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What Does UTQG Tire Rating Mean? Guide to Grading Tires

By Tire Agent Staff

May 31, 2024

This tire ratings guide explains what UTQGs mean on tires and answers these questions:

      • What's UTQG on tires?
      • What three things about a tire does UTQG measure?
      • Who grades tires with UTQG ratings?
      • What is the best UTQG rating? (What's a good tire tread rating?)

UTQG Explained

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a branch of the United States Department of Transportation (US DOT), developed something called the Uniform Tire Quality Grade (UTQG) standards back in the 1970s to help tire buyers understand what they are buying.

UTQG measures three things: tread wear, traction and temperature.

Who determines auto tire ratings? Manufacturers.

The USDOT does not conduct the tests and assign ratings; manufacturers test and assign their own UTQG ratings. The NHTSA does verify the accuracy of the manufacturers’ ratings, however.

There is a consensus in the automotive industry that the tire UTQG ratings don't always match up with reality because of how tests are performed. What does this mean?

      1. Manufacturers test tires on test tracks, which are within controlled environments and don't align with real road, weather and driving conditions.
      2. Because manufacturers self-test and there isn't an industry-mandated third-party validation, there may be a conflict of interest.
      3. Testing methods may be outdated and not reflect advances in tire technology and compounds. 
      4. UTQG ratings don't (and can't, really) reflect individual driving habits and vehicle types, nor do they reflect how well a driver will care for their tires. 

Why do UTQG ratings matter, then?

At best, UTQG ratings tell you how well a tire is expected to perform and last under "typical" driving conditions and with proper care. Should you use UTQG to make a buying decision? It can be a factor, along with manufacturer warranty, price, consumer reviews and other factors, but it probably shouldn't be the only deciding factor. 

Are all tires UTQG rated?

UTQG tires ratings are only required in the United States for passenger tires, but they are not required for certain types of tires including snow/winter, deep-tread light truck tires, and run-flats as well as certain other tires. And, of course, your trailer tires and some other utility tires are not required to be UTQG rated.

What UTQG Treadwear Measures

Generally speaking, tires with a higher treadwear rating are expected to take longer to wear down under normal driving conditions. Some tire shoppers base their purchase decisions solely on treadwear, and we are not saying you should ignore this number — but we are saying that you should consider several factors when purchasing tires in addition to treadwear.

Why? Because tire manufacturers are allowed to self-report their ratings, and also because the testing to estimate tread wear is extremely limited.

Here’s how tires are tested for tread wear

There is a testing facility in western Texas where the tire tests are conducted. Tires are mounted on a special convoy of vehicles, where the manufacturers' tires are tested against a control group of tires. They’re driven 7,200 miles and then compared against the control group. The control tire is always assigned a grade of 100. So, if a tire is rated 400, it is expected to wear four times longer than the control tire.

The testing process gets a little murky. Manufacturers are allowed to choose their own base tires. So Company A’s control tire might differ from Company Z’s control tire, even though they’re both testing all-season SUV tires, for example. And, of course, the composition of their own brands of tires differ as well. So you could say it is not necessarily an apples-to-apples (or rubber to rubber) comparison.

We crunched the numbers from the USDOT’s database of manufacturers and found that across all brands, the average UTQG wear varies based on the intended use of the tire.

Tire Agent's UTQG Chart

Tread Type

Average of UTQG Wear Across All Brands

All Season

504

All Terrain

506

All Terrain / All Season

546

All Weather

509

Highway All Season

428

Highway Terrain

480

Highway Terrain All Season

632

Highway / Regional

600

Mud Terrain

413

On / Off Road

474

Passenger All Season

554

Performance All Season

429

Performance Summer

264

Performance Touring All Season

509

Summer

323

Touring All Season

546

Touring Summer

392

Winter

500

Does UTQG treadwear rating matter?

What you need to know as a consumer: Treadwear does not tell you how many miles a tire will last. Nor does it tell you whether it is a high-quality tire.

So, when a customer asks, "How many miles is a 500 treadwear or 600 treadwear rating going to last?" The answer is ... it depends on where you live, how aggressively you drive, how aggressively you brake, whether you rotate your tires, and the type of terrain you drive on.

To evaluate the quality of a tire, look at the warranty and consumers’ reviews. If a manufacturer offers an 80,000-mileage warranty, that’s a signal that they are confident in their tire’s quality.

A few things to note about tire warranties: If you file a claim with a tire maker, you might be asked to prove you’ve taken good care of your tires, keeping them properly inflated and rotated regularly. Learn more about how tire warranties work.

What is a good treadwear rating?

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, the arm of the USDOT that governs tires, only 15% of tires are rated below 200. Generally, a tire that is rated that low is intended to be used for racing or a very specific and limited application.

      • 25% of tires are rated 201 to 300
      • 32% are rated 301 to 400
      • 20% are rated 401 to 500
      • 6% are rated 501 to 600
      • 2% are rated above 600

What UTQG Temperature Ratings Mean

Tires are graded A, B, or C for heat resistance. The NHTSA says most tires are rated A; 62% of tires in the US are rated for high heat. This is important because the higher the temperature rating, the higher its ability to run safely at high speeds.

      • Temperature grade A = safe for speeds over 115 mph
      • Grade B = safe between 100 and 115 mph
      • Grade C = safe between 85 and 100

Tires sold in the US must meet at least a C standard. Learn more about tire temperature ratings.

What UTQG Traction Ratings Mean

Traction simply refers to the tire’s ability to help a vehicle stop on wet pavement. The higher the grade, the better the tire is at stopping on wet pavement in a shorter distance. The ratings are: AA, A, B, and C. According to the NHTSA, 15% of tires are rated AA; 75% are rated A, and 7% are rated B. Only four lines of tires are rated C, and these are racing tires that are not intended for general consumer driving or everyday use! Learn more about tire traction ratings.

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Source: Goodyear

What Is a Good UTQG Rating?

Is a higher UTQG rating better? In a world where “the higher the rating the better” tends to be the rule, we’re going to say, “Yes … but with a big HOWEVER …”

The UTQG rating measures treadwear, temperature and traction. HOWEVER, a low tire rating doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad tire. It simply means that when it was compared to a control tire, it met or didn’t meet the control tire’s treadwear, traction, and temperature.

If you don’t put a lot of hard miles on your vehicle — say you’re retired, it’s a second car, or you work from home — then a mid-priced tire with a lower UTQG treadwear rating might be right for you.

If you spend a good part of your day commuting to and from work, you travel a lot, or you are just a fan of weekend road trips, then you’re going to look for a tire that tends to handle well and reduces road noise, in addition to having higher expected treadwear.

If you drive a sports car or a high-performance vehicle, then you’ll want to find tires that match your driving style, even if it is a little on the aggressive side. Maybe you live near the Pacific Coast Highway or Appalachian Mountains with lots of winding roads and turns, and you need something that handles well. Here you might sacrifice treadwear in favor of grip and handling.

More Articles on the UTQG Rating System

Tire Speed Rating Guide: What does speed rating mean? 

Tire Treadwear Ratings Guide: How long should a tire last?

Tire Traction Rating Guide: How well will a vehicle stop on wet pavement?

Tire Temperature Rating Guide: How well does a tire resist heat (and why does this matter)?

Photo 195112088 | Zigmunds Dizgalvis | Dreamstime.com