Off-road driving had sort of a resurgence in recent years, especially after SUVs became more popular. And this not only includes buying an SUV – a lot of off-road enthusiasts are prepared to go spend a lot of money on additional suspension upgrades, powertrain upgrades and better tires.
This article will be about the tire part of nicely prepared off-road vehicles. Specifically, about mud tires (also called mud-terrain tires, which despite their name, work in almost every off-road scenario, be it gravel, rocks, sand or mud. These tires are absolutely the best choice when it comes to off-road driving, no doubt about it, but they are not as good on the road.
That said, this is not an article for people who want good road performance. Instead, it is sort of a buying guide for the best mud tires on the market right now. In other words, I’ll try to make a list of the best mud tires for different driving scenarios, then give you a list of their advantages and disadvantages, and also answer some frequently asked questions.
Here I’ll choose the best three mud tires in every popular category that you, the off-road enthusiast search over the internet. Other than choosing the best three mud tires, I’ll try to explain why I’ve chosen them, or in other words, what is needed from a tire in that respective category.
Always choose tires according to your needs, and not the positions on the list.
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The following list contains our ’best buy’ picks and consumer favorites.
Here are the best overall mud tires for 2019
|BF Goodrich Mud-Terrain KM3||8.1||8.5||8.5||8.5||8.5||8.5|
|Cooper Discoverer STT Pro||8.7||8.5||8.5||8.5||8.5||8.5|
|Kumho Road Venture MT KL71||8.5||8.5||8.5||8.5||8.5||8.5|
|Firestone Destination M/T2||8.5||8.5||8.5||8.5||8.5||8.5|
|Goodyear Wrangler MT/R with Kevlar||8.5||8.5||8.5||8.5||8.5||8.5|
|Hankook Dynapro MT RT03||8.5||8.5||8.5||8.5||8.5||8.5|
|General Grabber X3||8.5||8.5||8.5||8.5||8.5||8.5|
Best Mud Tires for The Money
Probably the most searched mud tire category is the best mud tire for the money. See, mud tires can be woefully expensive and often cost a fortune, so finding a good one that doesn’t cost as much is a daunting task. Luckily you have this article and my knowledge in tires here!
In this category, I’ll try to present tires that don’t cost that much money but still offer good performance. By good performance, I mean great off-road performance and tolerable on-road performance. Sure, every off-road enthusiast wants a tire that will offer the best possible traction in gravel, rocks, sand or mud, but these tires will also be used to travel to those off-road places in the first place.
One note though – best tires for the money doesn’t mean cheapest tires. Cheap tires don’t offer good performance in almost any scenario, and can sometimes be dangerous in some circumstances. If you value safety, I recommend always spending a little extra. So, without further ado, here are my top three best mud tires for the money.
Best Cheap Mud Tires
If you’ve read my articles up to this point, you’ll know that I’m not a big fan of cheap tires. They’re simply far off the pace when it comes to performance, and are often unsafe for driving. Add to that a compound that breaks down quickly, and you have a recipe for disaster.
That said, there are cheap tires, and then there are cheap(er) tires than premium products. Happily, in the mud tire world, there are not a lot of cheap and bad tires. As a matter of fact, most of the mud tires are not cheap at all – they are only cheaper than their premium alternatives. That’s the reason I’ve included this category in my article.
It is generally accepted that cheaper mud terrain tires have lesser on-road performance, so that’s not the area I will focus on here. Of course, including tires that are unsafe for driving on the road is never an option. On the other hand, despite being cheap, these tires must provide the driver with enough traction in almost every off-road scenario, and on top of that be durable. Price may vary between the models selected, but it should always be lower than the class average.
Best Mud Tires for the Street
Okay, so this is another category that many mud tire buyers are interested in. While every off-road enthusiast wants the best possible traction in off-road driving scenarios, not many of them want bad performance on the street or even worse, loud and uncomfortable driving.
The thing is, mud tires, or serious off-road tires, have big tread blocks and deep grooves for better traction in off-road scenarios, but that design simply produces a lot of noise on the street, especially at higher speeds on the highway. Trust me, you’ll get tires sooner rather than later. The deep grooves mean that you also get less surface area when on the road. The result is a loss in grip in the corners, longer stopping distances and less traction in almost every condition, including rainy weather.
With all that said, there are mud tires that are worse on the road, and mud tires that are better on the road. The best mud tires for the street should produce the least amount of noise and have the best possible traction in both dry and wet conditions, admirable grip in the corners and short stopping distances. Oh, yes, I’ll throw better fuel economy in the mix as well.
Best Mud Tires for Snow
To the general public, mud tires look as if they can be used easily in the snow and provide excellent performance. Well, only half of that is true. They may work in deeper snow, where the deep tread design helps with traction, but most of the mud tires tend to be awful in light snow and especially a combination of snow and ice. The problem with mud tires is that they are made for higher temperatures – at the freezing winter temperatures, they are simply not pliable and soft enough.
Happily, there are models that are rated for winter and snow driving, and there are even mud tires that have support for studs which can drastically improve traction in the snow. Generally, you should look for smaller sipes on the tire. They may seem like nothing, but trust me, they are of great help in the snow. Other than that, it’s also recommended to read the manufacturer description – if the tire is rated for snow driving you should include it in your shortlist (M+S).
The 3PMSF (3-Peak Mountain SnowFlake) symbol is recommended though and if you are very serious about snow, I highly recommend tires with this rating.
Best ATV Mud Tires
One can simply not talk about serious off-road performance without mentioning ATVs. These little vehicles are probably the best possible solution for off-road driving scenarios, well other than side-by-side UTV vehicles (shhh, they’re also included in this article). They are not only very capable, but they will put a big smile on your face, even though you may be covered in mud.
Did I say mud? Here comes my (by now) stale advice that if you’re serious about off-road driving, then you need serious mud-tires. For ATVs, off-road performance is the most valued thing – nobody even cares about on-road handling. In my previous article about all-terrain tires I’ve included ATV vehicles as well, and for most drivers’ all-terrain tires might be a good option.
However, mud-terrain tires will provide the driver with even more traction in off-road scenarios, specifically in mud and sand. The best mid tires for ATV vehicles will provide excellent traction in every possible off-road condition, they will be durable and contain stone ejectors, and last but not the least, they should be at least competitively priced.
Best UTV Mud Tires
UTV vehicles are becoming more and more popular with the off-road crowd. They are even featured at Dakar Rally now within their own category, with big manufacturers and drivers participating. That’s no coincidence – UTV vehicles (or as often called side-by-side or SxS) are possibly the most capable and most fun off-road vehicles out there. Off-road is absolutely their territory, which is the main reason why the most popular tire type is a mud-terrain tire.
The best mud-terrain tires for UTV vehicles should provide amazing performance in off-road scenarios. Other than mud-terrain, these tires should also be great on gravel, sand and rocks, and they should also be able to tackle snow. Suffice to say they must be durable – you don’t want to be left in the middle of nowhere with a punctured or blown tire. When I talk about durability, I also mean long-lasting tread life. In the end, the price is also a factor, albeit not a decisive one.
Best Truck Mud Tires
Trucks are one of the most popular vehicles for off-road driving. Okay, they’re the most popular vehicles in the US, so of course, they are the most popular off-road vehicles at the same time. That’s why the mud-terrain tire category contains almost all the tire sizes you may need in a truck.
You can also find mud-terrain tires that are able to sustain bigger loads, or in other words are better for towing and hauling. As a matter of fact, mud-terrain tires are often the best choice for towing and hauling due to their excellent strength and durability on and off the road.
That said, they will be primarily used in off-road driving scenarios, such as gravel, sand, mud and even snow. That’s why, when choosing the best mud-terrain tires for trucks, I will include models that are great for off-roading, very good in the winter, and for towing and hauling. Street performance is also valued, but not as much as other qualities.
In this category, I think that price should be of no concern to the buyers, so I’ll be free to include some more expensive models.
Best Looking Mud Tires
This category is entirely subjective – what looks good to me might not look that good to you. That said, 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.
When we are talking about mud-terrain tires, for example, everyone will agree that a more aggressive tread design with deeper grooves looks better. Or more menacing if you like. See, off-road is a pretty rough and hardcore hobby, so the more hardcore the tires look, the better. Extra points go to the tires that have extra tread on the side – you gotta love some extra aggressiveness here. Branding and writing on the sidewalls should also be “in your face” for the tire to be considered cool. We all like cool, don’t we?
Best Mud Tires for Jeep
In some areas of the world, all-wheel drive vehicles are simply called Jeeps. This company is probably the pioneer in off-road vehicles, producing some of the most iconic 4x4s in history. If a Jeep doesn’t call for an iconic mud-terrain tire, then I don’t know what does.
Jeep vehicles are one of the few you’ll see on the roads that their owners want to and use them in off-road driving scenarios. This especially applies to the Wrangler and Cherokee, but also for the all-new Gladiator pickup truck, the luxurious Grand Cherokee and the urban Renegade.
Whichever model you choose, you’ll want mud tires that will work in every possible off-road scenario, like gravel, sand and mud. They should also be good in the snow – you wouldn’t’ want to get stranded in your Jeep, even in the winter. On-road performance is also valued here, as well as quietness – Jeep vehicles are a popular choice nowadays with urban drivers as well.
Price is also a factor, but not like in some other categories – Jeep SUVs have never been cheap and I think that owners of these vehicles are prepared to pay a little bit more to get the highest quality mud tire.
Best 35-inch Mud Tires
One simply cannot write an article about the best mud-terrain tires without including 35-inch versions of the same. These tires are for the hardcore off-road enthusiasts. If you want the best possible performance in every off-road scenario, 35-inch mud tires are the way to go. There is simply no better option than to install these behemoths of tires, regardless of the SUV or Truck.
35-inch mud-terrain tires have extremely big sidewalls – they actually fit on smaller rims. This makes them a much better option on heavy terrain, giving you the option to drive with less pressure for the highest possible traction, without losing strength and durability. Rocks, gravel, sand, mud, and even snow – whatever you throw at them, 35-inch tires should deliver.
That said, they bring some downsides with them, chiefly in the performance and comfort department on the road. Handling suffers on regular roads when compared to normal mud-terrain tires and all-terrain tires, while noise may be unbearable to some, especially at higher speeds and on longer trips. The best 35-inch mud-terrain tires will be better in both regards, but still far from other tire types.
Not that the real off-road enthusiast would mind a bit noisier tire in the name of better traction in off-road conditions.
Mud-Terrain Tires Buying Guide
After we’ve passed several categories for mud tires from which I think you can draw a conclusion on the best mud-terrain tires available right now. However, this doesn’t mean that you should just go and spend hundreds of dollars on new mud tires – you should ask yourself some questions first. In my experience, there are a lot of SUV and truck owners that install mud-terrain tires on their vehicles because they’ve heard that they are the way to go – not because they really need them. In order to better understand why mud-terrain tires are the right way to go, or not for that matter, I’ve compiled a buying guide. In this buying guide we will talk about all the advantages and disadvantages of mud tires, the reasons they are used and instances where you’d be better off with all-terrain or a highway tire.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Mud-Terrain Tires
If you haven’t learned by now, mud-terrain tires are a specialty product for owners of SUVs and trucks who use their vehicles off-road. More to the point, owners who use their vehicles in the most demanding off-road scenarios. If you’re a driver who only uses the vehicle for off-road driving several times a year, you might be better served by all-terrain tires.
Sure, it may seem logical to install aggressive off-road tires on your hardcore SUV, but you might never need the performance they offer. In my experience, the best all-terrain tires offer enough traction in off-road conditions for 95% of the SUV owners out there. Even I rarely find proper usage scenarios for mud-terrain tires when I’m testing SUVs and trucks.
That said, if you plan on using your vehicle on hardcore off-road terrain most of the time, you’d be better off with mud-terrain tires when compared to all-terrain tires. This is probably obvious by now. With that said, let’s review all the advantages and disadvantages when compared to all-terrain tires.
- Much better off-road abilities and traction in the most demanding conditions – no all-terrain tire can even compare to mud-terrain tires when it comes to off-road driving.
- Tougher and less likely to get punctured – can sustain heavier loads and is less susceptible to damage, especially when driven off-road.
- Worse street performance – slower acceleration and lower top speed are to be expected with mud-terrain tires.
- Cornering on the road is not their gusto – handling is much less precise, stability is also worse at higher speeds. Braking distances will be longer.
- Wet performance is a problem with mud-terrain tires – they are more prone to hydroplaning and generally lose traction earlier.
- Louder at higher speeds – due to the aggressive tread pattern, mud-terrain tires are much louder at higher speeds, or on the highway. Some models are also a tad uncomfortable, but the best mud tires give a good ride quality.
- Worse fuel economy – the aggressive tread pattern worsens fuel economy as well – expect around 2-3 mpg less when compared to all-terrain tires.
- More prone to cupping – the tread will wear more unevenly when compared to all-terrain tires.
- No treadlife warranty – while all-terrain tires come with treadlife warranty, mud-terrain tires do not. Mud-terrain tires also have much shorter treadlife than all-terrain counterparts, so don’t expect them to last for a long time.
As you can see, mud-terrain tires have more disadvantages than advantages when compared to all-terrain tires. In other words, you really must value the advantages they have to install them on your vehicle. Some models can also be more expensive than their all-terrain counterparts, which makes the buying decision even clearer. And trust me, I’m not trying to root for all-terrain tires here – I’m just stating the facts. And the facts are that most drivers really don’t need mud-terrain tires. For those who really need them, I’ve compiled a list of things to look at when choosing your next mud-terrain tires.
How to choose the perfect mud-terrain tire for your needs?
Mud-terrain tires couldn’t be more different between manufacturers. Some are designed to work better in some off-road scenarios, while others are designed to work in other. That said, the best mud-terrain tires will work in almost every off-road scenario with aplomb. Whichever tire you choose though, don’t expect excellent on-road performance – this part is always compromised. With all that said, let’s have a look at how to tell if the model you are looking at is the right for you.
- Aggressive tread pattern for better off-road performance – if you don’t know how the tire will behave in off-road driving, look at the tread pattern. Deeper and more aggressive tread patterns work better in off-road driving, no matter the surface. That said, deeper and more aggressive tread pattern means that the tire will have worse on-road performance, limited handling abilities, worse fuel economy and much more noise.
- Stone and mud ejectors – a very important part of mud-terrain tires. Almost every mud-terrain tire today has stone and mud ejectors built-in, but some of them are worse than the others. That’s why you should always buy tires from reputable manufacturers. Stone and mud ejectors not only keep the tire clean for better traction and grip in off-road driving, but they also help in on-road driving – if the tire is full of mud, traction will be severely limited. At the end of the day, this technology allows the tire to last longer – the stones that get stuck in the tire may damage the tread. And hey, you surely wouldn’t want to clean the tires of stones after every off-road excursion?
- Cut, chip and puncture resistance – nobody wants a punctured tire out of the road and neither should you. The best mud-terrain tires offer cut, chip and puncture resistance and I highly recommend choosing one of those tires if you are serious about off-roading.
- Rubber quality – most high-quality mud tires are made of rubber enhanced with silica and carbon compounds, which give more strength and elasticity. If possible, read the manufacturer description and look for more exotic materials.
- Reinforcing with nylon for durability – mud-terrain tires are often equipped with steel belts and nylon for better durability in off-road conditions. This is very important, especially on rocky terrain and in situations when you need to run the tire with a lower pressure for better traction.
- Sidewall tread – in the most demanding off-road conditions, you may find yourself in very deep mud. This condition is challenging for almost every tire out there – most of the drivers get stuck due to loss of traction and sinking. In order to be able to get out of deep mud, there are tires with sidewall tread. This tread helps in situations when the main tire tread loses traction with the ground.
- Ply ratings – if you plan on using the tires for towing and hauling, I recommend choosing tires with bigger ply rating. This not only improves the load ability, but it will also give you the chance to use your mud-terrain tires with extremely low pressure for the most demanding off-road conditions. Keep in mind though that the higher the ply rating, the heavier the tire is. This means that your vehicle will be slower and will use more fuel.
- Are there hard winters in your area? Then, you will be better served with mud-terrain tires with the 3PMSF symbol. This means that they are tested in cold weather and snow and should provide you with enough traction in winter conditions. That said, most of the mud-terrain tires only come with M+S abilities. These tires should only be used in light snow, and not in severe winter conditions. At the end of the day, the best way to tell if a mud-terrain tire has good snow traction is by looking for small sipes on the tread pattern, like in almost every winter tire.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Are mud tires good in snow or rain?
Mud-terrain tires may look like they can attack even the deepest snow, but in reality, they are very limited in this scenario. See, mud tires are good for very deep snow, where the deep and aggressive tread design can help with traction and grip (albeit not at the level of proper winter tires). But in light snow, or when the snow is partially covered with ice or water, mud-terrain tires can lose traction and your vehicle will behave like a sled. Wet performance is also a problem with mud tires – they are prone to hydroplaning and can lose traction easily. The best mud-terrain tires are better in the wet, but I still recommend driving with caution.
- Are mud tires noisy?
Generally, mud tires are the noisiest of any other tire type. This is especially felt on the highway, where the noise can become tiring very soon. There are mud tires that are less noisy, but in general, if you want a quiet highway ride, you’d be better served with all-terrain tires or even better, highway all-season tires.
- Are mud tires good for the highway?
Not the best solution to be honest. They are not only noisy, but they also have a negative effect on performance, grip and stability. In other words, your SUV or truck will have less stability in the corners, longer stopping distances, and it will have worse acceleration and top speed.
- How long do mud tires last?
Generally, mud tires are more prone to tread wear when compared to all-terrain tires, and especially when compared to highway all-season tires. Treadlife also varies depending on where you use the tires – off-road driving has a bigger negative effect on them while driving style can also have a big effect. Heavily modified SUVs or trucks will also have a negative effect on the tire. In my experience, they last around 30.000-40.000 miles in mixed driving, but if you use them exclusively for off-road driving, you may need to change them after 25.000-miles.
- How often to rotate mud tires?
In order to keep your mud-terrain tires in the best shape, it is recommended to rotate the front and back tires every 4.000-6.000 miles, or on every oil change.
I think that this article pretty much says everything you need to know about mud tires, and also what are the best mud tires out there. While you should definitely be cautious when choosing the next set of mud-terrain tires, it is very hard to make a bad choice today, as most of the tires are of very high quality.
That said, always avoid buying very cheap tires, as they will not only ruin your expectations, but some of them can be very dangerous. In other words, don’t steer away from reputable manufacturers. In the end, always choose a tire that will suit your driving style and your needs, of course after reading this exhausting article.