They also provide studless and studdable tires for both markets. All of the WINTERCRAFT tires have a 10/10 rating from Kumho along with a relatively high rating in comfort.
There is only one tire in the I’ZEN tire family at the moment. It is a winter tire designed for passenger vehicles and light trucks. It is a studless winter tire designated for alpine driving, which means it has good handling on snowy mountain roads.
CRUGEN tires are designed as an all-season tires for light trucks, SUVs, and CUVs. There are only three of them they all have different levels of performance in the different weather conditions. Additionally, Kumho manufactures a commercial highway A/S tire which is also in the CRUGEN family.
The ROAD VENTURE is made only for light trucks, SUVs, and CUVs. This tire family consists of 5 tires and covers two main designs, all-terrain and mud-terrain. These tires are almost only used for off-roading. You could use them on road, but they do create a lot of road noise.
With around 108 years of experience in the rubber/tire industry, Cooper has a solid foundation. The company was founded by John F. Schaefer and Claude E. Hart in Akron, Ohio, in 1914, and was originally named the M and M Manufacturing Company.
The company moved to Finlay, Ohio, right next door to a company called The Cooper Corporation in the early 1920s. In 1930 the two companies, along with a third called The Falls Rubber company merged to form the Master Tire and Rubber Company.
The name held for a total of 16 years and after World War two the company rebranded itself to become the Cooper Tire & Rubber Company. The company sported the patriotic red, white, and blue as they were awarded the Army-Navy ‘E’ Award for excellence due to their services during the war.
Their war efforts included the manufacturing of pontoons, landing boats, waterproof bags and camouflage items, inflatable barges, life jackets, and tank decoys, as well as tires, all of which were provided to the Allied forces.
Throughout the company’s lifetime, it saw two golden ages of expansion and growth, firstly inward and then outward. The first came in the form of the Brewer family which started in 1946 and ended in 1982.
The Brewers encouraged hands-on leadership, management mingling with workers, and genuine care for workers and their families. These values lead to a high degree of trust and loyalty from the workers which propelled the company to new heights.
By 1983 the Cooper tire company joined the ranks of the fortune 500, becoming a titan of industry. Their success marked the beginning of the second Golden age and their eventual downfall. Beginning in 1997 Cooper started a foreign expansion campaign, both in the construction of new manufacturing plants and acquisitions of existing companies.
The company’s rapid expansion between 1997 and 2013 however, left the company vulnerable to outside attack. In 2021 Cooper was acquired by Goodyear. Though the takeover wasn’t as hostile as some other company takeovers have been in the past, it’s not exactly a preferred outcome.
Today Goodyear is working hard with Cooper to make sure no jobs are lost and production carries on smoothly. For the moment Cooper still makes their own tires, however, over time tire compounds and qualities are sure to blend.
Cooper Tire Families
With over half of Cooper’s thirty-three tires aimed at SUVs and light trucks you might find their passenger car tire selection limited. Though this is true, the limited passenger car tires you will find will more than likely suit your needs all the while saving you some cash.
There are only three tires in the evolution line, and they are primarily made for commercial vehicles. The one exception is the Evolution MTT P.O.R. as it is a Mud tire designed for rugged used on SUVs and light trucks.
The Discoverer line is Cooper’s largest tire line sitting at fifteen tires. With such a large variety in this line, it comes as no surprise that you can find a tire here for just about any application. From all-season to winter, to mudding tires, you will find just about anything you would need for your truck or SUV.
The two Zeon tires are designed to extract the maximum performance from your vehicle. Both these tires have good wet weather performance and the main difference between the two tires is the type of vehicle they are designed for (SUV or passenger).
The CS5s are Cooper’s two touring tires, one ultra, and one grand. While the grand will fit just about any vehicle and will last a long time, the Ultra will provide better handling and a high degree of comfort.
Cooper’s CS series tires are both designed for compact and modern cars. The CS7 is the better of the two tires, not only in performance and noise reduction but also tire size availability.
The singular Cobra Radial tire is an aggressive-looking tire designed for American muscle cars.
The trendsetter also only has one tire in the line and similarly to the Cobra Radial it has a specific niche. The tire is designed for older vehicles and is also available with a white sidewall.
Weathermasters as the name suggests are designed for severe weather conditions. All four tires have the three peaks symbol and two of the four tires are stub pin compatible.
These three tires are similar to the Weathermaster tires as they are winter tires. They do have less performance than the Weathermasters, however, two of the three tires are designed for vans which provides companies the option of a commercial winter tire.
Differences Between Kumho and Cooper Tires
Both Kumho and Cooper tires try to fulfill the budget tire category within the tire industry with Cooper being a little cheaper with most of their comparable tires. With their prices being relatively competitive with one another, the main differences come down to some other qualities.
Firstly, let’s have a look at performance. Performance-wise, Kumho is a little better, which correlates with their price differences. That being said there are a few areas where they win out over each other. For example, Kumho is generally better than Cooper when it comes to winter tires.
Whereas Cooper produces some competitive all-season tires. Next, we look at durability. Kumho has decent durability in just about every road condition with a relatively expected amount of tread wear. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Cooper.
Customers have reported a lack in durability and a drop in performance, far quicker than expected, especially when using limited warranties as a benchmark for expected wear. With that in mind, let’s have a look at what each company’s standard milage is for their limited warranties.
Kumho’s average treadwear limited warranties typically range from 45,000 to 55,000 miles. Though this is a little less than the industry standard, it is acceptable when you consider the price of the tires. Cooper’s average warrantied miles is actually a bit high at 45,000 to 80,000.
On the high said of warrantied miles Cooper wins, however, customers report a drop in performance long before the warrantied miles are up. Now you might just be thinking that that doesn’t matter because you could just get some new tire under the warranty.
Though this may be true, all tire companies have a certain stipulation that must be met in order for you to get new tires under the warranty. Thus, I highly recommend you fully read and understand the tire warranty contract.
Advantages of Kumho
- Very affordable
- Reliable and safe for their price
- Performs a good amount of research and development
Advantages of Cooper Tires
- One of the most affordable tire brands on the market
- Dedicated to safety
- Decent treadwear warranties (how this is debated by some reviews)
Which Brand to Choose
For the most part, I am going to go with Kumho over Cooper. However, my choice would also depend on which kind of tire I need. For example, Kumho produces better high-performance tires and pretty good winter tires (If you go with their higher-end winter tires).
While Cooper sells some decent all-season tires there are quite a few reviews online reporting a lack of expected durability. That being said, companies are always updating their tire compounds and improving their tires, so be sure to look at recent tire reviews as Cooper may have solved these durability issues by now, especially with Goodyear taking the reins.
At the end of the day, your tire pick should come down to what you need out of your tires. Looking for a decent winter or high-performance tire? Go with Kumho tires. Need some new all-season tires all the while saving some money in the moment, try the Cooper tires out. Either way, make sure to check up on the most recent tire reviews.