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New Tires Front or Back: Where Should 2 Replacement Tires Go?

By Tire Agent Staff

December 11, 2023

new tires front or back.webp

What happens when you're in a tire quandary and can afford only a Dynamic Duo instead of the Fab Four in new tires? Similarly, if you need 4 new tires, is it OK to put cheaper tires on the front and better, more expensive ones for the back?

This post answers common questions about where to put new tires, front or back, including considerations for front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, four-wheel drive and winter driving. 

We'll shimmy through the lanes of front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive, and even make pit stops in the realm of all-wheel and four-wheel drive vehicles. And don't forget about winter tires: Do they bring a whole blizzard of considerations to the mix? Let's get rolling.

(First off, you have payment options when you buy tires online with Tire Agent. We've partnered with a number of companies that offer easy-pay plans, buy-now-pay-later, no money down, and other ways to buy tires and wheels when you don't have all the money up front.) 


The rest of this post dives into common questions about where those new tires should strut their stuff: the front or the back?

Should Your Best Tires Go Up Front or On Back?

When replacing only two tires, safety takes the driver's seat. Conventional wisdom suggests that new tires should be installed first on the rear axle for optimal stability and control, regardless of the vehicle type. This minimizes the risks of oversteering and enhances overall safety, especially during challenging road conditions.

Why install the new tires on the rear axle, you ask? It's all about keeping the back end steady as a rock, boosting control and traction precisely where you need it most. When brand-new tires and wheels find their home on the rear axle, they're your ticket to a planted, stable ride, especially when the roads get slippery, snowy or just plain treacherous.

If your front tires decide to take a slippery detour, it's not quite the same heart-pounding emergency. When front tires hit slippery road conditions, regaining control tends to be smoother, lessening the urgency and stress for everyday drivers.

Front-wheel drive (FWD) vehicles

In FWD cars, placing new tires on the rear provides better stability during acceleration and cornering. While this setup may feel counterintuitive, it reduces the likelihood of oversteering during braking on slippery surfaces, which prioritizes your passengers' safety.

Rear-wheel drive (RWD) vehicles

For RWD vehicles, installing new tires on the rear enhances stability and minimizes the chances of oversteering, helping to ensure better control regardless of the road conditions. This aligns with the safety principle of maintaining consistent traction on the rear axle.

All-wheel drive (AWD) and four-wheel drive (4WD) vehicles

Placing new tires on the rear axle ensures better stability and uniform traction across all wheels for AWD and 4WD vehicles. You get more balanced traction during acceleration, braking and cornering when you put new tires on the back axle. This safety-oriented strategy aligns with the principles applicable to other drivetrain types.

Learn more about the difference between tires for AWD and 4WD vehicles.

What about replacing 2 winter tires?

The recommendation remains consistent for winter tires. Placing the new pair on the rear axle provides better stability and control, especially in icy and snowy conditions. 

Other Factors On Where to Put New Tires

      • Tire matching: Best practices say that all tires on a passenger vehicle should be the same age, brand, tread type, model and size (some exceptions apply, but not for everyday drivers). We answer FAQs about mismatched tires in a separate post. 
      • Tire condition: Check your tire treads every time you get an oil change (assuming you do this every 3,000 to 5,000 miles as recommended). If one tire is significantly worn or damaged, it's time to replace all four.
      • Alignment and balancing: If you've got uneven wear on your tires, it could be because your vehicle needs an alignment
      • Professional advice: A qualified tire expert or mechanic can help you decide if you've got more miles to go on your tires. 

Do Front or Rear Tires Wear Faster?

Tire wear happens because of several factors, but front tires generally wear faster than rear tires, mainly because of the different functions and weight distribution in typical cars.

In front-wheel drive vehicles, for example, the front tires transmit power to the road and manage acceleration and steering. As a result, they tend to experience more friction and wear out faster than the rear tires. Additionally, front tires endure more stress during turns as they handle most lateral forces.

However, tire quality, tire maintenance, your driving habits, external road conditions and proper wheel alignment can significantly influence tire wear.  

Takeaways: Should Good Tires Go On the Front or Back?

So, what did we learn? When replacing only two tires, consider safety and the impact on traction, stability and handling.

However, replacing tires in sets of four is recommended for overall safety and performance to ensure uniform wear and balanced traction across all wheels, especially in adverse weather conditions.

If you absolutely must replace only 2 tires, or if you're thinking about mixing 2 cheap with 2 good tires, the better tires should go on the front axle, unless your auto mechanic or manufacturer recommends otherwise. 

Always prioritize safety and seek professional advice for specific recommendations tailored to your vehicle and driving conditions.