Thanks in no part to the Dakar Rally and Baja 1000, sand driving gains popularity each year. There is something about going places where nobody else can, that’s for sure. However, you will undoubtedly need specialized equipment if you want to explore the deserts or drive on some deserted beach.
Obviously, the vehicle you choose must be equipped with an all-wheel-drive system, have very large suspension travel, high ground clearance, and possibly, a reduction gearbox. But, apart from a proven off-road machine, the single most important thing for sand driving is the tires.
That is clear to most sand-driving enthusiasts, but most of them still make mistakes when purchasing tires. The issue here is the sand itself – it performs differently to any other surface you encounter. As a result of that, tires that work on other off-road surfaces, such as mud, might not be the best choice for sand.
The issue is, most drivers won’t purchase different sets of tires for different surfaces. Off-road enthusiasts often use just one set of tires for every type of surface, including hardpacked surfaces, rocks, mud, and sand. And most often than not, the tires they purchase don’t work on every surface, at least not tremendously well.
Fortunately, you arrived just at the right destination to find the best sand tires for your SUV or truck. Here, we will present to you our curated list of the best tires for sand on the market, divided into several categories.
We decided on the categories in order to give you more choice. Some tires will offer a combination of on-road dynamics and solid sand traction, while others will work better on hardpacked surfaces and mud, and also offer solid sand traction. It always comes down to your own needs and requirements.
Since sand driving always proves to be taxing on how tires perform, we also included a detailed buying guide. There, you can learn everything there is to know about sand tires, but also how to better prepare your vehicle and tires for the next desert expedition. Preparation and planning are crucial for sand driving, so we suggest reading through that section if you’re a newbie.
Best Tires for Sand 2020
1. Best All-Season Tires for Sand
Mickey Thompson Baja ATZ P3
The Baja ATZ P3 is perhaps the best all-terrain tire for driving on sand. Actually, Mickey Thompson focused on giving this tire better sand performance, which shows in the real world.
The Baja ATZ P3 is equipped with a Silica-reinforced compound with cut-chip resistance and Powerply 3-Ply sidewall construction for sidewall protection. That helps with deflating – you can use these tires almost with no pressure at all.
Moreover, thanks to the carefully-designed tread pattern, you can use the Baja ATZ P3 pretty much on every other off-road surface. It surely doesn’t hurt that the tire works very well on the street and that it comes with a 45,000-mile treadwear warranty.
- Excellent traction and sinking resistance on sand
- Very good for other off-road surfaces
- Tough and durable construction
- Very good stability, traction, and grip on the street
- Snow traction and braking
Continental TerrainContact A/T
A quick look at the TerrainContact A/T shows that it isn’t as aggressive as some other all-terrain tires, but that’s good for sand driving.
Thanks to the tough construction, you can deflate the TerrainContact to very low pressures and float over dunes. The tread pattern should be aggressive-enough to give you good traction.
The best thing about this tire is that it works outstandingly well once you hit the street. Handling and braking are great, while comfort is probably the best in the category.
Continental also provides a 60,000-mile treadwear warranty, which is an amazing feature.
With that said, we wouldn’t rely on this tire in very deep mud or over larger rocks.
- Excellent performance on sand
- One of the best all-terrain tires for the street
- Outstanding 60,000-mile treadwear warranty
- Comfortable and quiet on the road
- Doesn’t work well in mud
Falken Wildpeak AT3W
The Falken Wildpeak AT3W has an aggressive and deep tread pattern, but one that manages to work very well on sand surfaces. The tough construction also aids deflating, which further helps with usability in deserts or on beaches.
The aggressive tread also helps on other off-road surfaces – this tire is useful for driving on gravel, dirt, mud, and rocks.
On the street, stability is excellent as well, and there is a usable amount of grip and traction on dry and wet surfaces. Moreover, the Wildpeak AT3W is one of the best all-terrain tires for snow driving.
With that said, the tire is noisy on the highway, probably due to the more aggressive tread pattern.
- Excellent all-terrain tire for sand driving
- Outstanding off-road traction overall
- Good on-road dynamics
- Excellent over unpacked snow
- Noisy at higher speeds
Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain Adventure with Kevlar
The Goodyear Wrangler series of tires is our favorite when it comes to off-roading, specifically due to the super-tough construction with Kevlar.
That also helps the all-terrain version with deflating, which in itself helps when driving on sand. The tread pattern might be too aggressive for very deep sand, though, but you should be able to mitigate that with very low inflating pressures.
On the positive side, the Wrangler will work on every other off-road surface equally well, including unpacked snow. Goodyear offers a 60,000-mile treadwear warranty on the Wrangler, which is an outstanding feature.
- Very strong construction that helps with deflating;
- Outstanding traction on every slippery surface
- Good performance on the road
- Usable over unpacked snow
- Best-in-class 60,000-mile treadwear warranty
- The tread pattern might be too aggressive for deep sand
Bridgestone Dueler A/T Revo 3
Much like the Continental TerrainContact, the Bridgestone Dueler Revo 3 focuses on the road performance. The tread pattern isn’t overly aggressive, which hurts mud-terrain traction.
However, that helps for driving over sand, where the Revo 3 shows very good performance. Also, thanks to the tough construction, you can deflate this tire to very low pressures, which helps with floating.
The best thing about the Dueler Revo 3 is the on-road dynamics and comfort – this tire feels almost like a highway tire on the street. Also, Bridgestone provides an outstanding 60,000-mile treadwear warranty.
- Excellent overall performance on the road
- Very quiet and comfortable on the highway
- Tough and durable construction that aids deflating
- Long treadwear warranty
- Average traction in mud
- Snow traction is only average
Michelin LTX A/T 2
Michelin isn’t the first thing that you think of when purchasing off-road tires Nevertheless, the LTX A/T 2 is a very good option for sand driving, especially thanks to the strong construction that aids deflating.
Moreover, the tread pattern isn’t overly aggressive and won’t dig into the sand too much, which is certainly helpful. For other areas, we found that the LTX 2 works outstandingly well on hardpacked surfaces, but not very well in mud or over rocks.
On the positive side, this is one of the best all-terrain tires for street driving in terms of safety, and also one of the most comfortable. Michelin offers a 60,000-mile treadwear warranty on the LTX 2.
- Responsive handling and strong braking on the street
- Tough construction aids deflating
- Excellent traction on wet and snowy surfaces
- Outstanding treadlife
- Very good performance on hardpacked surfaces
- Quiet and comfortable for the category
- Not the best option for mud or rocky surfaces
Hankook Dynapro AT-M
Hankook’s all-terrain tire is more akin to the Continental TerrainContact and Bridgestone Dueler Revo 3 – it works better on the street.
That is certainly not a bad thing, especially because the tread pattern works very well on dunes. Also, the construction is tough and durable, which aids deflating.
Hankook provides a 50,000-mile treadwear warranty, which is impressive for the price.
That said, while the Dynapro AT-M is usable over hardpacked surfaces, it doesn’t work very well in mud or snow.
- Very good performance on the street and highway
- Excellent handling on hardpacked surfaces;
- Long treadwear warranty for the price
- Budget-friendly pricing
- Traction in deep mud is only average
- Snow traction is limited
2. Best Dedicated Sand Tires
Nitto Dune Grappler
The Nitto Dune Grappler is a tire that’s designed primarily with sand driving in mind. Naturally, it will work better than all-terrain tires on deserts and beaches, but it is also worse on other surfaces. Still, for the sand-driving enthusiasts out there, we think that it’s an excellent choice.
The Dune Grappler features a unique flamer tread pattern, which improves traction in the sand without digging or introducing sinking. In the real world, the Nitto works as advertised – it floats over the sand and doesn’t sink too much.
Interestingly, the Dune Grappler is also usable for street driving, especially when it comes to comfort. It’s not perfect – wet traction is pretty abysmal, but that is expected from a dedicated sand tire. Moreover, traction on other off-road surfaces is usable as well, but still, not overly good.
The largest issue we have with the Terra Grappler is the price, which is higher than the all-terrain alternatives.
- Outstanding performance in shallow and deep sand
- Excellent resistance to sinking
- The tough construction aids deflating
- Quiet and comfortable on the street
- Wet traction is abysmal
BFGoodrich Baja T/A KR2
The BF Goodrich Baja KR2 is a tire that was developed on the Baja 1000 championship races. As a matter of fact, it’s also the most successful tire in that championship. Naturally, it is also the greatest sand tire for off-road enthusiasts.
The Baja KR2 has enough biting edges and lateral traction to give you traction without sinking into the sand. Moreover, the self-cleaning tread design helps tremendously on longer driving sessions, while the tough construction aids deflating.
With that said, the Baja KR2 is far from the best choice for other surfaces. Thanks to the tough construction, it is usable over hardpacked surfaces, but not exceptional. Traction is mud is usable, again, but still worse than an actual mud-terrain tire.
The biggest downside of the Baja KR2 is the price, though, which is very high for a tire that is only really usable for sand driving. Still, if you want the best possible performance on sand, this is by far the best choice.
- The best tire for sand driving
- Floats very well over the sand
- Resistant to sinking
- Tough and durable construction
- Not usable on the road
3. Best Highway Tires for Sand and Street Driving
Michelin Defender LTX M/S
The Defender LTX is by far the most accomplished highway tire on the market. It’s great for street driving, providing the driver with responsive and safe handling, even with a large trailer attached. The tire is also super tough and durable – it comes with an outstanding warranty of 70,000-miles treadlife.
As a result of that toughness, you can use the Defender LTX almost entirely deflated, which can greatly improve sand performance. That said, this is still a highway tire, so you need to lower the expectations. Don’t use it for very long off-road sessions, or in very deep sand. For casual sand driving, though, it should be fine.
The best thing about the Defender LTX is that it will be super quiet and comfortable once you hit the road, and very safe as well!
- Excellent street performance
- Usable in shallow sand
- Outstanding wet traction
- An excellent option for towing and hauling
- Very quiet and comfortable
- Doesn’t work very well over snow
How to Drive on Sand?
There are a few rules to follow if you want to be able to attack any dune properly. The first and most obvious one is having a lighter vehicle. Now, sure, most off-roaders are large, but even then, try not to carry a lot of heavy things.
Then, you need to ensure that your vehicle will float over the sand. The best way to do that is to purchase wider tires with higher sidewalls. That way, the weight of the car will be distributed to a larger surface and the tires won’t sink into the sand.
Also, the larger sidewalls will help you deflate the tires to lower pressures, which also helps tremendously with floating. It will be like driving on large balloons rather than vehicle tires. Look for tires that can be deflated to 10 psi – they should be ideal.
Then, you will need to make sure that you don’t spin the tires. When the wheels spin, they start digging into the sand, and you really don’t want that. Any time a wheel starts spinning, take off your foot from the gas pedal.
In the end, always take it slowly and be sure to keep the momentum once you get going. Sand is a very viscous substance and you won’t be able to drive fast anyway. Moreover, driving fast might sink your vehicle in no time. Take your time and let the floating tires work their magic. Also, never use the brakes – it will only sink the vehicle.
What Tread Pattern Works Best for Sand?
At first glance, tires with aggressive and deep tread patterns seem like the best choice for sand driving. And it seems logical, doesn’t it? Well, that’s the first mistake people do when purchasing tires for exploring the desert.
Tires with very aggressive tread patterns, like mud-terrain tires, provide outstanding traction on slippery surfaces. That is mostly thanks to the large and deep lugs, which can easily dig through things like mud. However, that is the biggest reason why they are not useful for driving on sand.
Sand performs much differently to mud. When the tires dig into the sand, they will start to sink. And sinking can be a big issue when you drive on the sand. What you want is to float over the sand. Something like floating on water.
We know, it sounds counterintuitive, but trust us, it’s true. So, yeah, you will need tires with a tread pattern, but not as aggressive as the one mud-terrain tires have. We’ve seen far too many off-roaders having issues with these tires and we strongly recommend against choosing them for driving on sand.
In our opinion, all-terrain tires offer the best combination of traction and floating, which makes them the best choice for sand driving. They will also provide you with usable traction on other surfaces, especially on hardpacked ones. You will lose the edge in mud, but the tires will still be usable.
Interestingly, even some highway tires can be used on sand, at least not a very deep one. They don’t have overly aggressive tread patterns but can be easily deflated to float above the sand. Also, these tires work tremendously well on the street and highway, which might be a significant advantage for some drivers.
There are some specialized sand tires available on the market. However, they are expensive and aren’t very useful on other surfaces. Of course, they will give you by far the best performance on sand, but for most people, they won’t be worth the hassle.
Still, in light of the fact that many desert enthusiasts might be reading this, we included two of the best sand tires in our Top 10 list.
The Importance of Load Ratings and Tire Size
By now you probably learned that the best tires for sand must be wide and tall and that they should float over the surface. Well, in order to achieve that, you will need tires with large load ratings and sizes.
The load rating signifies how much weight the tire can carry. Tires with larger load ratings have stiffer sidewalls, which lets them carry more weight without losing stability on the road.
So, how is that important for sand driving? It’s simple – if the tires have stiffer sidewalls, you will be able to deflate them more without damaging the rubber.
Models with load range E ratings should be perfectly well-suited to sand driving. These tires can be deflated to very low pressures and the sidewalls will still be able to carry the weight of the vehicle.
The size of the tires plays a big role in sand driving as well. Tires with larger contact area work much better because they distribute the weight of the vehicle on a larger footprint.
Also, the higher the sidewall, the more you can deflate the tire without worrying about damaging the rim. 33-inch, 35-inch, and 37-inch tires will work tremendously well on sand, precisely because they have very large sidewalls and a wide footprint.
How to Prepare for Driving on Sand?
Now that you learned about the best tires for sand, let’s see how you can better prepare for the next trip. This part is also very important, simply because sand terrains are often far from settlements. Here are a few simple tips that will make your next sand desert excursion safer:
- Bring a lot of food and drinks with you. We know, this opposes to “carrying less weight” in the vehicle, but you can save weight in other places.
- Bring polarized sunglasses – the sand can be pretty tiring to the eyes during the day.
- Take a shovel in case you get stuck. Also, have some wood panels on-board to help with traction.
- Always have a first-aid kit in your vehicle. Bringing a large power bank or a solar charger is a smart choice as well.
- Deflate the tires as much as they can bear before tackling sand. However, always make sure that you inflate them again before driving on paved roads or hardpacked surfaces.
- Do I need a permit to use a vehicle off-road at the seashore?
If you plan on driving on the seashore, be sure to get an ORV permit – it’s legally required. You can obtain the permit online and print it yourself.
- Can I drive over wet sand?
We strongly advise driving over wet sand, as sinking there is very easy.
- Are 33-inch tires good for sand driving?
Yes, 33-inch, 35-inch, and 37-inch tires are an excellent choice for driving on sand.
Driving on sand is extra fun until you get stuck somewhere. Fortunately, you can equip your vehicle to reduce the chances of getting stuck, primarily by choosing good tires. Any pair from the list above will work very well when driving over sand, but only if you prepare them well.
Be sure to carefully read through our buying guide to see how to do that, but also on how to choose the right set of tires for any combination of surfaces. Have fun!