How to pick the right tires for your car, truck, or SUV

From performance tires to traditional off-road tires, there are many different types of rubber for your ride.

A Jeep Wrangler using all-terrain tires to claw through the sand.
A Jeep Wrangler using all-terrain tires to claw through the sand. –BF Goodrich

Tires used to be pretty simple. You had various types of truck tires, car tires, and performance tires. But as automakers have blended the lines between SUVs, wagons, hatchbacks, and crossovers, a vehicle’s true capabilities are starting to become more nebulous.

To make sense of it all, car owners need to learn which tires can go on which vehicles, and understand what their vehicle is actually capable of. The tires are the only four parts of the car that touch the road, and sometimes the right tire choice can significantly increase the capability of your vehicle through winter driving or getting off the paved roads.

Advertisement

A note on winter/summer tires: For crossovers and wagons, you can switch between the two sets, but don’t physically have the tires removed from the wheels and switched. Put the winters on a set of steel wheels, and you can unbolt them in moments.

Passenger: All Season

Passenger car tires offer less winter traction, but make up for it with comfort and even performance. Since many crossovers are essentially high-riding wagons, you can fit standard passenger tires on. You can also get Grand Touring, which is a blend of performance and comfort. You can also make your crossover sporty with Performance, High Performance, and Ultra High Performance (UHP) tires.

Passenger: Summer

Summer tires are made for coupes and sedans, but are also available for wagons and crossovers. They are available in Performance, High Performance, Ultra-High Performance, Max Performance, and Extreme Performance variants.

Winter/Snow Tires:

There are varying degrees of winter tires. Studded tires are incredibly capable, but negatively impact ride quality and performance when there’s no snow on the ground. Studless Ice & Snow tires offer that winter grip without the rough studded tires.

There are even winter performance tires, but you will lose that true winter ice and snow grip. Winter performance tires may be an option if you are used to all season or summer performance tires and need more traction in the winter.

Advertisement

But studable are the ultimate in winter grip, short of using snow chains. These studded tires are available in passenger car setups for more car-like crossovers. They are also available in truck and SUV applications.

The Good Year Defender is an all-season SUV tire. —Good Year

Truck/SUV: All-Season

Probably the most common tire in this segment is the SUV all-season tire. It offers the greatest blend of winter grip, comfort, and performance. These would also be called highway all-season.

Some luxury crossovers and SUVs will have more low-profile tires, and may offer them as all-season touring tires. They provide a sharp look, but negatively impact ride comfort.

Finally, luxury brands even offer performance trims of their SUVs. For these vehicles, you may want to select Street/Sport truck all-season tires. They will have great performance but not be as capable in heavy snows.

Truck/SUV: Summer

Performance SUVs, like the X5 M or a Mercedes-AMG-level SUV have all-wheel drive to cope with inclement conditions, but also to corner well. To make the most of these systems, automakers may even offer a summer truck/SUV tire for a seriously sporty profile.

These tires have excellent warm weather grip, and help a massive SUV corner like a sport sedan, but they lack serious winter performance, and may even lose grip in the rain.

All-terrain tires offer great of-and-on-road performance and have an aggressive look. —BF Goodrich

Truck/SUV: On-and-Off-Road

All-Terrain and Mud-Terrain tires not only add a heightened level of traction, but they also provide a unique aggressive look to your tires.

There are also off-and-on-road tires designed specifically for commercial vehicles. Many trucks, vans, and SUVs have to claw their way around a muddy, rocky worksite. These heavy-duty tires let your work truck claw out of the worksite with ease.

Car Guides
Why do cars get so hot?
November 9, 2017 | 3:22 PM