If you own a car, then you're eventually going to need to buy a new set of tires. The more you drive, the sooner the day will come when whatever is currently on your car simply wears out. When that day arrives, there are a huge number of choices, and it can be confusing. The key is to get a tire that fits your vehicle and is suited to how and where you drive.
Those who live in sunny climates that never see a snowflake or cold weather aren't going to need snow tires. On the other hand, if you live where the temperatures drop every year and snow is a given, then a winter tire is worth considering. In addition to the climate, you also need to factor in how and what you drive. A performance car, whether it's a sleek sedan or one of today's high-performance SUVs, needs a tire designed to handle high-speed driving and cornering. A truck needs a tire that can handle the heavy loads these vehicles often manage.
There's a tire that's perfect for most every situation, but there is no one tire that's the single best choice. A high-performance tire is not going to do well in cold, snowy conditions. On the other hand, those lucky enough to live in places where there is no snow won't have a good experience driving snow tires on hot, dry roads. This is why there's such a huge selection of tires from which to choose.
Our picks include tires for a range of driving scenarios from cold to warm weather and for everything from performance cars to trucks and SUVs. We also considered both expert evaluations and consumer reviews in making our picks. If you're looking for the best car tire, then our top picks are a good place to start.
Our best tire overall is an all-season from Michelin that provides both warm weather and winter weather performance. It has the three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMSF) symbol on the sidewall indicating that it's rated for severe snowy weather. Not every all-season tire gets this symbol, and it's something to strongly consider if you live where it's frequently cold and snowy.
The Michelin CrossClimate2 is highly rated by consumers and experts at Tire Rack. It has a smooth ride with a minimum of road and wind noise, making it ideal for longer drives. It also handles well in conditions ranging from warm and dry to wet and snowy, delivering true all-season performance. Good treadwear ratings add to its appeal along with a six-year or 60,000-mile tread life warranty.
Our runner-up for best tire overall is the Continental PureContact LS. It earns high marks from consumers and experts for both wet and dry performance along with good ratings in winter weather conditions. It also delivers a comfortable and quiet ride with good treadwear.
Its tire compound is specially formulated for all-season use and adjusts to rising and falling temperatures to reduce overall tire wear. The tread pattern provides strong traction during high-speed cornering while reducing noise and vibration that could disturb passengers. This tire provides a balance of comfort and traction that makes it ideal for all-season use. A six-year or 70,000-mile tread life warranty is included.
This grand touring all-season tire from General Tire might be cheap, but it also gets good reviews. General Tire is an established company that's been around for over 100 years. Its Altimax 365 AW gets high ratings for wet and dry performance and for its performance in snowy weather. This tire is suited to cars, crossovers and SUVs. There's also the three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMSF) symbol on the sidewall indicating that it's rated for severe snow service. Note that if you regularly drive in severe winter weather, a dedicated winter tire may be a better option.
The high-silica tread compound of this tire and symmetric tread pattern provide grip in all kinds of weather. Its center rib improves steering feel while reducing noise and improving overall ride quality. Lateral channels and circumferential grooves are designed to pull water away from the contact patch for traction on wet roads and to lessen the possibility of hydroplaning. There are also biting edges to improve traction in winter weather. A six-year or 60,000-mile tread life warranty is included with this particular General Tire.
This all-season tire is designed for crossovers, SUVs and pickup trucks. It delivers a smooth ride with all-season traction and gets high marks all around for wet, dry and winter weather performance. It was also well-rated for ride quality and low noise levels and for its excellent treadwear.
A specially formulated tread compound provides better traction and better treadwear than prior generations of tires. The asymmetric tread pattern delivers maximum contact with the road while shoulder blocks are placed to improve handling in dry weather. The tire also features a reduction in and better wet performance. The tread also helps resist hydroplaning with biting edges to improve traction on light snow and ice. An unlimited time or 70,000-mile tread life warranty is included.
Our runner-up best SUV tire pick is an all-season tire from Continental designed for crossovers and small SUVs. It delivers a comfortable, quiet ride with the versatility of all-season performance. This tire received especially high marks for its performance in wet and dry conditions and for its comfortable ride. It also earned top marks for treadwear.
The Continental CrossContact LX25 has a tread compound that is molded into an asymmetric pattern and includes a special layer beneath the tread that helps improve ride quality. The compound is also formulated to improve overall tread life while reducing stopping distances when roads are wet. Circumferential grooves help keep water away from the contact patch to avoid hydroplaning while heavy-duty steel internal belts provide stability and better handling.
This Cooper Discoverer AT3 4S tire is designed for on-road and off-road driving, making it a versatile option that combines capability with comfort. An all-season tire with high ratings for wet, dry and snow performance, it includes the 3PMSF symbol on the sidewall to indicate it's rated for severe snow service.
The Cooper Discoverer's tread uses a silica-based compound with an all-terrain pattern to deliver traction on pavement or off-road. There are also Aqua Vac Channels and lateral notches to lead water away from the contact patch to prevent hydroplaning. The outboard grooves include edges that provide extra bite in snowy conditions while two steel belts improve stability and handling. A six-year or 65,000-mile tread life warranty is included.
This Michelin all-season truck tire has excellent consumer and expert reviews with top marks for wet and dry performance. The Defender LTX M/S has a long tread life and a smooth and quiet ride with the capability to handle true all-season weather, even light snow. It manages the higher torque of today's trucks with Michelin's Evertread compound that withstands rough conditions through a compound that is stronger and holds up longer.
The Michelin Defender LTX M/S tread design includes four circumferential channels and numerous lateral grooves to draw water away from the contact patch for better wet weather traction. There are also twin internal steel belts to improve strength and reliability while helping manage the heavy loads trucks often carry. This Michelin tire includes a six-year or 70,000-mile tread life warranty.
This Yokohama Geolander CV G058 all-season tire is designed for minivans, crossovers and small SUVs. It delivers year-round performance with a comfortable ride. Ratings are good in all weather conditions from dry to wet and even in light snow. There's also a good treadwear rating. A warranty of five years or 65,000 miles means you can drive further before you need to worry about the expense of replacement.
The compound used to make this Yokohama tire has Micro Silica with a pattern that increases traction and more evenly distributes the load for a better tread life. There's a unique five-pitch variation pattern that helps reduce noise for passenger comfort. The tread pattern works to move water away from the contact patch and improves stability in winter driving. A tread life warranty of five years or 65,000 miles is included.
If your top concern in an all-season tire is that it will last for as many miles as possible, then this Goodyear Assurance MaxLife tire should be on your list. It has a six-year or 85,000-mile tread life warranty, so it's not a tire you'll need to change very often, especially if you're a low-mileage driver. The symmetric tread pattern delivers good traction and includes a wear gauge. This shows the remaining tread depth continuously rather than just appearing when it's too low. This makes it easier to see how well the tread is wearing.
As an all-season tire, the tread pattern on this Goodyear tire provides good traction in a wide range of conditions. It has grooves that draw water away from the contact patch, which helps prevent hydroplaning. It's also made with an all-season compound that maintains optimum traction as temperatures rise and fall throughout the year.
The Michelin Pilot Sport 4S is a performance summer tire designed with input from performance vehicle manufacturers. It also uses technologies developed during the 24 Hours of Le Mans race. This tire provides great performance in warm, dry conditions as well as in wet weather, but is not designed for cold weather or snow. Select sizes are available with Michelin's Premium Touch sidewall, which has a velvet look to enhance this tire's visual appeal. There's also available Acoustic Technology that reduces tire noise.
Its asymmetric tread pattern has a low-void outer shoulder that provides improved control and braking. The Michelin Pilot Sport 4S' center ribs and inboard shoulder feature a silica-infused compound to improve handling on wet roads. There's also a special cord filament that adds strength while maintaining ride quality. Customers award top marks for dry performance and its comfortable ride. A six-year or 30,000-mile tread life warranty is included with this Michelin tire.
Performance SUVs and trucks need tires that can manage the high speeds along with the weight of these larger vehicles while still providing an engaging drive experience. The Yokohama Parada Spec-X is an all-season tire that's designed for pickups, SUVs and even muscle cars. It has the capability to handle wet, dry and lightly snow-covered roads.
The tread compound on the Yokohama Parada Spec-X features linked shoulder blocks with a pair of continuous center ribs that manage aggressive acceleration, high-speed cornering and hard braking. There's a wide circumferential center groove to draw water away from the contact patch and resist hydroplaning with two steel belts that add strength and stability. There is no tread life warranty for this Yokohama tire.
A run-flat tire is one that can run for a short time even after being punctured and completely losing air pressure. This is generally for about 50 miles and at speeds of no more than 50 mph. Note that while you can drive with a run-flat temporarily, that does not mean you can drive indefinitely, so have the tire checked for repair or replacement as soon as possible.
This Michelin Primacy MXM4 ZP run-flat is a grand touring all-season tire that gets high marks for performance in dry and wet conditions. It also received good reviews for comfort with a nice ride quality and a minimum of noise intruding into the cabin. A six-year or 30,000-mile tread life warranty is included on this Michelin tire.
Anyone who lives where the temperature gets cold and snow is a sure thing every winter should consider a dedicated winter tire. The Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 is our top pick for its performance on wet, dry and heavily snow-covered roads. The three-peak mountain snowflake symbol on the sidewall indicates that this tire is rated for severe snow service. Even if it's not snowy, this tire delivers good traction in wet and dry conditions while delivering a comfortable ride.
The Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 tread pattern provides responsive steering while improving tread life and the contact patch has numerous block edges for better ice traction and reduced stopping distances on slick roads. Silica in the compound enhances traction with a formula that helps this tire retain optimum flexibility even in extreme cold. There is no tread life warranty for this tire.
If you drive an SUV or a light pickup truck, then Bridgestone has you covered with the Blizzak DM-V2. This has the same superior winter performance as the Blizzak WS90 designed for sedans, but with larger sizes for bigger, heavier vehicles. It provides solid traction and good braking in the snow along with great wet weather performance to resist hydroplaning. There are microscopic particles to provide superior grip and a rubber compound formulated to remain flexible in cold temperatures. This tire has wide grooves that channel slush and water from the contact patch with edges that deliver traction in heavy snow. There's also the three-peak mountain snowflake symbol on the sidewall to indicate that it's rated for severe snow service.
The consumer ratings for this Bridgestone Blizzak tire are excellent in all conditions. It receives top marks in everything from light to deep snow and even for its performance on ice. It also scored highly for its performance on wet or dry roads with a nice ride and minimal noise. There is no treadwear warranty for this snow tire.
Comparison of the best tires for 2022
|Best tire overall||Michelin CrossClimate2||16-22 inches||$176|
|Best tire overall runner-up||Continental PureContact LS||16-20 inches||$150|
|Best cheap tire||General Tire Altimax 365 AW||15-20 inches||$121|
|Best SUV tire overall||Pirelli Scorpion AS Plus 3||17-20, 22 inches||$175|
|Best SUV tire overall runner-up||Continental CrossContact LX25||16-20, 22 inches||$180|
|Best truck tire||Cooper Discoverer AT43 4S||15-20, 22 inches||$174|
|Best truck overall runner-up||Michelin Defender LTX M/S||15-22 inches||$146|
|Best minivan tire||Yokohama Geolander CV G058||16-20 inches||$165|
|Best long-lasting tire||Goodyear Assurance MaxLife||15-20 inches||$123|
|Best performance tire||Michelin Pilot Sport 4S||17-23 inches||$238|
|Best performance SUV tire||Yokohama Parada Spec-X||20, 22-23 inches||$251|
|Best run-flat tire||Michelin Primacy MXM4 ZP||17-19 inches||$253|
|Best winter tire||Bridgestone Blizzak WS90||14-19 inches||$96|
|Best SUV winter tire||Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V2||15-20, 22 inches||$142|
What is a tire?
A tire is what makes sure your vehicle maintains traction with the road. Those rolling pieces of rubber are essential for your safety and come in a wide variety to suit most every need. There are tires rated for use on sedans and coupes, but also for use on minivans, crossovers, SUVs and trucks. Always check the tire manufacturer's recommendations to be sure the tires you're about to buy are rated for use on the kind of vehicle you drive.
Tires aim for a balance between passenger comfort and performance over a variety of road conditions. All-season tires are good year-round while those who live in areas with more severe winter weather should consider a dedicated winter tire. And since sedans and coupes are often performance cars, there are tires designed to handle the high-speed driving enjoyed in these vehicles.
Car tires are different from truck tires in that they aren't designed to carry the significant loads that trucks manage. While some cars can tow, you're not going to be hooking up a horse trailer to your sedan so car tires can't handle that type of heavy load. If you drive a truck, then you want a truck tire that will do the job of maintaining traction when you tow.
Tires for coupes and sedans, especially for luxury cars, focus on reducing noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) so passengers can relax and enjoy the ride. They often have special tread patterns that minimize vibration and internal structures that provide stability and reduce noise.
The treads and rubber compounds of every tire are tailored to specific driving conditions. Winter tires stay flexible when the weather gets cold and have treads that work well in snow. All-season tires deliver traction even when the roads are hot and dry and avoid becoming too soft as temperatures rise. There's a car tire for every situation, it's just a matter of picking the right one for how and where you drive your vehicle.
Types of tires
Tires are divided into several categories. It seems like a lot to figure out, but it's all designed to help you get the best tire for how you drive your car.
- Touring: This is a good all-around tire suited to most cars. It provides a smooth ride with a nice balance of comfort and traction.
- Grand touring: These tires put a higher priority on reduced noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) to deliver an even smoother, quieter ride. They also come at a higher price.
- Highway: A highway tire delivers a well-mannered ride that focuses on passenger comfort during highway driving, much like a grand touring tire. It also makes high-speed traction and cornering a priority. These often include H/T in their description.
- Summer: A summer tire is designed to provide peak performance during hot, dry weather. It has compounds formulated for higher temperatures, so it won't get too soft in the heat and suffer premature treadwear.
- Winter: Best when temperatures are below 40 degrees or in significant snow, winter tire compounds won't get stiff or brittle in the cold. Look for the three-peak mountain snowflake symbol to ensure you have a tire rated for severe winter weather.
- Off-road: Off-road tires are at their best on rugged terrain. They have deep tread patterns that often extend up onto the sidewall for added protection against sticks and sharp rocks that can puncture those sidewalls. The downside is they aren't as quiet or comfortable for passengers. You may see an A/T for all-terrain included in the names of these tires.
- Run-flat tires: A run-flat tire is designed to remain inflated for a short time even when it's punctured. That doesn't mean that it can run forever, but it should be able to go long enough to find a place to repair or replace the tire. These tires include RFT in the name to indicate that they are run flats.
Reading a tire sidewall
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
- Tire class: P stands for a P-Metric or passenger tire. Light truck tires have an LT.
- Width: This number (225) is the width of the tread in millimeters from side to side.
- Aspect ratio: This number indicates the height of the sidewall as a percentage of the width, which is 50% in our example.
- Construction type: The R stands for radial, which is pretty much all you'll see these days.
- Rim diameter: This is the diameter of the wheel that this tire will fit. Our tire fits a 17-inch wheel.
- Load index: Covering a rating range from 70 to 126, this number lets you know how much weight a tire can safely manage and is something you should pay close attention to if you plan to tow or carry a payload in your truck.
- Speed rating: Depending on the letter, your tires may be rated anywhere from 75 mph to 186 mph. An H tire falls in the middle with a rating of 130 mph. Regardless of your tire speed rating, always obey posted speed limits.
Caring for tires
One of the most important things you can do to maintain your tires is to keep them properly inflated. "Inflation pressure allows a tire to do everything it's supposed to do," said TJ Campbell, tire information and testing manager at Tire Rack. This is why it's important to check your tire pressure regularly, not just when the warning light blinks to life on your instrument cluster. "Tire pressure drops about 1 psi per month and also changes 1 psi for every 10 degrees the temperature changes," Campbell said. This makes it even more important to check tire pressure as the seasons change. "If your tire is underinflated by 20%, then its life could be reduced by as much as 50%," said Campbell. Not only does checking your tire pressure prolong the life of your tires, it saves you the expense of needing to replace them early.
Maintaining tire pressure was also on the list of key maintenance items for Ron Henegar, senior product marketing manager at Goodyear. "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," he said. "It will also help to avoid irregular wear, which could require premature removal of a tire."
It only takes a few minutes to check your tire pressure and adding a little air is just as quick. If you're not sure of the correct pressure for your tires, then look at the door jamb and you should see a sticker that has the information.
Following a rotation schedule is also important. "Being even slightly out of spec has a big effect on new tires," said Campbell. He recommends rotating every 5,000 to 7,500 miles, but you can rotate them sooner. New tires are no exception to this rule. "Tires are most susceptible to wear when they're new," he said, so don't ignore them just because they're new.
Rotation patterns vary depending on your vehicle and your tires. It may be front to back or side to side. Sometimes it's even a combination of the two. Always refer to your owner's manual and follow the manufacturer's recommendations for the correct rotation pattern.
Maintaining proper alignment is also important for keeping your tires maintained. Uneven road surfaces, potholes and even a bumpy dirt road can ruin your alignment. You may feel alignment issues as a vibration in the steering wheel, but there's a chance you might not notice the problem. Check your tire alignment periodically to avoid the hassle and expense of having to replace your tires early.
When should you replace a tire?
No matter how many miles you've driven, sometimes a tire is too damaged to drive and needs to be replaced. Severe damage including bulges, bald spots, tears or cracks are cause for immediate replacement. Ignoring this kind of damage could cause your tire to fail and cause an accident.
A punctured tire also requires immediate attention, even if it's a run-flat. An expert may be able to repair a puncture, but not always. Take any punctured tire in for immediate evaluation to see if a repair is safe or if a replacement is required.
A tread that is wearing unevenly is also cause for replacement. This includes bald spots or smooth areas that run along one section of the tire. Even if parts of the tread are fine, if all of the tread isn't fine, then the tire should be replaced.
A low overall tread also means it's time for new tires. Some tires have wear bars that appear when the tread is low so you can monitor wear and plan for replacement. If not, checking the tread yourself is easy. Put a penny into the tread with Lincoln's head down. If you see the top of his head over the tread, then it's below 2/32 of an inch and should be replaced. This is a recommended minimum and the legal limit in some states, which will be checked if you have annual state inspections. This does not mean you have to wait that long.
"Drivers should begin the process of shopping for new tires before their tread wears to these levels," said Henegar. Try the penny test with a quarter and look for the top of Washington's head. This shows a tread of 4/32 of an inch and means you should be planning to replace your tires soon.
Despite being rubber, tires have an expiration date just like the food in your fridge. Because rubber degrades over time a tire should be replaced 10 years from the date of manufacture or six years after it was placed in service, regardless of its apparent condition.
If you're not comfortable inspecting your own tires, then take them to a professional. In just a few minutes, they can tell you if your tires are safe or if you're at risk of losing traction and need to have them replaced.
What makes for a good tire?
The key to getting a good tire is to get the right tires for your vehicle and for how you drive. "Find the right tire for how, where and what you drive," said Campbell. While you can get a cheap no-name tire, it's not a good idea. Well-known brands are the best option. "They have the ability, know-how and skill to make tires that perform at a high level across the board," he said.
These brands conduct extensive testing so you know the tire you buy will perform as expected. It's also more likely to feature the latest technologies from rubber compounds to tread patterns since the larger brands constantly conduct research to improve tire performance.
You may pay more for a brand name, but you'll know you're getting quality tires that were tested to exacting standards. Every brand has a wide range of tires with an equally wide range of prices. Look lower in the lineup for a more affordable option if your budget is tight.
Do you need to replace all your tires at once?
You should never replace only one tire, even if only one is damaged. If one tire has a brand-new tread and the others are all slightly worn, this can impair handling. It can also cause traction problems and increased wear issues for all your tires, even the new one, so you end up replacing them all in the end, as well as the tire you replaced early. In rare cases when your tires are new and only one is damaged, you can replace that one tire. Have a professional evaluate your specific situation to see if this is advised or if it's not possible.
It's best to replace all four tires at once so you have uniform treadwear on every tire. If your budget is too tight for this expense, then replace the two front or two rear tires at the same time. These pairs will have similar wear, which reduces the potential for problems because of varying tread depths. Look for the exact same tires you already have on your car for the best match.
All-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicles come with manufacturer's recommendations to always replace all four tires at once. If that's the case for your vehicle, then you should follow those guidelines and replace all your tires at once.
Written by Nicole Wakelin for CNET Cars
More tire recommendations
What are the best tires to purchase?
There is no one best tire to purchase. Instead, it's all a matter of which tire is best for your car, how you drive, and where you drive. Start by finding the right size tire as not every tire fits the wheels of every vehicle. Once you know the size you need, then you can start narrowing down your options.
Consider the climate where you live and whether an all-season will do or if you need winter tires. Select one for the kinds of roads you drive, too. There are performance tires for those who like the track or have powerful, performance vehicles and more robust tires for those who drive larger SUVs and trucks that often tow. The tire that fits your specific needs is the best tire for you.
What are the top five rated tires?
This is something of a trick question because the answer depends on your vehicle as well as how and where you drive. There are highly rated tires in every category from performance to winter and sedan to truck. Instead of looking for one tire, look for specific tire characteristics.
Choose one that fits how you drive and then check out reviews from both experts and consumers who bought those tires and have driven them on their personal vehicles. Also, look for brands you know. A no-name may seem like a good deal, but you have no idea of how reliable it may be. If it needs replacement far sooner than expected, then it will cost more in time and money in the long run.
What tire brand is best?
We recommend going with a well-known brand including any of those on our list. This includes Michelin, Goodyear, Pirelli and Continental. Any known and established brand that has the technological know-how to manufacture a quality tire is a good choice.
Known brands also stand behind their products, honor their warranties and use the latest rubber compound formulations and structural technologies. This ensures the tires you put on your vehicle will perform as expected throughout the life of the tire.
What does a tire warranty cover?
Manufacturers offer warranties to ensure the quality of a tire for a specified timeframe, number of miles or combination of the two. A more expensive tire may come with a longer warranty, but that's not always the case. Some tires have no tread life warranty at all, so always check the details on the tire you're considering.
Note that warranties don't cover things outside the manufacturer's control. Uneven wear due to improper maintenance, damage from accidents, vandalism or damage incurred by driving a flat are not covered by warranties.
What is the best place to buy tires?
There are great local tire shops that can help guide you through the process of buying a tire at a fair price. There are also plenty of online sites that provide instant access to lots of information so you can more easily evaluate what you need for your vehicle and compare multiple options. Which is the best place to buy tires? The answer depends on you.
If you prefer going to a local shop and speaking in person with someone you know and trust, then go that route. If you prefer to use an online source, then choose a well-known site including Tire Rack or Priority Tire. As long as you go with a reputable tire from a reputable source, then you should be good.