Whether you’re using your utility terrain vehicle (UTV) for racing, hauling equipment, covering long distances or simply going for a joyride, the right tires can make a big difference. The best UTV tires for your application depend on a wide range of features, like tread design, materials and ply.
Fortunately, we eat, sleep and breathe UTVs here at Fueled UTV, so we can help you find the best tires for your next ride. In this UTV tire buyer’s guide, we’ll go over the different characteristics of a UTV tire you need to know and what makes terrain-specific tires really perform in certain environments.
How Do I Choose a UTV Tire?
Before you even start to look at UTV tires, you’ll need to consider what kind of driving you typically do. Do you want to take corners like a champ while racing, or are you looking for something to help you plow through the mud? Will you need to protect against punctures or float across sand dunes? With the exception of all-terrain tires, UTV tires tend to perform best in specific environments.
Below are some things to consider when choosing the best UTV tires for your kind of driving.
On-Road vs. Off-Road
One of the first things you’ll need to ask yourself is whether you’ll be driving on roads or not. If you are, you may need to choose tires that are approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), depending on local laws. DOT-rated tires are typically a little heavier because they offer more layers of protection against punctures to keep both you and other drivers safe.
The best UTV tires for pavement usually use different materials and shallower treads better suited to the pavement and hard-packed trails. They won’t wear out as quickly as off-road tires would on pavement, either. On-road tires typically need more pressure to offer adequate stability.
If, on the other hand, you’ll be driving off-road, you generally want something lighter with a deeper tread design. Less pressure helps off-road tires avoid punctures, while fewer layers help improve performance and speed. Again, most off-road riding is best suited to tires built for the terrain at hand.
One way to give a UTV a little edge on the competition is to use larger tires. They can help improve traction in tricky environments, like sand, rock-crawling, mud and snow. Keep in mind that if you go too large, you could introduce greater wear and tear to upstream UTV components.
More height helps you increase ground clearance, but it also changes your center of gravity and can make you more likely to tip. Smaller tires do the opposite and might make tight turns easier and help you accelerate faster, but they’ll reduce your ground clearance — the space between your UTV and the ground.
Tire sizes are written in terms of height, width and rim diameter. A general rule is that you have about an inch of wiggle room on these numbers when compared to the stock tires that came with your UTV. You can go an inch taller or shorter or an inch narrower or wider.
Still, many manufacturers have stipulations about sizing that could void your warranty if you go too large or too small, so always check before changing your tire size. When in doubt, it never hurts to stick with the size of your stock tires.
Tire ply refers to the number of layers that make up the tire. Generally speaking, the more layers, the more puncture-resistant your tire is. It also relates to the load-carrying capacity of a tire.
Determining what ply tire is best for a UTV depends on how you use the vehicle. A typical ply for off-road tires is four or six, but eight-ply tires are also common for tough terrain. You may need them if you’re driving on sharp rocks in the mountains, near cacti in the desert or anywhere there’s a higher risk of puncture.
Another aspect of tire ply to consider is how the layers are arranged. There are two primary types of ply:
- Bias: In a bias ply, the plies overlap in a crisscrossing pattern across the tire. Each ply starts at a bead, moving up the tire sidewall in one direction and moving down the opposite sidewall at a slight angle.
- Radial: With a radial tire, the plies are stacked across the middle of the tire and don’t extend down the sidewalls. The plies are placed perpendicular to the direction of travel. They allow the center and sidewalls to move independently from each other. The sidewalls can flex for a smoother drive and better handling. They can even improve heat dissipation to potentially boost the tire’s lifespan because the sidewalls absorb shock from the drive.
Most tires sold today are radial tires, but you can find bias tires, too. They may be more affordable since their design is simpler.
Tread Pattern and Depth
The tread depth, or lug, affects how a tire can handle a certain terrain and is one of the primary differences among tires built for different types of surfaces. You’ll find shallower treads — less than 1 inch — on general-purpose or sand tires.
Deeper treads are needed in soft conditions to cut through the terrain and dig you out of tough spots. Some kinds of tires, such as mud and snow tires, have basic tread patterns that work like shovels to dig away whatever’s in your path. Others, like sand and on-road tires, have shallower or even non-existent treads that help the tires glide without digging into the surface.
Tire manufacturers use a wide range of materials to help their products perform. The rubber compounds used in a tire can affect how a tread behaves in different environments. Softer compounds tend to provide better grip and are slightly heavier than harder compounds.
On the other hand, the harder compounds are more durable and have better rolling resistance — meaning they roll more slowly. While not all rubber compounds will make a big difference, you may notice them more when you’re driving on hard surfaces, like pavement or rocks.
Where the rubber compounds are placed will also affect the ride — soft rubber doesn’t typically work well on tall tire knobs, which need a little more support to avoid a squishy ride. Many manufacturers use a combination of rubbers to offer the best of both worlds.
A dual-compound tire might have firm rubber on the inside of the knobs and softer rubber on the outside to deliver both support and grip. Dual-compound designs might also place harder rubber toward the center of the tire and softer rubber on the sides to minimize rolling resistance and improve cornering.
Types of UTV Tires
With all of those features in mind, here’s how the different types of UTV tires compare. They offer the right combination of design features to optimize performance in various terrains. From deep and knobby mud tires to practically bald sand tires, we’ve got you covered with a UTV tires comparison.
Mud tires are built for cutting through this soft material. Regular tires might have you burn out your engine trying to spin out of the mud, but these deep-tread tires can handle it. They’ll clean out mud away from the surface of the tire and help keep your UTV in better condition.
You’ll typically find mud tires with treads of at least 1 inch, but for the muddiest of conditions, you can get them as deep as 2 inches. Leave those for the deeper mud pits — they won’t work well on other surfaces. Because of these deep treads and knobby designs, mud tires won’t drive very smoothly on dry land, whether that’s a hard-packed trail, rocks or pavement.
The basic tread pattern of a mud tire usually involves longer lateral lugs that are spaced further apart. This allows the wheels to slice through mud while preventing it from sticking between the lucks.
Mud tires have a more aggressive look and may call for adjustments to your UTV, such as wheel spacers or changing the offset. They’re also heavy, and that weight can affect performance, especially on UTVs with less horsepower. If your UTV isn’t very high-powered, it could add stress on components like axles, differentials and wheel bearings.
If you need to plow through the mud, try one of these popular mud tires:
- System 3 XM310 Extreme Mud Tire: These System 3 mud tires offer deep dual-stage lugs to dig out even the muddiest of paths, measuring 1.5 inches deep in the center and 2 inches deep at the corners. Stepped shoulder lugs reach down the sidewall to improve side bite. With eight plies of protection, you can expect solid puncture resistance, too.
- SuperATV Terminator UTV/ATV Mud Tire: The SuperATV Terminator tires offer an aggressive 2-inch tread for unparalleled grip and a tapered tread for self-cleaning. They also feature a built-in rim guard and a six-ply design to keep wheels better protected. While they excel in the mud, these tires also perform well on all terrains.
- BFGoodrich Mud Terrain T/A KM3 UTV Tires: The BFGoodrich T/A KM3 UTV tires can push you through some of the toughest environments with a unique tread design and sidewall to offer exceptional grip and traction from all angles. Mud-phobic bars help compacted mud release from the tire, while tougher rubber on the sidewall helps resist splitting or bruising. Wherever your mudding takes you, these tires can get you there.
Tires built for dune riding are lightweight and designed to glide across the surface of the sand. In other words, they get as much floatation and as little drag as possible. You’ll practically float across the sand, where stock tires would otherwise dig themselves into a rut.
Front sand tires are usually bald on the front with a ridge or two running through the middle to add enough bite for easy steering. The rear tires are equipped with a paddle-like design that propels the vehicle forward and isn’t likely to dig a hole into the sand.
Some top sand tires include:
- Pro Armor Sand Tires: These rugged tires are built for all things sand. The front eight-ply tires offer hard turning bite and minimize front-end drift. They were built for high horsepower and high performance. Rear tires offer four plies and 16 paddles. Each has a 1-inch scoop to help propel you through the sand. Pair the front and rear Pro Armor Sand Tires together for ideal traction and stability on sandy surfaces.
- SandSports SXS Sand Tires: A special rubber compound helps SandSports SXS Sand Tires minimize “paddle shock” on your UTV to keep it in good shape. The tires come in a few different designs, including a reversible bi-directional tread pattern so you can choose your preference for better climbing “pull” or front-end stability.
If you’ll be driving on rocky ground or hard-packed trails, you need something that can resist puncture from jagged edges and maintain its traction on slick surfaces. Rock tires have exceptional puncture resistance and may even be DOT-approved.
The treads on rock tires are more similar to the treads you’d find on a truck. The lugs are closer together, and the sidewall tread and siping — slits in the tire’s surface — offer maximum traction. You can even find tires with rock ejectors or rim guards to help you clear a path.
For those drivers traversing rocky terrain, here are some popular options:
- Pro Armor Crawler XR: The Pro Armor Crawler XR tires can help you excel in rock crawling and on general trails and deserts. They have a square traction profile and use a soft compound built for high traction and reduced wear on rocky surfaces. The Crawler XR tires have an aggressive tread pattern and an eight-ply design for high puncture resistance.
- Sedona Rockabilly: With the Sedona Rockabilly tires, you get eight plies of puncture resistance in a radial design. The aggressive tread design has integrated side lugs and rock ejectors and a built-in rim guard for high performance in extreme riding conditions, including racing. These tires can meet high-horsepower and speed demands for stellar performance in rocky spaces.
- Maxxis Roxxzila: The Maxxis Roxxzila offers superior grip and puncture resistance thanks to stepped shoulder lugs, a multi-layer sidewall and a high void ratio in the center. It comes in two different compounds, a softer one designed for rock crawling, racing and short use, and a harder one for all-purpose use. Both use eight-ply radial construction and a directional tread design.
Snow tires are similar to mud tires with widely spaced lugs to help clear out snow and slush, but they’re much shallower to help you paddle through the snow. The tread spacing is pretty wide to clear out snow from the tires. They also have some extra siping to help increase traction on slippery surfaces and cut through ice.
Snow tires often use special compounds that help the tires stay softer in freezing temperatures and better resist punctures. Many riders like to add ice studs onto their tires, so some snow tires have pre-drilled lugs to make them easy to install.
Are you looking for some great tires to get you through the snow? Try these:
- System 3 Off-Road SS360 Sand/Snow Tires: These System 3 dual-purpose tires can carry you through snowy or sandy terrain, with a unique tread for razor-sharp turning and handling. They’re very lightweight and sport a two-ply design and low rolling resistance to help your UTV components last longer.
- Moose Utility 901X Tire: The Moose 901X tire is a great performer in snowy landscapes, thanks to an offset V-tread design and side lugs. It has a durable six-ply design and recessed center lugs for more surface area and added traction.
Racing tires are built to give you as much traction as possible for responsive, high-performance driving. They can vary widely due to diverse racing conditions.
If you’re racing through rocky outcroppings, you’ll need different tires than you would if you were ripping across sand dunes. Whatever terrain they’re intended for, racing tires prioritize performance. They offer strong puncture resistance, good cornering ability and forward traction.
General racing tires tend to have large, square lugs that sit close together. The shallow treads help with grip and acceleration, while the square lug design offers bite in all directions. They may also use a harder rubber compound to improve bite. Keep in mind that racing tires are best suited to hard-packed terrain. Their shorter tread depth isn’t a good fit for soft terrains.
Here are some popular racing tires to choose from:
- MRT Pro Armor Race Series Tire: This Pro Armor tire was built for performance. It features deep corner tread bites, a dual durometer tread composition and self-cleaning square treads. You get maximum traction, high durability and exceptional cornering, all with an eight-ply puncture-resistant design.
- System 3 RT320 Radial Tires: The RT320 Radial Tires from System 3 deliver exceptional performance on mixed terrain. They have a deep tread design with a lightweight build and DOT approval. You’ll find eight-ply construction and a rubber compound designed for high-mileage applications.
Last but not least is all-terrain UTV tires. While your stock tires may have a similar goal in mind, aftermarket all-purpose tires tend to have better quality and versatility. They may have increased puncture resistance and versatile tread designs.
They’ll be heavier than stock tires but usually aren’t heavy enough to hurt your performance much. The best UTV tires for all-terrain tend to have longer life spans and come in a range of styles. Keep in mind that these tires won’t do well in a specific category but can offer a solid experience across almost all of them.
For solid all-around performance, consider the following tires:
- Pro Armor Dual-Threat Tires: From the mud to the rocks, these Pro Armor Dual-Threat Tires can handle all terrains with ease. They feature a lateral-grip compound on the edges of the tire that offers a softer rubber material to help with tight cornering and improve grip. A harder, long-wearing compound covers the middle of the tire for better straight-line stability, increased traction during acceleration and longer tread life.
- Maxxis Bighorn Radial Tire: The Bighorn Radial Tire from Maxxis is a popular choice for a reason. It offers extensive durability in a six-ply radial construction and a wide range of sizes. It delivers exceptional all-around performance for all terrains.
- System 3 Offroad XTR30: These rugged eight-ply tires have a deep tread that spans 1/4 inch to 1 inch. A multi-angle tread helps improve side bite for traction and durability on all terrains.
Find the Right Tires at Fueled UTV
Whatever kind of riding you do, the right tire can help you improve performance, stay safe and keep your gear in good condition. You don’t need to pay a fortune to get good tires, either. At Fueled UTV, we can help you find the right tires at affordable prices.
We have a massive selection of the best UTV tires for every terrain. Our industry experts can help you pick the right ones, along with anything else you might need for your UTV. Gear, parts, accessories — you name it. Just tell us what you want out of your ride, and we’re here to help.