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Should you buy a car with big alloy wheels?

So you’ve chosen your new car and you’re now rifling through the options list making it perfect for you (and your wallet) and you’re faced with the choice of wheels. You’ve probably noticed cars with larger alloy wheels – they’re like posh shoes for your car – but should you put up the extra cash for a set?

Style is in the eye of the beholder but, you have to admit, larger alloy wheels tend to look a lot cooler than smaller ones – they visually ‘fill’ the wheelarches and, as a result, make the car’s stance look more grounded and solid. Alloys also tend to have intricate designs to leave everyone in no doubt – you’re rollin’ in style.

The beautiful magnesium alloy wheels on the Pagani Huayra cost as much as a hatchback to repair

Big alloy wheels – the pros

Firstly, they look cool. There are few things more disappointing than seeing a stylish car pass by only to find it has naff little wheels in its arches. Larger alloys are infinitely more eye-catching and, visually, are more in proportion with the rest of the body. This means the car looks better and might even be worth more when you come to resell it.

Large alloys can help your car’s handling, too. As a car goes around a corner, its weight gets thrown to the outside of the corner – you experience it as force pushing you to the left in a right-hander and vice-versa.

A tyre’s sidewall can deform during cornering – spoiling the handling – larger alloys tend to fix this

On cars with smaller alloys, the rubber in the tyres gets bent under the weight of the car as it leans to the outside of the corner. This dulls the responses of the steering wheel and, ultimately, will cause the wheels to lose grip sooner than a car with larger wheels.

Larger alloys don’t suffer this problem so severely because the tyre itself is much thinner so doesn’t get forced out of shape as much when the car corners. This also means the tyre surface contacts the road more consistently through corners giving you more grip.

Some cars’ wheels can get outrageously expensive

Big alloy wheels – the cons

Unsurprisingly, with desirable car options there tends to be an undesirable price tag latched to their coat tails. Top alloy wheels on a Range Rover cost £2,000 but, even on more normal cars, this can sneak up to £1,000 – potentially representing a large proportion of your car’s purchase price you’re unlikely to recover. You’ll also need to buy bigger tyres, which will will cost more than smaller ones. It’s worth doing some research because decent large tyres can cost far more than you’d think.

Larger alloys (and requisite lower-profile tyres) might improve handling but, what they improve around a corner they compromise while going over a bump. With smaller wheels, the tyre forms part of the suspension system itself, absorbing impacts before they get to the cabin. Larger alloys don’t absorb the impact and, instead, send it into the cabin making your car less comfortable.

Tyres with smaller sidewalls don’t absorb bumps as well as those with bigger ones

Assuming you’re neither the Stig or a professional stunt driver, then you’re just as prone to making mistakes as the rest of us. We’ve all pulled up a little too carelessly by a kerb and heard that awful scraping as we carve big gouges out of our wheels.

The problem with kerbing large wheels is two-fold – firstly, the larger the alloy, the more likely you are to kerb it as more of the metal is a kerb level. Secondly, the larger the alloy is, there’s a bigger chance it’ll cost even more to repair than a smaller wheel because it’ll probably have more damage.

Big alloys: wheely bad idea or a look you won’t tyre of?

It comes down to your preferences. If you like the look of the larger wheels or prefer the better handling and turn-in they give then, by all means, spec them. As long as you drive carefully, you won’t damage them and they’re likely to make your car look more sellable on the used car market.

If you’re not so bothered about the visual impact of your wheels (you’ll be inside the car when you drive it, right?) or you value having the best possible ride quality then we’d advise you spend your money on an option better suited to you. You might get a lot more use out of a sat-nav than a set of flash alloys.

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