Just like not every vehicle fits every need, not all tires are good in all scenarios. That’s why, even if you have all-wheel drive, you need winter tires, for example. And why all-season tires aren’t necessarily always the best choice. There are even ones that are better suited to dry days than wet ones. So, if you regularly drive on wet roads or in the rain, these Consumer Reports-recommended tires may be for you.
Why some tires are better on wet roads
RELATED: Are Snow Tires Really Worth It?
As tires have evolved, manufacturers have improved both their rubber compounds and tread designs. The different rubber ‘recipes’ are why winter tires are recommended in cold climates, even if there isn’t snow. But it’s the tread designs, The Drive explains, that determine which are the best wet-weather tires.
Tires only work if rubber meets the driving surface, whether that’s pavement, rock, or sand. If water, ice, or melting snow gets between the surface and rubber, you lose grip, until you eventually start sliding. Treads quickly jettison the water and slush away from the surface to prevent this. That way, you can stop quickly and safely go around a corner.
This is also why tires need to be regularly replaced and rotated. One, tires age and degrade, as does any other mechanical or rubber component. Two, because once the treads wear down past a certain point, they no longer work effectively. And rotating them regularly keeps them wearing evenly.
As with the recommended dry-weather tires, ‘wet-weather tires’ aren’t a unique category. As such, CR’s list of best wet-weather tires includes all-season, summer, winter, and all-terrain tires.
All-season tires aren’t as good as winter or summer ones in extreme temperature ranges. However, for the average commuter, they offer good performance in a variety of conditions. Some, though, are better when it rains than others.
For an all-purpose, good wet-weather passenger car tire, CR recommends the General Altimax RT43. It scored ‘very good’ in almost every CR testing category, and has an 80,000-mile tread life. Although its wet braking score is only average, its hydroplaning resistance is rated at ‘very good.’
For pickup truck and SUV owners, CR’s best wet-weather all-season tire is the Michelin Premier LTX. Reviewers report it performs better in wet braking than its rivals, but it’s also an excellent choice when it isn’t raining. The 40,000-mile tread life is somewhat below average. However, the Premier LTX is extremely quiet, with low rolling resistance for better fuel economy.
For those with performance cars, the best wet-weather all-season performance tire is the Michelin CrossClimate +. This tire is also recommended for dry roads, thanks to its all-around above-average performance. It doesn’t excel in any one thing, but received ‘very good’ ratings in everything from handling and braking to hydroplaning resistance and road noise. It also has a 75,000-mile tread life.
UHP tires, whether summer or all-season, sacrifice cold-weather performance for an overall improvement in grip and handling. AutoGuide and Les Schwab report, especially at elevated temperatures, summer tires are the better wet-weather choice compared to all-seasons. That’s because the former is softer, which is better for road grip.
However, if you don’t face excessive heat, and/or don’t drive your sporty car on racetracks, the all-season Goodyear Eagle Exhilarate is an excellent choice. If you doubt its performance credentials, the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE uses a Goodyear Eagle variant. The Exhilarate isn’t quite as extreme, but it’s still a good wet-weather all-season UHP tire. CR reports handling is excellent, as is hydroplaning resistance. It also has ‘very good’ wet and dry braking ratings. As a UHP, it is a bit noisy and only has a 45,000-mile tread life. But it’s actually fairly comfortable.
General also makes a good UHP summer wet-weather option, the G-Max RS. Hot Rod ranks the General G-Max RS above its rivals from BFGoodrich, Hankook, and Firestone in terms of wet performance. And even when the grip runs out, the G-Max RS retains predictable and controllable handling. Automobile reports the G-Max RS also regains traction quicker than its BFG, Hankook, and Firestone rivals after exiting the water. The biggest downside, as is typical for UHPs, is a stiff ride. However, CR reports its 45,000-mile tread life is higher than its rivals.
Best winter tires
In the past, Edmunds.com reports, winter tires were really only good on snow and ice. Now, however, they’re just as durable and grippy on the pavement as all-seasons. And once the temperature drops, they’re the better choice.
CR recommends the Falken HS449 Eurowinter for both dry-weather and wet-weather conditions. It is a bit noisy. However, it has excellent snow traction and hydroplaning resistance. It also handles and brakes better on both wet and dry roads than the average winter tire.
The Vredestein Wintrac Pro isn’t the best-known tire. However, it is CR’s recommendation for wet-weather winter performance. It has excellent hydroplaning resistance and traction on both snow and ice. Rolling resistance is somewhat poor, though it’s quieter than the Falken HS449. And it has good wet braking, as well.
The Continental TerrainContact A/T was also CR’s choice for the best dry-weather all-terrain tire. However, it also has very good hydroplaning resistance and offers good wet braking performance. Truck Trend’s tests back up these scores, with reviewers claiming the Continental offers “top-tier performance with middle-tier pricing.” It’s also fairly quiet, with an above-average 65,000-mile tread life.
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