Whether you’re looking to upgrade your rims out of necessity or style, you’re probably reading this article to find out how much money you’ll have to set aside. I have been an insurance adjuster for over 20 years, and so I have written estimates for just about every type of wheel under the sun. Therefore, I can tell you exactly what you should expect to pay.
A new set of rims can cost as little as $90, but prices increase for upgraded materials, designs, and sizes. Rims for luxury or vintage vehicles that require custom manufacturing can cost upwards of $1000. However, purchasing used or reconditioned rims can help bring this price down substantially.
In this article, we will dive deeper into the cost of rims, including why they’re so expensive and factors affecting the price. We will also cover the differences between new, used, and reconditioned rims, as well as the cost of installation and whether or not an alignment is necessary. Finally, we’ll take a closer look at the best places to buy rims.
Factors That Affect Cost
As with most automotive parts and accessories, there is a wide price range for rims. This depends on several factors, which will be explained further a little later.
Here are the average new prices of different rim options for modern cars:
|Type of Rim||Price per Rim|
|Basic steel rims||$90-$100|
|Aluminum alloy rims||$110-$130|
|Painted finish rims (black/white)||$100-$280|
|Bronze coated rims||$100-$300|
|Chrome plated rims||$150-$290|
|Graphite coated rims||$124-$470|
Pro Tip: A good option today to get the best new prices is to shop at an online store. My favorite is Tire Rack. I love how it’s a one-stop-shop for both wheels and tires. You pick the wheels and tires, they deliver them to a location near you, and you go have them installed. Easy peasy. Go here to be taken to their wheel search page.
While these prices cover more common rim types, custom rims for luxury or sports cars can cost tens of thousands of dollars. For example, a set of custom carbon wheels for a Lamborghini Aventador cost over $22,000. Prices also go up when working with older cars, as these rims will need to be specially ordered and made to fit the exact dimensions of the older vehicle.
Any sort of custom artwork will add to the cost as well. Hydro Dipping has become popular for rims in recent years, as it allows a design to hug the curves of the wheel seamlessly. Creating a pattern or applying it to the rims can be quite labor-intensive, so Tire Buyer estimates you’ll likely pay around $75 to $80 per wheel.
However, if you’re feeling creative, you can try to DIY it. This YouTube video offers a step-by-step guide:
Why Are Rims So Expensive?
Even if you’re not looking to hydro dip or add a special finish to your rims, you’re still probably wondering why they’re so expensive. After all, even $100 a wheel adds up quickly.
As previously mentioned, custom artwork and the age of your car are huge factors. Whether your wheels have to be custom-designed because you want to add in a logo or because your car is vintage, it will cost significantly more. Many other factors affect the cost of rims, including:
- Craftsmanship: For custom designed pieces, you pay for the hours of labor that go into creating the rims. If the wheel takes a lot of work to make, you’ll pay more for it.
- Construction: Alloy rims can be a single piece or multi-piece. While single-piece rims are made out of only one piece of aluminum in a special machine, multi-piece rims require the forging together of two to three pieces. According to Car Cody, the work required to do this brings up the price.
- Size: The bigger your rim, the more it will cost. This seems pretty obvious, but it’s important to keep in mind that more metal is used for bigger wheels, therefore increasing the price.
- Retailer: You can buy your rims aftermarket from any virtual sources, including online or from a friend, or directly from the manufacturer (OEM). OEM wheels will cost more since they are safety tested and regulated closely by auto manufacturers.
Can I Get a Bigger Size Rim?
Changing your rims for larger, flashier options is definitely one of the cheapest ways to upgrade a vehicle. However, it’s important to move forward with caution, as Popular Mechanics summarizes that bigger is not always better. It’s crucial to make sure that larger rims won’t compromise the original engineering of the car.
Luckily, there is a sweet spot where cars can have upgraded, larger rims without any cause for concern. Most car experts recommend not increasing rim size by more than one to two inches (2.5 to 5.1 cm) than the original wheel size. According to Fremont Motors, while larger rims may look nice in the wheel, there still needs to be enough space for the suspension to work.
Keep in mind that bigger rims mean smaller tires. Shamrock Tires explains that, with larger rims, tire height will need to be reduced to safely clear bumps and other road hazards. While this is not necessarily a problem, you’ll want to keep this in mind if you do a lot of driving on rough terrain. According to Car and Driver, the thinner a tire is, the more likely it is to blow out on rough roads.
It can also be difficult to find tires to work with super large rims. The larger the rim size, the less likely manufacturers have the right tires to accompany them in stock. You’ll also find these tires get increasingly expensive as you go up in rim size. Of course, you can still choose to go with larger rims—just make sure to budget accordingly.
New vs. Used vs. Reconditioned Rims
Buying used or reconditioned rims is definitely a more cost-effective option than purchasing new rims. Not buying anything new always requires a little more research to ensure that you’re getting the best value. Let’s take a closer look at some of the pros and cons of different rim options:
- New rims: These rims have never been placed in a car. They are the most expensive option, but since they are brand new, they should run perfectly. However, if you’re looking for rims for an older car, new rims might not even be an option.
- Used rims: Buying used is the cheapest option, but these rims may not be aesthetically pleasing. If you don’t mind a few dings or dents, this could be a good option. Make sure to buy from a reputable source to ensure that all damage is only cosmetic.
- Reconditioned rims: These are rims that have been minimally damaged and restored to like-new condition. While much has been said about refurbished wheels not being safe, as long you’re purchasing from a place you trust, you should be fine. This is a great option if you’re looking for wheels that look new but don’t cost quite as much.
Regardless of what rims you choose, it’s important that you take good care of them. This Wheel Brush Kit from Amazon provides everything you’ll need to keep your rims sparkling easily.
How Much Is Installation?
If you’ve purchased your own rims and are just paying for labor, you can expect around $20-$40 per rim for installation cost. Many shops will give you a discount if you purchase your tires or rims from them, but expect a mark up if you’re bringing in your own.
You can always install the rims yourself if you’re looking to save some money. This YouTube video explains the process clearly:
Do I Need an Alignment Once I Get New Rims?
While you don’t technically need an alignment when you get new rims, it’s a really good idea to go ahead and do so. This is especially true if you also got new tires.
According to Firestone, an alignment will ensure that all your tires are angled correctly, which is important to prevent unnecessary wear and tear on your vehicle. Investing in an alignment can ultimately help you get more miles out of your wheels and tires, so it’s likely worth the price.
Best Place to Buy Rims
As mentioned before, your two main options when purchasing rims are directly from the manufacturer or aftermarket. Purchasing directly from the manufacturer comes with certain guarantees but can lead to much higher prices. Buying aftermarket from several reputable dealers offers greater discounts and a wider variety of styles and customizations.
However, one important piece of advice is to never buy rims directly from a car dealership. When purchasing a new car, salespeople will often try to push you into upgraded rims. You can get the same rims for much cheaper shopping aftermarket or even directly from the manufacturer.
Is It Okay to Buy Rims Online?
You can buy nearly everything online these days, so why should rims be any different? Buying rims online is entirely safe, provided you do your research. Take the time to look for both reviews on the company you’re purchasing from and prices of the same rims from similar retailers so you can guarantee you’re getting a fair price.
If you’re buying used or reconditioned rims, make sure to see photos of the exact rims you’re buying instead of an example. This gives you a chance to ensure that all damages are merely cosmetic.
One of the better places to shop online is at discounted wheel warehouse. I often use their site to find prices and recommend replacement rims to customers. They have a huge selection and really good prices. And no, I am not affiliated with them.
An interesting or unique set of rims can do a lot to make a car stand out. A number of factors contribute to rims’ relatively high cost. You’ll pay extra for special designs and sizes, as well as for rims for old or rare cars. Rims serve an important purpose for your vehicle, so it’s worth it to invest not only in the rims but also in installation and alignment from a reputable company.
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