Summer Tires vs All-Season Tires: Which Are Best for You?

Are summer tires better in rain?

Yep, it may surprise you to know that summer tires outperform all-season tires on wet pavement.

Read on to learn about the upsides and downsides of summer tires, including handling, temperature range limits and how they manage heat.

What Are Summer Tires?

Summer tires are also known as performance tires. They’re called that for a reason.

Performance tires are designed to provide excellent dry and wet traction along with precise handling. They’re meant to be used during warm months, or all year in regions that don’t experience a true winter season.

Why Summer Tires Perform Better in Heat and Rain

Summer tires are optimized for excellent road grip whether it’s baking hot, slightly damp or raining heavily on the road. They’re made from a tread compound (the mix of rubber and fillers that make up the tread) containing sticky additives for road grip in wet conditions. But this tread blend also provides enough stiffness so tires hold up and retain their shape when the heat is on. This keeps rolling resistance to a minimum on hot pavement.

Tread patterns typically feature shallower, straighter grooves than what you’ll see on all-seasons, and solid, continuous ribs, so more rubber is always in contact with the road. The result: more stability during cornering, braking and acceleration.

Since performance tires often have asymmetrical or unidirectional tread patterns, tire rotation options may be limited. You may only be able to rotate front tires to opposite sides versus criss-crossing to even out tread wear, for example.

While it may come as news to many that summer tires outperform all-season tires when it comes to both wet and dry traction, here’s something that won’t surprise: Performance tires don’t offer any winter traction. They get rigid at cold temps and aren’t a safe choice in any snow or ice conditions.

Comparison of summer and all-season tire tread features

All-season Tires Trade Off Some Traction for Longer Wear

All-season tires are engineered to give vehicles enough winter traction to get through light snow conditions, making it possible for a driver to run one set of tires year-round in places that don’t get a lot of snowfall or ice.

They’re made with a compound that stays flexible even at temperatures a bit above freezing, to maintain road grip. Their tread patterns have deeper grooves and feature more voids and variations which help with traction for occasional travel in snow. The designs are usually symmetrical, so there are more rotation options to even out tread wear and extend tire mileage.

They are like a hybrid between summer tires and winter tires, made to handle a broad variety of weather and road conditions moderately well, while getting good tread life. They don’t substitute for genuine winter tires, which are necessary for stable driving on serious snow, sleet and ice.

If you’re choosing between performance and all-season tires, here’s a quick comparison.

Comparison of summer tires and all-season tires

Should You Buy Summer Tires?

If you live where it never snows and temperatures are typically 44°F or warmer during your normal drive times, summer tires are a good choice. Performance tires are especially well-suited to urban areas with warm climates that get some rain, because they are better at preventing hydroplaning at highway speeds than all-season tires.

If you live in an area where the weather is not so predictable, where you may encounter freezing rain or light snow conditions in fall or spring, it’s better to go with all-season tires.

And if winter in your area means temperatures that dip below freezing along with precipitation, or you regularly travel to high elevations, get a set of winter tires and swap them out in November and March.

Driving in rain regularly? Find out how to avoid hydroplaning.