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5 Different Types of Tires for SUVs

Panoramic photo pf the different types of SUV tires.

An SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle) is a popular vehicle classification that blends the features of on-road passenger cars with the elements of off-road vehicles such as four-wheel drive and raised ground clearance. These cars, therefore, require a more aggressive tire with unique construction and tread design to suit the off-road driving intent.

I recently went shopping for new tires for my SUV since the previous ones kept bursting and skidding on rough country roads, only to find out there are different types of tires that fit under the SUV classification. Below are some of them:

Related: Different Types of Tires for Cars | Types of Tires for Motorcycles

1. Highway Tires

Firestone Destination LE2 Highway Terrain SUV Tire P245/75R16 109 S

Highway tires are similar to the all-season tires designed primarily to operate on paved surfaces. You can install these if you rarely go off-road because they are strong enough to handle the heavy loads of SUVs and trucks. Highway tires are made of a durable material that wears evenly, giving them a long-lasting tread life.

This type of SUV tire is manufactured for smooth, quiet rides, ordinary commuting, and long mileage warranties. Most models feature multiple sipes and independent tread blocks for predictable car handling while on the tarmac.

Most highway tires have the symbol M + S providing optimal on-road performance and better traction in average weather conditions.

What are the Pros?

Longer Lasting-Highway tires are usually designed with a broader tread surface for even wear and special tread patterns to dissipate heat, minimize noise and offer better traction.

Better road grip in wet conditions-most models features small siping grooves often formed in a zig-zag or wavy manner to drain water fast, enhancing traction during the wet seasons.

Good Fuel Economy-SUVs are often bigger than your usual cars and offer fewer miles per gallon due to their heavy haulage. Highway tires are designed for long journeys and optimal performance on tarmac roads, especially at high speeds. Due to these primary characteristics, highway tires create good fuel economy in SUVs.

Better cornering and braking- Most models deliver excellent cornering and braking than other tire types because they have less aggressive tread designs.

What are the Cons?

Highway tires are designed for mild weather conditions such as light snow and wet roads but cannot go beyond that. You will need winter tires for black ice or heavy snow.

SUVs are both on-road and off-road vehicles which means the highway tires will provide optimal performance on paved roads but post disappointing results on mud, gravel, sand, and dirt, which characterize the off-road experience.

2. All-terrain Tires

Bridgestone Dueler A/T RH-S All Terrain SUV Tire 255/70R18 113 T

The all-terrain tire type is tougher than the highway tires and is manufactured to drive on both paved and unpaved roads, making them better suited to the SUV way of life. Most models feature a more rugged tread pattern that consists of more sipes and voids, providing top traction in off-road driving experiences.

A combination of the open-tread design is suited to all kinds of road surfaces, including light soil, mud, gravel, and sand, providing comfort on rough roads and highway stability. All-terrain tires are suitable for light trucks, campers, pickup trucks, and of course, SUVs.

All-terrain tires will get you home no matter where you are or the prevailing weather conditions. However, they are not suitable for extreme blizzards or icy conditions.

What are the Pros?

Year-Round functionality-As the name suggests, all-terrain tires are designed to operate in different road conditions, including harsh surfaces on and off-road. The models provide great tractions on hot and rainy seasons and some stability on snow and ice. However, the term jack of all trades and master of none may partially fit here because they offer subpar services in extreme conditions. For example, summer and winter tires will still have an edge in their respective conditions.

Reinforced sidewalls-Most tire models for off-road use with heavier vehicles like SUVs and trucks often have reinforced sidewalls to increase the haulage capacity in different conditions. Tough sidewalls offer more stability during cornering and actively resist sharp stones and gravel.

Open-Tread Design- The versatile interlocking treads make all-terrain tires very effective on rough roads. The open sipes excellently grip mud, rocks, and sand while ensuring they don’t build up and impede your development.

What are the Cons?

Loud Noise-all-terrain tires usually have symmetrical grooves meant to maximize traction when off-roading. However, the deeper voids allow air currents to pass through, which produces a lot of noise, especially on paved roads like touring streets and highways.

Wear out fast-Most models are made with softer synthetic or natural rubber to allow them to be manipulated to provide good performance on different types of surfaces. Unfortunately, these compromises allow the treads to wear out faster than other specialized tire types.

Poor Fuel Economy-All-terrain tires make several compromises to fit in different climatic conditions that provide maximum traction but reduce fuel efficiency. For example, an SUV with highway tires will consume less fuel on the paved road compared to the one equipped with all-terrain tires. However, they get better miles per gallon compared with tires made strictly for off-roading.

3. Mud-terrain Tires

Mastercraft Courser MXT Mud Terrain Radial Tire - 33/125R15 108Q

Have you ever found yourself stuck in muddy sections of an off-road, or probably you hauled a boat to the beach, but the SUV couldn’t get unstuck from wet sand? You probably had the wrong types of tires for those conditions. Mud-terrain tires are purely off-road tires, with more pronounced tread blocks and wider voids. These features enable the car to get more traction on softer grounds like sand and deep mud.

With a more rigid look, they are more suited to the wild terrain than paved roads and are therefore less comfortable but much quieter than the less aggressive tire types. Mud tires can comfortably run on everything from uneven sand dunes to rocky gravel and mud.

Mud terrain tires are more aggressive than the all-season tires and are designed to clear debris and mud thanks to the large void areas and tread blocks. Another characteristic is that they are wide to ensure as much rubber as possible comes into contact with the ground for better traction.

What are the Pros?

Better traction on loose softer terrains- The mud tires have broad ridges that enable them to grip the ground on different types of treacherous roads.

Puncture resistance- The surface layer is made of reinforced walls and tough compounds that enable mud tires to endure punishment on rough roads. High resistance to punctures, chips, and cuts makes this sort of SUV tire very durable.

3-ply sidewalls- Most mud tire models have three-layered sidewalls for added durability, top off-road performance, and enabling the vehicle to run on low tire pressure. (PSI)

What are the Cons?

 Loud noise on paved Roads- Although this doesn’t affect performance, mud terrain tires produce loud, unpleasant sounds on tarmac roads due to the more pronounced void areas and tread patterns.

Reduced Handling-Mud-terrain tires are designed for off-road use only, and the handling will be good on rugged terrain as intended, but the handling will be completely different on paved roads since the tire is in an alien environment.

4. Sport Truck Tires

MICHELIN Pilot Super Sport Performance Radial Tire-275/35ZR19/XL 100Y

Manufacturers produce sports tires with the sensitivity of luxury sports cars in mind. However, they improve the function of high-performance SUVs and resemble highway tires. Most high-performance trucks and crossovers like Range Rover Sport are heavy and often have flawed aerodynamics, meaning tires make up for the lost performance. Sport tires give SUVs better performance, excellent handling, and a higher speed rating than highway tires.

Sport truck tires often feature an asymmetric tread pattern with a larger contact patch area to better bite dry, paved roads. It is not all about performance with these types of tires. Most car owners install them to accentuate the overall beauty of the car, giving it that “sporty” design.

Next time you go tire shopping, you can easily identify them due to bigger rims and low aspect ratios. Most models are associated with certain digits that denote the aspect ratio. For example, 225/55 means 55% of 225mm=124mm

What are the Pros?

Fuel efficient-These tires are forged for paved roads, which translates to better fuel economy, especially if you use your SUV for work purposes only and rarely go off-road, if ever.

Boost performance-The whole point of equipping heavy SUVs with sports tires is to give them a competitive edge in different maneuvring areas such as handling, cornering, and braking. Tougher sidewalls and wider contact areas improve lateral or cornering forces when the car moves at high speeds.

Nice looks-sport truck tires are meant for flashy sports cars and have beautiful patterns and designs just for this purpose. These appealing patterns compliment every car with this type of tire, including SUVs.

What are the Cons?

 Unsuitable for off-roading- Sport truck tires are adapted to smooth paved roads, and potentially hitting a pothole or driving over sharp rocks can damage the wheel or the sidewalls. Please stick to tarmac roads with these tires.

Fast wear-Most models have softer materials for better balance under heavy loads and traction, but this softness makes them more prone to wear and tear.

Rough ride-Designed for smooth roads, sport tires offer less shock absorption making for a rougher car ride, especially on rough and damaged roads.

5. Ribbed Tires

Monster Motion 10"x3" (3.00-4, 260X85) Pneumatic Mobility Tire with Spirit Ribbed Tread


Ribbed tires are your best bet if you intend to drive your SUV purely on paved roads because they are designed for long-lasting mileage and highway handling. They are made up of a solid rib tread design to provide extended stability when transporting heavy loads. If you haven’t seen one, they have straight lines or ribs running parallel to the tire’s circumference and often in one direction.

What are the Pros?

Good directional stability-Ribbed tires are designed for trucks and SUVs that handle heavy loads for long distances. The one-directional rib pattern allows the tires to provide good directional stability, making them suitable for steering wheels in buses and trucks. It also increases road grip in wet conditions by allowing water to flow easily through straight channels.

Reduced rolling resistance- The ribs often set toward the direction the vehicle is moving minimize rolling resistance, increase fuel efficiency, and produce less noise on paved roads. Other advantages include improved water drainage elements, reduced skidding, and superb driving stability.

What are the Cons?

Only suitable for certain weather conditions-As earlier mentioned the ribbed profile was designed for favorable weather conditions for use on paved roads. Although they perform well in moderate summer and wet conditions, they tend to lose the benefits of both extremes. For example, ribbed tires will crack and wear out faster in hotter months and also become hardened and lose their tractions in extreme winter conditions.

Lack of versatility-While the ribs run in one direction and increase stability in high-speed environments, they are not interchangeable. They can only remain as front wheels, and even if you interchange them, you can only do so on the same side of the car or otherwise lose their benefits. For example, in some vehicles, say tractors, ribbed tires work solely as steering wheels.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many miles do I get on an SUV tire?

Rear view of SUV tires on dirt road.

The longevity of SUV tires is determined by:

Type of tire – Most quality control bodies agree that a front tire should last for at least 20,000 miles or 32100 kilometers. If your car has front-wheel drive, expect the back tires to last twice as long as the front tires.

Road conditions – We found out above that not all SUV tires are suitable for all sorts of conditions and the terrain and weather are big determinants. Most models meant for paved roads will wear out faster if constantly exposed to rough, uneven terrains. You will also get more flats during summer because tires overinflate when the temperature rises, and things go opposite during winter.

Driving habits – If you’re are a rough and careless driver, your tires will have a shorter lifespan than the average lifespan. To increase longevity, avoid harsh accelerations, keep tread blocks on the same level and avoid hard braking, which wears out the tires.

How do I know it is an SUV tire?

Closeup of SUV tires on rocks.

Identifying the right fit for your SUV is quite easy if you know the definition and specifications of your car. These types of cars are often big and heavy than your usual cars, often called crossovers because they are crosses between ordinary passenger cars and off-roading cars. Therefore, you can get any tire within those two categories that fit your vehicle.

You should get something with strong sidewalls to support the vehicle’s weight and the carriage weight. Tires should also provide enough traction on tarmac roads and rough roads. There really isn’t one type of tire labeled SUV tires because the term is broad and encompasses several types.