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Which type of 4WD tyre should I get?

Quick Answer: To decide which type of 4WD tyre will best suit you, consider how much time you spend on and off-road:

  • Choose highway terrain tyres if you spend 90% of your time on road

  • Choose an all terrain tyre if you spend 60% of your time on road and 40% off-road

  • Choose MT tyres if you spend 85% of your time off-road and 15% on the road


Which type of 4WD tyre do i need?

Mud Tyres, All Terrain Tyres or Highway tyres? Which are the right tyres for you? 

In this simple guide, we’ll explore different types of tyres to help you pick the best 4WD tyre for your needs.

As you can see from the image above, not all tyres are created equal. They have different tread styles for each application, depending on the surface on which you plan on driving your 4X4 the most.

So, before you dash out and spend $ 1000 on a new set of tyres, it’s important you understand the difference with each tyre type because there are pros and cons with each 4WD tyre type and depending on how you use your 4WD, it could affect your daily usage in a negative way. E.g. if you love the look of the aggressive tread pattern on mud tyres, you might be surprised to read that even though the grip looks chunky, they offer very average performance in daily use in terms of wear, loud noise and terrible handling on paved/tarmac roads.

Here is my take on the 3 most common 4×4 tyres used in Australia.

1. Highway Terrain tyres (HT) – 10% Off-Road use, 90% Road use

Highway tyres are the most common and come as standard tyres on many 4WD and SUVs like Toyota Prado, Hi-Lux and smaller SUVs like the Mazda CX 5.

Highway tyres are made specifically for, you guessed it, the highway. They’re designed to give you enhanced highway performance, ride comfort and long wear. These tyres provide great traction all year long, be it in dry, wet or cold seasons. They often get better fuel mileage due to a lower rolling resistance compared to the other tyre types. They are ok for very  very light off road use, like driving a unseled but grated track to a farmhouse.

If you drive mostly on smooth roads with the occasional gravel driveway or grass field, then this type of tyre is perfect for you.

Why do drivers choose Highway tyres?

  • Good ride comfort.

  • Quieter, with less road noise because of the subtle tread pattern.

  • Good at highway speeds,  durability and superior handling .

  • Lower noise levels (because of the shallower tread depth)

  • Good fuel economy. 

Downside of Highway tyres tyres

  • Not suitable for any off roading more serious than a grated dirt track or a grass field.

  • Shouldn’t be run with a low tyre pressure for prolonged periods 

Best usage for Highway tyres

  • Paved road and city driving 90%

  • Very light off road 10%

  • Suitable for daily comfortable driving around town

Reviewed: Click here to read the “Best Highway tyres in Australia”

2. All Terrain tyres (AT) – 40% Off-Road use 60% Road use

All-Terrain or A/T tyres have a more rugged look about them compared to Highway tyres. They often have a more complex tread design, with deeper, wider grooves and large tread blocks. This design gives them the added traction they need to take on rough roads. Coupled with tougher tread  and tyre sidewall compounds that can withstand chipping and tearing fro rocks and stick you might face while off road while delivering excellent performance on both on and off-road.

The A/T handles well even on the roughest terrain and carrying heavy loads, while also giving you good traction and wear on smooth roads. This tyre then is ideal for those who want maximum versatility from their tyres, or those who frequent roads less travelled yet also desire good performance on smooth surfaces. Below is a quick sumary of A/T tyres, but if you want to learn about all terrain tyres click here. 

Why do drivers choose All terrain tyres?

  • Versatility – suited to a wide range of surfaces from sealed roads, sand and muddy tracks.

  • Stroger side walls and less prone to puncture resistance (more so than HT tyres)

  • Extra void in the tread pattern improves grip on unsealed surfaces.

Downside of All terrain tyres

  • The only downside is not be suitable for extreme off roading. 

  • Slightly more road noise reported than a H/T tyre.

  • Higher rolling resistance and lower fuel economy. 

Best usage for All terrain tyres

  • Paved road and city driving 60%

  • Medium off road usage sand, mud, dirt and small rocks 40%.

  • Perfect for the weekend 4×4 adventurer.

Reviewed: Click here to read the ” Best All Terrain Tyres in Australia”

3. Mud Terrain tyres (MT) – 85% Off-Road use, 15% Road use.

As its name suggests, Mud tyres offer the highest level of traction to take on those extreme off-road surfaces. The power of these tyres comes from their tough tread lugs and huge sizes. Often called “Mud tyres or M/T tyres”, these tyres can work their way through soft, muddy and slippery or rocky surfaces that may otherwise be difficult to grip. 

These wheels are ideal for extreme off-roaders but are also often chosen by drivers who prefer the loud and aggressive look of the wheels. Choosing these SUV or light truck tyres than can not only be a matter of functionality but also of preference and style. Take note, however, that these tyres are much pricier than the other two tyre types, so choosing them simply for aesthetic purposes may cost you a pretty penny just for the look.

Why do drivers choose mud tyres?

  • Allow mud, sand and dirt to pass and mot clog tyre grip

  • Extreme grip, Thanks to the large, open tread pattern

  • Can handle serious, off-road driving conditions including steep terrains and lots of mud!

Downside of Mud off-road tyres

  • Noisey the other tyres on paved road (like a drone noise)

  • Handlers poorly on tarmac ( can be a little slippery on paved roads) 

  • Can be very expensive ( prices start from $300 for a budget brand)

  • More aggressive tread pattern can wear quickly due to the softer rubber compound. 

  • Higher rolling resistance means more fuel consumption.

Best usage for Mud tyres.

  • Paved road and city driving 10%

  • Heavy off-road grip needed for sand, mud, dirt and small rocks.

  • Best for serious off road expeditions taking in rough terrain.

Reviewed: Click here to read the “Best mud tyres in Australia”


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Four-wheel drives are indeed excellent vehicle—but only when they’ve got a suitable quality tyre on them. Make sure you pick the right 4WD tyres and tyre tread pattern for your ride to suit your needs and budget in order to get the most out of your 4WD.

Written By

Matt Banks

Matt is the founder of Autohero.com.au and has been hooked on cars and repairs ever since childhood.

A veteran in automotive since leaving school, Matt has completed his trade as a panel beater and is across all things with wheels. 

His first car was a 1967 FORD XR Wagon followed by a string of collectable Holden’s.

Have a question for Matt? leave a comment below.

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