You’re about to make the move and buy a 4×4. Your dream offroad trip is within reach—desolate, picturesque pieces of heaven, hidden from and inaccessible to the everyday traveler. You’ve heard talk about the importance of offroad tires – Do you have the right tires; what’s the fuss about; and most importantly, by how much will they set you back?
Offroad tires are generally more expensive than standard road tires. For a full set, offroad tires cost between $800 to $2000 versus regular passenger vehicle tires, which range between $320 to $600.
Woah! For that price, do you need them? Is it worth it? You’ve already spent a fortune on the 4×4, and no 4×4 is complete without some essential kit that needs to be added on. Spending so much on tires doesn’t seem all that important, is it?
Within this price range, there lies a variety of sub-categories and considerations you will need to evaluate before deciding and taking the plunge.
Are Offroad Tires Worth It?
Your tires are what connect and keep your vehicle on the road, whether it be a tar road, a gravel road, swampy marshes, loose sand, or rocky passes.
Regardless of the make and capabilities of your 4×4, it will not perform as expected with the wrong tires fitted for its purpose. There may be other factors at play, like ground clearance, whether a long-wheelbase or a short-wheelbase, wheel articulation, gear ratios, torque, etc., but very few of them are as important or have as big of an impact as your tires.
If you’re using your 4×4 for any other purpose than driving to work and back on a tar road daily, the correct offroad tires are necessary.
If you’re buying a Jeep Wrangler instead of a Ford Fusion, you already realize the importance of “purpose-built” and that it’s worth it.
Types of Offroad Tires
What’s your purpose for buying a 4×4? Is it just a zhooshed-up town car that will only see tar roads during its lifetime? Are you buying it for the challenge of traversing 4×4 obstacle courses with mates in your spare time, or will you be wandering off the beaten track on an adventure to explore the road less traveled and discover some hidden gems?
There is an offroad tire to fit every purpose, and before deciding, you need to honestly evaluate your purpose. Really. Honestly. Like flip-flops don’t do that well when hiking a mountain, too high heels aren’t quite that suitable for a day on the beach.
Your vehicles’ footwear also comes in various purpose-built compounds, tread design, and carcass construction.
Let’s look at three of the most pertinent types:
- Highway Terrain Tires (H/T)
H/T tires are usually the standard tires fitted to a showroom 4×4. Although they are capable of some light offroad conditions, they will spend most of their life on a tar road, a 30% offroad, 70% on-road split.
The compound, tread design, and carcass construction are softer, optimized for better on-road handling, steering responsiveness, and noise reduction, instead of offroad capabilities in soft sand, mud, or rocky terrains.
- All Terrain Tires (A/T)
A/T tires are arguably the best “all-rounder” for offroad tires. The compound and carcass construction are stronger, tread design more open, and it’s better capable of dealing with rocks and ruts, lending itself more towards its offroad capabilities, in various terrain types, without too much of a compromise when it does drive on tar. Of the true offroad options, it is also the most economical. Ideal for the vehicle that will be closer to a 50/50 or 60/40 split between offroad and on-road driving.
- Mud Terrain Tires (M/T)
Although there is no better option when driving in offroad terrain, being able to drive out of conditions that seem impossible to traverse, the almost unsettling, high noise, vibration, and harshness levels of these tires, and resulting tough handling on tar roads and plummeting fuel economy, make them so purpose-specific that they should only be used for a predominantly offroad application.
All Terrains versus Mud Terrains: Benefits and Cons
The two biggest camps for offroad tires are All Terrain (A/T) and Mud Terrain (M/T) tires.
Both All Terrain and Mud Terrain tires have developed and improved drastically in recent years. The stereotypical noisiness and poor longevity of Mud Terrains no longer ring as true as it once did, as is the case with All Terrains that have become even more capable offroad and, of late, has also started to look the part.
The main benefits and cons, however, remain to a degree:
|All-Terrain (A/T)||Mud Terrain (M/T)|
|Performs well on- and offroadInexpensiveLong-lastingFuel economy||Superb offroad traction and performanceExtra sidewall and shoulder protectionLooks cool aesthetically|
|Noisier than H/TLower offroad performance than mud terrains||Noisy on-roadAverage road performanceLess durable on tarred roads|
What About Cheaper Brands?
As with most things in life, quality comes at a price – and there’s a reason for it.
A wealth of research, development, and testing goes into tire manufacturing; it’s not just rubber. All that research and development results in the claims made by tire manufacturers that are usually backed up in guarantees, warranties, and after-sales service.
When a manufacturer can offer a tire for a much lower price, it begs the question: Why? What was skimped on to offer a tire at such a low price? Sub-par compounds? Sub-par design? Sub-par testing? Limited, if any, research and development?
Buying a reputable brand from a reputable tire dealer gives you as the consumer peace of mind in that the dealer firstly has the knowledge and experience to make an informed recommendation to you and secondly, can offer after-sales service, which will not be forthcoming from an online “deal” you picked-up off the internet.
Expensive tires made by renowned manufacturers will have much better performance than low-end manufacturers. To name a few, they improve your vehicle’s braking and handling can include reducing road noise, improving ride quality, improving thread life, and better fuel economy. To sum it up – paying a bit more from the outset will save you money and, in all probability, frustration, in the long run, while improving your driving comfort and safety.
Do you want to be stuck out in challenging terrain, miles away from cellphone reception, when you find out that taking the cheap option was not the best?
Best Offroad Tires
The tire market is full of brands, and it’s tempting to select the cheaper brand that looks the part, but when it comes to something as important as tires, you don’t want to skimp when it can impact on factors as important as your safety and the safety of your family.
The top five tried and tested brands of offroad tires are:
- BF Goodridge Mud Terrain & All Terrain
- Cooper Discoverer STT Pro
- Nitto Ridge Grappler
- Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac
- Falken Wildpeak
Here’s the truth: Offroad tires are more expensive, just like your 4×4 is more costly. But more expensive than what?
It’s about perspective – You are not purchasing offroad tires for your everyday sedan; you’re buying tires for your 4×4, with a purpose in mind. When purchasing a 4×4, you select a vehicle that compromises what you want, what you need, and what you can afford for your specific purpose. The same goes for its tires. Invest in the best tire you can afford and explore with peace of mind.