If there’s one thing more important than giving cars propulsion, it’s being able to control it. Sure, an engine and gearbox let you go places, but without properly working suspension, steering, brakes, or wheels, you’re in a world of hurt. Countless accidents occur every year around the world because the car being driven isn’t able to track right. Hence, the importance of learning about an alignment cost.
Wheel-slash-tire alignments are something that we hear about quite often. Usually, when we’re sending our cars over for their regular service and oil change, your technician buddy might make mentions of an alignment service. Typically, it’s understood by everyone to be best practice to simply keep our heads down, and get that alignment done, as prescribed by a mechanic. But what does it really mean?
Simply put, the wheels need to be aligned with the rest of the car, most especially the suspension and steering. This adjustment of its alignment settings ensures that your car not only drives and performs optimally but also does it efficiently and comfortably. Not to mention, making sure your car could steer and brake reliably, without leaving you out of control. But how much does an alignment cost?
- What Is It?
- The Procedure
- Camber, Toe, Caster
- When To Align?
- Types Of Alignment
- Price (And Comparison)
- Final Thoughts
What Is A Wheel/Tire Alignment?
Before we look into how much an alignment cost is, let’s take a deep dive into what alignments are in general. As we highlighted earlier, alignment jobs will be centered around your wheels. In particular, it entails realigning and readjusting the angle that your wheels and tires sit in relation to the rest of the car. In other words, make sure the angle that the wheels/tires are driving at is properly calibrated.
By making sure your wheels are aligned correctly, your car will handle, steer, and brake optimally. It’s a side effect of the wheels rolling with minimal resistance, being pointed in the right direction (just 1 or 2-degrees of offset could make a huge difference), and that the tires are getting as much traction as they possibly need. This won’t just guarantee better performance, but your safety behind the wheel.
A misaligned set of wheels and tires will induce poor handling and drivability. You might notice more vibrations and roughness as the car turns and drives along. On top of that, the probability of your car pulling and veering to one side or the other is particularly dangerous. If safe driving isn’t sufficient to convince you, note that getting an alignment would also save you a tonne of cash down the line.
Poorly aligned tires-slash-wheels mean that your car wouldn’t roll and move without at least some resistance being put against it. Firstly, you’re forced to use more of the engine to keep it going, which will incur higher fuel consumption. Furthermore, misaligned tracking of the wheels will put far higher levels of strain on the rest of the suspension, steering, and tires. This wears them out prematurely.
Pros Of Paying For A Wheel Alignment Cost
Here’s a quick TL;DR list of what you’re gaining from getting the wheels aligned:
- The fuel economy will increase, owing to significantly less resistance from the wheels/tires as you’re just driving along. There’s less drag and greater smoothness from the rotation of your tires. On average, it’s been estimated that a properly aligned set of wheels could increase your MPGs by around 10%.
- Smoothness and comfy ride quality is ensured when the wheels and tires are tracking properly. If not, it’s been noted that misaligned wheels/tires have led to cars pulling more to the left and right. This could be deadly, to say the least. Plus, it could then introduce a sense of bumpiness to the ride.
- Steering responsiveness is far better when the wheels/tires are aligned. Otherwise, you may find your car now being harder to steer and control. In addition, some have found the need to hold their steering wheels at odd angles, just to keep the car going straight. Or, veering from side to side.
- Your suspension and steering systems will both last longer and require fewer repairs down the line. A misaligned set of wheels/tires brings greater strain to the suspension and steering components that they’re connected to. A slight jolt or impact could easily stress them out to a point of breakage.
- Just like the suspension and steering, your tires will last longer, too. Misalignment causes uneven and premature wearing of the tires, far quicker than usual. You might notice how the treads are worn or bold on one side, more so than the other. Certain sections of the tire might be damaged, as well.
On the flip side, here’s a list of downsides:
- None, there’s no downside to getting your wheels aligned, besides the alignment cost.
What’s Being Done During A Wheel Alignment?
When you drive your car to a shop, here’s what they do to get it aligned to the right specifications or angles:
- To begin, your car is driven up a ramp or rack and is raised above the ground.
- Technicians will then attach a set of clamps to each of the four wheels.
- Those aforementioned clamps have sensors built into them, which gauge the angle and alignment of the wheels. It both measures the current alignment angles, and sets it up against a control which is the ideal set-up for your car.
- It passes the alignment data back to a computer, where the technician can refer against it.
- Now, the technician will slowly make adjustments to each wheel, and keep it within the right specs as detailed by the car manufacturer. They have to use specialized tools that enable them to granularly re-tune the alignment.
- All the while, the technician might then make an inspection of the wheels, tires, and the rest of your car’s suspension and steering set-up. This is to ensure that nothing’s worn out or broken, which may have to be repaired.
- Some workshops might request that their technicians be more thorough with an alignment. Thus, it might include an on-road test drive, just to make sure everything’s done properly.
- Although car manufacturers have a set angle or alignment setting, you could ask your technician (if they offer such services) to adjust it based on your needs. For example, if you have a sports car, you may ask them to align it to improve performance and handling, at the cost of added treadwear.
- Once it’s all done, you may ask the technician for a printout. This shows a detailed alignment set-up of the before-and-after, with the old and new alignment angles.
What’s Camber, Toe, And Caster In A Wheel Alignment?
If you’re noticing that your car isn’t braking, steering, riding, or handling right, take it to some nearby workshop promptly. Get it checked out, as misaligned wheels/tires, if not resolved quickly, can prove to be silent killers. Oftentimes, misalignments occur naturally, as the wheels and tires gradually lose tracking and alignment as you put more miles on them. On other days, it may be circumstantial.
For example, accidentally curbing your wheels as you were trying to park your car. Or, hitting a piece of debris or speedhump at high speeds. Regardless, such impacts could be sharp enough to throw the wheels out of alignment. But what exactly is being misaligned, you might ask? In alignment terms, it comes down to three particular parameters when it comes to the angling of your wheels and tires:
- Camber – Looking from the front of the car, the camber is the inward and outward angle of the tire. With a positive camber, the top of the tires leans outwards. Meanwhile, a negative camber has the top of the tires leaning inwards. Zero camber is a neutral setting, with the wheels perpendicular.
- Toe – Looking from the top of the car, the toe is the angle of the wheels concerning the longitudinal axis of your car. Toe-in means that the front of the wheels is pointing towards each other. On the other hand, toe-out means that the front of the wheels is pointing away from each other.
- Caster – Looking from the side of the car, the caster is how the steering axis is angled in relation to your suspension. A positive caster is when the suspension is tilted more towards the rear of the car, while the steering axis remains straight. A negative caster sees the suspension tilted towards the front.
When Should You Be Worried About An Alignment Cost?
It’s recommended to pay up for a wheel alignment cost every 10,000 miles. Or, just to be safe, every occasion you get to send your car in for its oil change and regular servicing. However, a 10,000-mile rule shouldn’t be a given in all scenarios. Depending on how and where you drive your car, it might be necessary to get an alignment done as frequently as every 5,000 miles. Or, maybe even less.
Remember that wheels, while they naturally get misaligned anyway, will lose the right tracking even faster if you’re putting more strain on it. For instance, regularly driving your car on rough and uneven roads, with plenty of potholes or speedbumps. Additionally, driving in a spirited manner, such as taking a corner too quickly or going too fast while turning. In doing so, you’ll lose alignment quicker.
In short, we’d still recommend checking the owner’s manual to see how often the car manufacturer suggests an alignment to be done. Otherwise, be wary of these warning signs of misaligned wheels, and have your car inspected as soon as they appear:
- Your car is forcefully pulling and veering more to the left or right.
- The steering wheel is crooked, set at an odd angle, or isn’t naturally pointed straight.
- Its steering feel, responsiveness, and feedback have some looseness to it.
- Vibrations are felt through the steering wheel.
- The steering wheel won’t automatically return to the middle.
- You can hear squealing sounds from the tires, especially while turning.
- You’ll notice uneven tread wear on the tires, as one side might be balder than the other.
- Over time, you might spot increased fuel consumption or poor performance.
What Are The Different Types Of Alignments?
There’s more than just one type of wheel alignment that you could opt for. On most occasions, your mechanic friend will be the one to make suggestions on which one you should get. This judgment is based on the type of vehicle you have, and how you’re driving it. Also, just how badly misaligned the wheels are. In general, there are three types of wheel alignment cost that you’ll have to consider:
- Front-End (Or Two-Wheel) Alignment – Seeing that your front wheels are responsible for steering, it’ll naturally be impacted the most in regular driving. With a front-end (or two-wheel) alignment, you’re only aligning the front wheels. They’re suitable for most, especially those fitted with solid rear axles. Although, front-end alignments typically only work on toe angles, hence the lower alignment cost.
- Four-Wheel Alignment – Most will agree that a four-wheel alignment is the one you should ideally get despite the higher alignment cost. It’s the most comprehensive option, by aligning the front and rear axles altogether. This is suggested if you have an all- or four-wheel-drive vehicle. Or, a front-wheel-drive car with adjustable rear suspension. Not to mention, vehicles with independent suspensions.
- Thrust Alignment – A thrust alignment process involves making sure that all four wheels are “square” against each other. In other words, ensuring that the front- and rear-end tracking are set correctly. This is best recommended for vehicles that have a solid rear suspension. Moreover, those cars that have been involved in accidents, collisions, or hard knocks and impacts could misalign it.
How Much Does An Alignment Cost
Finally, we can get down to the nitty-gritty of a wheel alignment cost. So, how much does it cost? On average, a wheel alignment will set you back between $100 to $250. Nevertheless, there are cases in which you could get an entire alignment done for as little as $40 or less. Ultimately, it’ll vary quite a bit depending on several key factors, determining the final tally for an alignment cost:
- What type of alignment are you picking? Are you just aligning the front wheels or all four corners? A four-wheel alignment might be pricier, but it delivers the best and most optimal results.
- What vehicle (make and model) are you getting aligned? High-performance (i.e. sports cars), heavy-duty (i.e. off-roaders and pickup trucks), or luxury-branded vehicles will cost you more. These types of cars need special tools and equipment, with greater care and skill to get them aligned.
- Where are you sending your car off to get it aligned? Dealerships may guarantee the best results, as they specialize in the make and model of your car. But, they’re also more expensive than mom-and-pop workshops. Or, are you perhaps sending your car off to a big-box retailer, instead?
- Do you have a warranty on your car, still? Some shops or dealers might offer you one free alignment if a warranty is still applicable. Certain shops also run free-of-charge alignment checks. It’ll cost you to get the alignment done, but nothing for just a check-up.
As a rough average (as of 2022), an alignment cost is priced at around $25 to $50 per wheel. For a front-end (two-wheel) alignment, that rounds up to about $50 to $100. If you’re opting for a four-wheel alignment, it comes to $100 to $200.
Wheel Alignment Cost
Given that you’ll be doing a wheel alignment, on average, roughly once per year or every two years, the typical alignment cost isn’t an overbearing expense. That’s especially once you consider how big of an impact it’ll make on your car drives. We’d still highly suggest opting for the costlier four-wheel alignment. While it may cost a bit more, it’ll ensure a more thorough alignment process is done.
To get the best deals possible, it’s wise to compare an alignment cost between your immediate and available options. Would it be best to get it done at the local workshop, authorized dealership, or a big-box chain? Well, if your car’s alignment is pretty out of whack, it’s best to head over to a dealer or specialty tire shop. They have the best machinery and mechanics that specialize in alignments.
For most ordinary circumstances though, you can get better prices at these big retail chains or large workshop franchises. We’re talking about the likes of NTB, Walmart, Discount Tire, Big O Tires, Les Schwab, and more. On certain days, they might offer huge discounts on wheel alignments and other service work for your car. Or, they may throw in an alignment for free if you buy tires from them.
While you’re making a comparison, be sure to look at what other perks do they offer. Do they provide a warranty after each alignment? Or, how about extended warranty programs that offer you the choice of getting several alignments done in that period? How about any refunds if the alignment is done poorly? Take all this into account, on top of the price they charge you for that base alignment.
Wheel Alignment Cost Comparisons
To give you a better idea of how much these big-name chains charge you for a tire alignment cost, here’s a detailed comparison between each one:
|Location||Service Type||Average Alignment Cost|
|Big O Tires||Front-End||$80|
|One-Year Plan (Truck)||$140|
|Three-Year Plan (Truck)||$230|
Beyond the difference in cost between one workshop chain and another, the actual size of your tires might also play a role in alignment cost. In short, bigger tires, the more it may cost to align them:
|Tire Size||Alignment Cost|
|Up To 18 Inches||$60|
|28 Inches And Above||$120|
Final Thoughts On Wheel Alignment Cost
That then just about rounds it up in our guide on wheel alignment cost. In all, we can see that when comparing it to most other car-related repairs or services, an alignment cost is relatively painless. It’ll be somewhat light on your wallet, with an average of $100 at most locations. And, it brings ample positive side effects to how your car will inevitably drive after getting a wheel alignment done.
A wheel alignment is one of those tasks that are vital to be performed on any car, especially if you’re driving it regularly. Ignoring it could badly impact its performance and driveability. If you leave it be for too long, it might cause you to lose control entirely. Therefore, a quick alignment job once every 10,000 or so miles (or roughly once a year or two) is a safe bet to keep yourself safe on the road.
Frequently Asked Questions On Alignment Cost
Here are some of the most popular FAQs on the subject of wheel alignment cost:
Costco Alignment Cost
Costco offers a variety of car-related services, including those concerning tires. Their tire centers offer everything from buying new tires to installation, rotation, balancing, as well as alignments. Costco’s wheel alignment cost is about $80 to $200, depending on whether you want a front-end or a four-wheel alignment.
Wheel Alignment Cost Walmart
Walmart is among the cheapest places where you can get car services done. This includes alignments for your wheels, where Walmart significantly undercuts its competition. You’re looking at a cost of as low as $50 for a front-wheel alignment. Or, around $75 for a four-wheel alignment. If you could get a coupon, it’ll be even cheaper.
Discount Tire Alignment Cost
Despite being one of the largest tire chains in the country, Discount Tires does not offer an alignment service. They at least offer other tire-related services, such as tire check-ups and inspections, new tire changes, rotation, and balancing.
Big O Tires Alignment Cost
There’s a price to pay to opt for a more professional wheel alignment job. Compared to big-box retail chains that offer practically anything, Big O Tires will charge a premium for an alignment cost. You’re looking at a cost of $80 and higher. But, their expertise when it comes to all-things tires may be best suited for serious or complex alignments.
Les Schwab Alignment Cost
Les Schwab is another all-around car repair expert, offering a wide variety of services. This includes a wheel alignment, which they offer free check-ups, as well as thrust angle and four-wheel alignments. For a thrust alignment, they’re charging you $100. In regards to four-wheel alignments, it’s going to cost you at least $125, which is still pretty decent.
4 Wheel Alignment Cost
Getting all four wheels aligned will naturally cost you more. On average, you’re looking at between $100 to $200 or higher for this sort of alignment to be done. However, most experts will tell you that it’s well worth the price. Owing to how complex modern cars are, and depending on how you drive them, a four-wheel alignment guarantees a more thorough job.
How Much Does A Front End Alignment Cost
In contrast, front-end alignment costs are typically cheaper, around $50 to $100 on average. That’s since you’re only aligning two wheels instead of four. Nonetheless, if you could afford one, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t opt for a full four-wheel alignment. Some mechanics even say that front-end alignments are fast becoming insufficient for some modern cars.
How Long Does An Alignment Take
Regularly, wheel alignments take little to no time to complete. You’re not replacing anything, it’s just a process of readjusting the wheels. With a skilled mechanic, and if your wheels don’t require significant realignment, it takes as little as 20 minutes. If more serious inspections and readjustments need to be done, that could take up to 1 hour to finish.
Wheel Alignment Cost Near Me
It’s definitely a great idea, if you have the time, to compare prices for an alignment cost of the shops and dealers near you. Often, the cost itself is the difference of $10 or none at all. However, different shops or chains might offer additional warranties, perks, or other services that might interest you. There are loads of sites online where you can compare pricing between workshops in your area.