Tire buyers prioritize long tread life, as Consumer Reports research continues to show. Likewise, wearing out too soon is also one of the main gripes people have about the tires they already own. Consequently, we invest much time, effort, and money in producing ratings to allow tire shoppers to see how tires hold up over the long haul—regardless what the manufacturer claims. And now, we’ve made the treadwear assessment even more powerful.
Long tread life adds value and safety by giving you more miles for your dollar and by maintaining resistance to hydroplaning and wet grip. The need for this information is clear. (Read "The Truth About Tire Treadwear.")
Tire Treadwear Testing
Since 2005 we have tested over 400 car and truck tire models (excluding winter tires) through our rigorous on-vehicle treadwear test in San Angelo, Texas, on the government’s treadwear course.
Consumer Reports commissions an outside lab to run this extensive evaluation, driving almost around the clock for over 1,000 miles a day. In between driving shifts, tire tread depth is measured and tires are swapped from vehicle to vehicle. Car and truck tires are run to 16,000 miles and faster-wearing ultra-high performance tires to 12,000 miles. From the measured wear, we can project the expected service life for the tires.
The testing is expensive and time consuming, but our research shows that when consumers consider changing a brand of tire, it is price, availability, and treadwear warranty that often sway their decision. Our test offers a direct comparison between brands of tires that you won’t find elsewhere.
Mileage warranties and the government treadwear grades are assigned by the manufacturer, who may choose to be conservative or aggressive to address confidence and marketing concerns. As a result, consumers are not fully empowered to make accurate, direct comparisons from traditional, published information. Further, the treadwear warranties and Uniform Tire Quality Grading (UTQG) ratings do not always align with Consumer Reports' comparative tread life test ratings. And that’s where things get interesting…
To provide you a better sense of how long tires wear, Consumer Reports is introducing a projected mileage in place of the venerable five-point best-to-worst rating system. The projected mileage should be viewed as a comparative tool. Your actual mileage will vary by what, how, and where you drive, along with many other factors, including weather and road texture.
Consumer Reports’ treadwear testing reveals close to half of the 47 all-season and performance all-season tires could be expected to last at least 65,000 miles, and a half dozen could top 85,000 miles or more. Interestingly, long life doesn’t necessarily bring much of a price premium, if any. Michelin was a standout in our latest tests. The three Michelin models we rated all met or exceeded their mileage warranty. But the longest-wearing tire came from Pirelli. We estimate that the Pirelli P4 FOUR SEASONS Plus could last a whopping 100,000 miles.
Tires That Come Up Short
Models that our test project will fall short of their treadwear mileage include Continental TrueContact and PureContact (H-, V-speed rating); Sumitomo HTR Enhance L/X (T-, H-, V-speed rating); Kumho Solus TA71 and TA11; Firestone Precision Touring; and Bridgestone Serenity Plus. Those tires carry mileage claims that are 15,000 miles or more optimistic than our test projections. That said, most of these tires should have very good tread life. Biggest outlier: Nokian enTYRE 2.0 with an 80,000-mile warranty. We project it would wear-out in 35,000 miles.
Official Treadwear Grades Don’t Reveal Much
The Uniform Tire Quality Grading System (UTQGS) was developed as a consumer information rating program decades ago to describe Treadwear, Traction, and Temperature. Treadwear is based on an index, not mileage. A tire graded 200, should wear twice as long as one graded 100. Some manufacturers low-ball the Treadwear grade to better position a tire in the intended market or just to be conservative, but that leads to problems for consumers trying to gauge how well one tire compares to another. So it’s no surprise that seven tested models had UTQG grades spanning 340 to 700, yet all were predicted to wear-out in 65,000 miles based on our test.
If treadwear is a primary buying factor, refer to our detailed ratings for direct comparisons. But even buying a high-scoring/long mileage tire in Consumer Reports ratings is no guarantee of long tread life without proper maintenance, including monthly pressure checks, wheel alignment, and tire rotation as recommended by the owner's manual.
Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.