Looking for the best all terrain tires? Don’t make your decision before reading this guide
For an SUV to be ready for off-road driving, you first need four-wheel drive, then you need a good set of all terrain or off-road tires. But what are all terrain and what are off-road tires you ask? Well, all terrain tires are made to be used in off-road driving scenarios, and on the street as well. Off-road tires, on the other hand, are made to be used only off-road as their name implies.
That means that for the general public all terrain tires are the better solution. They not only offer better performance on the street, like better handling, traction and stopping power, but they are also better when it comes to comfort, especially in the noise area – off-road tires can be very loud.
Sure, a lot of SUV owners (and Truck owners for that matter) never spend time off the road and they may never need even all terrain tires. For you guys, highway all-season tires will be perfectly fine. However, if you want to have fun off the road, read on to find out about the best all terrain tires available right now, divided into many categories so every vehicle owner is covered.
Here are the best overall all terrain tires for 2019
Best All Terrain Truck Tires
Trucks are the de facto vehicles for all terrain tires. Sure, most owners use them on the highway or on the urban streets, but they can be used for off-road driving scenarios as well. That’s why, when choosing a new all terrain tire for your truck, it should be able to provide the driver with good traction in almost every off-road scenario, admirable handling and grip on the road, and with good comfort levels and quiet ride.
They should also be good in every possible weather scenario (all-season design), be it warm (dry or wet) or cold (dry, wet or snowy), and be durable – you really don’t want your expensive all terrain tire failing after just two years of usage. Given the fact that trucks often weigh more than smaller SUVs, these tires must be strong enough to support the weight of the vehicle, even when hauling cargo. In the end, they shouldn’t be very expensive or in other words, they should offer all the qualities without costing a fortune.
The tires included in this category may not be the best in any category, but they are a combination of qualities that makes them all-round choices for everyone.
Best Light Truck All Terrain Tires
Light trucks are a bit different from full-size trucks. They are nimbler in off-road usage and more dynamic on the road, but they are not able to tow or haul as much. In other words, the tires used for light trucks are not required to sustain very heavy loads.
However, they should still be very good on the road in every usage scenario – that’s why I will only include all-season tires here that work in the winter almost as well as they’re working in the summer. Comfort is of the utmost importance too – light trucks are notorious for the harsh ride quality and the more comfort you can get from your new all terrain tire, the better.
Of course, the price is of an even bigger concern here – lighter trucks are not as expensive as full-size trucks and it’s safe to assume that owners wouldn’t want to pay much for tires.
Best All Terrain Tires for Snow
Almost every all terrain tire is an all-season tire at the same time, which means that it should work in cold conditions and light snow. However, don’t let those deep treads fool you – snow-rated all terrain tires are still required if you want the best possible traction in the snow.
These tires are often equipped with even deeper grooves and more sipes that help for better traction in snow and freezing temperatures. They should also be pliable at lower temperatures – if the tire is hard, even the sipes will not help with traction in snow. Sadly, you can’t find a lot of winter all terrain tires on the market, but you can still find normal all terrain tires that work great in the snow.
In the end, it’s almost the same as with highway tires – it is recommended to use all-season all terrain in spring, summer and fall, and use proper winter tires in the winter. This doesn’t apply if you live in areas with lighter winter, but for everyone else, it’s a must if you want to be safe while driving in the snow.
Best Rated All Terrain Tires
In this category, I’ll put the best all terrain tires according to drivers. In other words, these tires might not be the best according to me, but according to other drivers on the internet. I’ve summed up the ratings from popular websites like TireRack and Amazon.
This list can show you how the general truck or SUV driver feels about the tires on his vehicle. It’s certainly not scientific, but you can still use this list when purchasing a new tire, for a simple reason that no publication can test every tire by itself, and certainly not over thousands of miles.
I recommend paying attention to the treadwear scores in these lists, as owners usually report how good their tires are after thousands of miles driven, which is something I can’t replicate in testing.
Best 10-ply All Terrain Tires
If you plan on using your vehicle for towing and hauling, you may need 10-ply tires (maximum load pressure of 80 psi). These tires have one the highest loading capacity of any all terrain tire at industry specified pressure (12-ply tires also exist that offer even higher loading capacity). In other words, 10-ply tires have much stronger sidewalls that can sustain the added weight for longer periods of time without damage.
Apart from durability, this means that 10-ply tires will keep the performance they offer even when your SUV or Truck is loaded to the teeth. The best 10-ply tires will offer good driving dynamics while towing or hauling on the road, and good traction for off-road driving when your pickup truck or SUV is loaded with cargo.
Of course, even though these are heavy-duty tires, they should still offer good comfort, low noise, and their price should not be rocket high.
Best Looking All Terrain Tires
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – everyone will tell you that. However, every single human being on the planet shares the same concepts of beauty – symmetry is something everybody loves for example, as well as forms that remind of things found in nature. While not everybody will agree on beauty, there are products out there that are generally accepted to be beautiful.
So, what are the beauty concepts generally accepted in all terrain tires? Well, every SUV and Truck owner wants a tire tread that looks more aggressive in order to emphasize the muscular design of the vehicle. White writing on the sidewalls is also fun to look at, further emphasizing the off-road character of the vehicle.
In my opinion, because this is still a subjective category, the best-looking tires in the all terrain category are:
Best Cheap All Terrain Tires
In this category, we will talk about the cheaper end of the all terrain tire spectrum. But first of all, let me clarify some things – cheap tires never offer performance at the level of premium tires, but for some drivers, they are good enough. They are also not the same as budget tires, which are cheaper than premium tires, but still not very cheap.
With all that said, owners of cheap tires still want good performance. Interestingly, off-road ability stays largely intact when compared to premium tires, but on-road traction and handling suffer. It’s the same with comfort – cheaper tires tend to be much noisier. In the end, premium tires will certainly last for a longer time, but I’ll try to include cheap all terrain tires on the list that are at least close in durability.
To sum it up, here are the best cheap all terrain tires that have the least amount of compromises.
Best Quiet All Terrain Tires
All Terrain tires are notorious in the car community for noise. Let me tell you – newer all terrain tires are much better in this respect, even though still not at the level of normal highway tires. But, that’s to be expected – deep treads produce more noise than shallower treads and that’s physics – there is no way to beat it entirely.
Some premium manufacturers, however, found ways to minimize the noise, up to a level where the driver and the passengers wouldn’t notice the difference, especially at normal highway speeds. That said, some tires may be very quiet, but they don’t offer good performance on the road and in off-road scenarios. Those tires will not be included here, as good performance should always be as important as comfort and quietness.
Best All Terrain Tires for 20-inch Rims
In the last few years, 20-inch rims are becoming more popular in trucks and SUVs. They look seriously good when paired with the muscular design almost every new truck has, and the sporty appearance of SUVs. That said, 20-inch rims are still very expensive for most of the people, and that’s especially true for tires. A set of four 20-inch tires may cost well above $1.000, which is out of reach for most tire buyers.
They do bring several benefits though, mainly in the driving dynamics department. Due to the smaller sidewall, 20-inch tires provide the driver with more precise control in the corners and they generally have better grip, especially at higher speeds. Braking may be improved too because the 20-inch tire keeps its shape better.
When choosing 20-inch tires for this list I’ve included tires that work great on the road for the added performance benefit, but still, have some off-road prowess.
Best 35-inch All Terrain Tires
While 20-inch tires certainly work better on the road, 35-inch tires are specifically made for off-road driving. They have big sidewalls that can take a lot of beating and that can adjust the tire to have a bigger contact patch in most off-road conditions. For example, on a rocky pavement, 35-inch tires will have much bigger contact patch and thus better grip and traction.
The difference is night and day really – if you’re serious about off-roading, these tires are the best bet. Remember, these are not tires that fit on 35-inch rims – it’s just that their full size is 35-inches in diameter. So yes, you can find 35-inch tires for 17-inch, 18-inch, 19-inch and 20-inch rims. Before thinking of buying such tires, it’s good to know that they are very expensive and usually require suspension modifications that will lift the vehicle up in order to accommodate their sheer size.
Best All Terrain ATV Tires
You thought I will forget about ATVs? No all terrain or off-road tire list should be without them, as they’re the best vehicles for driving out of the road. And most fun too. However, you can’t have a lot of fun with an ATV if you don’t have high-quality tires – if you ask me, they’re 50% of the performance you get.
All Terrain tires for ATVs should give you the best possible traction in almost every off-road situation, be it gravel, rocks, mud or even snow, but they should also be able to bring you to the off-road track without too much trouble. In other words, they should offer good dynamics on the road and precise driving.
Comfort is the least important thing in an ATM, because let’s be honest, the more you feel and hear in an ATV, the better and more fun it gets.
Best All Terrain Tires for SUV
SUVs today are almost never used in off-road driving scenarios, even though there are owners that still do that. Because of that, when buying all terrain tires for SUVs, comfort and dynamics on the road should be equally important as off-road traction and performance. That’s especially true if you use the SUV for hauling your family around, but still, want some off-road traction (like for example you live in mountain areas with roads that are covered with mud or gravel).
There is no shortage of tires that can do all of that today. Almost every premium all terrain tire on the market today offers good traction in almost every off-road scenario, comfortable and quiet ride on the road, and even good handling and grip when driven hard. The price should also be a concern, but not up to a point where you lose a lot of performance. In my world, safety comes first!
Best All Terrain Tires for Jeep Wrangler
The Jeep Wrangler has become an icon by now. And for a good reason – it’s one of the best SUVs for off-road driving and in my opinion, certainly one of the best looking – the retro design never gets old and I’m glad that Jeep continues with the same design formula with every new generation. The Jeep Wrangler is still driven in off-road conditions, unlike many other SUVs that are only used on the road. That said, most owners use it as a fashion icon and mostly drive it in urban areas. Some even buy the Wrangler as a family vehicle, especially the bigger 5-door version.
This is a tall order let’s be honest. That’s why, when choosing all terrain tires for the Jeep Wrangler, they should be able to do the seemingly impossible – offer great traction in off-road driving on every surface, precise handling on the road, and even comfortable and quiet ride. Most of the tires that will give you that performance usually cost more and, in this case, I wouldn’t recommend going for cheaper tires. That is unless you are ready to accept some compromises, like for example lesser off-road abilities, or worse performance on the road.
Best All Terrain Tires for Jeep Cherokee
The Jeep Cherokee is a very capable off-road vehicle, but not at the level of the Wrangler. It’s more of an urban SUV with great off-road abilities, other than a hardcore off-roader. Still, some owners use its abilities for light off-road duty, even though they drive it primarily on the road for hauling the kids around.
This means that when choosing all terrain tires for the Cherokee, comfort and driving dynamics come first, and then comes the off-road ability. There are a lot of tires on the market that offer a comfortable and quiet ride, at least as far as an all terrain tire can really go. Driving dynamics are also very important – nobody would want to drive their family in a Cherokee with tires that are not safe enough.
The tires included here will have very good handling and traction on the road, good off-road abilities, and very good comfort and quietness. All of the tires included are not cheap by any means, but I think they’re worth it for the performance they offer and especially given the fact that they are pretty durable.
Best All Terrain Tires for Toyota Tacoma
The Toyota Tacoma is arguably the most popular mid-size pickup on the market. It’s known for its legendary reliability, but also for its off-road prowess. Owners of the Tacoma are no strangers to driving in the wild – you can easily spot models with raised suspension and more aggressive tires. Toyota even produces the factory TRD model that is prepared for the most demanding terrains.
For all of these reasons, I think that owners of the Tacoma would be best suited by all terrain tires that are very good in off-road conditions. Of course, on-road performance should also be intact – we don’t want tires that will be unsafe. Comfort and quietness are also welcome, but you can not beat physics here – the more tread on the tire, the louder it is. In the end, extra points go to tires that last longer.
Best All Terrain Tires for Subaru Forester
Crossovers are not the first thing you think of if you’re into off-road driving, but there are still people that use them in those circumstances. One of the crossover vehicles that are most popular for off-road driving is the Subaru Forester. The Japanese light off-roader comes with permanent and symmetrical all-wheel-drive, something that really can’t be said for any other vehicle in its category.
That said, the Forester is still a compact crossover and is mainly used on the road. Sure, you can see some examples driving in off-road conditions, but for the most part, the terrain will not be very challenging. That’s why, when choosing the best three all terrain tires for the Forester, I’ve put an accent to handling and traction on the road, as well as comfort and quietness. Of course, good all terrain traction is still a concern here, but not up to the level of what a Jeep Wrangler or Toyota Tacoma driver would need.
All Terrain Tires - BUYING GUIDE
After covering the most popular categories and even the most popular vehicles that you would install all terrain tires on the market, I’ve put together a buying guide. I did it so you can better understand what all terrain tires are, why do you need them or why you don’t need them, and what are their benefits and disadvantages.
Advantages and Disadvantages of All Terrain Tires
If you read what the manufacturers say about their all terrain tires, you will come to the conclusion that they are the “one product to rule them all”. However, when compared to other tire types, all terrain tires have some significant disadvantages. On the other hand, they have some advantages as well and for most SUV and truck drivers, they may really be the real deal.
Compared to highway all-season tires:
Most SUV and crossover owners today predominantly use highway all-season tires for their duties. All terrain tires have some advantages when compared to highway tires, but they have some disadvantages as well. Let’s have a look:
- Much better off-road abilities
- More versatile for every type of pavement
- Tougher and less likely to get punctured
- Worse fuel economy
- More noise, especially at higher speeds
- Less precise and less responsive handling
- More prone to cupping
- Shorter treadlife
Compared to off-road tires
Real off-road enthusiasts always opt for off-road tires. When looking at what the “pros” are putting on their trucks, you may want to do the same thing and install off-road tires on your vehicle as well. I have nothing against off-road tires, but you really need to be a hardcore off-road lover to use them. Here are the advantages all terrain tires have over off-road tires, and some obvious disadvantages:
- Better fuel economy
- Less noise at higher speeds
- More precise and responsive handling
- Longer treadlife
- Cheaper to buy
- Worse off-road abilities
- Not as tough in demanding conditions
How to choose the best all terrain tires for your needs?
Unlike other types, all terrain tires are not created equally between different manufacturers. Some companies design them to be better on the road, and some design them to be more capable for off-road driving scenarios. The list of the best all terrain tires in this article may help you to choose the right tire for you, but if you have different needs (for example you want more “off-roady” tires for your Forester), there are several different ways to tell if a tire will be better off-road or better on-road.
- Larger tread with deep grooves for off-road driving – if you’re more into off-road driving, there are all terrain tires that are made just for that. The easiest way to tell if the tire will be good in off-road conditions is the tread design. More precisely, the number of treads should be bigger, while the grooves should be deeper. This way the tire has much bigger contact patch with the surface, thus improving grip in slippery surfaces.
- Smaller tread with shallower grooves for better on-road driving – remember what I said about the contact patch? On the road, because the surface is firmer, the deep grooves won’t touch the pavement and you’ll lose traction earlier. All terrain tires with smaller tread and shallower grooves will work better on the road, and they will produce less noise as well. However, they will lose some of the off-road abilities when compared to tires with larger tread and deeper grooves.
- Look for small sipes for better snow traction – even though it may seem that all terrain tires will be great in snowy and icy conditions due to the deeper grooves and large treads, in reality, they can easily get filled with snow and you’ll lose traction in no time. For better snow traction the tire needs to have sipes. These are small and thin slits in the rubber surface that greatly improve traction in snow and ice. The more the sipes a tire has, the better it will be in the snow. Most all terrain tires are equipped with sipes, but the frequency will not be the same. Choose tires with a higher number of sipes if you need better snow and ice performance. Or choose a proper winter tire and call it a day.
- Reinforcing with nylon for durability – all terrain tires are made to withstand worse conditions than normal highway all-season tires. Many of the models available are equipped with steel belts, and some with nylon for even more strength. This makes them tougher than normal tires, but it adds weight which can spoil the performance on the road and worsen the fuel economy.
- Rubber quality – modern tires have rubber enhanced with silica compounds, and some of them even with carbon compounds. This gives the tire a better grip in broader weather conditions, such as warm and cold weather, or dry and wet pavement. The tire material plays a big role in how long the tread lasts, so keep that in mind as well. Tire manufacturers always list the materials used in their marketing materials. Usually, the higher the price of the tire, the better the materials it has inside.
- Stone ejectors and self-cleaning compound – due to the larger and deeper treads, a lot of things can get easily stuck into them. This can create a lot of problems and destroy the tread of the tire very fast – a lot of off-road enthusiasts clean their tires often so they don’t get damaged. Other than that, stones that are stuck in the tire can make ticking noises while driving and get onto your nerves. A lot of all terrain tires today are equipped with stone ejectors – a special tread design that rejects stones when they get stuck into the grooves.
Other than stone ejectors, most premium tires have special tread compounds and tread design with self-cleaning abilities. This means that if mud is stuck in the tire, it will get cleaned by itself after driving it on other surfaces. This is very important if you want your tires to perform admirably on every surface possible. Imagine driving in the mud, get your tires dirty and then when you go back on the road, lose all the traction due to mud stuck between the grooves.
Other things to consider when buying all terrain tires
There are some other things to ask yourself before deciding on buying all terrain tires. Here are some of them:
- How much time do you spend off-road? Suffice to say, if you don’t spend any time off-road, then you won’t need all terrain tires – all-season ones should suit you just fine. You may not need all terrain tires even if you spend a little time off-road, but the terrain is really not that demanding and even a normal vehicle can get there, I suggest going for an all-season tire.
However, even if you drive in off-road scenarios only a few times a year (like a camping trip with your family), but the terrain is demanding, then all terrain tires should be the way to go. If you spend your time mostly off-road and on demanding terrain, you may even think about getting off-road tires.
- What type of tires was your vehicle equipped with from the factory? If car companies install all terrain tires from the factory, that means that according to their analysis of the market, owners of that particular vehicle spend some time in off-road scenarios. Of course, you may not be one of them, but this is a good place to start when choosing new tires for your truck, SUV or crossover.
- Are there hard winters in your area? Even though most all season all terrain tires can provide you with traction in light snow, if there is heavy winter in your area, it’s best to buy all terrain tires with the 3PMSF (3-peak mountain snowflake) symbol. These tires can be used in more severe snow conditions than tires without the symbol. However, they are still not a substitution for a real winter tire.
Do you haul or tow with your vehicle? If yes, then you should look for tires with higher “ply” rating. Look at the manufacturer’s specifications in order to see if a tire is strong enough for the amount of stuff you will haul or the weight of the trailer you will tow.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Are all terrain tires good in the rain?
High-quality all terrain tires are very good in the rain, especially in everyday driving. However, when compared to highway all-season tires, they have less traction in wet conditions and are more prone to hydroplaning. With all that said, I wouldn’t say that you shouldn’t buy an all terrain tire because of the worse wet performance – the difference may be imperceptible by most of the drivers.
Are all terrain tires good for winter?
All terrain tires are better in snowy conditions than normal highway all-season tires, but they are still not at the level of a specialized winter or snow tire. Always look for tires with the 3MPSF symbol if you want the best possible snow performance, or if you live in an area with heavy winter, replace them with real winter tires.
How loud are all terrain tires?
Noise produced by all terrain tires can vary greatly from one make to another. That said, the quietest all terrain tires are still louder than highway all-season tires and this is a difference that you can easily make if you drive them one after the other. Newer vehicles produced today have better sound insulation though, especially higher-end SUVs, and in those vehicles, this is less of an issue. Still, if you want a serene and quiet driving experience, then all terrain tires are not for you.
Are all terrain tires good for highway driving?
It depends on how much you’re driving on the highway. If you drive predominantly on the highway, be prepared for more noise and worse fuel economy, especially at higher speeds. All terrain tires also have less grip and are less stable than highway all-season tires. However, for most drivers, a high-quality all terrain tire will be just fine on the highway, especially in the performance department. At this moment, I really can’t say that I find the tires mentioned in this article unsafe – all of them are perfectly fine for everyday driving.
Are all terrain tires good for towing?
They are not just good – they are probably the best option out there due to the tougher materials used. That said, not all of them are created equally – if you haul and tow a lot, always choose a tire with higher “ply” rating.
Do all terrain tires affect gas mileage?
When compared to highway all-season tires, they do affect gas mileage. This is something you can even detect by yourself, but the difference wouldn’t be huge – in my testing, it’s around 2-3 mpg depending on the tires compared.
How long do all terrain tires last?
The highest-quality all terrain tires can last up to 40.000-miles, but generally speaking, I would say that you can get 30.000-miles out of them. When compared to highway all-season tires, they tend to last a bit less because the tread wears down faster and they are more susceptible to cupping. Off-road driving can also age tires faster, so if you drive predominantly off-road, you might need to change them even sooner than that.
I honestly hope that this exhaustive article will help you the next time you choose a new set of all terrain tires for your vehicle. There are really a lot of all terrain options on the market today and I can happily say that most of them are of a very high quality, which makes it very hard to make a bad choice. That said, always choose tires according to your needs, your vehicle and the weather in your area. When choosing this way, I’m sure you’ll be happy and satisfied with the choice you made!