Updated by Car Talk Staff March 16, 2020
When you’re about to replace the tires on your Toyota RAV-4, the choices can be rather bewildering. It’s one of the most popular vehicles in the United States and its tires are the most common sizes, so the selection is massive. Here is an overview of the best tire options for the Toyota RAV-4 crossover, including the original equipment tires, as well as several choices based on your budget.
Best 17-inch Tires for the Toyota RAV-4 (LE, XLE):
- Sumitomo Touring LS: Best budget tire
- Dynapro HT RH12: Best mid-priced tire
- Michelin Premier LTX. Best superior tire
Original Equipment RAV-4 Tires
The current generation Toyota RAV-4 crossover is sold in five trims, but with two different tire sizes, a 17-inch and a 19-inch, depending on trim and options. Note that the Adventure trim was new for 2018, but the size and brand of tire are exactly the same as the Limited and XLE Premium. In those two sizes, the RAV-4 was equipped with the following different brands of tire:
LE and XLE (225/65R17):
Limited, XLE (Optional), XLE Premium and Adventure (235/55R19)
Top Replacement Tire Brands for Toyota RAV-4
We’re going to recommend tires by trim level instead of sizes. The bulk of RAV-4 trims (XLE, XLE Premium, Limited and Adventure) all sort of do the same job, so the recommended tires are all suitable for each. The LE is the budget trim, and the standard XLE tire is the same. Note, we’re assuming that nobody is replacing tires on a 2020 RAV-4 TRD Off-Road yet, so we’re not including it in our recommendations.
Remember to verify which of the three sizes your RAV-4 has.
Here is the trim vs. possible tire size matrix for the RAV-4:
- 17-inch (RAV-4 LE and XLE):
- 19-Inch (RAV-4 XLE with the optional 19-inch wheels, XLE Premium, Limited, and Adventure)
Here are Car Talk’s suggested tire picks for the RAV-4 LE and XLE with the standard 17-inch wheels:
- Budget 17-inch: Sumitomo Touring LS H. These Sumitomos are a truly inexpensive tire, yet they have an excellent reputation among those who have purchased them. They perform well in wet and dry weather, but they fall down a bit in the snow, so keep that in mind. They also don’t have a terribly long UTQG 460 endurance rating, so you may be replacing them sooner than one of the other options.
- Moderately Priced 17-inch: Hankook Dynapro HT RH12. Well rated among consumers for wet and dry performance, the Dynapro HT RH12 also has a super-long 720 UTQG tread life rating, meaning you may have these tires a good long time. The only real demerit is their winter performance.
- Cost-No-Object 17-inch: The Michelin Premier LTX is an exceptional tire. Unlike the other recommendations, this tire performs as well in the winter weather as it does in the wet and dry. While we always recommend winter tires, if you’re not going to follow that advice, this may be the tire for you. However, what makes it a good winter tire is its soft rubber compound, which some consumers noted resulted in lower tread life.
For the RAV-4 XLE with the optional 19-inch wheels, the XLE Premium, Limited, and Adventure, we recommend the following tires:
- Budget: Sumitomo HTR A/S P02 - These tires are highly regarded for wet and dry traction and comfort on the highway, which is a touring tire’s job. However, they also perform fairly well in the winter weather. Their tread life rating of 500 suggests that you’ll get a good 50,000 miles out of them before they require replacement.
- Moderately Priced: General Altimax RT43 - Another excellent tire with great ratings in every weather condition, but at a price that won’t cause atrial defibrillation. Their 700 UTQG tread life rating is a good sign if you don’t want to replace tires every three seasons.
- Cost-No-Object: Pirelli Scorpion Verde All Season - Pirelli makes an excellent tire for certain jobs. If your RAV-4 spends a lot of time long-distance touring, comfort and low noise are key, and that’s what you’ll get out of these. They don’t perform as well as our other recommendations in the winter weather, and their tread life is going to be less than either of those two, as well.
When Should You Replace Tires?
There are two regular milestones that will suggest that it’s time to replace the tires, not only on your Toyota RAV-4, but any vehicle in your driveway: Time and Mileage.
Considering most drivers cover between 12,000 and 15,000 miles per year, the vast majority of RAV-4 owners are going to be past the mileage that their original equipment tires were intended to cover before they’ll go past the tire’s usable age.
The life of your tire can be somewhat predicted by its UTQG (Uniform Tire Quality Grade) rating. Tire manufacturers apply their own grades to tires for treadwear, traction, and temperature. When you’re researching tires online, a UTQG will come up next to the tire name in three digits and a number (ex. 500 A A).
You can glean a bit of info from the tires by reading this rating:
- 500 - The durability rating of a tire, compared to a control tire with a tread life of 100. To obtain a grade, tires run on a 640-kilometer course for 11,520 km. Every 1,280 km, the tread depth is measured, to provide a projected tread life. The higher the number, the longer the predicted tread life.
- A - This is the Traction rating of a tire, which indicates how well a tire stops in wet conditions. The highest letter grade is AA, followed by A, B, and C.
- A - The second letter in the UTQG is the Temperature rating, which indicates how well a tire holds up to extreme heat. A is the highest, followed by B and C.
Original equipment Yokohama Geolander tires Nissan fits the RAV-4 earns a 740 A A UTGQ rating. Unless they are damaged, these tires could last as long as 70,000 miles before you need to replace them.
The other consideration is time. Each tire has a raised date code on the sidewall. The number begins with the letters “DOT” followed by 12 digits in three four-digit groups. The date code is the third group of four digits. To decipher the date of your tires, the first two digits represent the WEEK the tire was produced, and the second two digits represent the YEAR.
For example, if your tire’s date code is 3217, that indicates the tire was manufactured in the 37th week of 2017, or sometime between September 11 and 17th that year.
Once tires go beyond five years old, it’s time to consider replacing them. Tires are made up not just of rubber and steel or kevlar belts, but chemicals that help the tires resist UV rays, temperature changes and a lot of other environmental hazards. Those chemicals start to break down after five years or so, and the tires aren’t doing the job that they need to do.
Why Not Replace with Original Equipment Tires?
There’s no harm in replacing your tires with the shoes it came with from the factory. However, depending on what kind of driver you are, there are significant reasons to purchase something different.
You only need to purchase ONE set of tires for your car every four years or so, depending on how much you drive. When an auto manufacturer purchases tires, they buy them by the hundreds of thousands. For the manufacturer, the decision to choose a supplier one brand or another comes down to a price point.
For you, your consideration may be completely different. If you could get a tire that stopped 20 feet shorter for an additional $10 per tire over the original equipment, you’d probably do it. Similarly, if there was a tire that provided less road noise or longer tread life for a minimal investment overstock, chances are, you’d probably decide on the slightly more expensive tire.
Changing Toyota RAV-4 Tire Sizes
Depending on the year and model, you may be shopping tires to fit anything between 15-inch for older models to 19-inch wheels with various widths and sidewall sizes along the way. It is possible to change the wheel and tire sizes, but a general rule of thumb is to keep the total diameter of the wheel and tire the same. So, that means that downsizing an 18-inch wheel to a 17-inch wheel would include a proportionate upsizing of the tire sidewall to compensate.
Downsizing wheels has its advantages. Benefits include:
- Better ride quality – More rubber means more cushion for poor road conditions.
- Cost reduction – Big tires are expensive, so moving to a smaller wheel size will mean less costly tire purchases.
- Seasonal changes – Winter and snow tires are available for a larger selection of smaller wheel sizes and the narrower footprint will provide better traction.
- Off-road – Many people choose to downsize wheels for off-road use to increase the vehicle’s shock absorption capabilities and bump traction on loose surfaces.
On the other side of the coin, going up in wheel size has its benefits:
- Better handling – Slimmer profile tires make for less rubber to move around
- Better looks – This one’s subjective, but many people feel that larger wheels look better than smaller wheels with more rubber.
- Better braking – Larger, wider wheels provide a bigger patch of rubber on the ground to slow the vehicle, reducing braking distance.
How to Read Tire Sizes
When reading tire sizes, it’s important to understand what the numbers mean. Let’s use an all-season tire with a 235/65R17 103H specification as an example:
- 235 indicates the width of the tire from one sidewall to the other in millimeters. This tire is 235 millimeters wide.
- 65 indicates the aspect ratio, or sidewall height, as a percentage of the tire’s width. In this case, it’s 50 percent or of the tire’s width.
- R means radial tires. Radials are the most common type of automotive tire and have fabric woven in at various angles with a tread that is strengthened with additional layers of rubber.
- 17 indicates the wheel diameter.
- 103 is the tire’s load rating.
- H is the tire’s speed rating. V-rated tires have a maximum top speed of 130 mph.
You may have noticed that the Toyota RAV-4’s three tire sizes have different diameters and also different aspect ratios. Generally, automakers choose tires that have the same or similar outer diameter. This allows them to have only one speedometer setting.
Now that you know what comes on the new RAV-4 and how to read the size numbers, let’s look at the different types of tires available to you. Depending on the type of driving you’re doing, where you live, and the weather, you have a variety of choices for tire types:
- Touring and All-season tires provide a smooth ride, good wet and dry traction, decent winter traction, and longer tread life. These tires are acceptable for winter use but can’t be expected to provide the traction and stopping power than a dedicated winter tire can.
- Performance tires are focused on providing confident handling, better wet and dry traction, and a sporty feel. Their higher grip and speed ratings come with a tradeoff of shortened tread life and reduced ride quality.
- All-terrain tires are built to maximize off-road traction and provide good durability overall. Their construction means more noise and less comfort on the road, but winter traction and tread wear are acceptable.
- Winter and snow tires are made with special rubber compounds that maintain grip and pliability when temperatures drop. They are also built with special tread patterns to maximize the vehicle’s ability to start and stop on very slippery roads.
Toyota RAV-4 Tire FAQ
Q: What is the best Toyota RAV-4 tire pressure?
A: Check inside your driver’s side door for a white and yellow label that will tell you the exact tire pressure recommendations for your RAV-4 model. Note that the pressure on the tire itself is never the correct setting, but rather a maximum. Here’s a tip: Nissan has an inflation assistant to help you inflate your tires to the proper pressure. It’s called “Easy-Fill Tire Alert.” Check your manual section on tires for how to use it.
Q: How often should I rotate my RAV-4’s tires?
A: Rotating tires is more about the tire than it is about the car. A typical rotation interval is somewhere between 5,000 and 7,000 miles, though specific cars and tires may change those numbers a bit. The RAV-4 is a front-wheel drive-based vehicle, so the front tires will be worn more quickly than the rears. It’s important to keep this in mind and to not ignore the need to rotate your tires.
Q: What is the best RAV-4 tire change kit?
A: Your RAV-4 should have come equipped with a compact spare tire and changing tools in the trunk. In this case, you already have everything you need to physically change the tire, but you may want to carry an extra roadside emergency kit with an upgraded lug wrench, jumper cables, and emergency markers just in case.
Tire Buying FAQ
Q: Where do I shop for the best prices?
A: Several online retailers like Tire Rack offer regular discounts and free shipping for their tires. Their sites also have tire fit guides and pricing estimators to help you understand what you’re buying.
Q: How much is shipping?
A: Most online tire retailers have free shipping or reduced shipping cost when you choose to have them installed at a partner shop. The retailer may have an arrangement with a local tire chain or installation center and can ship the tires there for free.
Q: How long does shipping take?
A: Retailers like Tire Rack offer fast shipping and can often have tires to your preferred installer in as little as two days. Many others, like Discount Tire Direct, offer the same fast and free shipping.
Q: How much does it cost to install a tire?
A: Some shops will offer free installation when you purchase tires from them, and online retailers often promote the same deal for people who choose to have the installation done at one of their partners. If you do find yourself paying for tire installation, expect to pay between $15 and $50 per tire, depending on what is needed. That money pays for mounting and balancing the tire to ensure a safe and comfortable ride.
Q: Do I need to change the tire pressure monitoring system with tires?
A: The tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) is independent of your tires, but should be checked at regular intervals to ensure no damage or malfunctions are occurring. Your local tire shop can perform this check as part of a normal tire rotation or installation.
Q: Can an online retailer help me with winter tires?
A: Yes! You can find the right fit, tread pattern, and speed rating on nearly any online retailer’s site. They sometimes offer specials and rebates around the time when people start looking for winter tires (late fall).
Q: If I’m changing tire sizes or buying winter tires, should I buy a wheel and tire package from an online retailer?
A: It’s certainly not a requirement to buy your tires and wheels from the same place, but you’re more likely to get a deal on the package if you buy from the same place. Check the retailer’s specials and make a determination from there. You may also find a better deal ordering either the tires or wheels online and buying the other component from your local shop.
Q: Do online retailers provide tire rebates the way traditional stores do?
A: Yes, and in some cases, rebates are offered alongside discounts on the tires. It’s important to ask questions and understand what you’re getting, so be sure to chat or call the retailer before ordering if the rebates are unclear.