Most people want to mount all-terrain tires instead of all-season tires because they look great on SUVs, CUVs, or pickups. As a bigger is better moonie, I’m totally into this idea. However, mounting all-terrain tires is a double-edged sword. They can give you great advantages regarding traction, yet, they can destroy your highway driving comfort at the same time.
Well then, how are you gonna decide between all-terrain and all-season tires?
Luckily, your driving condition is the decider, not you.
In this article, I will explain which tire is the best fit for which driving condition. Let’s begin!
What are All-Season Tires?
All-season tires are built for highway or city driving. For this reason, they don’t look as good as all-terrain tires.
All-season tires are the most balanced tire category in the market. While offering smooth and quiet drive on the pavement, all-season tires also provide trustworthy traction on the dry, wet, and bare pavement in winter.
The disadvantage of all-season tires is their winter performance is highly limited. In that case, these tires can handle bare winter pavement but when it comes to wheel tracks bare of tougher winter conditions (see the above image), they lose traction and become dangerous.
In order to avoid disadvantages, manufacturers create a new category that is called all-weather tires.
Unlike all-season tires, the compound of these tires is marked with 3PMSF which means it’s suitable for winter conditions.
Even though these tires aren’t dedicated winter tires, all-weather tires provide a decent grip in winter conditions. Yet, they come up with disadvantages also.
I know you get muddled. The below table will clear the fog.
All-Season Tires Pros-Cons
|Provide 3-seasons traction
|Provides winter performance only on bare pavement
|Offers smooth driving experience
|Has relatively weak sidewalls, vulnerable to external factors
|Great for fuel-economy
|Can’t perform on loose ground
|Quiet & Smooth driving
|Wears quickly on rough or jagged pavement
All-Weather vs All-Season Tires
|Smoother and quiter driving
|Superior deep snow/slush performance
|Better fuel consumption
|Good option for one-tire all-year approach
|Work under 7 Celcius degrees
|Superior on dry and wet pavement
|Superior in winter
All-weather tires are basically the 3PMSF-marked and more notched version of all-season tires. For this reason, we can place it somewhere between winter and all-season tires. So, if winter traction is your priority, they’re better than all-terrain tires.
What are All-Terrain Tires?
All-terrain tires are off-road tires that can provide a smooth drive on the pavement.
Unlike mud-terrain tires, these tires have a softer design and generally interlocked tread patterns. Hence, they’re usable on the highway.
People are debating between all-season and all-terrain tires because of the on-road capability of all-terrain tires.
The issue is you guys generally fall into marketing strategies.
Here are a couple of things you have to know before buying all-terrain tires
- All-terrain doesn’t mean this tire can perform the same as an all-season tire on the pavement
- These are hybrid tires, hence, regarding on-road, they are a jack of all trades but master of none
- All-terrain tires aren’t winter tires, they have a stiff compound that decreases wet and light snow grip
- If winter is your priority, you should go with 3PMSF all-terrain tires
- All-terrain tires can’t improve your wet or winter bare pavement traction
- These tires are special because of their loose ground traction, not for on-road manners
I briefly explained the all-terrain and all-season tires. Now it’s time to move on real topic. Which one is better?
What is the Difference Between All-Season and All-Terrain Tires?
The latest developments in the tire market actually bring this debate up.
All-terrain tires actually can be counted as all-season tire that provides loose ground traction. Well, it’s almost impossible to achieve something without sacrificing anything.
In this comparison, it’s on-road manners.
- Due to their aggressive patterns, all-terrain tires are noisier and provide a rougher ride than all-season tires
- All-terrain tires need durable and robust sidewalls. Hence, they’re a bit bumpy on the caved pavement
- All-terrain tires require a cut&chipping resistant compound which makes them relatively inferior in wet and cold weather
- All-terrain tires generally last longer than all-season tires, though, it also depends on the sipe density of your tire
- All-terrain tires have a higher rolling resistance. For this reason, they consume more fuel
- If you face packed snow instead of slush, all-terrain tires are better options for you
As I’ve mentioned before, your driving condition is the game-changer for this comparison.
Both tires have pros and cons depending on the driving condition. For a better understanding, I’m going to share a table in the conclusion section.
All-Season vs All-Terrain Tires in Snow
All-terrain and all-season tires aren’t dedicated winter tires. For this reason, expecting a full-covered winter performance from these tires is utopian.
Important Note: All-terrain and all-season tires aren’t dedicated winter tires. For this reason, if you’re living in the snow belt, you should definitely go with the winter tires.
Unlike most people think and naming bring, all-season tires don’t build to perform under 7 Celcius (44,6 Fahrenheit) degrees. Well, some of them can handle light snow but it isn’t something you can trust. Even though these tires can provide light*snow grip, they offer long stopping distances.
Result: If you buy premium all-season tires, they can take you out of unexpected situations. Yet, all-season tires aren’t suitable for winter usage
All-weather tires are the winter-improved version of all-season tires. These tires are marked with 3PMSF which means their compound doesn’t lose grip in cold weather.
So, if you’re experiencing a relatively mild winter and warm weather at the same time, these tires are great for you. All-weather tires don’t provide great grip on the ice/slush or packed snow(still way much better than all-season tires) but they’re rocking on the light snow.
Result: If you’re into one set of tires for a year, all-weather tires are great options for you
All-terrain tires are built for loose ground traction. For this reason, they have a deeply notched and cavitied pattern. These kinds of patterns have advantages and disadvantages in winter conditions.
All-terrain tires are the worst ones on light snow. Especially, if the compound doesn’t mark with 3PMSF. However, if you face packed snow, these tires provide excellent traction. On the other hand, slush/ice could be deadly for you.
Result: If you’re not an off-roader, buying all-terrain tires for winter usage isn’t make sense. Yet, if you have a work truck that needs off-road traction and hauling&towing capability at the same time, I recommend go with highway terrain tires
All-terrain and all-season tires are the most popular tire categories in the market. Since the US has various driving and weather conditions, people are having some problems deciding which way to go.
If you’re between all-terrain and all-season tires, the below table will give you everything you need.
|Decent (Dependin on the tread, could be average)
|Tread Life (Miles)
|55,000 – 80,000
|40,000 – 60,000
|40,000 – 100,000
As the above table states, depending on your conditions, these tires can be good options for you. Though, there are some obligations that you should go with all-terrain tires. Here are some of them.
- If you face rocky terrain so often, I recommend all-terrain tires
- All-terrain tires are bad in mild winter conditions, though, if you face packed snow, you can go with all-terrain tires as a winter tire (go with 3PMSF-marked all-terrain tires)
- If you’re towing or hauling, I recommend going with AT tires or at least the XL version of all-season tires. In that case, you can go with highway terrain tires that offer better ride quality than all-terrain tires
- If you’re using all-terrain tires only for appearance, I recommend going with relatively less aggressive tread designs like Vredestein Pinza AT, Continental TerrainContact AT, or Cooper Discoverer AT3 4S
I hope the article was helpful. If you need any further support for tire selection, please leave your vehicle model and driving conditions in a comment. I would be happy to help. Have a safe ride folks!