i've spent countless hours on tirerack searching for a good tire that won't break the bank, best thing i've found is the Yokohama Avid TRZ. between surveys and tirerack's testing they have the best performance and mileage for the money.
*wet traction is a huge deal for me, nothing sucks worse than sliding around in the rain.
I can also agree on the Avid TRZ as a very good compromise between price and quality for normal driving. They were tested a while back by Consumer Reports, and their only down side was poor braking performance on ice if that is a concern for you. This is much different than snow traction, which was rated good. There is also a performance version of the Avid.
You might also look at the Cooper Tires. They had a touring tire that was my second choice (can't remember the model). They are also usually a good value, and I think they are the only major line still made in the USA.
A Hankook brand tire (Mileage Plus II H725 - may be a different similar model now) was also rated high by Consumer Reports (and may cost a little less), but a problem is that there seem to be far fewer shops that can give warranty service on Hankook tires. These tires also had poor ice braking as the only downside.
A few other considerations:
1. I recommend using an independent tire shop and ordering through them rather than ordering on-line and getting someone to mount and balance. I found a shop who's prices where only a little higher than getting them on-line. You can ask for recommendations for tire shops at good parts stores like Carquest and NAPA or ask your mechanic. Check the shop's Better Business Bureau rating at your state's on-line BBB site. You can also look at the recommended installers list at Tirerack and the other on-line dealers, since those shops obviously know what the on-line prices are and may be most competitive.
The big advantage to ordering through the shop rather than on-line is that not only are you supporting a local business more, but you will be getting the warranty card through them. If you have any problems, they are going to be much more enthusiastic about helping you if you bought through them. If you have any vibration problems it could be a bad tire (needing warranty replacement), a bad wheel, or the mount/balance job. It is also a good idea to go to a shop that also does alignment and suspension work. You can have an alignment done at the same time and have your suspension checked.
2. I don't like the tire chain stores. In my area most of them have much less-experienced mechanics. Most people on this site probably know to to stay away from Wal-Mart for tires. I went to them a long time ago when I didn't know any better. First they somehow left the cut-off base of an old valve stem inside the new tire and it was rattling around in there - very weird. Second, I found out that many of the supposedly brand-name tires they carry are not the manufacturers' regular line tires; they are specially made for Wal-Mart. So you can only get warranty service through Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart doesn't tell you this unless you ask. Some of the managers don't even know. Also, you can't get a copy of the warranty from the manufacturer, you only get what Wal-Mart will give you. Uniroyal told me this in writing. The brands that do this with Wal-Mart include big names like Goodyear, Uniroyal, General Tire, Bridgestone, and Michelin. I don't buy these tire brands because I think this is a deceptive practice. Beware that other big department stores that have tire service centers may do the same thing as Wal-Mart.
3. Make sure to ask the shop to fill out the warranty card with your contact information. I prefer to mail it myself to make sure it gets sent. This is also necessary for any recalls. Be sure to hold on to your receipt. It is good to make a photocopy for your records and keep the original in the glove compartment in case you are traveling and need to get warranty repairs/replacement at another shop that handles the tire brand. Ask for a copy of the warranty. It may be available on-line for download or by writing/e-mailing the company, so the shop may not have a hard copies like most used to.
4. If you are going to bring in bare rims, make sure they are in good shape and wash them off. If you are mounting tires on bare steel rims, remove any surface rust from the sealing area with rust remover, a stiff brush and sandpaper, and then finish as smooth as you can with wet or dry automotive sandpaper. This is necessary because rust around the sealing area at the rim can causes a slow leak. If the rust is thick, after you remove it and sand, there may be visible pits or gouges where the tire seals. If so, you won't get good sealing, and your tires will leak. Time for a new rim in this case. After rust removal and sanding, repaint the bare areas with one of the specialty wheel paints for steel (Dupli-Color, Plasti-Kote, VHT and others.) This paint supposedly resists degradation by brake dust, cleaners, etc. Most of the auto parts stores have this paint.
If you are bringing in the car, and there is any rust on the sealing area of the steel rims, ask the shop if they can remove the rust and repaint the wheels - at least where the rust was removed. If they can't paint or you want to do this yourself, you could obviously put on a full-size spare tire and have the shop demount/replace the tires one at a time over a few weeks, while you clean and paint each bare individual rim.