With such a wide variety of tires available on the market, finding the perfect one for you and your vehicle can be a daunting task. But we are here to help you find it.

Tire types range across all circumstances of driving. The most balanced tires include all-season tires, touring tires, and highway tires. If you need more performance, there are summer tires and track/competition tires for sporty vehicles. Winter tires are best for snow and cold weather.

What are the differences between these tires? We will explain everything that makes each type of tire so unique. There are many options to choose from, so keep reading if you would like to learn about the different tires available to you.

Our team of experts has performed thorough tests on hundreds of tires. They knew exactly what to look for in a tire to gauge how it performs. This guide contains an in-depth analysis from industry experts with accurate and up-to-date information to help you upgrade your vehicle’s tires.

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Different Types of Tires

We will look at ten different tire types. They are grouped based on their specific performance and usage in particular weather and driving situations. Tires are built with specific technologies and materials to make them perform better in these scenarios.

Summer Tires

Summer tires are meant for exactly what they sound like, summer driving. The design is geared towards improving performance and handling in both wet and dry conditions. The unique composition of a summer tire makes it possible to handle high heat while maintaining optimal performance.

Summer tires are made from a more solid, firm type of rubber. As a result, it lacks the softness compared to other tires, but because it is not intended for cold-weather usage, the design is beneficial for the summer months.

Other key features found on summer tires are firm contact patches, reliable circumferential grooves, and no sipe technologies. However, the most important features are the lateral and circumferential grooves to maintain above-average wet traction and hydroplaning resistance.

It’s also worth mentioning how poorly summer tires will perform in the cold weather. The rubber used in the treads is too firm, making it impossible for the tire to remain flexible in freezing temperatures. It would cause the treads to crack and wear quickly and ruin the tire performance.

Are summer tires and high-performance tires the same? 

They are similar. Other tires can also be high-performance but not summer tires. However, the summer tire category is where you should shop if you are looking for a tire built for speed and agility on the road.

Summer tires have fewer grooves found in the tread design. This means more rubber on the tire strictly to grip the road to improve traction, cornering, and handling.

Winter Tires

Winter tires are the exact opposite of summer tires. They are made with softer rubber materials to optimize their entire performance portfolio around winter conditions and cold temperatures. They also tend to use more specific technologies to improve driving ability because of how harsh winters can be.

The design of winter tires is to perform best when the temperature drops below 45 degrees. They are widely made to fit all types of vehicles and feature some impressive technologies to make it possible.

Winter tires come equipped with sipes to release bite particles for better traction. They also use deeper grooves to drive through slush and snow without hydroplaning. The contact patch on these tires can dry quickly due to deeper grooves too.

There are two types of winter tires: studless and studded. Both are sold in many different sizes by the most popular brands.  

Should I buy studless or studded winter tires?

Studded winter tires use smaller metal studs, and the design helps create a more reliable grip on icy roads. They are the best choice for heavy ice conditions, but road noise is typically louder, and they sacrifice comfort for traction. Studded tires are not allowed in some states too.

Studless winter tires are the most popular choice with an excellent and more efficient design. They provide more balanced driving with a solid road grip. The only significant difference in the design is the absence of metal studs in the tire composition. We recommend studless tires to anybody shopping for winter tires.

All-Season Tires

All-season tires are one of the most popularly used tires on vehicles across the country. They are made to drive with a strong performance in all types of weather. As a result, they are a more preferred option by drivers who reside in regions where the weather changes to four seasons, like New England.

They can handle mild winters well, and the rubber composition of the tires can remain flexible enough in low, freezing temperatures and the high summer heat. The all-season design can drive with excellent traction in light snow, ice, and rain too.

There are two primary types of all-season tires to consider when you are searching for your own tire upgrade.

1. Touring all-season tires

Touring all-season tires are known to last longer and provide more enjoyable driving experiences. The road noise is minimal, and they handle exceptionally well on highways and pavement.

2. Passenger all-season tires  

Passenger all-season tires are similar, but they are better known for providing a more comfortable ride. They also offer more durability, and the tread life is significantly better.

These tires can handle light snow and ice well with above-average braking, handling, and cornering in the winter.

How durable are all-season tires?

The average all-season tire provides excellent durability. If purchasing from a famous brand like Michelin or Bridgestone, you can even get warranty coverage for up to 80,000 miles on some all-season tires. They are estimated to give drivers plenty of longevity.

Track and Competition Tires

If you are a sports car owner, you might be interested in finding a reliable set of track and competition tires to give you top-notch street performance. However, these tires are not usually a pick for daily driving usage.

They are made specially to provide consistent road contact on dry roads to enhance your tire’s traction. This allows them to hit corners with precision and handle better than any other tire. However, the design provides a shorter tread life and should only be used on occasion.

Some people believe they are similar to summer tires, but the design is much different. A summer tire uses sidewall reinforcements to add strength and stability. However, these tires don’t provide the same stability because they are more geared towards extreme performance driving.

Most drivers using these tires compete in racing competitions and are looking to add more performance to their vehicles.

Touring Tires

Touring tires are another popular choice that many drivers rely on as their preferred tire pick. Touring tires are often referred to as Grand Touring tires because they provide maximum driving comfort and durability, and versatile traction features. Overall, touring tires offer excellent balance for those searching for a tire that can do a little bit of everything.  

Touring tires usually have higher speed ratings than all-season tires with asymmetrical tread patterns indicating they are better equipped for long driving distances on highways. They also maintain reliable road grip consistently.

Nearly all touring tires come with all-season capabilities to smoothly handle light snow, ice, rain, and cold temperatures. We recommend touring tires to those with sporty vehicles, sedans, and CUVs.

The most considerable praise received by touring tires is their long-distance driving capability, as many are also labeled as highway tires. Therefore, you can expect reliable traction, longevity, and comfort when you decide to equip your vehicle with a grand touring tire.

Are touring tires suitable for the winter?

Yes, touring tires perform well in the winter. They will not win awards for driving through multiple feet of snow, but they provide above-average traction on slippery surfaces. They are typically made with unique rubbers like silica to remain flexible when temperatures reach freezing levels.

All-Terrain and Mud-Terrain Tires

All-terrain and mud-terrain tires are off-road products that usually fit well onto pickup trucks and SUVs looking to take their driving into foreign areas. They are made with more aggressive tread patterns to attack complex driving surfaces like dirt trails with extreme confidence.

The tread design on these tires contains more voids with larger, deeper tread blocks. This allows the tire to absorb more material without getting stuck. It also helps water flow through the grooves to create a hydroplaning resistance feature.

Both of these tire types can drive in light mud, gravel, dirt, and sand without worrying the person behind the wheel. The sidewalls are made with highly durable materials to avoid punctures or damages from objects.

Over the past few years, the tires have started to become even better on traditional roads too. They are incredibly comfortable riding on highways with excellent durability too. The internal structure is built ruggedly to drive at high speeds with maximum stability and corner with precision.

The look of all-terrain and mud-terrain tires is sleeker too. They give your vehicle a look of aggression while maintaining all of the important features you need in a road tire.  

What’s different between all-terrain and mud-terrain?

All-terrain tires provide better flexibility in a wider range of driving situations compared to a mud-terrain tire. For example, an all-terrain tire drives much more comfortably on highways and handles with more precision. Mud-terrain tires are more geared toward off-road situations to gain better mud and dirt traction.

All-Terrain Tires

Pros
  • Better driving comfort on pavement.
  • Minimal road noise.
  • Better winter and rain traction.
Cons
  • Less accurate driving off-road.
  • Smaller treads compared to mud-terrain tires.
  • Thinner sidewall construction compared to mud-terrain tires.

Mud-Terrain Tires

Pros
  • Aggressive design.
  • Excellent off-road driving capability.
  • Larger treads and thicker sidewall construction compared to all-terrain tires.
Cons
  • Louder road noise.
  • Less driving comfort on pavement.
  • Doesn’t handle accurately in the snow.

Highway Tires

Highway tires resemble a grand touring tire in a few ways. They are made with an all-season tread pattern to provide a balance of traction, comfort, and durability. They also use efficient compounds in the design to promote a more even wear on the tire rubber.

Highway tires using lateral grooves and sipes to enforce winter driving capabilities. Sipes provide biting edges and claw-like grips on the road, especially in the snow or on ice. The lateral grooves are made slightly deeper for slush and snow to avoid them clogging quickly and spinning out or hydroplaning.

Highway tires are also meant to drive long distances at high speeds with maximum stability. The internal design is a significant part of a highway tire. The sidewalls are reinforced too. This helps promote more accurate cornering and handling.

Can highway tires drive in the winter?

Absolutely. Highway tires are extremely capable as an option in light snow and ice. They are made from the same compounds as all-season tires to allow the rubber to remain flexible enough to provide excellent performance despite cold or freezing temperatures.  

Ribbed Tires

Ribbed tires are specially built tires made with a solid rib tread design. This design makes it possible to experience the best highway handling features along with a long-lasting tread. Ribbed tires are known to have the power to handle heavier loads too.

Ribbed tires also create excellent on-road traction on both wet and dry pavement. They are available in various styles, including light truck and passenger sizes for all commercial vehicles.

The design includes circumferential grooves for water on the road. This allows for optimal hydroplaning resistance. The grooves are found in the center rib and run parallel to the way the tire rolls forward. This feature means better fuel efficiency and reduced rolling resistance.

Ribbed tires are meant to be highly durable with a powerfully built internal structure. Some key components that help keep this tire stable are twin steel belts, beads, polyester casings, and reinforced sidewalls. You can expect excellent durability with your ribbed tires.

How are ribbed tires different from highway tires?

Ribbed tires are often confused with highway tires, but they are, in fact, different. The primary difference is that highway tires use an all-season tread pattern with deeper grooves than a ribbed tire has.  

Sport Truck Tires

Sport truck or performance truck tires resemble some previous tires that have been discussed in the way they are built and operate. They use all-season treads to optimize for different weather conditions. The speed ratings are also higher because they are better designed to handle performance driving situations.

The best way to look at a sport truck tire is like a more advanced highway tire specifically built for SUVs and pickup trucks. The design will also include a type of sipe technology to allow for accurate handling and braking in the winter.

The patterns are usually asymmetrical to further optimize the performance with a focus on traction and durability. Driving is exceptionally comfortable and quiet because of the more comprehensive design, broader shoulder blocks, and low profile.

Because these tires are aimed to fit bigger vehicles, the broader shoulders help improve cornering too. The contact patch is extended on almost every sport truck tire to emphasize pavement grip.    

Overall, the most glaring feature is the responsive handling that is featured on these tires. It will differ based on the brand, but most options available in this category are incredibly responsive and precise.

When should I use sport truck tires?

You should use a sport truck tire if you drive an SUV or pickup truck that has been lacking responsive driving. Unfortunately, some tires severely limit what you can do on the road, so upgrading to a performance driver is a great way to see what you have been missing from your vehicle.

Temporary Spare Tires

Temporary spare tires can be found in both compact and full sizes, depending on your needs. The compact spare is a donut spare that is intended for temporary usage only. While it presents plenty of limitations when installed, it is a cheap way to get back on the road quickly.

For most temporary spare tires, the rule of thumb is to never use them at high speeds or for long distances. The average maximum speed is 50 miles per hour, and the maximum distance is around 70 miles. Avoid eclipsing this speed and change out your spare before the 70-mile mark.

It is best to give up a little bit of trunk space to equip your vehicle safely with an emergency spare tire. It saves you money and time in the long run.

Tire Characteristics

There are a few ways tires are graded based on critical characteristics about their performance and style. Some of the most notable are tire size, speed rating, load index, and UTQG rating.

Tire Size

All tire sizes are graded to fit your vehicle based on rim diameter and vehicle type. Most tires are made to fit passenger vehicles like crossovers, SUVs, sedans, and others. However, there are other tires available too.

LT tires are for light trucks in need of more power and strength to handle bigger loads. Tires should always match your vehicle’s recommend rim size, or else you could cause damage to your car.  

Speed Rating

The speed rating is a single-letter symbol that indicates the maximum speed your tire can drive when carrying the entire load. It doesn’t mean you should drive this fast, but it serves as a cap for how fast it can go.

Standard tires come with ratings like T, H, V, W, and Y. Winter tires are usually rated as an R for lower maximum speeds.

  • T - 118 MPH
  • H - 130 MPH
  • V - 149 MPH
  • W - 168 MPH
  • Y - 186 MPH
  • R - 106 MPH  

Load Index

The load index is the maximum weight your tire can carry while remaining safe on the road. This is indicated on every tire with a two or three-digit number. There are many different load index ratings, but the average sedan is around 1,500 pounds.

Uniform Tire Quality Grading UTQG

The UTQG rating is a grade that determines the treadwear, traction, and temperature performances of a tire.

A treadwear grade is a three-digit number indicating how much better or worse a specific tire’s treadwear is.

The temperature and traction score is listed as one of two letters, with AA being the best possible traction and temperature grade available for a tire.  

What’s the Best Tire Type?

Determining the best tire type depends entirely on the vehicle and the driver. Because there are so many different tire types, what you are trying to accomplish with your vehicle will determine the best tire type for you.

Weather Conditions

After reading about the various tire types, it is clear how much of an impact the weather has on the type of tire you use on your vehicle. For example, those drivers who experience harsher winters are advised to use a dedicated winter tire, whereas those in hot climates may be better suited with a summer performance tire.

Drivers who experience every season with a more mild winter can get the most out of a touring or all-season tire that provides adequate winter traction. Determine exactly what type of weather you experience on average before deciding on the next tire for your vehicle.  

Vehicle Type

The type of vehicle you drive will play a significant role in the type of tire you need too. For example, SUV drivers looking for off-road adventure would best be suited with a mud-terrain tire that creates better traction on dirt roads.

Smaller sedans with two-wheel drive will mostly be shopping for touring and all-season tires because they provide more balance, stability, and year-round traction than other tire options. However, winter tires are a solid pick for all types of vehicles.  

Driving Style

An essential aspect of every tire is treadwear capabilities. How long can this tire last? What can I do to make it last longer?

These are popular questions we see asked by drivers. And the answer always depends on the way you drive with your vehicle. If you are riding in a sports car looking for better cornering and high-speed stability, the tire type that suits you will vary greatly from the family looking for a smooth-riding tire for their minivan.

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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