What the best tires have

  • Tread Warranty: Tires can include two different types of warranties: protection against tire defects (which is standard) and a tread warranty. Not all models come with a tread warranty, but the best brands offer a guarantee that the tire's tread will last at least six years or 70,000 miles.
  • Good pavement performance. Regardless of the type of car you drive, your 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. 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

What's your driving style? Getting the right tire for you requires more thought than just picking a top-rated model. For a well-matched tire, consider how you typically drive and what your priorities are for comfort, handling and traction.

  • All-season tires are the most comfortable style, with well-balanced tread patterns that can manage rain and light snow. Their advantages include a long tread life and lower price.
  • Summer tires have higher speed ratings and feature siping -- or small slits in the tire's surface -- to shed water away from the tire. This reduces the risk of hydroplaning for extra traction on wet pavement.
  • High-performance tires can feature all-season traction (for occasional light winter driving) but most use tread patterns similar to a summer tire for maximum performance. Speed ratings up to 186 mph, nimble steering and excellent cornering are some of their standout features.

Traction versus treadwear. Tire manufacturers use different combinations of materials, depending on whether they are striving for longevity or traction. Softer compounds (common in summer and high-performance tires) provide extra grip for faster speeds and better cornering, with lower treadwear grades. Hard compound tires, like most all-season tires, are more durable. They typically have treadwear grades above 500 and can log more miles than soft compound tires.

Understanding UTQG specs. Many tires have a UTQG (short for Uniform Tire Quality Grade Standards) -- a rating that estimates how long a tire will last, how well it will perform on wet pavement and how fast it can go. Experts say this number can be misleading, however, since each tire manufacturer provides the data for its own tires and no third party measures UTQG.

Boosting miles per gallon. More and more tire manufacturers are producing "eco" and "green" models of tires. This type of tire features a low rolling resistance (a measurement of the amount of energy it takes for the tire to turn) and can help increase your fuel economy. Tires sometimes sacrifice a little traction to improve mpg, according to professional tire reviews. Experts also say that it's best to focus on safety, handling and comfort as a priority when selecting tires, using rolling resistance only as tie-breaker.

Elsewhere in this report:

Best Tires: What are the best tires for your car? Editors analyze expert tests and owner reviews to pick the best all-season, summer, high performance and budget tires.

Best All-Season Tires: Which passenger tires provide the best traction and comfort? Editors name the best all-season tires from brands like Michelin, Goodyear and Pirelli.

Best Summer Tires: Which summer tires are the best? Editors say Dunlop, Michelin, Bridgestone and Yokohama make the best summer tires according to expert tests.

Best Performance Tires: Which performance tires have the best grip and handling? Editors say Michelin, Yokohama and Bridgestone make the top performance tires according to experts.

Our Sources: Links to the expert and user reviews we used to select the top tires, along with our assessment of each reviewer's expertise, credibility and helpfulness.

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