The right tire makes all the difference in the performance of a
light truck or SUV
Braking, accelerating, steering and
suspension have one thing in common: The quality of your tires affects them
all. A worn set of tires can lead to rough rides or -- even worse -- cause you
to lose control of your vehicle. The wrong set of tires isn't much better. The
right rubber, on the other hand, "will offer the responsiveness necessary
for obstacle avoidance, short stopping distances that aid panic braking
situations, and road-holding grip under both dry and wet conditions," says
the Car Care Council.
Though tires often appear to be very
similar, the difference in performance and handling can be night and day
between sets. The best truck tires and SUV tires are strong performers, as long
as you keep in mind their intended use (pavement versus off-road, for example).
However, none of them excel across the board, according to professional
comparisons. That's why experts recommend that buyers consider how and where
they will drive, and then pick the type of tire that best fits their needs. If
you don't drive an SUV, crossover or light truck, we cover passenger car tires in their own report. Regardless of what vehicle you drive, you can find the
best winter tires in our snow tire report.
Types of SUV Tires - Light Truck Tires
Designed primarily for use on pavement, the best all-season truck tires combine a comfortable ride with safety features for stability on curves, short braking distances and adequate traction on wet streets to deliver a quieter, more car-like experience. They have the lowest rolling resistance of the three tire types to boost mileage performance. Top models can manage light snow and ice, but if your region gets heavy snowfall, consider switching to a winter truck tire, which will give you the best grip on slick and snowy roads. Our report on snow tires includes some recommendations for winter tires for SUVs and light trucks.
If you drive mainly on pavement, but also have occasional off-road adventures, an all-terrain tire is the way to go. The best all-terrain tires maintain a good balance between highway performance -- quiet and smooth enough to be comfortable for most daily driving -- but with enough aggressive tread to crawl through mid-range off-road trails. According to Consumer Reports, many models of all-terrain truck tires have enough grip for light to moderate snow. However, most only provide so-so braking on ice, so a snow tire is still the better choice for winter driving. The increase in traction all-terrain tires provide increases the tires' rolling resistance, so users should expect poorer gas economy compared to an all season model.
These tires are designed for off-road use, providing maximum grip for rock-crawling and dirt trails. Their open tread patterns are designed to break through mud without getting stuck, and their sidewalls are reinforced to withstand punctures from rocks. On the highway these features increase tread noise and gas consumption while creating a stiffer ride.
A word on pricing
Unless otherwise indicated, pricing
estimates in this report are per tire, and for the least expensive size
available at retail. Pricing also doesn't include installation -- sometimes
free, depending on your retailer -- and you can incur extra costs for
balancing, stems, tire disposal, etc. If buying online, some sellers offer free
shipping, but others do not; shipping costs on one tire, let alone four, can
sometimes be substantial.
These prices are a guideline only and are
provided to show relative value between choices. Actual prices are likely to be
higher for different sizes, and for tires designed for heavier loads
(designated with an LT -- light truck -- prefix). See the buying guide for more information on tire sizes and load capacities.
Finding The Best SUV Tires - Light Truck Tires
"All-Season Truck Tire Ratings"
"All-Season SUV Ratings"
"All-Terrain Truck Tire Ratings"
To find the best SUV and light truck
tires, ConsumerSearch editors began by evaluating professional road tests,
looking primarily at reviewers that test tires under a variety of conditions
and using appropriate methodology. Consumer Reports excels at this, and tests
tires for SUV and light trucks, including all-season and all-terrain models.
Tire Rack also tests tires, and does a good job documenting its findings,
though it doesn't cover nearly as many choices.
However, Tire Rack is an outstanding source
for user reviews of tires. Many options have accumulated hundreds of reviews
covering thousands and even millions of driving miles. Considering that
feedback, owner feedback at other sites, and feedback at additional expert
sites that test tires on occasion or using more casual methodology, we found a
number of SUV and light truck tires worth considering. We narrowed down the
field by focusing on safety features -- including braking abilities, handling in
corners and resistance to hydroplaning. From there, we picked truck/SUV tires
that combine excellent performance with comfort and durability, and found
several top models in a range of prices. Match one of these to your budget and
driving needs to find the best tire for you and your vehicle.