All-Season Vs. All-Terrain Tires: Understanding The Differences

11 August 2016
 Categories: , Articles


When buying new tires for your SUV or CUV, you might be confronted with the choice of buying all-season or all-terrain tires. One is meant for superior overall performance on the road and in inclement weather, while the other offers superior performance off-road. Picking the right tires can be a bit confusing without knowing the many differences between these tires. Fortunately, the following provides an in-depth explanation of all-season and all-terrain tires.

All-Season Tires

There's a good chance that your current CUV or SUV was outfitted with all-season tires from the factory. These tires are designed to prioritize on-road handling, comfort and fuel efficiency on paved roads. If you take a close look at an all-season tire, you'll see a tread design that somewhat resembles the tread design of a typical passenger car tire.

All-season tires have a number of advantages over their all-terrain counterparts:

  • An all-season tire is typically quieter on the open road than a similar all-terrain tire, largely due to the less-aggressive tread design on the all-season tire.
  • All-season tires also have higher tread life expectancies than comparable all-terrain tires.
  • All-season tires offer better performance under wet road conditions, since an all-season tread design is optimized for shedding water quickly while maintaining grip. Many all-season tires feature aggressive tread siping for this purpose.
  • These tires offer lower rolling resistance when new, making them more fuel efficient than their all-terrain counterparts.

While all-season tires offer excellent performance on the road, that performance degrades when they're put on the trail. Without the larger tread blocks, large void areas and softer tread compounds commonly found on all-terrain tires, all-season tires often prove slippery and generally less capable on rocky and muddy trails.

All-Terrain Tires

All-terrain tires are a step up for drivers who want the off-road performance offered by mud and rock tires, but without sacrificing the on-road performance offered by all-season tires. Although all-season tires tend to last longer, all-terrain tires are more capable of standing up to the abuses of traversing rocky terrain.

Most all-terrain tires come in aggressive and mild forms. Mild all-terrain tires are largely optimized for delivering improved street handling as well as fuel economy. These tires often feature less-aggressive tread patterns and harder tread compounds. The end result is less tread flexibility and weaker performance on rocky and muddy terrain, but the tradeoff is better on-road handling, higher fuel economy and better performance on snow and ice.

Aggressive all-terrain tires are designed to bridge the gap between mild all-terrain tires and true mud and rock tires. As a result, aggressive all-terrain tires usually have more aggressive tread patterns, larger tread voids and softer tread compounds for increased flexibility. Some aggressive all-terrain tires even feature sidewall treads for additional grip on loose and slippery surfaces.

Which Should You Choose?

Your choice of tire depends on how you use your vehicle and the level of performance you expect from your tires. If you venture through off-road trails or travel on gravel or dirt roads on a regular basis, for example, you may want to consider buying a set of all-terrain tires. Aggressive all-terrain tires are a good choice if you want plenty of off-road traction, but without losing out on ride comfort and minimized road noise.

If your SUV or CUV spends nearly all of its life on paved roads, then you're better off sticking with all-season tires. These tires typically handle better and last longer than their all-terrain counterparts, plus you'll get better fuel economy out of your vehicle by using all-seasons.

In addition to the above considerations, it's also important to keep other factors in mind, including the tire's speed rating, load range and sidewall strength. Contact a company like City Limit Tire & Service for more information.