Do I Need All-Terrain Tires?

All-terrain tires are a good choice for anyone mixing highway driving with frequent off-roading, since they offer improved traction across a range of terrains.
Written by R.E. Fulton
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
If you drive an SUV or truck and want to switch easily between your weekday commute and weekend off-roading adventures, all-terrain tires will give you a smooth ride and upgraded traction no matter where you’re headed. 
Finding the right tires for your car might seem easy, until you realize just how many types of tires are out there. From all-season and highway tires to mud tires and ultra-performance summer tires, it’s hard to know exactly what to put on your ride. 
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What are all-terrain tires? 

All-terrain tires, or A/T tires, are designed for small trucks and SUVs to provide smooth driving on both paved highways and a range of off-road conditions. An open tread pattern offers improved grip across a wide range of surfaces. 

All-terrain tires vs. all-season tires 

Most vehicles come equipped with all-season tires designed to last a long time in most conditions. 
Traction is what sets all-terrain tires apart from the average all-season tire. A more aggressive, rugged tread pattern gives these tires incredible grip when it comes to rough terrain, loose gravel, or other tricky conditions. A/T tires also typically have reinforced sidewalls to increase your vehicle’s carrying capacity. 

How many miles will all-terrain tires last? 

In general, you can expect all-terrain tires to last around 40,000 miles. Softer rubber than all-season or highway tires allows A/T tires to perform better on a variety of surfaces, but the tradeoff is that the tread will wear down more quickly. 
Because of that short life span, all-terrain tires often won’t be covered by a warranty. Check the terms of any warranty carefully to decide whether it’s worth it to you. 
Keep in mind, though, that that mileage estimate is just that—an estimate. If you’re spending most of your time driving on paved roads, you can expect your A/T tires to give out sooner. That’s why it’s usually better to stick to all-season tires if you’re not doing regular off-roading. 

Will all-terrain tires decrease fuel efficiency? 

It’s true—outfitting your truck or SUV with all-terrain tires can decrease fuel economy by about 3% compared with highway tires. 
Here’s why: the upgraded traction that makes A/T tires worth it also increases the tires’ rolling resistance (i.e., the force resisting the turning of the wheels). This means your engine needs to work harder to fight that resistance, burning extra fuel and impacting the vehicle’s overall gas mileage. 
How serious is that 3%? Let’s do the math. The average SUV logs about 12,500 miles a year. At an average fuel efficiency of 23 miles per gallon and an average gas price of $3 a gallon, you’re looking at $1630.43 in annual fuel costs. 
If your fuel economy dropped by 3%, you could expect to pay an extra $50.43 for gas every year. 
Key Takeaway All-terrain tires give you better traction on a range of surfaces, but the tradeoff is quicker wear and decreased fuel economy. 

Are all-terrain tires worth it?

The bottom line: if you’re looking for tires that will give you equally great performance on smooth highway commutes and wild backcountry adventures, and you’re willing to replace your tires slightly more often, all-terrain tires are probably the right choice for you. 
On the other hand, if off-roading is just an occasional pleasure, the tradeoff of decreased fuel economy and quicker wear may not be worth it.

How much should you pay for all-terrain tires? 

One major downside of all-terrain tires is that they’re more expensive than highway tires. In general, you’re looking at a range of $150 to $300 per tire.
You can find cheap all-terrain tires in the lower end of the range if you’re looking to save money, but the best all-terrain tires are all over $200. In other words, upgrading to A/T tires could cost upwards of $800. Add that to the additional fuel costs, and that’s a significant investment!  

What type of tires does your car need? 

Picking the right tires can feel intimidating. If you’ve never thought about tire types, you might imagine the choice won’t make a big difference. But don’t underestimate the power of the tire—your vehicle’s tires can impact ride quality, road safety, and even gas mileage! 
Here’s a breakdown of the main types of tires, which vehicles and conditions they’re best for, how much you can expect to pay, and how long they’ll serve you before giving out.
MORE: Winter tires vs. all-season tires: Which is better?

How to find affordable car insurance

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Yes—all-terrain tires are specifically designed for year-round use. However, if you live in an area with very hot summers or very cold and snowy winters, your A/T tires won’t perform as well in those conditions as summer or winter tires.
All-terrain tires are meant for highway driving in combination with off-roading, so you’ll get great performance on paved roads as well as rougher terrain. That said, if you’re driving almost exclusively on the highway, the softer rubber of an A/T tire will wear down faster than a typical highway tire. You’ll also notice more road noise with all-terrain tires.
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