4×4 tires, also known as off-road tires, are designed specifically for vehicles equipped with four-wheel drive (4WD) or all-wheel drive (AWD) systems. If you’ve ever driven off-road or on rough terrain, then you know just how important specific off-road tires can be for your car or truck. These tires are built to provide enhanced traction, durability, and performance in challenging off-road conditions. Tire manufacturers have developed many different kinds of off-road tires to provide drivers with the best possible comfort, performance, and safety. Let’s dive in into the topic and see what 4×4 tires are the best for your ride!

4×4 tires are designated for vehicles equipped with four-wheel drive (4WD) or all-wheel drive (AWD) systems

5 key benefits of the off-road tires

Off-road tires offer several benefits for vehicles that venture off paved roads and encounter rugged terrain. Here are some advantages of off-road tires:

  1. Improved traction: Off-road tires are specifically designed with deeper treads and more aggressive tread patterns to provide more traction on uneven, slippery, or loose surfaces. They can grip onto mud, gravel, sand, or rocky terrains, allowing the vehicle to maintain control and move forward with reduced slippage. This makes them great for off-road adventures.
  2. Enhanced off-road performance: Off-road tires are built to withstand the challenges of off-road driving. They have reinforced sidewalls and stronger construction to resist punctures, cuts, and damage from rocks or sharp objects encountered on the trail. This durability ensures that the tires can handle rough terrains without compromising performance.
  3. Increased ground clearance: Many off-road tires are larger in diameter than standard tires, providing additional ground clearance for the vehicle. This extra clearance helps prevent the underside of the vehicle from scraping against obstacles like rocks, logs, or uneven terrain. It allows for a smoother ride and reduces the risk of damage to the vehicle’s undercarriage.
  4. Improved handling and stability: The design of off-road tires, with their aggressive tread patterns and sturdy construction, enhances the vehicle’s handling and stability on challenging terrains. The specialized tread pattern helps to channel water, mud, and debris away from the tire’s contact patch, maintaining optimal traction and reducing the risk of hydroplaning or skidding.
  5. Versatility: Off-road tires offer versatility, as they are designed to perform well both on and off the road. They provide a balance between off-road capability and on-road comfort, ensuring a smooth and controlled ride in various conditions. Whether you’re driving on highways, gravel roads, or venturing into off-road trails, these tires can adapt to different surfaces.

Different types of off-road tires

Over the years, manufacturers have expanded their production to meet the growing needs of drivers who crave off-road adventures. Whether you’re the kind of driver that only sometimes drives on a dirt road, a weekend warrior, or a full-time off-road junkie, know that the right tires for your off-roading needs exist. We’ll start with the “lightest” off-road tires and work our way up to the “heaviest” tires.

Highway-terrain tires

Highway-terrain tires are your best friend on paved roads

Highway-terrain tires are exactly like they sound: a tire that can handle terrain but is still good on the highway. They have a similar tread pattern to the tires found on most passenger cars but are slightly deeper. These tires are capable of light off-road work and perform moderately well on sand, but they’re not meant for heavy work or rough terrain. They are also not puncture resistant like some of their big brothers, which we will find further down the list. These tires are definitely made with highway comfort in mind. Compared to the other tires on this list, highway-terrain tires offer a quieter, smoother ride, and the tires will generally last longer as well. But you’ll still get great on-road handling, steering capability, and braking performance in both wet and dry conditions.

All-terrain tires

All-terrain tires are versatile and suit multiple road conditions

All-terrain tires, also known as A/T tires, are versatile and perform well in a wide range of road conditions. With their unique tread patterns, all-terrain tires offer improved traction on diverse surfaces such as gravel, mud, snow, and pavement. The deeper treads and aggressive tread blocks enhance grip and help to expel mud, rocks, and debris, ensuring better traction and reduced slippage. Thicker construction helps to prevent cuts and punctures from impacts with rocks, roots, and other debris you might encounter on your off-road adventures.

While A/T tires can certainly perform on roads, the tire’s thicker construction and heavy tread give them a somewhat bumpy ride and reduces fuel efficiency when compared to standard all-season tires. However, many drivers use all-terrain tires as their regular everyday tires because they are built to tackle both on-road and off-road terrain, providing a balance between everyday comfort and off-road capability. Whether you’re exploring rugged trails, venturing into the wilderness, or simply navigating city streets, all-terrain tires provide the confidence and reliability you need for whatever comes your way.

Rugged-terrain tires

Rugged-terrain tires can conquer the most challenging and demanding off-road conditions

Rugged-terrain tires are a lot like all-terrain tires but with a few modifications. With large sidewall lugs and a thicker construction, they can conquer the most challenging and demanding off-road conditions. These tires are engineered to handle extreme terrains, including rocks, jagged surfaces, steep inclines, and deep mud. They excel in off-road adventures, offering enhanced grip and stability to navigate rough trails and conquer obstacles confidently. For on-road performance, they are still light enough to easily handle highway driving and long extended periods on the road. However, don’t expect a quiet, smooth ride with these bad boys equipped. Those powerful treads and lugs can make for a noisy ride.

Mud-terrain tires

Mud-terrain tires are designed to excel in muddy and off-road conditions

Mud-terrain tires, often referred to as M/T tires, are specifically designed to excel in muddy and off-road conditions. These tires feature an aggressive tread pattern with large, deep, and widely spaced tread blocks. The deep voids between the tread blocks allow for effective self-cleaning, preventing mud and debris from clogging the tire and maintaining traction. The tread pattern typically includes side biters or sidewall lugs that provide additional grip and traction when navigating through deep mud or uneven surfaces. Mud-terrain tires offer exceptional off-road capabilities, allowing vehicles to power confidently through muddy conditions, steep inclines, and challenging obstacles.

While they excel in mud, they may produce more road noise and have a slightly rougher ride on paved surfaces due to their specialized tread design. Mud-terrain tires are preferred for off-road enthusiasts who frequently encounter muddy and extreme off-road conditions, providing superior traction and performance in challenging environments.

Extreme mud-terrain tires

Extreme mud-terrain tires are designed to conquer the most treacherous muddy conditions

Extreme mud terrain tires are the pinnacle of off-road tire performance, specifically designed to conquer the most treacherous muddy conditions. These tires feature an extremely aggressive tread pattern, deep, widely spaced lugs, and robust sidewall construction. The deep tread voids are engineered to dig into and eject mud, providing unparalleled traction and preventing mud buildup. The large, chunky tread blocks and sidewall lugs offer maximum grip and control, allowing vehicles to power through the thickest and stickiest mud easily. Extreme mud terrain tires provide exceptional off-road capabilities, ensuring drivers can confidently navigate through deep mud, swamps, and boggy terrains.

While you can technically drive on roads with these, you really don’t want to. The ride will be bumpy, loud, and uncomfortable, and the pavement will wear down the large tread blocks and lugs. Best to keep these as strictly an off-road tire.

Buyer’s Guide: the GoTire recommended 4×4 tires

Highway-terrain tires

Firestone Destination LE3

Nokian ONE HT

TOYO Open Country H/T II

All-terrain tires

BFGoodrich All Terrain T/A KO2 

Yokohama Geolandar G015 

Falken Wildpeak A/T Trail

Rugged-terrain tires

BFGoodrich Rugged Terrain T/A

Falken  Wildpeak R/T

Nitto Ridge Grappler

Mud-terrain tires

BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM3

Falken Wildpeak M/T

Yokohama GEOLANDAR MT G003

Extreme Mud-terrain tires

Mastercraft Courser MXT

Maxxis TREPADOR M8060

Accelera Badak X-Treme

Frequently Asked Questions

Which off-road tires last the longest?

The more specialized the tire for off-road driving, then the shorter lifespan it has, but there are other factors to consider, such as the kind of road conditions you usually drive on. An average all-terrain tire might get about 40,000 miles before it is worn out and needs to be replaced.

Are off-road tires only for trucks and SUVs?

Technically you can put an off-road tire on any vehicle (as long as it’s the right size), but you need to consider the build of the vehicle you want to take off-road. Sedans, coupes, mini-vans, etc., aren’t built for off-road driving due to their low clearance and other factors. Putting off-road tires on these kinds of vehicles won’t do you much good.

Are mud-terrain tires legal on the highway?

Yes, they are legal, in the US at least, but just because you can doesn’t mean you should. As mentioned above, mud-terrain tires will not give you a comfortable ride on the highway; they will lower your gas mileage, and the tread will wear down quickly on the rough pavement.