Reader Question: All Terrain Tires for RAV4?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply! 

Ed asks: I would like your advice on purchasing a set of all-terrain tires for my 2015 Toyota RAV4 LE model (AWD). I live in upstate New York; we have four months of harsh winter conditions and average daytime highs of 10 to 20 degrees, first snow storms late November-early December through the middle of April; 1 to 2 foot snow storms; sometimes we get three- foot storms.

I would rarely travel off-road but I like that once in-a-while capability. I drive 10,000 to 12,000 miles per year mostly around town in the suburbs and once per month highway round  trips of over five hour trips. I was looking at B F Goodrich KO2 LT all-terrain tires, which list for about $208. My friend mentioned in 2012 BFGoodrich recalled 129,000 tires for dangerous blow outs; he says he heard they wear prematurely and told me it’s rated low speed like 102 for highway driving, I was looking at Yokahoma GO15;  I think rated 118 speed about $168.  I don’t want a directional tire. I like tires that go on any kind of way on your vehicle. I don’t think I would enjoy an all-terrain tire that will vibrate my vehicle’s ride too much when driving on smooth pavement. Are there any other brands all-terrain tires that you would suggest?

My reply: Well, a couple of things.

First, don’t worry about speed ratings unless you plan to drive at those speeds for sustained periods of time. Tire speed ratings are among the most poorly understood things about tires. If a tire has say an H speed rating, that means it can handle being driven as fast as 130 MPH continuously. How many Americans drive faster than 90 continuously? A tire that is rated for 102 is perfectly safe to drive on at sustained speeds up to 102 MPH. So unless you will be driving faster than 102 MPH for a sustained period of time, do not worry about the speed rating.

On wear: All-terrain tires are specialty tires and specialty tires usually wear faster than general purpose tires. They also generate more road noise because of their tread pattern.

I would suggest a good snow tire instead. Maybe even a studded snow tire, as you live in an area subject to heavy snow and continuous cold (which keeps the snow around longer). I don’t think – my opinion – all-terrain tires are appropriate for your needs or your vehicle, which is a light-duty crossover and not a 4×4 SUV.

I would also recommend mounting the snow tires in about a month and then dismounting them come spring. Go back to normal tires for the rest of the year. Driving on snow (or all-terrain) tires when it’s warm and dry out is like wearing a fur coat in July. It will also result in pointless wear and tear – there’s no snow around – as well as faster wear and tear.

Tires are like running shoes – the type of running you do dictates the type of shoe that you need.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I have a set of Bridgestone All Terrain A/T’s(that’s just what it says). They are O2 models with tread that wrap around the sidewalls but they’re Load Range E, damned expensive but haul the heaviest loads. They are smooth and silent. I had some Cooper’s that never let you forget how fast you were going and made quite the racket. Some say the Cooper’s are better for mileage. There’s a trade-off for mileage and quiet, comfortable tires.

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