Guide to Tire Treadwear Ratings

By Tire Agent Staff

October 29, 2021

“treadwear

Treadwear ratings are supposed to help us determine the value of a tire and answer questions like, How long will a tire last? And, Is the tire’s expected life worth its price? 

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) established the tire treadwear rating system back in the 1970s to help tire buyers understand the complicated world of passenger vehicle tires. The UTQG (Uniform Tire Quality Grade) rating system for grading tires includes treadwear, as well as temperature and traction, covered in separate posts.     

Almost all tires in the United States are UTQG rated. Exceptions include winter tires, spare tires, non-passenger car tires, trailer tires, bicycle tires and some large truck tires. Most passenger vehicle tires are UTQG rated.

Although the intent of UTQG might have been to make tire buying simpler, when you dig into what the ratings mean, you quickly learn that the answer isn’t simple. 

In this guide, we explain what treadwear ratings mean and how you should use them to buy tires.

Illustration source: https://www.nhtsa.gov/equipment/tires 

What Is Tire Tread? 

First, let’s make sure we understand what we mean when we talk about tread. Tire tread is only part of a tire; it’s the rubber that makes direct contact with the road. As you drive on tires, the rubber slowly wears away — that’s the tread wearing away. Treadwear, then, refers to the expected life of a tire. 

What does it mean when a tire is rated 180 or 200 or 400, 500, or 700? Does a higher number mean that the tire is better?  

Tire Treadwear Ratings Explained

What the tire treadwear number means is how well the tire stood up in tests against a “control set” of tires after being driven 7,200 miles on a government test track. Here’s where the treadwear number’s meaning gets a little murky. 

Even though the US government requires tires to be UTQG rated, the government doesn’t assign the ratings, nor do they actually conduct the tests to assign numbers. Manufacturers test and rate their own tires, and they submit reports to the US DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). 

UTQG treadwear rating means that the manufacturer took the tires to a testing facility, put it on a test vehicle and measured it against a standard tire with a 100 treadwear rating. If a tire is rated 300, that means it is expected to wear three times faster than the 100-UTQG rated tire. 

How does that translate to miles? It doesn’t.  

Tire tread rating simply means that when a tire was tested against a control tire, its tread wore two, three, four or more times slower than the standard it was tested against.  

How Does Treadwear Relate to Mileage? 

Is there a connection between treadwear and mileage? If a tire is marked with 480 treadwear, how many miles will it get? No tire dealer worth its weight in rubber will tell you how many miles any tire will get. There are many factors that affect a tire’s expected life in terms of mileage. 

Treadwear can be affected by five factors:

  1. Tire design: The quality of the rubber, the design of the tread, and a variety of other factors that go into tire design all affect how long the tread will last. 
  2. Driver habit: The tires of a driver who doesn’t drive aggressively or brake suddenly will last longer than an aggressive driver who slams on his or her brakes. 
  3. Climate: Severe weather conditions are harder on tires. People who live in very hot climates, very cold climates and very rainy, snowy and icy climates might find they replace tires more often than people who live in mild climates.  
  4. Road conditions: Road surfaces (pavement versus rocky terrain) and road hazards (potholes and debris) affect your tires. 
  5. Tire care: Check your tire pressure monthly to make sure your tires are properly inflated; make sure your tires are aligned, rotated and balanced as the manufacturer’s warranty requires. 

That said, you can look at a manufacturers’ warranty to determine how long the tire MIGHT last. Generally speaking, a tire with a higher warranty (80,000 miles versus 25,000 miles) suggests that the manufacturer expects the tire to last longer. 

What is a Good Treadwear Rating?

A good treadwear rating depends on the tread type. In the following section, we analyzed a database of more than 67,000 makes, models and tread types of tires to compile a list of average UTQG treadwear ratings for 20 categories of tires.   

The highest treadwear rating is 860, for Hankook Kinergy PT H737 touring all season tires. Does that mean these are better tires than, say, Michelin Defender T+H which has a UTQG rating of 820? Both are quality all season tires that reduce hydroplaning, handle well and reduce road noise. The Michelin Defender T+H tends to have a better wet braking distance than Hankook; however, Hankook tends to do better with rolling resistance than the Michelins.

So, what does that mean? When comparing treadwear of 860 to 820, you’re likely splitting hairs. You’re going to get a good all season touring tire from both models; it just depends on what is most important AND whether your size is available! Hankook’s Kinergy PTs have more sizes to choose from than Michelin’s Defenders. 

This tire treadwear rating chart is organized by the tire tread type (all season and winter, for example) and the average UTQG treadwear in each category. We’ve also included the lowest UTQG rating in the category and the highest to give you an idea of the range of ratings in every category. 

UTQG Tire Treadwear Chart

TREAD TYPE CATEGORIES

AVERAGE UTQG TREADWEAR

LOWEST UTQG TREADWEAR

HIGHEST UTQG TREADWEAR

All Season

504

180

820

All Terrain

506

320

680

All Terrain All Season

546

300

680

All Weather

509

400

700

Highway All Season

428

300

500

Highway Terrain

480

480

480

Highway Terrain All Season

632

420

740

Highway / Regional

600

600

600

Mud Terrain

413

380

420

On / Off Road

474

320

600

Passenger All Season

554

240

680

Performance All Season

429

140

760

Performance Summer

264

30

500

Performance Touring All Season

509

320

700

Summer

323

60

560

Touring All Season

546

140

860

Touring Summer

392

140

640

Winter

500

500

500

Does that mean a treadwear of 700 is better than a tire that has a treadwear rating of 180, for example? Yes and no. A tire that is treadwear rated 700 means that it far outlasted the tires against which it was tested. It is expected to last 7 times longer than a 100-UTQG treadwear-rated tire. 

How does a treadwear rating of 250 compare to a treadwear rating of 500? The 500 is expected to last twice as long, so to speak, as the 250. Why would anyone buy a tire with a low treadwear rating? Some tread types are designed for very specific uses or types of driving. 

For example, some street-legal racing tires have very low treadwear ratings. This is because racing tires are designed not for longevity but for performance and speed. 

Treadwear mileage chart

Beware of any treadwear mileage chart that lists the various treadwear ratings (0 to over 800) alongside predicted expected miles. Manufacturers do not say how many miles a tire will last, because tire mileage depends on not only the tire’s materials but also your driving habits, climate and road conditions, and how well you care for your vehicle and its tires.  

Where to Find Treadwear Ratings on Tires

To find tire wear rating codes, enter the make, year, and model of your vehicle, and Tire Agent’s tire matching technology will recommend several tire options. As you compare tires, select the SPECIFICATIONS tab. Here you’ll see the treadwear rating.

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You can also find tread grade on tires by looking on their sidewalls. Look for the TREADWEAR marking, which should look something like the illustration below (360). 

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Bottom Line: How Do You Find Good Tires?

Evaluate your tire purchase based on the manufacturers’ descriptions, their mileage warranties, the intended use of the tires, and also other customers’ feedback on the tires. Use Tire Agent to find tires for your vehicle, and then use our easy financing tool to get immediately approved for your tire purchase. We’ll ship your tires to your home or to your local tire installation garage. 

And if you have questions, you can always reach us by phone, email or live chat.