What Should I Look for When Buying Tires? (Truck and SUV Tire Guide)


With thousands of options available, buying tires can be a daunting task. However, if you know what to look for, buying tires for your truck or SUV will be a breeze.

When purchasing tires for a truck or SUV, there are several factors to look for. Pay attention to the tire size, durability, price, warranty, and purpose of the tires. If the new tires are meant to be an upgrade, be sure to compare the two sets of tires to ensure the new set is a better option.

While these are all important things to look for, if you are new to the world of tires, you may not know how to determine these factors or why they are important. Below, you will find everything you need to know to find the perfect new set of tires for your truck or SUV. Let’s get started!

Tire Size

When purchasing tires, start by looking at the tire size. The size of tire that fits your truck or SUV will depend on the make, model, and year of your vehicle. Not sure what tire size fits your vehicle? Find your vehicle’s tire size with a quick internet search. This will show you what tire size is standard for the vehicle.

When you search your vehicle’s tire size, a long list of letters and numbers appears. This set of numbers and letters, although confusing, contains a lot of helpful information about the tire, including its size. The number that shows up will look something like the image below. But what does it all mean?

Most tires will start this series off with a letter. The letter at the beginning denotes the type of tire it is. Letters you may see on your tire are P for “P-metric” (also known as a passenger tire), LT (light truck tire), ST (special trailer), or T (temporary tire, a spare).

The next three letters are what tells you the actual size of the tire. This number is measured in millimeters and denotes the width of the tire. For example, the tire pictured above is 205 millimeters from one sidewall to the other.

After the slash mark, there is a two-digit number. This number represents the tire’s aspect ratio or the height of the tire’s sidewall. The larger this number is, the taller the sidewalls are.

The next part of this series is a single letter. This letter explains what type of internal construction the tire has. R stands for radial tires and is the most common type of tire made today. However, you may occasionally come across tires labeled as D for diagonal.

Most tires will then have a two-digit number for load index and a single letter for the speed rating.

Tire size is important because it affects how much grip your tires will have on the road. A wider tire will have more surface area to hold onto the road. This will lead to better handling in less than ideal weather.

Choosing a set of tires significantly larger than the standard tire will require some modifications, such as spacers or a lift kit. Although bigger tires look and handle better, remember that they will also cost more.

Types of Tread Patterns

Tire tread patterns are not something we think about frequently. According to Cole at Kolar Tire & Auto in Helena, MT, it should be not be overlooked when purchasing new tires.

“Tread pattern is an important thing to look for when buying tires. Tread patterns can make all the difference in the world when driving on a highway in the rain, snow, or off-road. It is definitely something that should not be forgotten when buying tires.”

Cole, Kolar Tire & Auto

Not sure what a tread pattern is or which one should be on your new set of tires? No need to worry! We have the answers to all your questions!

First, what is the tread of a tire? Tire tread refers to the flat area of the tire that makes contact with the road while driving. This tread can be arranged in several different ways that feature unique patterns, depths, and purposes. Find out the different types of tread patterns and which one should be on your new tires below!

Symmetrical

Symmetrical tread patterns are most common on passenger tires because of their smooth ride and low resistance. This type of tread pattern uses the same pattern for both the inner tread blocks and outer tread blocks. In other words, the pattern will be perfectly symmetrical.

A set of tires with symmetrical tread patterns will match. This allows each tire to be rotated in any pattern. Rotating your tires reduces the amount of tire wear and extends their life.

Asymmetrical

Each of the tread ribs on an asymmetric tread pattern is unique from each other. This tread pattern is better for wicking away water or for grip on snowy roads. This tread pattern is also commonly found on passenger tires because of its enhanced handling and stability.

Directional

On directional tread patterns, the tread of each tire is pointed in one direction. When mounting directional tread patterned tires, the driver’s side and passenger’s side are pointed in different directions.

This tread pattern works well for a variety of driving conditions. These road conditions include wet, snowy, or even muddy roads. Because the tread pattern on each side of the vehicle points in opposite directions, it helps reduce the risk of hydroplaning. Directional tread patterned tires can only be rotated on the side of the vehicle they were designed for.

Asymmetrical & Directional

The final type of tread pattern is a mix of both asymmetrical and directional tread patterns. Your chances of coming across a set of tires like these are unlikely. Like directional tires, these tires can only be mounted a certain way and are only able to be rotated from front to back. Asymmetrical & directional tread patterns offer both improved handling and stability in a variety of driving conditions. However, tires with this tread pattern will be more expensive.

When purchasing new tires, consider the conditions you will be driving in most often and choose a tread pattern accordingly.

The Different Types of Tires

Another important thing to look for when purchasing new tires for your truck or SUV is the type of tires. But what types of tires are there?

Tire types vary by the type of vehicles, we will specifically focus on the type of tires for SUVs and trucks. Tire types for trucks or SUVs include highway, all-terrain, mud, all-purpose, ribbed, sport, off-road, and winter tires.

You can learn more about the other types of tires by visiting Discount Tire Direct. Now that we know the many different types of tires, we will look at each type individually.

  • Highway Tires

Highway tires are often considered to be “all-season tires.” This is because they are designed to perform adequately in most driving conditions. These tires are best for areas or times of the year where there is only light rain or snowfall.

If you are looking to put tires on your daily driver, highway tires are likely the best choice. However, if you are looking to take the same vehicle off-roading these tires will not do well.

“Highway tires are specifically designed for the road and do not do well off-road because they are usually P rated and are a thinner tire. This means they get punctured easier.”

Cole, Kolar Tire & Auto

While highway tires may be made from a thinner material not suitable for off-road use, they are built to withstand uneven wear. This is the best choice if you are looking for a set of tires that will last for a longer time.

  • Off-Road / Mud Tires

The tread pattern on off-roading or mud tires is much different than that of a highway tire. The tread on these tires features larger tread blocks that provide greater traction in sand, mud, or even snow. The tread on these tires continues onto the sidewall to create traction all the way around.

“Mud tires are the big meaty tires you normally see on lifted trucks. These do well off-road, but poorly on the highway because of how tough the tire is and the tread pattern.”

Cole, Kolar Tire & Auto

These tires are the best choice for those looking to take their truck or SUV primarily off-roading.

  • All-Terrain Tires

All-terrain tires, also known as all-purpose tires, are often boasted as the best option for those who like to do a fair amount of both off-road and highway driving. However, according to Cole at Kolar Tire & Auto, these are more of a “tougher street tire.” Because these tires are tougher than the standard highway tire they perform better off-road.

All-terrain tires stick to areas with light mud, sand, or gravel. They are much more suited for off-road purposes because of this and can be helpful if you ever find yourself off the highway. For more intense conditions, upgrade to a set of off-road tires.

  • Winter Tires

If you live in an area with long, harsh winters, then having a set of snow tires is a must. These tires feature a tread pattern that will improve traction and control in wintery conditions. Winter tires are also made of a softer material than other tires to maintain braking ability in the colder weather.

There are two different styles of winter tires you can purchase for your truck or SUV: Studded or non-studded. Studded tires are best for severe winter conditions where extra traction is needed to stay safe on the road. If you put studded tires on your vehicle be sure not to drive them on dry roads as this will lead to excessive wear and tear, reducing the lifetime of the tires.

Although you may not need these tires on your vehicle year-round, having a set specifically for the winter months is a smart idea.

  • Ribbed Tires

Ribbed tires are essentially a type of highway tire. The tread on these tires creates excellent handling and stability on paved streets. They are also designed to maintain their superior performance in both wet and dry driving conditions.

If you will be spending all your time on the highways or other paved roads and want performance better than a typical highway tire, rib tires are a perfect choice.

  • Performance Tires

Performance truck tires, also known as sport tires, are usually wider than other tire types and feature a shallower, all-season tread pattern. This decreases the resistance while driving making for a smoother ride. Performance tires are usually rated for higher speeds; however, they are less equipped for changing road conditions.

Using performance tires on your truck or SUV will result in a faster feeling ride and better control, especially on corners.

There are different ratings of performance tires: performance, high performance, ultra-high performance, and competition. Assess the needs of your vehicle and decide which rating would be best for you. These tires are best for areas where roads are dry for the majority of the year.

Now that we have covered the different types of tires you may still be wondering which type you should buy for your truck or SUV.

Take a moment to assess your driving needs. Where do you drive most often, off-road or on the highway? What type of weather do you experience most: warm, wet, or dry? What is your budget for tires? Purchasing the correct type of tires will benefit your vehicle’s performance and reduce the chance of uneven, unnecessary wear.

However, if you have dreamed of having performance tires on your truck but simply cannot afford them, you may need to make some compromises. The next best tire would be a set of highways or all-terrains that provide similar capabilities. Do not let buying tires become a stressful endeavor. Find out what tire size you need for your truck or SUV and then decide what type of tread pattern will best suit your needs. Keep these factors in mind and you will be a tire buying pro in no time!

Will Turner

Will has an absolute passion for 4x4s and loves discovering all of the small details about each model. Will joined the Four Wheel Trends team in early 2021 and has been a valuable contributor ever since!

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