Written By
Published Aug. 1, 2021

If you own a truck or SUV, there’s a good chance you dig the look and performance of all-terrain tires. A happy medium between highway tires and full-on mudders, these tires often offer grip over the rough stuff, three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMS) winter certification, and tough sidewalls without droning like a billion angry mosquitoes on the freeway. They’re perfect for the overlander with an office job and look gnarlier than Ric Flair’s biceps on anything from a brand new Ford F-150 to a lifted Subaru Outback. Best of all, they come in sizing and price points for everyone. So what are the best all-terrain tires on the market? We combed through the catalogs to give you our top picks.

Our Methodology

To select our picks for the best all-terrain tires, we combined test results and customer reviews from the fine folks at Tire Rack with our own personal experience. We also considered the typical use case of an all-terrain tire, sizing options, snow capability, tire life and pricing based on a common 265/75R16 size. Preference was given to products with proper three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMS) snow certification, notable highway civility, high treadwear and rugged aesthetics. While most customers will be shopping metric sizing, proper LT sizing matters to off-road customers so it was something we kept an eye on. Overall, our picks have something for everyone from the fair-climate daily drivers to snow gods.

The Cooper Discoverer AT3 4S is the definition of a superb all-rounder. While other tires may look tougher or offer trick off-road tech, the core mission of an all-terrain tire is to do everything.

Beneath its fairly mild-mannered appearance, the Discoverer AT3 4S packs a rugged five-rib tread block pattern for a nice balance of trail grip and highway stability. Those tread blocks are also stepped and siped for traction over snow and ice, a classic hallmark of winter tire design. Unlike a traditional winter tire, the Discoverer AT3 4S packs an actual treadwear rating, and it’s rather good. A 620 treadwear rating is almost unheard-of in the all-terrain tire segment and adds plenty of lifespan value to an already great tire. Perhaps best of all, it’s one of the more comfortable tires in its class for highway driving, thanks to compliant sidewalls and that fairly mild tread pattern.

Downsides? Well, the Discoverer AT3 4S is only available in metric sizing so really hardcore off-road fans might prefer to look elsewhere. In addition, its soft sidewalls aren’t the most puncture-resistant design and dull steering response a touch. Not the end of the world but worth noting if you’re looking for crisp steering. Still, this is an all-terrain tire that excels with a well-rounded skill set that’s always at home, no matter the terrain.

Specs
  • Sizing Metric sizing, fitment options for 15- to 22-inch wheels
  • Treadwear 620
  • Severe Snow Duty Yes
PROS

Soft construction provides excellent ride comfort

Fairly intense siping for genuine snow performance

Five-rib tread block design offers steady grip over dirt, rocks, and mud

Relatively long 620 treadwear rating means this is a tire that lasts

CONS

No special sidewall hardening for cut-resistance

Steering response isn’t the sharpest in the segment

Maybe you really want all-terrain tires but inflation has you tightening your budget. No worries; we’ve all been there. While a sweet set of tires from an A-tier brand may run a bit expensive, saving money doesn’t have to mean skimping on quality. Say hello to the Sailun Terramax A/T 4S.

Thanks to Sailun’s expertise in heavy vehicle tires, this budget-conscious pick is available in E-load range options along with the standard metric and LT C-load range options. Handy stuff if you own a ¾-ton truck and regularly tow. It also looks tough as nails yet offers a pleasantly compliant on-road ride. Traction over sand, rock and dirt is pretty good too, thanks to its open shoulders and gnarly tread blocks. Sure, it may not be as capable on ice as some of the class leaders, but that’s likely an acceptable trade-off with pricing this attractive.

Specs
  • Sizing Metric and LT sizing, fitment options for 15- to 20-inch wheels
  • Treadwear 500
  • Severe Snow Duty Yes
PROS

Available in a massive range of fitments to best suit your rig

Chunky shoulders and intricate sidewall design gives this tire a tough appearance

Pleasantly confident real-world snow performance

Surprisingly comfortable ride quality

CONS

Lack of 22-inch sizing leaves out some modern truck fitments

Just okay grip on ice; does much better in slush and on fresh snow

Tread design is a little on the noisier side

Although it’s basically as old as time itself, the KO2 is still a go-to tire for off-road enthusiasts thanks to its aggressive design and stout construction. Who can blame them? This is a tire that’ll get you more bro-spec fist-bumps than walking around Miami Beach hooked up to an IV of pure Monster Energy.

Let’s start with the wicked tread design. Notably knobbier than many competitors, the KO2 puts the terrain in all-terrain. Interlocking lugs that grip up under power even out wear on the highway while providing extra bite for off-road driving. Deep shoulder sipes enhance grip over sand dunes and through loose terrain while chunky raised white letters will let everyone know you’re rocking an icon.

Downsides? Well, the KO2 certainly isn’t what you’d call an efficient tire. Even on vehicles with naturally poor efficiency, the heavy KO2s will pinch your wallet a touch when it comes time to fill up the fuel tank. Beyond that though, it’s starting to just feel old. The latest crop of aggressive all-terrains are more refined and only give away a slight edge in off-road performance. Still, hats off to the KO2 for being an absolute legend.

Specs
  • Sizing Metric and LT sizing, fitment options for 15- to 22-inch wheels
  • Treadwear No
  • Severe Snow Duty Yes
PROS

Epitome of off-road cool

Genuinely admirable performance through deep snow

Super-chunky tread design chews up loose terrain like it’s brisket

Massive selection of available sizes

CONS

Heavy construction noticeably hurts fuel mileage

Definitely a bit outdated compared to the latest crop of all-terrain tires

Best Highway Manners

Maybe you live in a warm climate and your general extent of off-roading is heading down the occasional gravel track. When excellent highway manners matter most and your idea of all-terrain capability is a little extra insurance on dirt, the Continental TerrainContact A/T has you covered.

While it’s not certified for snowy conditions and definitely not the greatest tire in mud, the TerrainContact A/T is quite competent on dirt and marvelous on the highway. Ride quality is pleasant and highly composed while steering feel is a cut above other all-terrain tires. The TerrainContact A/T also has excellent grip in the rain, with some nice deep channels that effectively evacuate water from under the tread. While the use case for this tire is a bit narrow, it serves that niche incredibly well.

Specs
  • Sizing Metric sizing, fitment options for 16- to 22-inch wheels
  • Treadwear 680
  • Severe Snow Duty No
PROS

Taut and composed highway ride quality

Exceptional wet-weather on-road traction

Excellent on-center steering feel

Very competent dirt performance

CONS

Definitely not a great tire for snowy conditions

Will probably get stuck if you try bogging deep through the mud

Best Winter Capability

While the Continental is a great tire for California, what if you live somewhere that gets a lot of snow? Montana or Alaska, for example. Good news, General has you covered with the incredibly capable Grabber A/TX. Rad-looking? Absolutely. Severe snow-rated? For sure. Studdable? Believe it or not, yes.

Yeah, the Grabber A/TX’s studdability is a bit of a game-changer. Once sub-arctic drivers screw in some studs, there really isn’t a point in buying a dedicated set of winters. Traction over ice and packed snow becomes ferocious and befitting of the Grabber A/TX’s rugged appearance. For those seeking less severe snow use, non-studded performance in snow is still very solid and general off-road traction is among the highest in the class. So why didn’t this tire win our best overall pick? Well, it’s a bit on the noisy side and doesn’t have an official treadwear rating. Given that most driving happens on paved roads, those are two sacrifices definitely worth noting. Still, if you want to dash through the snow, put this tire on your shortlist.

Specs
  • Sizing Metric and LT sizing, fitments for 14- to 20-inch wheels
  • Treadwear None
  • Severe Snow Duty Yes
PROS

Old-school interlocking tread blocks and raised white lettering give a period-correct look

Excellent traction over dirt, sand, mud and rocks

Studdable for severe winter performance

Reinforced construction and sidewall lugs resist punctures

CONS

On the louder side of the all-terrain tire market

No official treadwear rating means overall tire life remains a question mark

Our Verdict on All-TerrainTires

Our Best Overall and Best Value picks, the Cooper Discoverer AT3 4S and the Sailun Terramax A/T 4S, are both phenomenal tires for commuting and hitting the trails. They represent a blend of civility and capability that’s hard to match at their respective price points. Add in true winter certification and they’re tires you can run year-round. If you have any experience with our top picks, please let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.

What to Consider When Buying All-Terrain Tires

All-terrain tires cater to a variety of use cases, be it a heavy highway mix, sand capability, snow domination or trail durability. As such, designs can often vary wildly, even between products from the same manufacturer. With that in mind, here are some key features to consider when purchasing a set of all-terrain tires.

All-Terrain Tires Key Features

Tread Pattern

Tread selection on all-terrain tires can be a bit of a tightrope walk. Too mild and off-road capability is compromised. Too beefy and it’ll be louder on the highway than a two-hour Skrillex concert. Generally, you’ll want something with tread blocks that are pronounced without being too chunky. 

A multi-rib design will help both in the mud and in the rain while an interlocking block pattern will aid sand traction at the expense of some rain and mud performance. Chunky shoulders generally aid performance all-round, give tires a tough look and don’t sacrifice refinement. Overall, it’s best to consider your typical terrain before deciding which tire is right for you.

Highway Manners 

Trail capability is awesome but most of our driving happens on paved roads. With that in mind, an all-terrain tire should be a master of dirt and commutes alike. While toughened sidewalls help when towing heavy loads and braving sharp rocks, they more often manifest their presence via a firm everyday ride.

Similarly, overly aggressive tread patterns are often louder on the highway than more moderate tread blocks. It won’t faze you if you’re used to chunkier all-terrain tires, but it can be a bit of a shock if you’re stepping up from highway tires. Lastly, check how heavy the all-terrain tires you’re looking to buy are. A heavy tire isn’t just regular weight—it’s rotating unsprung mass and therefore amplified. Too heavy of a tire and you’ll throw away some fuel economy in the name of looking cool.

Snow Certification

With half of North America experiencing regular snowfall and southern states like Texas seeing more frequent icy blasts, snow certification feels like something worth talking about. While all-terrain tires won’t fix climate change, many come with three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMS) certification. A cut above all-season tires, 3PMS-certified tires must pass an industry standardized acceleration test on medium-pack snow.

As such, 3PMS-rated all-terrain tires turn wintry conditions from nightmarish to manageable. Specially-cut tread blocks and plenty of little sipes are engineered to grip on snow and ice, similar to the treat features of dedicated winter tires. As a bonus, they usually count as winter tires to most insurers, which can often save you a bit of cash upon policy renewal.

All-Terrain Tire Pricing 

As all-terrain tires feature more capability than a typical highway tire, pricing is often a few dollars higher per corner. For a common 275/75R16 tire size that fits older SUVs and pickup trucks, expect to spend between $200 and $240 a tire for a high-end tire and between $160 and $180 for a value tire. Then again, all-terrain tires with proper snow certification often come with the advantage of an insurance discount that eventually eliminates the initial price hit.

FAQs 

Car Bibles answers all your burning questions!

Q: Can I upsize my all-terrain tires?

A: Generally yes, just be careful of speedometer error, tire clearance and mud guard rules. A larger tire will often cause your vehicle’s speedometer to read slow. In addition, larger tires may require a lift kit, fender liner trimming, bolt-on fender flares, and/or larger mud flaps for safety and legality.

Q: Are all-terrain tires as good in the snow as winter tires?

A: No. They lack the ultra-soft rubber compound and dedicated winter tread design that a proper winter tire provides. However, they often feature enough siping and grip to earn three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMS) certification and get most people through winter conditions.

Q: Are all-terrain tires loud on the highway?

A: While they aren’t as quiet as highway tires, the noise from all-terrain tires typically isn’t intrusive. After all, many truck manufacturers offer all-terrain tires as factory-install equipment so they must meet strict OEM noise requirements.


Sources:

  1. Off-road Tire – Wikipedia

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