If you’re in the market for new tires, you might feel overwhelmed by the options available for your vehicle. Common questions you might have could include: What type of car tire should you get? How should you decide which tire to purchase?
In short, you want to get car tires that fit your vehicle and the weather conditions and driving you to do on a regular basis. In this quick guide, we’ll walk through different types of tires to help you decide what might be best for you.
What Size Do You Need?
First, consult your owner’s manual or the placard on the driver’s side doorjamb to find the recommended tire measurements. The label will look something like this: P215/60R16 94T.
- The letter “P” means “passenger”. If “LT” replaces “P”, this stands for “light truck”
- “215” indicates the width of the tire in millimeters
- “60” refers to the height of the tire in comparison to its width (aspect ratio)
- “R” indicates it is a radial tire. If the “R” is replaced by a “D”, this means the tire is a diagonal bias ply tire
- “16” refers to the tire’s diameter in inches
- The 94 indicates the load index, which is how much weight each tire can support.
- Finally, the T is the speed rating, which is the tire’s maximum speed in relation to the load index.
You should match the tire’s size measurements, but you have some flexibility to go higher with the load index and speed rating.
Why are Tire Types Important?
There’s a right type of tire for everyone, based on three simple criteria. To make sure that you’re choosing the right set for yourself, step back for a second and think about what type of driving you do on a daily basis.
Think about the weather you drive in is it pretty mild year-round, or does the temperature regularly dip below 45°F/7.2°C? Think about the type of vehicle you drive and how you drive it or how you want to drive it.
Types of Tires
When it comes to types of tires, there are different kinds on the market. For example, there are all-season tires, summer tires, winter tires, touring tires, and more. It’s important to note: Which type of tire you need will depend on the type of vehicle you have as well as your typical driving conditions.
Let’s take a further look at some specific types of vehicles and the types of tires they might require.
Types of Car Tires (Sedans, minivans, and CUVs)
The tires designed for this particular class of vehicles are generally engineered to deliver a smooth and quiet ride, reliable all-season traction, and long-lasting tread life.
Luxury vehicles that fall into the passenger touring category can find luxury tire options in both the all-season touring and grand-touring categories. While most cars in this segment will conform to these types of tires, some vehicles are modified for enhanced performance and will need more performance from their tires.
Some common types of tires for these classes of vehicles include:
1. All-season tires
You can get an all-season touring tire that maximizes comfort. All-season tires create smooth driving conditions on the highway and have good traction for all seasons, hence the name. It will generally feature an asymmetrical tread pattern and circumferential grooves for wet weather grip.
If you live in a region with relatively mild winters, then all-season tires will likely do the trick, as they are technically built to handle both wet and dry roads year-round, including light snow. But if you’re looking for high traction and a good grip in serious snow and ice, you might want to look elsewhere. All-season tires are available in two standard classes: Touring tires and Passenger tires.
- All-season touring tires — Lower noise and better handling
- All-season passenger tires— Smoother ride and longer lasting
2. Touring tires
Another type of tire that can work for this class of vehicles is a touring tire. Touring tires, also called Grand touring tires are designed to deliver a comfortable ride and reliable all-season traction, with the addition of more responsive handling. Touring tires tend to have increased speed ratings, which means the tires can endure higher speeds while still offering the driver security and control. In general, touring tires are geared towards performance.
Performance sport and sedan vehicles generally require enhanced handling capabilities from their tires. They often want reasonable traction in a variety of conditions, but the focus leans more towards performance than comfort. Some touring sedan owners modify their vehicles and want a tire with greater performance capabilities. There are luxury options available in both the all-season performance and the summer performance segments.
A common challenge when buying tires is understanding the different types of tires, and which one will work best for you. The easiest way to group tires is to start with the type of your vehicle. After determining which tire types are possibilities for your vehicle, you can determine which type is best for you based on your driving needs.
3. Summer tires
If you live in a warmer climate or need performance tires for warmer weather, summer tires could be a good fit for you. Summer tires are designed to work best in warm weather conditions and aren’t made for every season. They have a strong grip and responsive handling in various situations, such as dry or wet weather.
Summer tires generally feature solid contact patches, adequate circumferential grooves for hydroplaning resistance, and little to no sipping. They are ideal for performance vehicles in warmer climates.
4. Performance tires
Though touring tires are geared more toward performance, they’re not to be confused with actual performance tires. Performance tires typically have higher speed ratings than touring tires but are also designed to support you in different weather conditions, especially wet weather.
The design and grooves in performance tires work by increasing the grip to help you stay safe in all types of weather conditions. Performance tires generally have larger circumferential and lateral grooves, for wet weather traction. They also typically feature fairly dense sipping and silica enriched tread compounds, for better grip regardless of the weather.
5. Track and Competition
Track and competition tires are similar to street performance tires in that they are designed to deliver the pinnacle of performance. Track and competition tires are rarely used for daily driving. They are engineered to provide constant road contact in dry conditions.
They differ from summer tires in their construction, which often features a high-tech body and sidewall reinforcements such as Kevlar or aramid. While these tires may be D.O.T. approved, they are designed for extreme performance and are generally used for amateur track days or professional competitions.
If you are in a competition series, whether a Corvette club or a MINI series, your competition tire specifications are determined by your series’ mandate. To ensure that your competition tires align with your series, it is best to check series bylaws.
Types of Truck Tires (Trucks and SUVs)
If you have a larger vehicle, such as a truck or SUV, you’d ordinarily want a tire that can withstand the terrain you’re driving on. You may need a more aggressive tire that can handle things where the pavement ends, or you may see a lot of highway driving, which would benefit from a smoother, longer-lasting tread.
There are truck and SUV tire types that can meet your needs wherever you drive. Depending on your car usage, driving style, and location, you may consider one of the following:
1. Highway tires
Trucks and SUVs are heavier vehicles. Highway tires are designed to help create a smooth, even ride at increased speeds despite the vehicle’s mass. They are engineered to be very comfortable on the pavement.
Most highway tires have durable compounds and tread patterns that resist uneven wear to deliver long-lasting tread life. They generally feature sipping for enhanced all-season traction.
2. All-Terrain tire
All-terrain or A/T tires generally have a more aggressive tread pattern than highway or trail tires. They have larger tread blocks and more voids, which provide traction in off-road driving conditions. A/T tires often feature the Severe Weather Service symbol.
They are designed to handle gravel, sand, and light mud. Most all-terrain tires achieve this off-road traction with little to no on-road discomfort. They provide highway stability and comfort, in addition to the off-road thrills. Many people enjoy all-terrain tires because they have a more aggressive look with little or minimal sacrifice in noise, comfort, or longevity.
3. Mud-Terrain tire
Mud-terrain, or M/T tires feature extremely aggressive tread patterns with very large tread blocks and more voids. This allows the tires to get more traction in soft terrains, such as deep mud and sand. They often have aggressive sidewall features that enhance traction in soft terrain while giving the tire an even more rugged appearance.
Often, the sidewalls will be reinforced to resist punctures, abrasions, and tears that commonly occur when driving off-road. Mud-terrain tires are generally less comfortable on roads and tend to be noisier than the less aggressive tire options. They are best for vehicles that see regular off-road driving, off-road enthusiasts, or those looking for an off-road appearance.
4. All-Purpose or Trail tire
All-Purpose (A/P) or trail tires are only a little more rugged than a standard highway tire. A/P tires generally feature fewer sipes than a highway truck tire. An A/P tread pattern will often include overlapping blocks to provide moderate off-road grip in loose road conditions. A/P tires are commonly referred to as very mild all-terrain tires.
4. Rib tires
Rib tires are a good general option for vehicles that see a lot of highway use and increased mileage.
Rib tires can serve you well in a variety of weather conditions and have good traction on the road. The ribs in the tire treads are designed to support the vehicle and boost the car’s fuel efficiency.
5. Sport Truck
Performance truck tires are very similar to highway tires. They feature all-season tread patterns that are optimized for a variety of weather conditions. They generally have sipes for enhanced traction, although not as many sipes as seen on a highway tire. Performance truck tires also feature higher speed ratings than highway tires. Some performance truck tires will feature an asymmetrical tread pattern.
Different Types of Specialty Tires
It is possible that you find yourself in need of specialty tires. They could be for your lawnmower or go-cart, or maybe you need to replace your spare tire. We have temporary spare tires, trailer tires, ATV tires, and even lawn and garden tires.
Whether you need to outfit your golf cart or replace tires on your horse trailer, don’t forget these specialty tires from your car maintenance checklist:
1. Spare tires
A common specialty tire is a spare tire. Spare tires are designed to help you out in a bind if you have a flat tire. There are compact temporary spare tires, sometimes referred to as donut spares, which are limited in how much you can drive them and only at certain speeds. For example, you may be able to drive for up to 50 miles at 50 miles per hour on a spare tire. A spare from your manufacturer is often full-sized.
2. Winter tires
Winter tires can be common in certain areas of the country and are designed to deal with cold weather conditions. If you live in a climate where the temperature regularly drops below 45°F/7.2°C or in an area where snow and ice linger for months on end, then a set of winter tires, also known as snow tires, is likely a wise choice to get you through the snowy season.
Winter tires can handle weather conditions like snow and typically are either studded or non-studded. Studded winter tires can help with icy terrains; however, they may be illegal to drive on certain roads, so check your state’s department of transportation or department of motor vehicles.
Non-studded or stud-less winter tires can also handle ice and snow and are generally more popular because they may be used on more types of roads and environments.
Snow tires are specifically engineered to perform in wintery conditions, equipping you the traction, grip and control that summer tires simply aren’t built to provide. The special rubber compounds in winter tires stay softer and more pliable than summer or all-season tires in frigid conditions, giving you a better grip and superior braking ability.
Trailer tires are available in either bias ply or radial ply constructions. Bias-ply tires typically can carry more weight for longer periods of time. However, they tend to have more irregular wear and a rougher ride than radial tires. Radial ply tires provide a smoother ride and are better suited for highway driving.
ATV tires are available in mud, sand, all-terrain, and racing types. They can feature large individual tread blocks and large voids, which deliver excellent traction in sand, mud, gravel, and rocks. Generally speaking, the more aggressive the tread pattern is, the more aggressive the usage can be.
5. Lawn & Garden
We also have lawn and garden tires in stock. This includes dolly (a.k.a. hand truck) tires, wheelbarrow tires, lawn mower tires, and golf cart tires.