Which are the best tires for your SUV? That depends on who you ask. The manufacturer’s priorities when they decided on tires for your SUV may be different than yours. You may place a high value on things like fuel economy and a smooth ride or maybe you’re focused on winter weather capability. Whatever your priority, the good news is that there are multiple tire choices for your SUV.
Car Talk recently launched our Golden Wrench Awards for excellence in tires. Below are our overall picks for the top tires for your SUV or crossover.
The CrossContact LX25 from Continental is our Golden Wrench winner due to its truly all-season capabilities, excellent handling and traction in dry, wet and lightly snowy conditions, and its solid reviews and ratings.
The CrossClimate SUV receives the Golden Wrench due to its excellence in handling, traction and tread life in every season. The CrossClimate has an innovative tread pattern which allows for stellar grip and stability in all seasons.
The Discoverer SRX from Cooper Tires receives our Golden Wrench award due to its excellent performance in all seasons and highly rated customer reviews.
The Pirelli Scorpion Verde All Season Plus 2 is our Silver Wrench winner, due to its innovative design, true all season capabilities and long tread life.
The Advantage TA Sport LT from BFGoodrich is our Silver Wrench winner due to its long tread life, excellence in snow and severe conditions and sturdy handling in all four seasons.
The Goodyear Assurance CS Fuel Max receives our Bronze Wrench as this tire offers solid durability, dry, wet, and snow capabilities and enhanced fuel economy.
There are also a lot of choices when it comes to SUVs. There are small SUVs such as the Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, and Jeep Cherokee. Then there are midsize SUVs including the Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Volkswagen Atlas, and Honda Pilot. Sitting at the top of the heap are large SUVs such as the Ford Expedition, Chevrolet Tahoe, and Nissan Armada.
That’s a wide range of potential tire sizes for a wide range of vehicles. Here are our honorable mentions and writer's personal favorites for tires for your SUV depending on which SUV you park in your driveway.
There are a wide range of tire sizes for SUVs that not only vary from one SUV to the next, but even within the trim range of a single SUV depending on which one you buy. The key is getting a tire that fits the wheel you have on your vehicle, so start by determining the size of your wheels and then research the best tires in that size.
We’ve recommended three replacement tires in a variety of sizes, with moderately priced and cost-no-object varieties. No matter your budget, there are plenty of choices available for your SUV. All of these tires have ratings of four-stars or higher based on consumer surveys and all are based on the 2020 model year:
There are two regular milestones that will suggest that it’s time to replace the tires, not only on your SUV, but any vehicle: Time and mileage.
Considering most drivers cover between 12,000 and 15,000 miles per year, the vast majority of SUV 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:
Original equipment Bridgestone Dueler H/L Alenza tires on the Chevrolet Tahoe earn a solid 600 A A UTGQ rating. Unless they are damaged, these tires could last as long as 60,000 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 some time 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.
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.
Consider how you will be driving your SUV. Are you sticking with highway miles for the daily commute? Are you focused on having an SUV that won’t get stuck when winter does its worst? Are you all about heading off-road? Pick replacement tires best suited to the kind of driving you plan to do in your SUV.
Depending on the year and model, you may be shopping tires to fit anything between 15-inch for older models to 22-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:
On the other side of the coin, going up in wheel size has its benefits:
When reading tire sizes, it’s important to understand what the numbers mean. Let’s stick with our Chevrolet Tahoe example, which has 22-inch wheels and P285/45R22 110H all-season tires:
You may notice an SUV has different diameters and also different aspect ratios. Generally, automakers choose tires that have the same outer diameter. This allows them to have only one speedometer setting.
Now that you know how to read the size numbers to understand the tires on your SUV, 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:
There’s no answer to this question. There isn’t any brand that necessarily provides a better tire for one class of vehicles versus another. You need to ask yourself some questions about what you’re looking for in a tire. Do you want quiet highway cruising, or are you more interested in off-highway performance? Are you looking for a tire that provides long life, or outstanding grip in the corners? From there, you can begin to narrow down your choices, and find a tire that meets your budget.
Check inside your driver’s side door for a white and yellow label that will tell you the exact tire pressure recommendations for your SUV model. That tire pressure can also change depending on the load of passengers you’re carrying, as well as the cargo load and off-road conditions. Note that the pressure on the tire itself is never the correct setting, but rather a maximum.
Rotating tires is more about the tire than it is about the vehicle. A typical rotation interval is somewhere between 5,000 and 7,000 miles, though specific cars and tires may change those numbers a bit. Uneven tire wear is more common if you don’t have all-wheel or four-wheel drive, making rotating your tires even more important. Do not blow off this service.
Depending on your SUV, you’ll likely have a spare tire mounted inside the cargo area underneath the floor or on the exterior of the vehicle under the same area. There will also be tools for changing the tire. 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.
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.
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.
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. It also depends on where you live. If you’re in a large metro area, close to a distribution center, it should be relatively quick. If you live 5 miles from East Moosejaw, it might take a little longer.
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 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.
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 normal tire rotation or installation.
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).
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.
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.
Ordering your tires online vs. the shop will save you money