Robert Kaufman, owner of Dan's Goodyear in Costa Mesa, Calif., said he can sell anywhere between eight and 10 sets of wheels on a good week.
"On a normal week, we sell about two sets," Mr. Kaufman said. "Spring and summer are when customers want to make their vehicles look the best, especially in the beach area."
Naturally, wheels are a top seller for a company that uses the word in its name — RNR Tire Express & Custom Wheels.
Ryan Schrader, RNR's director of operations at the firm's corporate office in Tampa, Fla., said wheels and tires account for 90 percent of the firm's business.
"It's a great money-maker, with a lot of revenue for our stores," Mr. Schrader said. There are close to 100 RNR franchise stores in the U.S.
'All about aesthetics'
Dealers say that customers today want to make their vehicles their own, and one of the most distinctive ways to accomplish this is to dress up their rides with a set of wheels.
"They just want to look like they're cool," Mr. Kaufman said. "We are in a good area, with well-to-do neighborhoods around us, and they have the money to spend on accessorizing their vehicles."
"It's all about aesthetics," Mr. Burt said. "They don't want a car that looks like every other vehicle on the lot. Maybe there's a different finish that they're fond of, black or chrome, or maybe they like swirls or spokes. It's a preference type of thing."
Mr. Schrader said changing tires and/or wheels isn't the cheapest way to make the look of a vehicle distinctive, but it is certainly among the easiest and most popular.
"It's a want, not a need, but it's a want for a lot of people in all gamuts of life," Mr. Schrader noted.
He said wanting to change the look of a vehicle can serve as a catalyst to "move forward and put a set of aftermarket tires and wheels on a car."
"Obviously when you add a chrome trim piece," he said, "you're not drastically changing the look of the car, truck, van or SUV.
"But when you add a custom set of wheels, it adds a uniqueness to the vehicle that makes it look different than the hundreds or thousands of vehicles that come from the factory," he said.
And if a driver damages one wheel, he or she usually can replace all four with aftermarket wheels cheaper than purchasing two OEM wheels.
"It can be a catalyst to replace your wheels," Mr. Schrader said. "Even though you don't need it, you want your car to look nice, so you may move forward to put a new set of aftermarket tires and wheels on your vehicle."
Dealers said one of the biggest trends today is for customers to upgrade their wheels and tires with an off-road or all-terrain mud package.
"They're taking their (Ford) F-150 and going to a larger, more aggressive wheel and tire package," Mr. Schrader said.
Mr. Burt said a customer's customized truck influences his buddy to want to do the same.
"We have a lot of people think methodically about it. They buy a new truck, but then they've got to get it fixed up like they want it."
Mr. Kaufman said the bolder three-piece wheels, as well as neon colors are a hot commodity in his market.
And the California dealer offers his customers another lucrative way to distinguish their vehicles. He owns a printing machine that can customize add-ons, such as tires, bedliners and rubber floor mats.
"You can print anything you want on the tire and on a floor mat," Mr. Kaufman said, noting that it's more lucrative to sell a customized set of new mats, rather than print on dirty mats.