How to choose the right tires for your vehicle
Buying car tires is easy. It’s finding the right ones for your car that can be difficult. Get it wrong, and you can hobble your car’s performance and its ability to tackle any type of weather.
Since car tires usually need to be replaced every three or four years, here’s a refresher course on how to make sure you’re getting the right ones. Most car tires fall into three main types: all-season, summer, and winter. Most people buy all-season tires because it’s easier and cheaper than buying one set for the winter and another for summer.
All-season car tires deliver a good, well-rounded performance but are never outstanding in any way. Summer tires deliver on handling and dry/wet braking, but they have dismal snow traction. By contrast, winter tires have outstanding snow traction but just fair braking ability on cleared roads. Within each car tire category, there is a range of performance, as our tests routinely remind us. To see the basic differences in tire types, look at the chart below.
First, consult your owner’s manual or the placard on the driver’s side door jamb to find the recommended tire measurements. The label will look something like this: P215/60R16 94T.
You should match the tire’s size measurements, but you have some flexibility to go higher with the load index and speed rating.
For more on how to read a tire label, go to our tire buying guide.
Many retail websites will give you a listing of all tires available in your size. But in many cases, you’ll need to dig deeper to match the speed rating. The list below can help ID your tire type.
- All-season tires come in S- and T-speed ratings. Known for good all-weather grip and long mileage, these are commonly fit to mainstream cars and SUVs.
- Performance all-season tires come in H- and V-speed rating on many newer cars, especially those with enthusiast appeal or upgraded wheels. They tend to have better cornering grip than S- and T-speed rated all-season tires, but performance tires may not wear as long.