If you're shopping for new SUV tires, these are the best options and care tips.
The best tires aren't created equal. There are a lot of different types of tires out there, and it can be tough to know which ones are right for your vehicle. Some are designed for seasonal driving, while others are optimized for the best performance in specific conditions. Though there are plenty of all-season tires that can handle it all, other tires are best suited to a particular class of vehicle. The tires that are perfect for a heavy-duty truck are going to be quite different than the ones that are meant for a luxury sedan. The best tires for SUV or crossover models may be targeted at off-roading, towing or any number of activities typical of SUVs.
"Truck and SUV tires are designed to carry the loads for those types of vehicles," said Ron Henegar, Goodyear senior product marketing manager. "Generally, the tread designs incorporate larger blocks and more void between those blocks, which helps to improve the off-road capability that consumers driving these types of vehicles are looking for."
There's a lot to figure out when you shop for SUV and crossover tires, so we did the research and chose the best tires in a wide range of categories for SUVs. We took into account consumer feedback and what experts had to say about tires; considered noise, vibration and harshness; and looked at different prices. For handy tire shopping and care tips, make sure to read on after sifting through our picks.
Our top pick for all-season SUV tires from BFGoodrich provides great performance whether you're on the highway or managing twisting side roads. It has a tread pattern that provides excellent traction in wet and dry conditions with 30% better performance in snow than a typical all-season tire. That same tread is also designed to provide good wear and stability. It has the three-peak mountain snowflake symbol (3PMSF), which lets you know it's rated for severe snow service. BFGoodrich provides a tread life warranty of up to six years or 65,000-miles depending on the exact tire purchased.
The runner-up pick for best all-season SUV tire overall is the Continental CrossContact LX25. It's designed for SUVs, crossovers and even light trucks to improve fuel efficiency and deliver a smooth, quiet ride. This tire provides great braking in wet conditions and strong performance in the snow. It also has a six-year or 70,000-mile tread life warranty so you won't have to replace it as often. Customer reviews are positive with especially high marks for the ride quality.
This premium Michelin all-season tire is a high-performance tire that delivers good traction on dry, wet and even lightly snow-covered roads. It has a tread pattern that provides strong lateral grip during hard cornering while reducing treadwear. The grooves are configured to move water away from the contact patch to reduce hydroplaning during heavy rain. This also improves traction in the winter with edges that bite into the snow to keep you from slipping on slick roads. These Pilot Sport All-Season 4 tires include a six-year or 45,000-mile tread life warranty.
If you're looking to get an affordable SUV tire, then the Goodyear Assurance ComfortDrive is a great all-season choice. The tire excels in the wet traction department with Goodyear's AquaChannel grooves to evacuate water reducing the chances of aquaplaning. It also provides good traction on dry and lightly snow-covered roads with a long tread life warranty of six years or 60,000-miles. Internally, the tire is constructed with dual steel belts, two-ply casing supports and a reinforced cap ply resulting in sharper handling and steering response.
These Michelin tires are ideal if you often drive on wet roads. They have an exceptional grip in wet conditions. Even as they wear, stopping distance is shorter than what you'll find with the competition. This offers good control in addition to good stopping power and improved fuel efficiency. The compound used in the tire aids in wet weather traction, with a combination of silica and sunflower oil that also helps improve cold weather traction. The tread grooves are uniquely designed to expand as they wear to help maintain the tire's ability to wick water away from the contact patch. These tires have a six-year or 65,000-mile tread life warranty.
The whole point of an all-season tire is to avoid having to put on winter tires when the weather gets cold, but some all-season tires are better than others when the snow falls. The CrossClimate SUV is an all-season tire that includes the 3PMSF symbol on the sidewall, indicating that it's rated for severe snow service. It uses a rubber compound, which retains the right flexibility in both hot and cold weather while featuring a tread pattern that maintains traction in snowy, wet weather. These Michelin tires include a six-year or 50,000-mile warranty.
Especially suited to premium SUVs, these Bridgestone Dueler H/L Alenza Plus tires provide a smooth ride that's ideal for luxury vehicles. They deliver good fuel efficiency and can handle light snow while still providing good traction during warm, sunny weather with dry roads. The tread pattern on these highway tires is specially tuned to reduce noise, vibration and harshness, so passengers have a more relaxing ride. The tread pattern also increases overall stability in highway driving with good responsiveness and strong braking. They come with a five-year or 80,000-mile warranty from the time of tire installation.
This Michelin tire combines the versatility of all-season use with a long tread life. It has a smooth and quiet ride along with good traction in dry, wet and cold weather. They're even rated for use in light snow. It's made with a compound that's designed to hold up longer in tough conditions, which improves tread life. There are four circumferential channels to help move water away from the contact patch, along with tread blocks that improve stability. It's also constructed in such a way that acceleration, braking and cornering forces are more evenly distributed for better overall traction. It has a six-year or 70,000-mile tread life warranty.
This tire from Pirelli provides year-round traction for drivers of more performance-tuned SUVs. It delivers responsive handling with good braking in dry and wet conditions with a tread pattern that aids in dry grip and stability. It also has a specially formulated silica with four wide grooves to move water away from the contact patch to avoid hydroplaning. When the snow falls, that same tread pattern includes biting edges to help you maintain control on wintry roads. The warranty for this tire has no time limit, but a 50,000-mile mileage cap.
This Michelin tire focuses on providing excellent grip during summer weather. This includes warm weather and both wet and dry road conditions. It's a great choice for performance-focused drivers with more powerful vehicles. It also delivers a high level of comfort for long highway drives along with a minimum of road noise. As a summer tire, it's not designed for use in winter weather. Its rubber compound is optimized for higher temperatures to maintain the correct rigidity with a tread pattern that provides high lateral grip. It has deep circumferential channels that pull water away from the contact patch and has a six-year or 20,000-mile warranty from the tire manufacturer.
This Bridgestone all-season run-flat tire gets high customer ratings for both its performance in wet and dry conditions and its overall comfort. It's also rated well for its treadlife performance. The compounds and tread pattern in this tire are designed to provide traction no matter the road conditions, although this is not specifically rated for use in heavy snow. A run-flat tire is designed to function for a limited time even if it's losing air. This doesn't mean you can drive indefinitely, but a run-flat typically allows you to continue driving far enough to find a place to have your tire repaired or replaced.
Off-road driving calls for a rugged tire. This Cooper AT3 4S tire gets high ratings not just for off-road capability, but for on-road manners. It does well in wet, dry and winter weather with the 3PMSF symbol for severe snow service. It delivers a comfortable ride without low road noise, which can be a challenge with an off-road tire. When you do head off-road, it gets high marks in a range of conditions including dirt, sand, mud and rock. The tread pattern on this mud terrain tire is designed to draw water away from the contact patch and features a tread block pattern that bites into snow for better cold weather traction. A six-year or 65,000-mile warranty is included.
This Goodyear tire is ideal for those who plan to frequently tow with their SUV, especially if it's a larger model with a high tow rating. It can not only handle the extra weight of a trailer but is also designed to go off-road. That makes it easier to tow your trailer along dirt roads with more unforgiving surfaces. This is an all-season tire that is suitable for use on dry, wet and snowy roads. Most, but not all sizes, display the 3PMSF symbol on the sidewall, which indicates it's rated for severe snow service. The durable tread compound of this tire resists chipping while larger shoulders in the tread design improve lateral stability and control when towing a trailer. There's a six-year or 50,000-mile warranty for these tires.
Even if your SUV has all-wheel or four-wheel drive, adding a set of winter tires will improve traction and provide better handling during cold weather. These Michelin snow tires are designed for SUVs to provide the traction you need on ice and snow along with good handling on wet and dry roads. The rubber compound remains flexible at low temperatures without being too soft on warmer winter days. It also meets industry standards for severe snow service with the 3PMSF symbol on the sidewall. This tire includes a six-year or 40,000-mile tread life tire warranty.
Performance enthusiasts who want a winter tire for their SUV will find this Pirelli a great pick. It is specifically designed to provide cold weather traction for high-performance SUVs. It is made from a rubber compound that maintains flexibility even as temperatures plummet, so you have more control on unpredictable road surfaces during winter conditions. The tread design helps move water away from the contact patch on wet, slushy roads while still providing bite when there's deeper snow. These tires include the 3PMSF symbol for severe snow service.
|Best all-season SUV tires overall||BFGoodrich Advantage T/A Sport LT||15 to 20 inches||$147|
|Best all-season SUV tires overall runner-up||Continental CrossContact LX25||16 to 20 inches||$180|
|Best all-season SUV tires if money is no object||Michelin Pilot Sport 4 All-Season||16 to 20 inches||$167|
|Best all-season SUV tires for the money||Goodyear Assurance ComfortDrive||16 to 20 inches||$144|
|Best all-season SUV tires for rain||Michelin Premier LTX||16 to 22 inches||$208|
|Best all-season SUV tires for snow||Michelin CrossClimate SUV||16 to 20 inches||$194|
|Best all-season SUV tires for highway driving||Bridgestone Dueler H/L Alenza Plus||17 to 20 inches||$178|
|Best long-lasting all-season SUV tires||Michelin Defender LTX M/S||15 to 20, 22 inches||$148|
|Best all-season performance SUV tires||Pirelli Scorpion Zero All Season Plus||20 to 22 inches||$238|
|Best SUV summer tires||Michelin Pilot Sport 4 SUV||17 to 23 inches||$224|
|Best run-flat SUV tires||Bridgestone Alenza Sport A/S RFT||19 to 21 inches||$264|
|Best SUV tires for off-roading||Cooper Discoverer AT3 4S||15 to 18, 20, 22 inches||$154|
|Best SUV tires for towing||Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac||15 to 20 inches||$220|
|Best winter tires for SUVs||Michelin Latitude X-Ice Xi2||15 to 20 inches||$175|
|Best performance winter tires for SUVs||Pirelli Scorpion Winter||17 to 22 inches||$129|
Just like there are different kinds of tires for different driving conditions, different tires are also designed for different vehicles. The average sedan or compact car weighs a lot less than an SUV or a truck, so they don't use the same kinds of tires.
The tires on your SUV are designed to handle the additional weight of that vehicle. They're also designed to handle the potential weight of what's inside your SUV, whether that's a full load of people with their cargo or supplies for a weekend project. Those tires also have to be able to do their job if you plan to tow. This makes it important to look at the load rating on the sidewall to ensure the tire can manage the load you plan to carry.
There are a wide range of all-season tires, which let you keep the same tires on all year long. This is a convenient option that avoids the hassle of having to change your tires with the seasons. It also eliminates the need to find somewhere to store the tires that aren't on your vehicle.
You can also find more specialized SUV tires. There are summer tires for warm climates and winter tires, which are a good choice if you live where there's heavy snow or extreme cold. Other tires are optimized to provide a smooth, quiet ride ideal for family road trips, while still others are perfect for off-road adventures. There's an SUV tire suited to wherever and however you drive.
All tires, including SUV tires are broken down into several categories. It might seem complicated, but it's simply a matter of picking a tire that fits the way you drive and the conditions in which you drive.
The sidewall provides specific information about a tire. There's a method to the madness so once you know the formula, you can read the sidewall on any tire and know exactly what kind of tire is on your vehicle. Let's break down the basics.
Example: P 225/50 R 17 98 H
Every tire eventually wears out, but there are things you can do to help ensure your tires don't wear out prematurely. At the top of the list is maintaining proper tire inflation. The only way to do this is to regularly check the pressure. "Inflation pressure allows tires to do everything they're supposed to do," said TJ Campbell, tire information and testing manager at Tire Rack. This includes maintaining traction and stopping.
"One of the most important things you can do to maintain your tires is to keep air pressure at optimal levels as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. Not only will this help your tires run more efficiently and use less fuel, it will also help to avoid irregular wear, which could require premature removal of a tire," Henegar agreed.
If you remember your high school science classes, then you'll remember things expand when heated and contract when cooled. This includes the air inside your tires, which expands to increase tire pressure when the weather is hot, but contracts to reduce tire pressure as temperatures drop.
In addition, your tire pressure naturally drops as you drive by about one pound per square inch each month. This is why you need to check your tire pressure on a regular basis. If you're not sure about what pressure is right, then look at the sticker on the door jamb of your car to find the recommendation for your vehicle.
Another key part of tire maintenance is tire rotation, especially when they're new and have a fresh tread. Recommendations call for rotating your tires at somewhere between 5,000 and 7,500 miles but you can't really rotate your tires too soon or too often. The rotation pattern is generally front to back, but sometimes it's side-to-side or a combination of the two. Your owner's manual will tell you what's best for your SUV.
You should also periodically check your alignment. Potholes, broken pavement and all the assorted bumps and dips in the road can knock your alignment out of whack. If you off-road, there's an even greater likelihood of having alignment issues. You may notice this as a vibration in the steering wheel, but at other times, you might not feel it at all. You should have your alignment periodically checked by a professional to be sure it's within specifications.
Every tire has a recommended tread life that covers both a set number of years and a set number of miles. As you approach those limits, keep a close eye on the condition of your tires and be prepared to buy a new set. However, even a tire well within its recommended life may need to be replaced.
Any tire that has severe damage including bulges, bald spots or cracking should be immediately replaced. A tire with that type of damage is at risk of failing and causing an accident. Some damage, like certain punctures, might be repairable. Check with an expert to see if a damaged tire can be repaired but heed their advice if they say a replacement is necessary.
In addition to damage, a severely worn tread is also cause for tire replacement no matter how many miles you've driven. "Drivers should also keep a close eye on treadwear to ensure their tires don't wear below the recommended levels as set by the US Department of Transportation, as well as maintain a schedule of tire rotations to promote even wear across all four wheel positions," said Henegar.
Many tires have wear bars that become visible when the tread is low, but you can also check the tread with a simple penny. Insert the penny between the treads with Lincoln's head down. If you can see the top of Lincoln's head above the tread, then it's below the recommended 2/32 of an inch and should be replaced.
Remember that 2/32 is a recommended minimum and, in some states, the legal limit before your car will fail a state inspection. As you approach that limit, performance will decline, especially in wet or snowy weather. "This is not adequate for all driving situations," said Campbell. This is especially true if you're towing or have a heavy load of cargo.
Another way to check the tread is to use a quarter. Do the same thing you did with the penny but look to see if the top of Washington's head is visible. This will let you know when you're at 4/32 of an inch and are getting close to replacement. "While these methods can tell you when a tire needs to be replaced, drivers should begin the process of shopping for new tires before their tread wears to these levels," said Henegar.
Uneven wear is also a problem that can take a tire out of service. "Drivers should take note of uneven wear patterns, bulges or blisters on the sidewall, low tire pressure and sudden ride disturbances or vibrations as other potential reasons to replace tires." Said Henegar. This type of wear makes it important to check the tread at several spots on each tire. This includes along the center and edges of the tread in various locations all around the tire. You can even run your palm along the tread to feel for smooth spots that are a sign of uneven tread wear.
No matter how good the tread, a tire that's too old also needs to be replaced. Rubber slowly degrades over time, so old tires need to be replaced no matter their condition. After six years of service or 10 years from the date of manufacture, every tire should be replaced.
A good tire is essential for keeping your vehicle under control. "The first thing a driver should look for in a good truck or SUV tire is that the tire size and load index need to match what's shown on the tag posted on the inside of the driver's door on the vehicle, which is set by the vehicle manufacturer," said Henegar.
You also need to have the right tire for your vehicle and the conditions in which you typically drive. Whether that's snow or sun or off-road, the right tire will keep you safer. While you can buy cheap tires, this isn't the place to skimp on costs.
Going with a well-known brand is a better idea. "Tier one companies make tires that perform at a high level across the board," said Campbell. These brands stand behind their products with extensive testing to ensure consistent quality. They have years of experience, so they know what works and what doesn't for a wide range of driving conditions. A known brand also has the latest technologies when it comes to tire design and materials, so you know you're getting the best product possible for your SUV.
You'll pay more for most brand-name tires than you will for some bargain brand, but you can still get an affordable tire from a well-known tire company. They all offer large lineups, with everything from premium tires to affordable options. You might not get the same tread life on a low-priced tire as you would with a more expensive one, but you still get a solid reputation for quality and that matters.
Start by looking to see what size tire you need and then look at the different types of SUV tires, which we listed above. That should narrow down your choices to make it easier to compare what's available from each brand. Specialized tires for performance driving or off-roading cost more, so don't go that route unless that's really how you drive and your budget allows for the added expense.
The rule of thumb is to never replace one tire only. Because the tread wears down the more you drive, if your tires are old and you only replace one of them, the deeper tread on the new tire can be a problem. It may cause decreased handling or alignment issues. If you have to replace one tire and the rest are also relatively new, then you may be OK. Ask a tire expert to assess your tires to see if this is even an option.
A better bet is to replace all four tires at once, but that can be expensive. If your budget is tight, try to replace either the two front or two rear tires at a minimum. These pairs will have about the same amount of wear, which can reduce handling problems. Look for the same tire you have on your SUV already, or one that's as close a match as possible.
Many SUVs are all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, which likely includes manufacturer's recommendations to replace all four tires simultaneously. This is not an inexpensive way to go, but it's the best way to ensure your SUV handles properly. Always follow the manufacturer's tire replacement recommendations for your specific SUV.
Written by Nicole Wakelin for CNET.
The best tires for an SUV vary depending on how you drive and where you drive. If you live someplace that has heavy snow and cold weather, then you should consider a winter SUV tire. If you plan to take your SUV off-road for a little fun on the weekends, then an off-road SUV tire is a good idea. There are also SUV tires geared toward highway driving and a wide range of all-season options. The key is to make sure you buy a tire that suits how you plan to drive.
There are lots of well-known tire brands that make great SUV tires, and they're names you probably already know well. Goodyear, Michelin, Continental and BFGoodrich all appear on our list because they make great SUV tires. There's no one brand that is the best brand. Instead, look at what each brand offers relative to how you drive, your budget and both customer and expert reviews to make a good choice.
In general, you want to stay away from no-name brands. While there might be a no-name tire brand out there that makes a decent tire, it's a risk to take that route. The advantage to a well-known brand is years of experience, extensive testing that ensures high standards are met and consistent quality with the latest technology. Sure, you might save a few bucks buying some cheap, random tire, but it may cost you in the long run when it doesn't last or perform the way you expect.
There's a wide spread of pricing when it comes to SUV tires. The least expensive options are a little over $100 while more premium tires can stretch up to well over $500 each. Your budget might not allow for buying the most expensive option available, but that's OK. There are plenty of affordable tires that deliver good traction combined with a long tread life.
Every tire has an expected tread life that can range from lows of around 20,000 miles to highs of around 80,000 miles. The higher the number of miles a tire is designed to go, the more you'll generally pay for that tire. However, how long your SUV tire lasts may be wildly different depending on how you drive.
If you frequently travel over rough surfaces or off-road, then you may find your tires wear out more quickly. The same is true if you carry a heavy load with lots of people and cargo or if you tow. How you drive can also impact the life of your tires with aggressive starts and stops decreasing tire life.