In the market for a set of alloy wheels? With a huge variety of makes, models, sizes, shapes and materials to choose from, buying the right set of alloys can be tricky.
Here, we’ve put together an essential alloy wheel buying guide, with all the information you need to find the perfect new wheels for your car. Whether you’re buying for looks or performance, we can help you choose alloys that suit your car perfectly. Use the links below to navigate the guide.
- What Are Alloy Wheels?
- Are Wheels and Rims the Same Thing?
- The Pros and Cons of Alloy Wheels
- Which Alloy Wheels Fit My Car?
- How to Buy and Fit Alloy Wheels
Alloy wheels are a type of car wheel made from an alloy like aluminium or magnesium. They differ from standard steel wheels in that they’re lighter and stronger, which can improve handling and fuel economy.
Alloy wheels are fitted as standard on lots of new cars, particularly top-of-the-range models and premium brands. They’re also available to buy aftermarket from OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) such as Volkswagen, and third-party manufacturers including Proline and Alutec.
Most people buy alloy wheels to give their car a makeover, and it is true that they can give a car a sportier look. But they offer more benefits than looks alone, as we list below.
Are Wheels and Rims the Same Thing?
Some people use the terms ‘wheels’ and ‘rims’ interchangeably, but they’re quite different. The wheel is the entire metal structure, encompassing the rim, disc, hub and everything else. The rim is the outer edge which holds the tyre in place – and this can be made from a few different materials, including steel, alloy and chrome.
We’ll go into the pros and cons of alloys compared to steel wheels below, but first a quick word on chrome rims. The chrome option may immediately seem the top-class choice for your car wheels, but it’s important to remember that you won’t be getting solid chrome. When chrome rims are an option, this means that you’re getting an alloy or steel wheel with a chrome finish. Usually reserved for show cars, the chrome finish might look great, but won’t add anything performance-wise.
Due to their construction, alloy wheels are more rigid than steel wheels, and this can greatly improve cornering and handling. Because alloys are essentially harder than standard steel wheels, there’s less roll and movement through the corners, so you can expect a tighter, more agile feel on the road.
Do you have a lot of potholes in your area? While you won’t want to crash through them with a new set of alloys on your car, they’re less likely to cause damage to an alloy wheel than a steel wheel. Again, this comes down to their construction; steel wheels are softer and more likely to bend and buckle when they receive a hard knock, whereas alloys are tougher and should be more durable in the long term.
Improved Disc Brake Performance
A basic steel wheel is a vented cylinder covered with a plastic wheel trim. This is a standard setup on older or inexpensive cars, but it does have its drawbacks. For example, disc brakes don’t receive as much ventilation, so they dissipate heat slower, affecting performance. Alloy wheels allow for better air circulation, improving the performance of disc brakes.
Better Tyre Options
Depending on the alloys you choose, you might find that you have a better range of tyres to choose from when it comes to replacing them. Some wheel sizes have a wider range of tyre options than others, so shop around to make sure the alloys you want are compatible with a good range of tyres.
While alloy wheels do improve handling, there can be a trade-off in ride comfort, especially if you’re used to standard steel wheels. This is down to alloy being harder and ‘less forgiving’ than steel, so you might find that there’s a bit more vibration and tyre noise.
Alloy wheels are one of the most expensive modifications you can make to a car, with an average per-wheel price of around £65-£250. There are offers to be had, though, so shop around and use price comparison sites to find the best deals.
Another overhead to consider when you’re buying alloys is the price of tyres. Not only will you have to buy a whole new set of tyres on top of the price of the alloys, but the ongoing price of replacements may go up – especially if you’ve bought alloys which hold large and expensive low-profile tyres. Certainly, something to think about before you decide to buy.
One of the advantages of steel wheels is that, when the plastic trim starts to look tired or receives a scratch, you can simply replace it, and often relatively cheaply. This isn’t the case with alloy wheels which can be expensive to repair. If you opt for a set, remember not to bump up and down any curbs!
Fitting alloy wheels to your car is classed as a modification, so you need to let your insurer know about it. Depending on your current premium, this could affect the price you pay, and not usually for the better. If you neglect to tell your insurer, it could invalidate your insurance, so it’s always best to come clean.
Which Alloy Wheels Fit My Car?
Want to find out which alloy wheels fit on your car? There are a couple of ways to search for alloys, so you can quickly find compatible makes and models that will fit your car. Below, we take a look at the different options when buying a set of alloy wheels.
Finding Alloy Wheels by Size
If you already know what size alloys you want, searching by size is the simplest way to browse a wide range of compatible options. Alloys are listed by inches, with the smallest being 10” and the largest 30”. If you want to work out which size alloys are right for your car, we’d recommend this video on how to measure alloy wheels.
Finding Alloy Wheels by Vehicle
The internet has made it easier than ever to track down the right alloy wheels for your car, with lots of sites allowing you to quickly search for compatible alloys by your car’s make and model. You’ll find a range of options available for most cars, but be sure to triple-check the size and compatibility of wheels before you buy.
Finding Alloy Wheels by Registration Number
Your car registration number is by far the easiest and most accurate way to find alloy wheels for your car. Most mainstream alloy wheel suppliers give you the option to input your reg number, and also display sizing information so you can quickly double-check that you’ve got the right wheels.
How to Buy and Fit Alloy Wheels
If you’re dead set on alloys, the next step is buying them and having them fitted. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to buy alloy wheels online:
- Find and purchase the right alloy wheels for your car – make sure they’re the right size and are fully compatible.
- Arrange fitting – when you buy a set of alloys, they won’t normally be delivered to your house. Instead, you’ll arrange a fitting at a service partner, e.g. a local garage, where the alloys will be shipped.
- Attend the fitting – When you’ve received confirmation that the alloys have reached your chosen garage, take your car over to have them fitted. This can take anywhere between 1hr to half a day depending on the garage.
This isn’t the case for all alloy wheel purchases, but it does give you a bit of guidance on what to expect when you buy alloy wheels online.
Once you’ve invested in alloys, it’s worth taking care of them so that they last a long time and retain their appearance. Use an acid-free cleaner like Ultracare Alloy Cleaner to remove dirt without corrosion. You can read more in our guide to caring for wheels and tyres.
At Simoniz, our car care products make it easy to look after your pride and joy – from its paintwork to its alloy wheels. For more information and to view our product range, visit the homepage today.