author-profile
ByJoe Supan Contributor

Joe Supan is a former writer for Reviews.com. He primarily covered all things TV, streaming, and tech, but has written about insurance and a number of other subjects.

The Best Tires

The best tire for your vehicle depends on a lot of factors: the size of your wheels, the climate you drive in, and level of performance that your car is designed for. After talking with three experts in the automotive industry and evaluating 169 different models, we found five sets that will work for just about anything with four wheels. We also created a guide on everything you need to know about replacing old tires and maintaining your new ones.

The 5 Best Tires

General Altimax RT43

Best
All-Season Tires

General Altimax RT43

Great braking and control in any road conditions for cars and small SUVs.
Pros
Solid traction on wet and snowy roads
Long tread life
Inexpensive
Cons
Less smooth ride

Why we chose it

Solid traction on wet and snowy roads

For an all-season tire, the Altimax RT43 provides exceptional traction in all road conditions. In addition to UTQG’s “A” score for traction, Consumer Reports rated it as “very good” in dry braking, ice braking, snow traction, hydroplaning, and handling (sharp steering maneuvers) — an impressive feat for an all-season tire. It did receive a mere “good” grade on their wet braking test, but that was the best any all-season tire did. If you want tires that are the best at braking in wet conditions, you’ll have to upgrade to a high performance model.

Long tread life

Every measurement we looked at told us the same thing: The Altimax RT43 will last you a really long time. The UTQG gave it a score of 600, something only 8% of all tires achieve, and Consumer Reports estimates that it will last for 80,000 miles, compared to an average of 73,864 for the 22 all-season tires in their current ratings. For the average American driver, that means replacing them after six years.

Inexpensive

In addition to being long-lasting and high-performing, the Altimax RT43 is also surprisingly affordable. Prices for sedan sizes hover around $88 on Amazon, while the other 22 all-season models we looked at average $96. Multiplied by four tires, that’s significantly less than a lot of other options.

Points to consider

Less smooth ride

It’s hard to find anything bad to say about this tire. Consumer Reports even concluded, “No shortcomings” in its Cons section. That said, it only received a “good” for ride comfort. Tirerack.com also gave it a rave review, with one small nitpick: they reported feeling a “faint rumble from the tread” on rough roads. That was backed up on General's own website, where it received a 3/5 for “Comfort” on 475 reviews. All said and done, it won’t quite feel like you’re driving on air, but this is still a universally beloved tire.

Hankook Winter i*cept iZ 2

Best
Snow Tires

Hankook Winter i cept iZ 2

Unparalleled traction on snowy and icy roads for safe driving in heavy winters.
Pros
Great traction in snow
Smooth ride
Cons
Braking on wet roads

Why we chose it

Great traction in snow

The i*cept iZ 2 earned Consumer Reports’ top spot for winter and snow tires. It received a score of “excellent” for both ice braking and snow traction. That means it can accelerate easily on moderately packed snow and come to a full stop on ice in a short distance. Basically, it does everything you need a snow tire to do.

Smooth ride

In addition to being great in winter driving conditions, Hankook’s snow tires also provide an extremely comfortable ride. It received an “excellent” for ride comfort in Consumer Reports’ tests, something only four of 17 snow tires achieved. That means you won’t feel all the little bumps of ice and snow when you’re driving on winter roads.

Points to consider

Braking on wet roads

The one area where this tire falls short is its long braking distance on wet roads — Consumer Reports rated it as “poor” in this respect. It might seem counter-intuitive that a tire that is so good at braking on snow would struggle with wet conditions, but this is actually typical of snow tires. Of the 17 snow tires that Consumer Reports tested, 16 received a “poor” wet braking score. That’s because snow tires are made of a softer rubber that bites into snow and ice, but easily hydroplanes on wet roads. That’s one reason it’s essential to change to all-season tires once snowy weather has passed.

Michelin Pilot Super Sport

Best
High Performance Summer Tires

Michelin Pilot Super Sport

Excels in grip and handling to get the most out of your sports cars.
Pros
Excellent grip on sharp turns
Braking performance
Quiet ride
Cons
Short tread life
Not intended to be driven below freezing

Why we chose it

Excellent grip on sharp turns

High performance tires intended for high performance cars, the Michelin Pilot Super Sport allows sports cars to meet their full potential on the road. Consumer Reports gave it a rare “excellent” score for handling, which measures how well tires respond to sharp swerves. TireRack.com had a similar rave review of the tire, saying it “essentially changed the expectations of what a Max Performance Summer tire could be” when it debuted and concluded that it’s “still the king of the hill,” earning the number one spot for all tires in their own tests and user reviews.

Braking performance

Along with this tire’s sharp grip on the road during turns, it also shines when it comes to braking on a dime. Consumer Reports gave it an “excellent” for dry braking and a “very good” for wet braking, something only 17 of 169 tires tested accomplished. It also received a rare AA score from UTQGS for traction, or the tire’s ability to stop on wet pavement — something only 15% of all tires achieve.

Quiet ride

One problem that plagues a lot of high performance tires is that they can feel really loud inside the car — especially at higher speeds. Fortunately, the Pilot Super Sport earned a “very good” for noise from Consumer Reports. That’s because it comes with Michelin Acoustic Technology — basically a foam strip inside the tire that muffles noise.

Points to consider

Not intended to be driven below freezing

Considered an “ultra high performance summer tire,” the Pilot Super Sport is not meant to be driven in freezing temperatures. The rubber on summer tires is designed to be driven in warm temperatures, where it stays pliable and grippy. Once temperatures near 40℉, summer tires hit what industry experts call “glass transition”: The tire hardens from that soft grippy rubber to a harder plastic. By the time it gets to freezing, traction is virtually non-existent, and the tire is dangerous to drive on.

Short tread life

Like all high-performance tires, you sacrifice longer lifespan for handling and grip. “Long life comes from harder rubbers that don’t get eaten by the pavement as quickly,” Behret told us. “If a high performance tire is what you need, be ready to replace it in about half the time [of] a mid-range performance tire.” That was backed up by every measurement we saw. Consumer Reports estimates that the Pilot Super Sport will go 40,000 miles before wearing down, compared to 80,000 for our pick for the best all-season tires.

Kumho Crugen Premium

Best
Tires for SUVs

Kumho Crugen Premium

Solid year-round performance suitable for most SUVs and light trucks.
Pros
All-season traction
Quiet and comfortable
Cons
Average performance in heavy winter conditions
Mediocre tread life

Why we chose it

All-season traction

As an all-season SUV tire, you can feel confident that the Crugen Premium will give you solid performance in any climate. Consumer Reports rated it as “very good” in dry braking, hydroplaning, and snow traction, and “good” in wet and ice braking. While it’s not the best tire in any one area, it also doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses.

Quiet and comfortable

The Crugen Premium tire also received high marks from Consumer Reports for ride comfort (“good”) and noise (“very good”). Kumho claims it uses “noise-cancelling” tread on this tire that is specifically designed to reduce road noise and vibration.

Points to consider

Average performance in heavy winter conditions

While the Crugen Premium got a “very good” score from Consumer Reports for snow traction — the ability to accelerate on moderately packed snow — it only received a “good” for ice braking. TireRack.com was more severe in their evaluation, saying it “exhibited a disconcerting combination of modest acceleration and braking traction mixed with very poor cornering traction” on their snow track. If you live in a climate with a long harsh winter, you might want to opt for dedicated snow tires.

Mediocre tread life

The Crugen Premium earned a UTQGS treadwear score of 440, placing it right in the middle of the pack for SUV tires. Consumer Reports estimates that its tread will last for 60,000 miles — about 4,000 less than the average all-season SUV tire in their testing.

Continental CrossContact LX20

Best
Tires for Trucks

Continental CrossContact LX20

A versatile all-season truck tire, with strong scores for braking and ride comfort.
Pros
Traction on dry and wet roads
Quiet and comfortable
Cons
Could struggle in ice

Why we chose it

Traction on dry and wet roads

The Continental CrossContact LX20 excels in almost every road condition. Consumer Reports gave it scores of “very good” for dry braking and hydroplaning, and “good” for wet braking. And while that “good” score might seem mediocre, it was the best any truck tire did in their testing. It didn’t receive top marks in any one category, but it’s extremely solid across the board.

Quiet and comfortable

This tire also earned marks of “excellent” for noise, and “very good” for ride comfort, meaning that it will make you feel like you’re driving your truck on freshly paved roads at all times. That was backed up in the user reviews we saw, too: From TireRack.com’s 671 reviews, it was awarded an 8.4/10 for comfort performance.

Points to consider

Could struggle in ice

Every all-season tire has limitations in winter weather, and you’ll want to consider upgrading to a dedicated set of snow tires if you experience especially long and cold winters. While the Cross Contact LX20 actually exhibited “very good” snow traction in Consumer Reports’ tests, it only received a “good” for ice braking. Similarly, TireRack.com noted that it struggled a bit to make turns on snowy roads while still braking.

Guide to Buying New Tires

How to know when you need new tires

Check your tires’ tread depth

How do you know when you need new tires? It all comes down to tread depth. Most states require at least 2/32 inch of tread to be considered legal — new all-season tires usually start with around 10/32 inch of tread — but you should ideally replace them well before that. Alarmingly, one study from AAA found that at highway speeds tires with 4/32 inch of tread depth need an additional 87 feet to come to a stop in wet conditions compared to brand new tires.

So how do you measure tread depth? “You can do it like the pros and buy a gauge, or try this age old trick: Take a penny and insert it head-down into the tread,” said David Ambrogio, a consultant for Superior Honda in New Orleans. “If Lincoln's entire head remains visible, you don't have enough tread.” The penny method is the most widely used tread depth test — even the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends it — but it only tells you when your tire’s down to 2/32 inch, in which case you’d need new tires immediately. Consumer Reports suggests doing the same test with a quarter to see when you’re down to 4/32 inch, which gives you a little more time to shop around.

Tires also have federally-mandated treadwear indicators that start to appear when you get near that 2/32 inch mark. These look like short bars running perpendicular to the tread. You’ll be able to see them clearly in wet tracks your tire leaves after you drive through a puddle. If these start showing up, it’s time to get some new tires.

Check the manufacturing date (especially if you don’t drive a lot)

Even if your tires’ tread depth passes the quarter test, they still might need to be replaced if they’re over a certain age. “Tires get what is called dry rot. You can visibly see it as small cracks. It’s the rubber just naturally breaking down,” Bahret said. Most manufacturers recommend replacing around six years with an absolute maximum of ten, regardless of how many miles you’ve driven. “Even if there is a decent amount of tread left, you don’t want to risk a surprise blow out,” said Richard Reina, product training director at CARiD.com. Research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggests tire aging is accelerated in warmer climates, too, so if that’s your situation, you should err on the side of caution.

There is no one hard and fast rule. If you live in a moderate climate, drive 5,0000 miles a year and garage your vehicle, you might be able to wait eight to ten years before replacement (presuming that the tread depth is adequate). On the other hand, if you live where it’s hot year-round, drive 12,000 [miles] a year, and park your vehicle outside all the time, the tires may “expire” sooner than six years. Any sign of rubber deterioration (cracking, dryness, hardening) is an indication that the tires should be replaced, even if the tread depth looks good.

Richard Reina Product training director at CARiD.com and automotive expert with 30 years of experience

How to check the age of your tires

Your tire’s manufacturing date can be found on the sidewall — the area between the tread and rim on a tire. Look for the string of characters starting with “DOT.” The last four numbers in this series will tell you the manufacturing date. For example, 1115 means your tires were made in week 11 of 2015.

How to choose the right tire

Identify what size and speed rating you need

Everything you need to know about your tires can be found in either the owner’s manual or the tire sidewall. Your new tires need to meet the same size, load, and speed requirements that your original set did, so it’s essential that you use the correct information.

Let’s break down an example: P225/60R16 98T

Size - “P225/60R16”
P - The sequence will likely start with a “P” for “passenger car”
225 - The following three digit number tells you the width of the tire in millimeters
60 - Next is the ratio of the sidewall’s height to its width as a percentage
R - The next letter refers to a radial-ply construction
16 - The final two numbers represent the diameter of the tire in inches.

Load index
98 - The first two numbers after the tire size sequence tell you its carrying capacity. The higher the load index, the more weight a tire can safely carry. A load index of 98 means 1,653 pounds per tire. See a complete translation of each load index on TireRack.com’s helpful page.

Speed rating
T - The final letter tells you the maximum speed that your tire can technically travel at before damage; each letter is paired with a specific speed. That said, be sure to obey all posted speed limits.

All-season Tires Performance Tires Truck/SUV Tires Snow Tires
Speed ratings T, H H, V, W, Y S, T Q
Maximum speeds (mph) 118-130 130-186 112-118 99
Typical wheel diameter (inches) 14-18 15-22 15-22 14-22
Best for Sedans, minivans Sports cars Trucks, SUVs Areas that receive snow and ice
A note about speed rating

There’s some conflicting advice out there about choosing tires with the same speed rating as the original tires. In an article on the topic, TireRack.com says, “Many Honda Accord vehicles have V-rating tires from the factory, which gives a 149 mph top speed on the tire. Tire Rack is very comfortable with this vehicle wearing an H-rating.” While there may be exceptions like this out there, we recommend sticking with the speed rating on your original tires.

Prioritize the qualities you want in new tires

The size, load index, and speed rating on your original tires will tell you whether you need to buy all-season, performance, or truck/SUV tires, but you’ll still have to prioritize the qualities that are important to you. You can technically upgrade or downgrade the tires your car came with, but we wouldn’t recommend it. “It makes no sense to take a performance sports car like a Porsche and install the cheapest all-season tires you can find,” Reina told us. “Likewise, a low-priced commuter sedan doesn’t have its driving dynamics appreciably changed by installing expensive high-performance tires.”

While you can put performance tires on a car that originally came with all-seasons, you won’t necessarily get a better experience all-around. Performance tires are noisier, less fuel-efficient, and have a shorter lifespan. In exchange, you’ll get more precise handling, grip, and responsiveness, but unless you have a car built to take advantage of those features, you likely won’t notice the difference.

Similarly, a tire that performs well on rough terrain will make a lot of noise at highway speeds and get worse fuel mileage due to the large contact area. Our top picks above explain the pros and cons of each tire, but you can check out Consumer Reports’ and TireRack.com’s ratings for more detailed testing notes.

How to buy new tires

Ordering online vs. in-store

We know ordering tires online might seem weird. But when you compare the options, we think it’s the way to go. It all comes down to price and selection. One survey of over 50,000 tire buying experiences found that tires from Amazon cost a median price of $124, while in-person retailers like Costco and Pep Boys cost $166 and $145 respectively. Multiplied by four tires, that’s a significant difference.

You’ll also have a much wider range of options when you order online. In most cases, you can have them delivered directly to a tire shop, too, so you won’t have to deal with transporting them. When we tested five random zip codes on Amazon’s tire service providers, four of them came back with shops in the area. So there’s a good chance there’s an installer near you that can receive the delivery, although if you live in a rural area, you might have to have them delivered to your home.

Where in-person tire shops win is convenience. “The only benefit to just walking into a shop and having tires done that day is that they can do it immediately if what you need is in stock,” Behret said. You just might not be able to pick the exact tires you had in mind, and you’ll likely pay a higher price.

Pros Cons
Online Lower price
Larger selection
Advanced planning required
Limited installer options
In-Store Convenient one-stop shopping Higher price
Limited selection

Be prepared for extra charges

There are several additional expenses you’ll run into when you get your tires put on. Aside from the installation fee (typically around $20 per tire), you can also expect to pay for the disposal of your old tires, state tire fees (on average $1-2 per tire, see how much your state charges here), and the cost of new tire valve stems (usually around $5 per tire). All in all, you might end up paying an extra $100 on top of the actual tire cost.

Amazon Costco Sears Pep Boys
Tire installation cost per tire $20 $15 $19 $28

*Prices correct as of 12/12/2018.

How to extend the life of your tires

Read the warranty

Most of the tires we looked at have treadwear warranties between 40 and 90k miles based on how long the manufacturer expects the tread to last, i.e. to pass the penny test. And while that sounds generous, it’s really more of a marketing gimmick than a useful bonus.

For one, if your tires wear down before the warranty limit, you’ll get a prorated credit and you’d have to use it on a comparable set of tires from the same brand. For example, if you have a 40k mile warranty but need new tires at 20k, you would still foot half the bill for your next set. What’s more, that price is based on the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, which is generally much higher than the discounted tires you’d be able to find elsewhere. In many cases, you might spend less buying new tires than you would on the warranty replacements.

On top of all that, you’ll have to meet the warranty’s specific terms to get any credit. This usually includes receipts showing you’ve had your tires rotated every 5k miles, a tread depth of 2/32 inch on all tires, and even wear across the tread.

Get your wheels aligned when you get new tires put on

More than any other maintenance step, getting your wheels aligned will help your new tires go the distance. As Reina put it to us, “The last thing you want to do is spend good money on a new set of tires and then have them wear out prematurely because you passed on a $99 wheel alignment.” If you look at your current tires now, you should see even wear across the entire width of the tire.

Rotate your tires

Most sources, including the NHTSA, say you should rotate your tires every 5,000 miles, or every time you get your oil changed. That said, you should check your vehicle’s owner’s manual for specific recommendations, as some vehicles can go up to 8,000 miles before needing a rotation. Doing this regularly will help maintain even wear across all your tires, helping them last longer and achieve better fuel efficiency.

Maintain proper tire pressure

Since 2008, all new cars in the U.S. are required to have Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems in place that alert the driver to significant drops in tire pressure. The federal requirement doesn’t specify how they have to do this, though, so most cars simply provide an alert light on the dashboard instead of specific pressure readings. Most experts recommend checking your tire pressure around once a month. Keeping them at the right pressure will increase your vehicle’s fuel efficiency and extend the life of your tires. You can find the correct pressure in the owner’s manual or on the sticker inside the driver’s side door. We recommend using a digital gauge like the Accutire MS-4021B, which are generally more accurate than stick or dial gauges.

Tires FAQ

How long do tires last?

Most all-season tires will keep their tread for around 70,000 miles, with a few exceptions. That number goes down significantly for the high performance tires you’ll find on sports cars, some of which will need to be replaced after only 25,000 miles. And even if your tires show a healthy tread depth, most manufacturers recommend replacing them after six years regardless of wear.

How do you know when your tires need to be replaced?

The simplest way to tell if your tires need to be replaced is the penny test. Just stick a penny head down inside the tread; if you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, it’s time to get new tires. The distance between the top of the head and the edge of the coin is exactly 2/32 inch — the legal minimum that most states require. Ideally, your tires should be replaced when there’s 4/32 inch of tread remaining, which happily matches the distance between the edge and the top of Washington’s head on a quarter.

Why do high performance tires have a shorter tread life?

“Long life comes from harder rubbers that don’t get eaten by the pavement as quickly,” Behret told us. “But a harder tire will have less performance in braking, cornering and acceleration because you have reduced its ability to conform to the shape of the road and ‘bite’ in.” That’s why high performance tires don’t last as long: In Consumer Reports’ testing, they found that all-season tires can be expected to run for 25,000 more miles on average than ultra high performance tires. Behret agreed with this assessment, saying, “If a high performance tire is what you need, be ready to replace it in about half the time as a mid range performance tire.”

When should you put on snow tires?

You should put on snow tires once the temperature drops below 45℉ — and stays there. “The durometer of the rubber (hardness) changes dramatically with temperature,” Behret told us. “Snow tires are made of rubber that stays soft at cold temperatures. But because of this, they are too soft at warm temperatures and will be consumed in about four summer months.” To get the most tread life out of your snow tires, make sure you change them once temperatures start to climb back over 45℉.

The Best Tires: Summed Up

General Altimax RT43
Hankook Winter i*cept iZ 2
Michelin Pilot Super Sport
Kumho Crugen Premium
Continental Cross
Contact LX20
Best All-Season Tires
Best Snow Tires
Best High Performance Summer Tires
Best Tires for SUVs
Best Tires for Trucks
Average price per tire
$94
$102
$309
$151
$153
UTGQS traction score
A
N/A
AA
A
A
Consumer Reports estimated tread life (miles)
80,000
N/A
40,000
60,000
65,000

You might also like