What Are the Different Types of Tires?

By Tire Agent Staff

April 16, 2022

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Tires, much like cars, come in all different styles and sizes, depending on your needs. Your car may not have come with exactly the right type of tire for your driving needs. In this guide, we’ll be walking through the common types of tires on the market and what each type specializes in, so you can find exactly the tire you need. 

All-Season Tires 

All-season tires are designed for year-round comfort and handling for SUVs, cars, pickup trucks, crossovers, and most passenger vehicles. All-purpose tires are the most common tire type in the U.S.

Learn more about all-season tires versus all-weather tires.

All-season tires are meant for driving on roads and highways and feature symmetrical tread pattern that gives good traction on dry and wet roads. They can be good in most conditions, but not great in severe weather. All-season tires will perform well in mild winter conditions, but don’t use all-season tires if you live in a climate that experiences heavy snowfall. If you live in an area that gets a lot of heavy snow, you'll want to consider switching to winter tires.

All-Terrain Tires

If you’re looking to drive off-road with your larger SUV or truck, all-terrain tires may be exactly what you’re looking for. You’ll recognize all-terrain tires by their aggressive, complex tread patterns. This allows for good performance in dirt, sand, gravel, or any uneven surface. Most all-terrain tires achieve this without sacrificing on-road comfort, providing stability and a smooth drive even on highways. 

Read this post if you're concerned about gas mileage and all-terrain tires

All-terrain tires, however, do not perform as well in icy or snowy conditions. This is due to the all-terrain tire rubber, which is stiffer and more resilient to damage from rocks and debris. The stiffer rubber, however, is slippery and will not stay flexible and elastic in low temperatures. 

Competition Tires

Competition tires are also known as racing slicks. They have very few grooves or tread patterns because competition tires are designed to grip the pavement for racing. That said, many are DOT street legal. Competition tires have very short tread lives and do not do well in severe weather conditions; hydroplaning is a high risk if you drive competition tires in wet, rainy conditions. Don’t use competition tires in winter, if you live in a four-season climate. 

Highway Truck Tires

Highway tires are designed for trucks and SUVs that will bear heavy loads at higher (legal) speeds. The tire tread patterns are designed for resisting wear and tear over long periods of time. Highway tires will perform alright in rain, but should not be taken off-road or driven in snowy conditions. They are meant for the pavement and should likely stay there. 

Mud Tires

Mud-terrain tires are a type of all-terrain tires that have very large, aggressive tread blocks that perform extremely well in soft terrains like mud and sand. While similar to all-terrain tires, mud-terrain tires will be significantly less comfortable and noisier on normal roads. They’re best for vehicles that regularly go off-road. Mud terrain tires will not maintain their grip in snow, as their rubber type is far too stiff to maintain traction. 

Off-Road Tires

Off-road tires, also another type of all-terrain tire, feature a rugged, tough appearance that will resist punctures, tears, and damage from sharp rocks and objects. All-terrain and mud-terrain tires share the signature aggressive off-road look of large, blocky treads with large voids between to allow for greater traction. Off-road tires do not perform particularly well in snow and will not be the most comfortable on-road. 

Performance Tires

Performance tires are recognizable by their unique tread patterns that sport larger circumferences and lateral grooves to maintain handling and traction in wet and dry conditions. These tires are designed for sporty vehicles that may drive at higher speeds in a variety of weather conditions. Therefore, these tires tend to have improved grip with higher driving responsiveness. Note that performance tires may sacrifice ride comfort, tread lifespan, and gas mileage for this better control. Performance tires will also not perform well in snowy conditions.

There are many types of performance tires. All-season performance tires, for example, offer good handling and slim, symmetrical tread designs. Performance tires can also be “high” or “ultra-high,” which is dependent on how much horsepower they’re rated for. If you’re driving a vehicle with extra horsepower, you may want to invest in ultra-high performance tires, which will have maximum performance at the cost of tread life and a bumpier experience. 

Run-Flat Tires

Run-flat tires are designed to survive a puncture and “run” while flat. While you can’t drive a run-flat forever, it will allow you to make that extra stretch to an auto shop. The run-flat tire will either have a self-supporting system with reinforced sidewall construction or a support ring with hard rubber on the interior of the tire. Both systems will maintain the tire's shape even when it loses air. With run-flat tires, you won’t have to change your tire in a dangerous situation and can head straight to a repair shop. You also are less likely to lose control of the vehicle when your tire is punctured, so you can safely pull off the road.  

Snow Tires

Snow tires (also known as winter tires) are a necessity in places with heavy snow, ice, freezing rain, or temperatures under 40 degrees. 

If you make trips through snowy areas like mountains or forests, you’ll need snow tires. Snow tires have heavy siping and deep grooves to get rid of snow and slush buildup. The rubber in snow tires will be flexible and elastic in low temperatures, allowing you to maintain grip and handling. If you’re in a wintery area, like Canada and the northern U.S., you’ll need snow tires for your vehicle! Interestingly, 76% of Canadian drivers use winter tires, according to the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada.

Snow tires can come studded, non-studded and stud-able. The studded tires will feature small metal studs that will maintain traction in heavy ice but will have much more noise and driving discomfort. Studded tires may also be illegal to use in your state, or limited to certain times of the year. They are designed for only the heaviest winter conditions.  

Spare Tires

Spares can either be compact or full size – usually rated for lower speeds and distances (50 miles and 50 mph). They need very high air pressure and are only meant to be used in the case of a flat tire. Your car may already come with a spare tire provided by the manufacturer and will be the same tire type. 

Sport Truck Tires

Sport truck tires differ in their higher speed ratings compared to normal highway truck tires. However, they share the same good performance in different weather conditions on-road. Sport truck tires also won’t have the same traction that you’ll get with a highway tire. Not meant for hauling heavy loads, these tires are best for trucks that are making long hauls. 

Summer Tires 

Perfect for performance during summer driving, these tires are meant for wet and dry conditions in warm weather. While most tires will feature “siping,” which are the small slits in the tire treads that increase grip, summer tires will feature little or no siping at all. These tires perform well on roads and have hydroplane resistance due to their increased grip and responsiveness. These tires are best for sedans and other road vehicles in places without harsh winters. 

Touring Tires 

Touring tires are designed for comfort in any season. They differ from all-season tires in their higher speed rating and asymmetrical tread pattern. These tires are meant for sport and sedan cars that need more handling and traction. Note that the better performance may come at the cost of comfort, as you’ll tend to “feel the road” a bit more than normal. 

Track Tires

Track tires are similar to competition tires, as they are not meant for daily driving. They have a unique flat look with minimal tread and siping. These tires have short tread life and are meant only for extreme performance like racing or professional competitions. Hydroplaning is a risk in rainy or wet conditions. Track tires are best for competition clubs that take their cars to tracks for racing. 

Trailer Tires

Trailer tires are meant for towing and other high-weight loads over longer periods of time. These tires, however, may suffer uneven wear due to the load being distributed toward the back of the vehicle, so rotating your tires often may be necessary. 

Winter Tires

Winter tires are the same as snow tires, as they are designed for cold weather and icy/snowy conditions. These tires have grooves and channels that are designed for increased traction and grip. However, buying winter tires is only necessary if you live in an area with winters below 40 degrees. If you live in an area with particularly harsh winters, you can search for the legality of studded tires in your state for even more traction in the worst of conditions. 

What Type of Tire Do You Need?

Tire Agent makes it easy to shop for tires by tread type. From any page on our website, tell us your vehicle brand, year, model, and trim style, and our tire-matching technology will recommend tires from our huge inventory. Narrow your search by tread type to find the right tire type for you.