How to Choose the Right Tire

by Lori Straus

Choosing the right tires for your vehicle can sometimes overwhelm you. Perhaps performance tires look enticing, but they’re not suitable for winter driving. By the same token, all seasons sound like you only need one set of tires for the entire year; however, if you live somewhere where winter temperatures drop below 7 degrees Celsius for long periods of time, invest in a set of winter tires. So, what tires do you need? We’ll offer a few suggestions below about how to choose the right tire.

Mechanic uses drill to remove bolts from a vehicle on a liftTouring Tires

Touring tires offer comfort, good handling on the highway, and all-season traction. They also offer low noise. These are perhaps the most popular tire category for cars.

All-Season Touring Tires

The name of this kind of tire is a bit of a misnomer for those who live in climates where winter temperatures are cold enough that you can see your breath. All seasons are designed to function best in wet and dry conditions when the temperature is above 7 degrees Celsius. As the temperature drops lower, the rubber in the tire hardens, affecting how the tires handle.

Winter Touring Tires

These tires are also called snow tires. You can immediately tell snow tires by the mountain symbol on the tire wall. The tread on these tires differs from that of all seasons and allows for better grip in the snow, slush, and every type of frozen water in between. The rubber compounds also remain softer in colder temperatures, giving you better overall handling.

Performance Tires

This kind of tire typically has wider lateral and circumferential grooves that offer better traction in water. They have a higher speed rating than touring tires. However, they are not intended for winter use and wear out faster than touring tires.

Low Rolling Resistance Tires

As you drive down the road, your tires flex and move under the weight of your vehicle, causing resistance. This resistance is called rolling resistance and causes your engine to work harder and consume more fuel.

Low rolling resistance tires (LLRs) are built with treads that keep your tires rolling more efficiently, special rubber compounds that reduce movement inside the rubber itself, and new materials and designs that make the tires lighter and more rigid and aerodynamic. The result? They can improve fuel efficiency by 2-4% annually over the life of the tires. This depends, of course, on the specific model of the tires, road conditions, and your driving style. Highway commuters will see the greatest benefit from using LLR tires.

Close-up of car all-terrain tires on the mud roadOff-Roading Tires

The name says it all: these tires are built for off-roading, making them useful, too, for overlanding. They have a much more aggressive tread that helps them grip uneven, rocky, and muddy terrain. They may wear faster, so consider rotating them more frequently if you see irregular wear on them.

Focus on Why You Bought Your Vehicle

There are many more types of tires, especially when you factor in trucks. The selection can get dizzying. Before you shop for new tires, ask yourself why you bought that particular car. Do you commute to work with it? Or is your vehicle more for overlanding and camping? Be clear about why you purchased your vehicle, because that will help you choose the right tires quickly, simplifying the buying process significantly for you. Happy shopping!