Do All-Terrain Tires Wear Faster?


All-terrain tire with tread showing

All-terrain tires are an excellent option for those who do a mix of highway driving and off-roading. Their tread is more aggressive than highway tires but more moderate when compared to mud-terrain types, giving you decent grip on rocky, wet, or sandy off-road trails while providing a smoother, quieter ride with generous steering response on the road.

Most people know that mud tires wear much faster on the road than street tires, so, you might be wondering, do all-terrain tires wear faster?

The answer depends on what tires you are comparing. All-terrain tires will wear faster than street tires of similar quality but will last much longer on the road than mud-terrain tires. The average life of all-terrain tires is about 40,000 miles compared to 60,000 on your highway driver.

Two main factors determine the lifespan of a tire: the tread pattern and rubber compound. Of course, cheaply made highway tires will wear quicker than high-quality all-terrains.

Another factor to consider is time; rubber degrades over time, and tires should be inspected at the 6-year mark even if the tread is not worn. At ten years, they absolutely must be swapped out, or you are risking your life and the life of those around you on the road.

Those are the basics of the life of a tire. However, there is a lot more to unpack so that you can understand what is going on with the wear and tear and degradation of your tires.

All-Terrain Tire Tread

As mentioned above, the tread pattern on the tire makes a difference. Looking at two different tread patterns made out of the same rubber compound, a moderate tread, like those found on highway tires, will see less wear and tear than a more aggressive tread.

You will see the most significant difference in cupping, which is the uneven wear of the tread. Chunkier treads will see more cupping—i.e., they will wear less evenly than a highway tire.

So, if you want maximum mileage and you only do some light off-roading, perhaps on rough dirt and gravel roads, or through relatively light off-road trails with minimal sand, mud, and rocks, you might want a tread pattern that is geared more towards the highway than the trail.

All-Terrain Tire Rubber

The specific rubber compound used to make the tire will have a much more notable effect on how long your tire will last in terms of mileage.

All-terrain, mud-terrain, and snow tires are all built for maximum grip on the driving surface. They use softer compounds that allow the tire to flex and grab the rough terrain or snow and ice. This type of rubber also helps snow tires stay softer in cold conditions.

However, this means that they become even softer when they heat up as they drive at high speeds on the highway. Unsurprisingly, softer rubber wears more than harder rubber. All this equates to the more flexible rubber in all-terrain tires wearing out faster than their harder compound counterparts.

Average Mileage of All-Terrain Tires

The exact mileage you will get out of your tires depends on factors like road materials, the setting you drive in, and your driving style. We will get more into those factors in a bit, but first, let’s look at the average mileage you can expect from your tires.

While the average lifespan of all-terrains based on mileage is 40,000, some models are rated as high as 80,000+ miles. This means that high-quality all-terrain tires can end up lasting longer than some highway tires.

Tire manufacturers often provide warranties for their tires based on mileage. They are essentially guaranteeing that you will be able to travel a certain distance for tires that are not abused and see regular maintenance.

Note: if you want to make use of this warranty because your tires need premature replacement, you are going to need the maintenance records to demonstrate that you properly cared for your tires, but that’s ok because you are doing that regular maintenance anyway, right?

While the all-terrain tires may wear faster, they could end up lasting longer than some highway models. Because of this, you might think that these tires will end up costing more, but that is not always the case. If you shop around, you can find tires with good ratings for a reasonable price.

Road Construction

Not all roads are created equal. Local road crews use different materials in the construction of roads and highways. These different materials vary in their abrasiveness, which affects how many miles you will get out of your tires. If you have rougher pavement in your region, your tires are going to wear faster.

Driving Environment

There are two principal characteristics of the environment to consider when it comes to the mileage you will get out of your tires: urban vs. highway settings and mountainous vs. flat conditions. 

Urban vs. Highway

Urban drivers do a lot more starting and stopping, both of which cause slippage. Slippage is where the tire surface will slip across the road surface instead of roll over it. This slipping action dramatically affects the wear on the tread and will decrease the lifespan of the tread compared to highway driving.

Mountainous vs. Flat

Driving through mountains and hills means a lot of climbing and descending and usually means windier roads that require more cornering.

All of these cause more wear and tear on the tread of the tires. People who drive on steeper roadways will wear their tire tread out quicker than those driving over flat straight roads.

Improve the Lifespan

To get the most out of your tires, you will want to keep the factors you can control in mind. You can’t do much about mountains, hills, and the materials used to construct the roads and highways in your area.

Driving Style

However, you can control your driving style and tire maintenance schedules. Be softer with the gas and brake pedal, and take turns at lower speeds. Both of these will increase the lifespan of your tire.

Maintenance

Most importantly, always follow the proper maintenance schedule for your tires, get your tires rotated, balanced, and inspected regularly. This will reduce uneven wear and will increase the number of miles you will get before you need to replace your tires.

Is Longer Always Better?

This might seem like a silly question. Most people might think that you want your tire tread to last as long as possible and will pay a premium for this.

Yet, if you don’t put many miles on per year, the rubber compound in the tires might breakdown before the tread wears out.

If you drive the vehicle 5,000 miles per year and you buy tires that will last you 60,000 miles, it might seem like you can get 12 years out of those tires. You can’t, or at least you shouldn’t try to.

The rubber in tires breaks down over time. Experts recommend that once a tire reaches six years of age, it should be inspected for safety. Any tire that is ten years old should be replaced outright.

Environmental factors can also increase the degradation of the rubber. If you see any cracking or splitting in the rubber of your tires, you need to have them inspected immediately. When the rubber degrades, tires can fail catastrophically with tire blowouts or tread separation. All of which have led to fatal car crashes.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Do all-terrain tires wear faster? The answer varies based on what you are comparing them to. They wear faster than highway tires but slower than mud-terrain tires.

While all-terrain tires wear faster than your average street tire, you can get just as much life out of your all-terrains by shopping around for higher mileage models, and it doesn’t have to cost you a fortune.

You can also increase the lifespan of your tires by adhering to a regular maintenance schedule and driving less aggressively. Just remember that once you hit the 6-year mark, the rubber degradation may mean you need to replace the tire even if you haven’t worn the tread out yet.

Jeremy Hoxie

Born and raised in beautiful Northern Michigan, I've have spent two decades enjoying everything the outdoors has to offer. When not working on RigForge, I spend my time Overlanding and tackling off-road trails while sharing my experiences and testing gear along the way. My current rig is a 2013 Jeep JKU Moab.

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