The Internet is littered with build threads featuring trucks, SUVs and other off-road vehicles that boast about new suspension systems, bumpers, winches and overlanding camping setups. I say “litter,” because most of these threads show tens of thousands of dollars in upgrades that the average driver — and even most enthusiasts — will never be able to afford.
There is one upgrade, however, that costs less than $1,000 and will completely transform the off-road performance of your rig — and that just so happens to be your set of tires.
Indeed, a good set of all-terrain tires on a two-wheel-drive vehicle can outperform bad tires on a four-wheel-drive truck. That’s how much they matter. Now that you know to skip the overpriced options of elaborate build threads and invest in something that matters, here’s what to look for when you’re researching and deciding to purchase a new set of all-terrain tires.
Dependable all-terrain tires should have a deep, aggressive-looking tread pattern to grip the elements of the pavement. In particular, the Cooper Discover A/T3 is a great example of balance between ultimate grip while maintaining a pleasant ride on the road. Plus, investing in tires that feature deep treads will provide solid ROI, as these types of tires last longer and can save you money with fewer replacements.
Sports cars often feature slick racing wheels with low-profile tires. While it certainly looks cool, it’s actually the opposite of what you want in an off-road tire. The sidewall is the part of the tire between the wheel and tread, and a lot of it puts distance between rubber and wheel. Off-road enthusiasts love a lot of sidewall so they can air down tires for better traction on dirt roads. However, more sidewall can give more cushion in other situations, too.
All tires are rated for certain speeds and conditions, and a dependable all-terrain tire may carry a different rating depending on the firmness of the tire and how it handles on and off road. While enthusiasts prefer a softer tire for better grip on the trail, they wind up sacrificing fuel efficiency and tire life on the asphalt. Conversely, a firmer tire is great for the road but performs poorly in the dirt and mud. Check out any number of online tire rating listings and see where your ideal balance is for a good all-terrain tire.
Everyone has their favorite, but tire brands can be more than just a name when you’re looking for specific features. Cooper Tires offer a great balance between off-road and pavement performance, while BF Goodrich is known for everyone’s favorite off-road tire: the KO2. Finally, Grapplers sold by Nitto are some of the most aggressive-looking, all-terrain tires you can find. In fact, some people spring for the mud terrain version for extra grip.
And, of course, there is the price you’ll pay for a new set of “shoes.” Tires are very much a you-get-what-you-pay-for type of product, but that doesn’t mean you’ll break the bank buying a great set. There are a few things to consider when looking at tire prices.
• Does it come with a warranty? Many tire centers will warranty their tires up to a certain amount of many miles (in addition to the factory warranty) and offer free replacements and patching under certain conditions. A good warranty can help justify the costs.
• Are there any specials? Holiday sales can save you big money via discounted prices or BOGO sales.
• Avoid the outliers: Cheap tires will run you less money, but paying a price that’s way above the rest of the pack likely isn’t worth it. Instead, look for tire prices that are on par with all the popular brands and models.
Transform the Way You Drive
New tires can transform your entire driving experience. Check all the boxes to find the right set and your truck or SUV will perform well on the road and through the wilderness.