High performance tires are an extremely popular type of tire that more and more drivers are opting for, but they are not for everyone. High performance tires are expensive, are generally not suitable for all season driving, and the tread does not typically hold up as long as touring or all season tires. That said, if you demand maximum stability and handling at high speeds, then high performance tires are unequalled for cornering, braking, and grip on dry pavement. If you are trying to decide between a touring tire or a high performance tire or if you just want to know more about high performance tires, we offer some tips and information to help you learn more and make an intelligent purchasing decision.
Features of High Performance Tires
As you might assume from the name, high performance tires are built for drivers who want to get the most out of their vehicle. In the most practical terms, that means higher speed ratings and more grip on dry surfaces for better handling or braking. In terms of construction, a high performance tire typically weighs much less than a touring or specialty tire, have a footprint that is noticeably more wide, and a shorter sidewall height that results in a lower profile.
You may see tires labeled maximum performance or ultra high performance as well, depending on the manufacturer. These tires usually represent the top of the line, using advanced materials and incorporating the tire maker's latest advances. Where high performance tires will generally carry speed ratings of U (124 mph) or H (130 mph), you will see ultra performance or max performance tires with speed ratings of Z (over 149 mph), W (168 mph), and Y (186 mph).
Pros and Cons of High Performance Tires
If you are thinking about upgrading or are in the market for a new set of tires and are thinking about buying a high performance tire, you should understand the advantages and disadvantages. You probably want to be able to compare high performance tires vs touring or other less expensive tires as well.
Generally speaking, high performance tires will out perform touring tires on dry roads. With speed ratings that can run well past double the legal speed limit in the US, high performance tires are a logical choice if you plan on maximizing or boosting the performance of your car. If you own an expensive sedan or sports car, high performance tires are probably a given both for their sharp looks as well as their handling. If you have own one of these types of cars, you may not have a lot of options anyway. For example, if your Chevy Corvette came stock with Y rated tires and you wanted to save money on replacement tires, you might not save very much by downgrading to a lower rated tire, though it is certainly possible if you shop around. If you value extreme handling and speed above everything else and price is not a concern, then there is really no reason not to opt for high performance tires.
In terms of downsides, for most people the biggest one is cost. Top of the line tires can be very expensive, particularly when you consider that they wear much faster. If you are accustomed to capable, moderately priced tires with long tread life and good warranties, you may be in for a shock. You will be replacing your tires more often at a much higher price and if your tires even come with a treadwear guarantee at all it will not be lengthy. A smooth, quiet ride is usually not something a tire built for maximum performance will give you either. The thin and low sidewalls do not allow for much absorption so you will likely feel every bump in the road. If you frequently drive in bad weather conditions, you may want to consider an all season tire. You will give up some performance in ideal conditions, but perform better on wet roads and possibly be able to drive in light snow. High performance tires usually do not do well in the rain and snow pretty much makes driving on them out of the question.
Should I Buy High Performance Tires?
If you are not knowledgeable or if you walk into a tire shop without having done your homework, when asked if you want high performance tires of course you would say yes. After all you do not want low performance tires, right? But do you really need them? The type of driving you do should play a large part in your decision. If the bulk of your driving consists of sitting in rush hour traffic, taking the kids to school, or running local errands, you probably do not need high performance tires. If you are really on the fence regarding high performance versus touring tires, the touring tires are probably the right choice. The ability to hold up at high speed while delivering precise handling comes at a high cost. If you are on a budget or are looking for the best value, remember that the overall cost of ownership is higher, often by a significant margin, due to higher prices and shorter tread life. If your number one priority is getting the best performing tire for your vehicle that money can buy then the choice is clear. Likewise, if you frequently have to drive in difficult weather conditions and you do not want to have to switch out your tires as the seasons change, then the choice is equally clear.