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All Season vs. All Terrain Tires: What’s Best for Your Car? 

  • Tips & Trips
  • Celine Jerly
  • 7 minutes

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Not sure what kind of tires your car needs? Because these rubber donuts significantly impact your vehicle’s performance, it’s not an easy decision to make. So, let’s start with the basics and clarify ‘All Season vs. All Terrain Tires.’  

Every 5 – 6 years is how often you should switch out your car’s tires for a newer set. It may last a couple more years if you don’t drive frequently. But that’s the estimate for a standard set of tires that come with a new car. There are several other kinds that perform better in different driving conditions. Snow tires, for example, are great for ice and slush but last for only 3-4 seasons on average. Careful though – winter tires deteriorate quicker if frequently used in temperatures above 45°F.  

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Summer tires, winter tires, and everything in between confusing you? If only you could have one set of tires that is good for any situation. Luckily, we do, and it’s evident from its name – All Season Tires! But are they the same as All Terrain Tires? Then, what are All-Weather tires? 

Let’s clear all that up and solve this ‘All Season vs. All Terrain’ tires dilemma.  

Are all-season tires the same as all-terrain? 

It’s easy to get confused between the two, but all-season tires aren’t the same as all-terrain tires.  

All-Season Tires are the industry standard; your new car probably came with these. Though you can use them in any driving condition, all-season tires are masters of none. They get by in most situations but be careful when you push your standard car tires to their limits – such as in extreme weather or rough terrain.  

On the other hand, all-terrain tires specialize in off-roading driving and are also good for heavy loads. You’ll mostly find these on trucks and SUVs but rarely on cars unless it is a crossover. While you can drive on regular roads, all-terrain tires have better traction on rough surfaces like dirt and mud.  

All Season vs. All Terrain Tires – What’s the difference? 

In terms of performance, all-season tires are the middle ground – anything works up to a limit. So, these are the tire type you need for everyday driving conditions – paved, typical weather, and occasional dirt road detours. Meanwhile, all-terrain tires are always up for a challenge off the road. Mud and dirt are no match – these big boys could also handle snow and ice.  

Here are the key differences between all-terrain and all-season tires: 

All-Season Tires  All-Terrain Tires 
Performs best on paved surfaces, in mild weather like rain or light snow  Designed to perform well in extreme conditions, on dirt or pavement 
Shallow tread pattern on-road driving and maintain traction in regular conditions  Wider and deeper tread pattern to absorb impact and for better traction 
Smoother on-road drive with less road noise  More road noise, especially on paved surfaces 
It lasts longer if maintained well  Wears out quickly if used often on regular roads  
Smaller size than other types of tires  Bigger and blockier to cover a wider area 
Better fuel efficiency for regular cars  Uses more fuel due to their size and material 
Cheaper to buy and maintain  Costlier than standard tires 

Are all-weather tires the same as all-season tires? 

All-Weather Tires are considerably new to the US market; they are popular in Europe as tires you can use in all four seasons. But unlike your standard all-season tires, all-terrain tires come with the 3PMSF rating. Look for the three-peak mountain snowflake logo to identify these tires as suitable for severe snow.  

All-season tires come with the M+S rating and can hold traction in snow or mud, but not so much if it is slushy or ice-y dry. The compounds in all-terrain tires are better suited for extremely cold weather conditions. The deeper grooves in the tread pattern with more siping also improve traction on snow. However, the blockier design increases road noise.

all season vs all terrain tires M+S rating 

Are all-terrain tires better than all-season tires in snow? 

For those in colder climates, all-weather tires are a good alternative to dedicated winter tires. Some all-terrain tires also come with the 3PMSF rating. It’s the better choice if you drive in ice and slush than your regular M+S-rated all-season tires.  

All-season tires should be your last choice for snow – they’ll hold some traction depending on how much snow you expect. All-weather and all-terrain tires are better in extremely cold weather, but nothing can beat a winter tire in heavy snow. 

Do all-terrain tires use more gas? 

The bigger and blockier the tire, the better it is on rougher surfaces – like the all-terrain tire. However, it also covers a wider surface area, so you need more power to keep them rolling. So, yes, all-terrain tires burn more fuel than all-season tires.  

Keep in mind that all-terrain tires last longer and perform their best off-road, where they are designed to perform well. Frequently using them on paved roads will reduce their quality and cost you more fuel too.  

How do I know what tires are right for me? 

Choosing the right tire for your car depends on your driving type – regular city errands and commutes, towing or carrying heavy loads, sporty off-road adventures, etc. These driving needs determine what surface your tires encounter frequently. Depending on that, you need the tire material, tread pattern, and size that can handle the pressure.   

The three common tire types are all-season, summer, and winter. Summer and winter tires explain themselves, while all-season is versatile. Then you have your studded tires for ice, dirt and mud tires for 4WDs, or the all-weather and all-terrain tires.  

  • If temperatures stay above 45°F where you live and work, all-season tires are good enough to drive you around the year. 
  • Cold and snowy climates call for dedicated winter tires, which you may swap with summer tires when the weather is pleasant. Or go for a set of all-weather tires that works throughout the year. But, in case of deep snow and ice, winter tires are your safest bet. 
  • All-terrain tires are a good choice for SUVs, CUVs, and trucks – especially, if you are frequently off-roading or have heavy loads to carry. Get one with a 3PMSF rating to suit cold and snowy weather too.  

Consider your budget when choosing blockier tires like all-terrain and all-weather. Most small cars aren’t equipped to fit the larger tires and may need modifications that’ll cost extra. The larger tires are also costlier than your standard all-season tires. You may also incur maintenance costs if all-terrain tires are used on the road frequently.  

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Also See: Does Car Insurance Cover Tires?

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