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best tires

Buyer’s Guide to the Best Tires (2020)

  • The top 10 tire manufacturers offer a variety of choices.
  • The type of tire you purchase is as important as the tire brand you are buying.
  • Make sure you’re getting the right size by consulting your owner’s manual or matching your vehicle’s original tires.

Affiliate disclosure: Automoblog and its partners may be compensated when you purchase the products below.

Tires do more than keep your car moving forward – they also play a key role in your vehicle’s safety, fuel efficiency, and driving feel. But with so many different tire manufacturers and types of tires on the market, it can be confusing to find the best tires for your vehicle. 

Our review team has looked at the affordability, industry reputation, tire reliability, and tread-life warranties of each major tire manufacturer, and in this article, we’ll discuss the top 10 best tire brands available today.

We’ll also go over tire types, industry grading standards, tire maintenance, and how to choose the right tires based on your needs.

To start comparing the best tires on the market from a variety of brands, visit TireBuyer.com.

The Top 10 Best Tire Brands

Our review team thoroughly researched the tire market and found these 10 popular manufacturers to offer the best tires based on overall quality, industry reputation, affordability, and variety. We’ve given our top five brands a superlative to help better match your needs, but any of the top picks below are a reputable choice.

Best Tire Brand Overall Score Superlative Year in Business Industry Reputation Affordability
1. Michelin 4.5 Best Tires Overall 1889 5.0 3.0
2. Goodyear 4.5 Best for Durability 1898 5.0 3.5
3. Cooper 4.0 Most Affordable 1914 4.0 4.5
4. Bridgestone 4.0 Best for Run-Flat Tires 1931 4.5 3.5
5. Pirelli 4.0 Best for High-Performance 1872 4.5 3.0
6. BF Goodrich 4.0 1870 4.0 4.0
7. Continental 4.0 1915 4.0 3.0
8. Yokohama 4.0 1917 4.0 4.0
9. General 4.0 1915 4.0 4.5
10. Hankook 3.5 1941 3.5 5.0

1. Michelin: Best Tires Overall

One of the most popular tire brands in the U.S. and throughout the world, Michelin sells quality tires in virtually every category. From run-flat tires to summer tires to all-season tires, Michelin tops recommendation lists from consumers and industry experts alike.

The company offers original equipment tires and replacement tires, both of which can include a limited warranty for up to six years if there are any manufacturer defects. Michelin also offers long-lasting mileage warranties with many of its models, like the Michelin Defenders’ 80,000-mile coverage. Compared to other tire brands, this warranty length is above average. Michelin tires are a strong option if you’re driving a passenger car, SUV, light truck, or sports car.

To start shopping for Michelin tires, visit TireBuyer.com.

2. Goodyear: Best for Durability

Goodyear, another top-selling tire brand, has made a name for itself among drivers looking for durability. Founded in 1898 in Akron, Ohio, Goodyear tires are made to last for all types of vehicles, including off-road trucks and motorsports vehicles. However, as Goodyear tires are some of the best tires in the business, they come at a higher price.

The company puts its tires through rigorous in-house and independent testing before releasing any models to consumers. One study conducted by Test World, a Finnish company specializing in winter tire testing, found Goodyear tires outperformed other brands in almost every category and condition – including braking, acceleration, handling, ice, snow, rain, and dry roads. Goodyear replacement tires are also covered under a limited warranty for up to six years or a certain mileage, depending on the model purchased.

3. Cooper: Most Affordable

Considered the new kid on the block (despite being founded 1914), Cooper tires are considerably cheaper than most tire brands, without compromising quality. Some of its models, like the Cooper CS5 Grand Touring tire, can cost between $85 to $153, depending on the vehicle and tire size.

Unlike big brands such as Michelin and Goodyear, Cooper is an independent tire manufacturer. Finding Cooper tires can be difficult, as they’re mostly sold online or through participating dealerships. Cooper offers a treadwear warranty up to 80,000 miles, depending on the model purchased. 

To start shopping for Cooper tires, visit TireBuyer.com.

4. Bridgestone: Best for Run-Flat Tires

Bridgestone manufactures two brands of tires: Bridgestone and Firestone. The companies merged in 1988 and now offer a variety of passenger car, truck, and SUV tires. Bridgestone has been an innovative player in the industry and has made strides toward more environmentally friendly products.

Bridgestone also offers cutting-edge run-flat tires for drivers looking for added peace of mind on the road. Like the name may suggest, run-flat tires “can support the weight of a vehicle for a short time, providing the driver with about 100 miles of range to find a repair shop,” according to Edmunds.com. If you’re not keen on keeping a spare around or simply want to purchase products from a reputable tire manufacturer, Bridgestone is a tried-and-true option.

5. Pirelli: Best for High-Performance

Pirelli, an Italian manufacturer, is best known for supplying high-performance tires to luxury and exotic car manufacturers like Maserati, Lamborghini, Audi, BMW, and Porsche. With high-speed cars, performance tires are a must. Pirelli performance tires’ specific tread patterns and build make for excellent grip on the road in both dry and wet conditions.

While it may have a sporty reputation, Pirelli also makes tires for day-to-day passenger cars, trucks, and SUVs. However, the brand’s high-quality products come with high price tags. While you may be able to purchase an elite tire built for cornering and speed from Pirelli, it’ll cost you.

To start shopping for Pirelli tires, visit TireBuyer.com.

What Are the Best Tires for Your Vehicle?

Regardless of the tire brand you’re considering, you’ll need to know what set of tires to purchase. Tire types can vary based on temperature resistance, vehicle type, terrain, and driving patterns. The best tires will be specialized to your car and your driving. 

Below, we’ve outlined the most common types of tires.

Passenger Tires

Passenger tires are for vehicles that are designed for personal use – like hatchbacks, sedans, coupes, and crossovers. We’ve listed different types of passenger tires based on their specialization below.

  • Summer: Used almost exclusively in warm weather conditions
  • Track and competition: Designed for racing and high-speed performance
  • All-season: Can drive in many different road conditions, including some mud and snow
  • Touring: Specifically made for more comfortable drives with additional handling abilities
  • Performance: Made for speed, control, and gripping, and can often be found on high-speed or luxury cars

All-season tires tend to be the most popular option for everyday drivers. We recommend checking out the Michelin Defender model or the Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max. The Michelin model, in particular, boasts a 90,000-mile tread-life warranty.

Truck & SUV Tires

Truck and SUV tires are made for heavy load-bearing vehicles. These types of tires support not only the weight of the vehicle but also the cargo it’s carrying. Some compact SUVs need passenger tires, but larger SUVs and vans should stick to heavy-duty options. Below, we’ve listed a few different types of these tires.

  • Highway: Have a high load capacity for trucks or SUVs carrying cargo long distances 
  • Mud-terrain: For drivers who spend most of their time in mud, sand, or other off-road terrains
  • All-terrain: Predominantly for four-wheel-drive vehicles and frequently used by off-roaders who want normal driving abilities as well

For off-roading enthusiasts, we recommend the BF Goodrich All-Terrain or the Hankook Dynapro. These all-terrain tires have exceptional durability and stability features built into their tread design. However, the Hankook model is designed for lighter loads, so it may not be the best tire for heavy commercial trucks. 

Specialty Tires

Specialty tires are made for specific road conditions like inclement winter weather or mechanical scenarios like a flat tire. There are other speciality tires beyond the two types listed below, but winter and spare tires are the most used by everyday drivers. 

  • Spares: Made for limited driving lengths when a standard tire can no longer be used
  • Winter: Made for snow, ice, and any other inclement weather conditions below 45 degrees

While winter or snow tires aren’t necessary for some parts of the U.S., drivers in northern states are no strangers to these specialty tires. For cold-weather tires, we recommend the Bridgestone Blizzak WS80. The tire manufacturer recently improved this iconic model in 2019, so its performance is better than ever.

Original Equipment vs. Replacement: Which Are the Best Tires?

Original equipment (OE) tires usually come with your vehicle at the time of purchase. They’re specifically designed by the car manufacturer and tire brand to suit your vehicle make and model. Replacement tires – sometimes called new tires – are more generic model tires that aren’t suited to one specific vehicle.

When purchasing tires or looking at tire-buying websites, you’ll see a distinction made between these two tire types. Which are the best tires for your car? It depends. Here are a few pros and cons of each tire type:

Original Equipment Tires Replacement Tires
Usually needed for highly specialized vehicles, like sports cars May change how your vehicle previously drove based on what tires you purchase
May work best for your vehicle based on their manufacturer-backed assembly and structure Can be a more technologically advanced and fuel-efficient option
Tend to cost more and may need to be replaced more frequently Tend to cost less and last longer

What Does a Tire Warranty Cover?

Most tire models come with two types of tire warranties: a limited warranty and a mileage warranty. A limited warranty protects you against any defective workmanship, and most manufacturers offer this coverage for the life of the tire. The tire’s life is measured by how long it takes for the tread to wear down to 2/32 of an inch, which happens roughly every six years.

A mileage warranty – also called a tread-life warranty – is an estimate of how long the tire’s tread will last. Mileage warranties can vary greatly not only between manufacturers but also between tire types. For example, all-season tires have longer mileage warranties than performance tires because of what they’re meant to do: drive commuter routes versus drive around racetracks.

How Are Tires Graded?

Most tires must follow certain guidelines established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a sector of the U.S. Department of Transportation. This grading system is called Uniform Tire Quality Grading (UTQG), and it rates tires – except winter tires – based on their treadwear, traction, and temperature resistance. 

NHTSA provides the grading criteria, and tire manufacturers and independent companies are responsible for actually conducting the studies. This often means scoring can vary greatly from one manufacturer to the next. With that in mind, take UTQG scores with a grain of salt.

Here’s how each grading category works and the scoring criteria used to measure performance:

  • Traction: This rating measures how well your tires “grip” a wet road. Traction grades are rated highest to lowest using AA, A, B, or C. Strong tire choices typically fall into the A category. 
  • Treadwear: A treadwear grade estimates how long your tire will last. All treadwear ratings are compared to a control tire given a 100 rating. A tire with a 500 treadwear rating should last five times longer than the control. Most tires are rated between 300 and 500, according to data from SaferCar.gov
  • Temperature: This rating measures a tire’s heat resistance and is scored from highest to lowest using A, B, or C. Because of tires’ makeup and how quickly they move, they need to withstand high temperatures. Performance tires tend to have the best tire temperature ratings because of their constant high speeds.

All of the above ratings will be printed on your tire’s sidewall. Below, we explain how to read a tire properly and what information it reveals about your tires.

How to Read a Tire

Alongside the treadwear, traction, and temperature grades, other labels printed on the tire’s sidewall can help you sort out the best tires for your vehicle. However, the list below is not exhaustive. There are a few other labels your tire can include.

Here’s an overview of the most common labels that can be found on passenger vehicle tires:

  • R: An “R” indicates a radial tire, which is the current industry standard.
  • M+S: This stands for “mud” and “snow.” If your tire has this label printed on its side, it has some ability to drive in these specialty conditions.
  • Load index: This two- or three-digit label shows the carrying capacity of a tire. The higher the number, the higher weight the tire can effectively carry. 
  • Speed rating: Speed ratings range from letters L through Y. For example, an M rating would be given to a spare tire, as these tires aren’t meant to drive at high speeds. Typically, passenger and light truck tires have R, S, or T ratings.
  • Aspect ratio: This two-digit label shows the relationship between the tire’s height and width. According to SaferCar.gov, a number of 50 or lower indicates a short sidewall for improved steering response and better overall handling. When in doubt, look out for a lower aspect ratio for more stability when driving. 

How to Maintain the Best Tires

Now that you know how to find the best tires, you need to know how to maintain them. Tires are one of the key safety components of your vehicle. Proper maintenance can lead to a safer ride and better fuel economy. 

Here are a few ways to maintain your tires:

Check your tire pressure. Under-inflated and over-inflated tires can lead to braking issues, so check your tire pressure once a month. Newer cars have built-in systems to tell drivers when their tire pressure is off, but if that doesn’t apply to your vehicle, keep a tire gauge in your car.

Look at your tire tread. Tires come with tread wear indicators, and you should check them once a month. These rubber strips run horizontally across the tire and only appear when the tire needs changing. Tires are considered unsafe when they’re worn down 2/32 of an inch, according to the NHTSA. 

Buy the right size tires. Tire size can be another hurdle to navigate when searching for the best tires. To find the best tires for your vehicle, take a look at your owner’s manual. If the information isn’t there, you can also check the driver’s side door for the Tire and Loading Information label.

Have your tires rotated. Rotating your tires according to a manufacturer-recommend schedule makes sure they wear out evenly. Improper inflation and alignment can also cause uneven wear.

Our Recommendations for the Best Tires

Choosing the best tires largely depends on your vehicle and driving habits. The best tire for you may not be the best tire for someone else. The information above can help guide you in the right direction in terms of types of tires and best brands, but you should check your owner’s manual or your vehicle’s Tire and Loading Information label to make sure you’re getting the right size. 

Once you figure out the correct tires you’ll need, compare between brands to see what best suits your budget. You can start shopping at TireBuyer.com.

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