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 bald 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 a leading consumer organization, many models of all-terrain truck tires have enough grip for accelerating on snow-packed roads, but none are very good at braking quickly when roads are icy, so a snow tire is still the better choice for winter driving. The increase in traction does cut down on the tires' rolling resistance, so users should expect poorer gas economy when using an all-terrain truck tire versus 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 noted, all prices in
this report refer to sizes that are popular for replacement tires for SUVs,
vans and trucks (such as 225/65R17, 245/75RT17, 245/75R16, 265/70R17 and
others, depending on the tire model and application) and are per tire. These
prices are a guideline only and are provided to show relative value between
choices. Actual prices may be higher or lower 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
Finding The Best SUV Tires - Light Truck Tires
"All-Season Truck Tire Ratings"
"All-Terrain Truck Tire Ratings"
"Massive 4x4 Tire Guide"
ConsumerSearch editors evaluated dozens of professional road tests and hundreds of owner reviews for all types of truck tires. We consulted large comparative tests conducted by ConsumerReports.org and others, as well as more in-depth single tire evaluations by Truck Trend, AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com and more. For user input, TireRack.com is a top source, with more reviews based on more miles driven than anywhere else on the internet. From there, we narrowed down the field by focusing on safety features -- including braking abilities, handling on 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.