How to Buy the Right Set of Tires

How to Buy the Right Set of Tires

We believe your most important automotive decision is your choice of tires. Of course, that may be our tire-bias talking. Tires largely define your vehicle’s capabilities, limitations, and safety. Even your vehicle’s performance attributes are fundamentally based on tires.

No doubt you’ve heard vehicle manufacturers promote their superlative “all-wheel drive traction” systems, and other performance capabilities. Take it from the Family Tire Pros, what they actually mean is, thanks to capable tires. The new tire decision is definitely one you want to get right.

Step one after deciding that it’s time for new tires is determining which tire type is a match for your vehicle and driving circumstances.

Here’s an overview of each of the major tire categories.

And don’t forget – you’re always welcome to stop by Family Tire Pros in American Fork for an in-person tire consultation with one of our knowledgeable tire techs. Start your new tire process here, then stop in to finalize your choice with the help of our experts.

All-Season Tires

The most widely used type of tire in America, all-season tires, are also probably the most widely misunderstood.

The all-season concept is rooted in year-round versatility. The idea is to deliver traction across the full range of temperatures, wet roads, dry roads, and light wintry conditions as well.

As the go-to tire for most daily driver vehicles, all-season tires offer a durable, lasting tread (sometimes with significant mileage warranties), predictable, steady handling, and a comfortable ride.

If you live in a region with four seasons and fluctuating temperatures, then all-season tires probably sound pretty perfect – is there a catch?

All-season tires are immensely versatile, but that’s also their weakness. They’re a “jack of all trades, master of none” type of tire. All-season tires can be outmatched by challenging road conditions, particularly hazardous winter weather. As a general rule, they also fall short of the overall performance capabilities of many summer tires in warm weather conditions.

However, all-season tires are the most versatile on the market, and that’s why they’re fitted to more American vehicles than any other type of tire. Prospective buyers should be aware of both their range of talents and limitations, and have appropriate expectations to match. To achieve exceptional seasonal performance will require a set of tires specially engineered for particular conditions.

All-season tires can be fitted to vehicles of all varieties – cars (sedans and coupes), SUVs, crossovers (CUVs), and pickup trucks. Within the all-season tire category, are a wide range of options. Some are engineered for comfort and cruising (touring tires), others for sporty driving on performance coupes and sedans.

Winter Tires

Also commonly referred to as snow tires, winter tires deliver specialized, focused performance for maximum winter traction and safety.

Snow, ice, slush, wet and frigid winter roads – winter tires are designed specifically to manage the worst of it. Some all-season tires provide reasonable wintertime performance, but the performance gap to true winter tires remains substantial.

Winter tires are designed to be used in temperatures of about 40° Fahrenheit and below. So depending upon specific location, winter tires are typically mounted to vehicles in October or November and dismounted in March or April. (Winter tires should not be used through the summer months.)

In the off-season, winter tires can be stored in your garage, basement, or wherever you have room, provided they’re not exposed to the elements.

Any Tire Pros location can get your vehicle fitted with winter tires, and help you with seasonal tire swaps too. If you want to achieve maximum traction and safety in all seasons, this is the proven approach. Run all-season or summer tires in the warmer months, and switch over to winter tires when Frosty arrives.

Winter tires are available for almost any type of vehicle and will fit the vast majority of original equipment wheels. (It’s unlikely you’ll need to purchase a second set of wheels to run winter tires.)

Summer Tires

The performance advantages of summer tires are not quite as dramatic as winter tires, but here again, the emphasis on tire performance in specific conditions creates the best possible performance outcome.

True to their namesake, summer tires are designed to be used in above freezing temperatures. This can be seasonally, or year-round if you live in the southern United States.

Summer tires are optimized for treadwear, dry and wet road traction in warm and hot weather conditions.

The top tier performance tires for sports cars, performance coupes and sedans, and supercars are all summer-specific. But comfort-oriented, grand touring summer tires are also available.

The disadvantage of summer tires (as compared to all-season) is they’re strictly limited by temperature. In freezing conditions, summer tires lose their elasticity and ability to properly interact with the road surface. Summer tires can’t be used in temperatures approaching or (certainly) below freezing, no matter the road conditions.

All-Terrain Tires

Think all-season tires with a dose of off-road traction, and you’ll have the idea of all-terrain tires.

While 4×4 all-season tires are quite limited when pavement transitions to dirt, all-terrain tires deliver the traction potential and durability for most off-road adventures.

Many all-terrain tires have the added benefit of being higher load index tires, i.e., more capable of hauling and towing.


Due to the on-/off-road tire tread and more durable tire construction, all-terrain tires give up some performance and comfort on-road. Fuel economy might also drop due to the rolling resistance posed by the bulkier all-terrain tire tread blocks.

All-terrain tires are becoming an increasingly common aftermarket tire fitment for 4×4 trucks, SUVs, and even some crossovers. Sometimes 4x4s fitted with all-season tires are “upgraded” to all-terrain tires to achieve the associated performance advantages

Mud-Terrain (Off-Road) Tires

You’ll see these beefy treaded tires on-road fitted to Jeeps and lifted trucks, typically accompanied by their characteristic tread noise. But off-road is really where they shine.

Mud-terrain tires are as specialized for off-road conditions as winter tires are for specific winter conditions. They’re very much geared for the off-road enthusiast.

No matter which type of tires you choose to buy, we are happy to provide professional tire installation.