Key Takeaways

  • Car tires and trailer tires are designed for different purposes
  • Trailer tires are specifically built for towing and hauling
  • Car tires are designed and optimized for braking, cornering and acceleration
  • Trailer tires and car tires differ in design and construction, speed rating, and weight ratings

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Trailer tires and car tires may appear similar to the casual eye. But, they are not. This trailer tires vs. car tires guide will explore their differences.

Trailer tires and car tires differ considerably. Trailer tires are optimized for towing and hauling while car tires are optimized for acceleration, braking and cornering. Consequently, they differ in their design and construction, utilization and application, weight rating, and speed rating.

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Table of Contents


There are hundreds of different types of tires on the market today. They include standard car tires, all-terrain tires, off-road tires, highway terrain tires, all-season tires, high-performance tires, light truck tires, touring tires, spare tires, and trailer tires, just to name a few.

And, each of these tires is built for a specific use, driving condition, utilization or environment. As you may expect, all these different types can be confusing for some people, especially new car owners looking to purchase their first set of replacement tires. Fortunately, we are here to make things easier for you.

Today, we will take a closer look at two of these tires. And, these are trailer tires and car tires. In this article, we will take you through the differences between trailer tires and car tires as well as how to differentiate them through observation. We will also take a closer look at whether you can use these tires interchangeably.

Differences between Trailer Tires and Car Tires

Design and Construction

One of the main differences between trailer tires and car tires is their design and construction. These two types of tires come with different sidewall structures and tread patterns.

So, regardless of whether you purchase your set of trailer tires or car tires from the same brand or different brands, their design and construction will always be different – especially when it comes to sidewall structures and tread patterns.

The main reason why these two types have different tread patterns and sidewall structures is that they are specifically built to react and respond to different stresses and pressures. Let’s take a closer look at each type of tire.

Trailer Tires

Trailer tires come in two different ply types. These are radial ply trailer tires and bias ply radial tires. Each type of trailer tire comes with its unique benefits. However, both are designed for towing and hauling purposes.

Radial ply trailer tires last longer than bias-ply tires. And, this makes them ideal for long-distance hauling. On the other hand, the tread life of bias-ply tires is shorter than that of their radial-ply counterparts. However, they can withstand heavier loads, compared to their radial ply counterparts. So, if you are doing heavy hauling, then bias-ply trailer tires will be the better choice.

Generally, the sidewalls of trailer tires are thicker, compared to standard passenger tires or car tires. And, this applies both to bias-ply and radial-ply trailer tires. The reason why the sidewalls of trailer tires are thicker than those of standard car tires is that they are built to handle heavier loads.

At the same time, the tread of trailer tires tends to be concentrated around the center. The concentration of tread around the center is also designed to enable them to handle higher loads.

However, the concentration of tread around the center may reduce a tire’s cornering performance. But since trailer tires are not expected to manage sharp corners, the concentration of tread around the center is inconsequential to their cornering performance.

Car Tires

Almost all standard car tires on the market are radial-ply tires. And unlike trailer tires that are mainly built for towing and hauling, each standard car tire on the market is intended to serve a specific application. For instance, a tire may be built for long-distance driving, hauling heavy loads or a combination of both.

However, regardless of the tire’s designated use or application, each standard car tire on the market bears the same fundamental structure. Manufacturers of standard car tires consider three key factors when designing and building these tires. These factors are acceleration, turning and braking.

During braking, the tire must bear the loads exerted onto it, to bring your car to a complete stop. In light of this, car tires are built to withstand stronger braking forces, compared to trailer tires.

Whenever a vehicle is traveling at high speeds, the tire must deliver adequate traction, while withstanding the forces the acceleration is exerting. To this end, standard car tires are built to handle faster speeds, compared to trailer tires.

A car tire must also provide adequate cornering grip, even when navigating sharp or tight corners. In light of this, standard car tires are built to help a vehicle make swift and precise turns, compared to trailer tires.

As we’ve discussed above, standard car tires must deliver better braking, acceleration and turning, compared to trailer tires. And, this is also reflected in their design and construction.

If you observe a car tire closely, you will notice that it has a wider footprint, compared to a trailer tire. You will also notice that a standard car tire has deeper tread grooves, compared to trailer tires. Furthermore, standard car tires also come with an evenly spread tread.

In summary, trailer tires have stiffer sidewalls, compared to car tires. Also, their tread is focused around the center. These two features are designed to enable the tire to handle heavy lauds. And this translates to enhanced hauling and towing performance.

Car tires, on the other hand, come with larger footprints. Also, they come with deeper grooves as well as uniformly spread treads. The three standout features are designed to enhance the tire’s acceleration, braking and cornering performance.

Trailer Tires vs. Car Tires: Tire Markings

Car tires and trailer tires also come with different tire markings. Usually, car tires either start with the letter P or LT. The letter P that you will find on the tire stands for P-metric. And, such tires are designed for standard passenger cars. The LT letters, on the other hand, stand for LT-metric. These tires are mainly built for light trucks. LT-metric tires can handle heavier loads than P-metric tires.

After the letters LT and P, there will be three sets of numbers. The first set of numbers represents, the width of the tire’s footprint, the second represents the tire’s aspect ratio and the third number represents its rim diameter.

Trailer tires, on the other hand, usually start with the letters ST. These two letters stand for Special Trailer, meaning that the tire is specifically built for trailer application. After the letters ST, you will see three sets of numbers, indicating the width of the tire, its sidewall height as well as its rim diameter.

Trailer Tires vs. Car Tires: Load Ratings

Trailer tires are specifically built for heavy-duty towing and hauling applications. Car tires, on the other hand, are built to handle everyday regular loads. And, this is also reflected in their load ratings. Generally, trailer tires come with higher load ratings, compared to car tires.

Trailer Tires vs. Car Tires: Speed Ratings

Another notable difference between trailer tires and car tires is their speed ratings. Car tires are built to withstand driving pressure and stress, even at higher speeds. Trailer tires, on the other hand, are built to withstand heavy loads.

So, car tires will be able to remain cool even at higher speeds. And, this also means they come with higher speed ratings, compared to trailer tires. Car tires can achieve speeds of up to 186 mph without failing while trailer tires have a maximum speed rating of 75 mph. As you can see, the difference is quite significant.

Can You Use Car Tires on a Trailer

If you are looking to replace the tires on your trailer, you may be wondering whether you can use some car tires you may have lying around. After all, they may be of a similar size and you don’t see the need to purchase a new set of trailer tires.

However, you should never use car tires on a trailer. As we’ve mentioned severally in this article, trailer tires are specifically built for towing and hauling. And, they come with a higher weight rating, compared to car tires. In addition, their sidewalls are also thicker so that they can handle heavier loads.

So, if you use car tires on a trailer, there’s a high risk of blowouts, which can lead to serious accidents. Therefore, using car tires on a trailer is not safe, regardless of the type of driving you are doing.

Can You Use Trailer Tires on a Car

As much as some trailer tires can fit your car, you should never use trailer tires on a car. Car tires are specifically designed and built for accelerating, cornering and braking. And, trailer tires lack these key attributes.

So, if you use trailer tires on a car, they won’t deliver adequate traction needed for accelerating, cornering and braking. And, there’s a risk of ending up in an accident. Simply put, you should never use trailer tires on a car, as much as they may share a common load rating or size.

Trailer Tires Vs Car Tires

About The Author

Charles Redding

Charles Redding

I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.

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