"Should I get an alignment once I install my new tires?" Receiving this question many times, I tell customers there are several ways they can determine this themselves in their own driveway!
The most obvious clues that you need an alignment is if the car seems to have a "pull" in one direction (primarily at highway speeds) or has irregular wear in the tread (one or more sections that are more worn down than others). A quick visual inspection of your tires should tip you off to any major concerns right away. In many cases, the tires can be rotated in such a way to minimize the issue, or at least help focus in on the "offending" tire. Download instructions on how to identify the pulling tire.
Of course, any noticeable change in road noise will be an indication that the tires may be worn irregularly or are nearing the end of their useful life as well. If nothing appears out of the ordinary, a tire professional can quickly examine the tire for any signs of irregular wear like cupping or other localized issues. Normally, the shop will ask you to come out to the garage so they can show you where the problem is, so you can be confident in their diagnosis. In some cases, the irregular tire wear can be the result of an issue with your suspension and not the wheel alignment.
Read "Break In Your Tires" and "Tire Rotation Instruction" to ensure you maximize the life of your new tires!