If you’re anything like me, you may have found yourself in a situation where you suddenly needed new tires — and were floored by the exorbitant cost. According to the National Academy of Sciences, Americans spend around $20 billion dollars replacing their tires every year! Unfortunately, since good tires are a necessity for safety, vehicle performance, and fuel economy, they are an expense that we can’t escape. Here’s how to soften the blow the next time you find yourself in the market for new tires:

1. Shop online

Websites like Discount Tire Direct and Tire Rack offer a huge selection of tires at extremely affordable prices. These online retailers will ship the tires directly to a garage for installation. Although you do have to pay for postage, online tire stores are still competitive. I was able to find tires for my car for $50 apiece plus $50 shipping — which was still about $100 cheaper than what my local tire store quoted me.

2. Use rebates

Tire manufacturers come out with rebates all of the time, which can equal some serious tire savings! For example, Tire Rack is currently offering an $80 rebate when buy four Dunlop or Goodyear tires. Check Tire Rack's rebate page often to keep track of all the latest tire rebates and offers. You can also check your favorite tire brand's website for rebate offers. Try Michelin, Goodyear and Cooper Tires.

3. Check warehouse stores

Do you already have a membership to a big warehouse store like Costco, BJ's or Sam's Club? If so, it could be your ticket to a wide selection of affordable tires! Even if you don't have a membership, you'll only have to pay an extra 10 to 15% surcharge to get your tires at a warehouse store, which would still be worthwhile if you found an awesome deal on your tires. And just to sweeten the offer, right now Sam's Club is promising $80 off a set of four Goodyear tires, Costco will knock off $70 when you buy four Bridgestone tires, and BJ's will give you a $50 instant discount when you buy four BFGoodrich tires!

4. Time your purchase just right

If you want to score the best deals, buy your tires in the months of April or October. Why? Although tire sales happen randomly throughout the year, you can be sure they will go on sale in April when the weather turns warm and consumers start thinking about vacations and road trips. Tires go on sale once again in October to encourage people to buy new tires for winter driving.

5. Buy more than one tire

A lot of stores and service centers offer you discounts when you buy all four tires at once (or at least more than one tire at a time.) For example, Sears will give you a $100 discount when you buy four select tires. If your preferred store doesn't offer a multi-purchase plan, don't be afraid to call around to find one that does.

6. Befriend your mechanic

Local service centers and mechanics make the most money on repeat business. And how do they repay their loyal customers? By getting you the best deals possible on your auto parts – including tires. Because our mechanic has become a family friend, my husband was able to get $100 knocked off of our tire bill! Talk about loyalty rewards!

7. Don't wait until you need new tires

What's the most effective way to save money on your new tires? Don't wait until you get a flat! If you wait until you really need new tires, you are pretty much at the mercy of the retailer. Instead, be proactive and purchase a tire or two throughout the year when they reach rock bottom prices. In the meantime, take good care of your tires by checking the tire pressure often and following your manual's recommended tire rotation schedule.