What the best truck/SUV tire has

  • A long tread warranty. While most tires have coverage against defects, the best also feature a treadwear warranty. Typically a prorated warranty, this guarantees the tread will last up to a set number of miles. The longest warranties cover truck tires for six years or 70,000 miles.
  • Good pavement performance. Unless you only use your truck for dedicated off-roading, your truck or SUV tire should deliver a comfortable ride on dry pavement regardless of whether they are all-season or all-terrain. If it's your primary vehicle, you will most likely drive primarily on paved roads.
  • Good grip. Off-roading requires a better grip, but the best tires will grip well in any conditions: gravel, wet pavement or mud.
  • Low rolling resistance. If long-term price or gas mileage is a top priority, look for low rolling resistance, which cuts down a bit on traction, but boosts your miles per gallon.

Know before you go

Do you want street performance or off-road traction? The different categories of truck tires have their own pros and cons -- to decide which is best for you, consider what terrain you will be driving on, your region's weather and your driving style. All-season tires are for pavement driving. All-terrain tires are best for drivers who spend the majority of their time on the street but also do occasional or light-duty off-roading. Mud tires use knobby tread patterns and stiffer sidewalls to climb rocks and track through muddy trails without bogging down or getting a puncture.

Are you getting the best treadwear ratings? Many tires have a Uniform Tire Quality Grade (UTQG), which is a spec for treadwear, traction and temperature. The theory is that the higher the treadwear rating, the longer the tire will last. This isn't always the case, however, and experts warn buyers to be cautious of this number. Because tires aren't rated by an impartial third party, editors with TireRack.com say "they are open to some interpretation on the part of the tire manufacturer." The treadwear rating is also an indication of how hard the tire compound is -- the harder the compound, the longer the tire will last. This isn't beneficial for all drivers, though. A softer tire compound generally means more grip -- a high-performance tire has more traction in exchange for a lower treadwear rating and a shorter life span.

What size tire do you want? Experts recommend replacing your tires with the same size as the original set. If you aren't sure what size this is, check your owner's manual or the sticker on the inside panel of the driver's door. And use the same size tires all the way around. "Running mismatched sizes front to back can wreak havoc with your vehicle's ABS system, especially if it also has some sort of traction control system," says Trenton McGee with Petersen's 4 Wheel & Off-Road magazine. "Also keep in mind that it is important for tires to match exactly side-to-side (on the same axle), and never run bias-ply tires on one end and radials on the other."

Value expectations: The dollars and cents of it

Just like all the components of your truck or SUV, tires need regular maintenance. Rotate tires frequently to help them wear evenly. You may need to periodically rebalance tires as well; some models are more prone to getting out of balance than others. Maintaining proper tire pressure is also essential to extend tire life and get the best fuel economy.

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