Even if your car boasts the most powerful, efficient engine money can buy, its performance may be seriously hampered if it's lacking good tyres. That's why it's important to know where to start when it comes to choosing the right tyres for your car.

Tasked with getting us smoothly from A to B, there's more to tyres than merely being round, rubber and wrapped around our car's wheels. And while we've already talked about the pros and cons of different tread patterns, that's only one of the many factors to consider when it comes to buying car tyres.

To help you better understand things, this in-depth guide is here to make the choice a little easier when it's time to change them.

Tyre size: What do the numbers mean?

One of the first things you'll need to know before buying new car tyres is the exact measurements of your car's existing tyres, which can be found on their sidewall. Here, you'll see a series of numbers and letters, all of which indicate specific information about your tyres and their measurements. But what exactly do the numbers mean?

For a car bearing the following: 205/55 R16 91W, the information breaks down into the below:

  • 205 is the tyre's width in mm
  • 55 is the tyre's aspect ratio expressed as a percentage of the width. A smaller number would indicate a 'low profile' tyre
  • R stands for radial. Radial is one of two tyre constructions – the other being cross-ply – which the majority of modern cars have. Radial tyre types are constructed from cords that are positioned across the width of the tyre, so they're 90 degrees to the direction of the tread. This gives the tyre more strength than cross-ply tyres which have their cords at a diagonal angle.
  • 16 is the diameter of wheel the tyre will fit in inches
  • 91 is the tyre's load index, i.e. the load capacity of the tyre or the maximum load that each tyre can support. In this example, 91 would equal 615kg
  • W is the speed rating of the tyre which indicates the maximum speed at which the tyre can carry a load corresponding to its load rating. Here, W would equal 168mph.

Speed rating index chart:












Over 149








Over 168








Over 186

Interactive element note – something similar to this visually would be good: https://www.goodyear.eu/en_gb/consumer/learn/choosing-the-right-tire.html (though I think we can do better than this, looks kind of crummy)

Types of seasonal tyres

It's well worth taking into account the severity of the weather conditions near where you live, as your choice of tyre can perform differently in dry and wet conditions. So, how exactly do seasonal tyres differ?

Summer tyres

The seasonal type that's most commonly fitted to cars, summer tyres handle and grip well on both dry and wet road surfaces. They're designed to perform at their best when in mild weather conditions of 7°c and above.

If you live in an area where the winter conditions are on the milder side where the temperatures remain above 7°c, they can easily be used throughout the year.

If, however, your location is prone to periods of frost, freezing temperatures and occasional snowfall, you might want to opt for an all-season tyre. This type offers the attributes of a winter tyre with the benefits of a summer tyre.

Winter tyres

Winter tyres are made up of a higher rubber proportion compared to that of summer tyres, making them softer and more elastic.

As a result, this increases the level of grip when in temperatures below 7°c. They also have a different tread pattern that contains sipes, increasing performance when conditions are especially snowy and icy. If you live in particularly cold areas, it's advised you change to winter tyres before the onset of very cold weather. Note that winter tyres are also usually marked with a symbol that depicts a snowflake within a mountain.

All-season tyres

A fusion of both of the above, if you're serious about tyre performance then all-weather tyres ensure you don't have to keep switching between summer and winter tyres as the seasons change.

Also known as all-weather or intermediates, they're made from a compound which doesn't harden in cold conditions like a summer tyre would. They also feature a particular kind of groove pattern that stops them from aquaplaning when on very wet roads, maintaining performance and safety in both hot summer and cold winter conditions.

How much should you spend on car tyres?

Once you know the tyre size and seasonal type you'd like to buy, you'll also need to factor in the price that you're willing to pay for them, as their performance and longevity can certainly vary between price points.

What's worth keeping in mind is that all tyres on sale in the UK have been tested to meet strict safety standards. Put simply: you should expect any tyre that you buy to be safe. With that said, premium, mid-range and budget tyres are all going to vary in certain other ways.

Premium tyres

Overall, premium tyres are much more likely to last longer and provide a better driving experience. And while the upfront cost will be pricier, they're an investment; if you're planning to resell or trade your car, and it's equipped with premium tyres, then you'll soon pay off the cost of paying for them in the first place.

Developed to last between 15,000 -20,000 miles, premium tyres also have less rolling resistance, a quality that ensures a quieter ride and improved fuel economy and grip. Additionally, the stopping distances on premium tyres are shorter when compared to cheaper ranges.​

Mid-range tyres

A balance between premium performance and a budget tyre's value, mid-range tyres are best suited for everyday family driving and commutes. And although you may not necessarily be getting a tyre from a brand like Goodyear, Michelin or Pirelli, mid-range tyre manufacturers are still reputable, providing comfortable performance that'll last for thousands of miles.

Budget tyres

If you're not the type of driver who'll be racking up the miles, or you're on a low budget, then budget tyres are still going to perform. Although they won't be subject to the same production processes as premium tyres, and won't last as long as a result, you can still settle for a set of budget tyres that'll easily get you from A to B.

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