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Mud Tires vs. Off-Road Tires: What's the Difference?

Mud Tires vs. Off-Road Tires: What's the Difference?

Every off-road enthusiast is faced with a difficult decision at one point in their lives: all-terrain (A/T) or mud-terrain (M/T). Although this might seem like a pretty simple and obvious choice, there are many specificities in regards to these two types of tires that make it a bit more difficult to make a choice.

The type of tires you use can make or break your entire outdoor adventure. Sure, maybe your set of wheels works great on gravel, but not during travel. Or maybe it’s a smooth, confident drive right until you hit the smallest patch of mud.

All of these considerations are influential in making your final decision. But let us help you out a little bit. Here are some key differences between mud tires and all-terrain tires.

What Are All-Terrain Tires?

This is one of those times when the name of the tire is beneficial in that it pretty much gives you the gist. An all-terrain tire is meant to perform on and off-road. The goal of these is to give you a nice, smooth ride on asphalt while also giving you enough gumption to maneuver over mud, rocks, and sand reliably.

They’re bigger tires that typically have relatively deep treads and thick sidewalls. Think of it as a hybrid wheel. It’s the best of both worlds. With that said, when a tire tries to do too much, it tends to mean that it doesn’t necessarily excel in one area as opposed to another. We’ll talk more about A/Ts performance in a little bit.

What Are Mud-Terrain Tires?

Again, there are no surprises here. A mud-terrain tire is meant for more harsh and extreme off-road conditions, like mud, snow, sand, and all that good stuff. These tires usually feature deeper treads and larger sidewalls to help grip the loosest and risky environmental conditions.

Mud-terrain tires, as you may have guessed, are meant to perform better off-road than on. But let’s take a look at some specific comparisons between these two types of tires to help you pick one that’s best for your truck or SUV.

Off-Road Performance

One of the most important things you should consider when thinking about which of these tires is right for you is how they perform in certain off-road conditions.


Mud terrain tires have their own special category. So spoiler alert: they perform better than all-terrain tires in muddy situations.

This is because mud tires have larger voids between treads that help to grip the ground underneath them. The tighter the tread voids, the more likely you won’t have traction, causing your car just to spin and spin in place. Those are great for a comfortable ride on asphalt but not so good in the dirt.

Mud tires also have special features like kick-out bars or rock ejectors to dispel anything that might get caught within the voids. It all just makes for a much more controlled and maneuverable approach in muddy areas.


Snow is a unique element because it easily solidifies within the treads of the wheel and can make for a lower amount of traction. Enthusiasts often argue about which type of tire is better in winter weather.

In our opinion, it sort of depends on the amount of snow that you’re driving on. If you’re adventuring through a snowy tundra through a few inches of snow, you’ll probably want mud-terrain. These usually feature thicker sidewall designs that can help grip the snow and propel you forward if you ever start getting a little stuck.

However, if you are looking for a set of snow tires that can work in more of a wintry, slushy mix, then all-terrain tires are more your speed. These have a bit more of a compact design, so it can prevent snow from packing as easily when you’re on the road. In general, all-terrains tend to be a bit easier to control, so that can be helpful during your winter weather commutes.


Sand is a specific concern, as only certain parts of the country will need to deal with this type of terrain. With that said, sand is a tricky landscape to work with.

Mud tires tend to be more aggressive, especially if they have larger tread designs and deeper voids. This might have a habit of digging you down into the ground in sandy environments instead of shooting you forward.

In sandy situations, an all-terrain tire might be the better way to go. It’s just because they have tighter treads which will help with grip and flotation. That’s not to say that a mud-terrain tire wouldn’t do well on a beach or in the desert, but it might not be the best fit if you are primarily driving on this type of terrain.


Rocks can be super hard on your wheels, so your treads must be built to last. In that regard, mud terrain tires will probably last you a more extended amount of time. Their deep treads will be more resistant to wear and tear over time, so they’ll be more durable in challenging situations.

With that said, if you’re in an area of the country with larger stones that require more grip, an all-terrain tire might be the best fit for you. By contrast, areas with a mix of larger rocks and loose dirt might be better suited for a mud-terrain wheel. This area is a bit of a wild card.

On-Road Performance

Since you’ll be spending a lot of time on the road as you move between adventures, it’s important to know how these tires differ regarding their on-road performance.

Since mud-terrain tires tend to feature larger, deeper treads with more room between them, you’re more likely to notice much more noise on the road compared to all-terrain tires. Now, some people live for the roar of their rims when they hit the pavement. But if you want to be able to jam to your favorite Spotify playlist, you might want a quieter all-terrain wheel, so it doesn’t drown out the radio.

On top of that, all-terrain tires tend to feel a bit more comfortable and confident on the road, especially in wet conditions. The tires are just less bulky and easier to maneuver when compared to mud-terrains. 

What’s the Cost?

Another factor that might play an important role in which tire is best for you is the price. Generally, mud-terrain tires are more expensive than all-terrain tires because more materials are usually necessary to make them. They’re bigger and bulkier, so you’ll need to pay a little extra.

With that said, you can get some mud-terrain tires for a very fair price with one of Rent A Wheel’s flexible payment plans. Sure, you can pay for your tires upfront, but that can be a super tough one-time expense. Why not make low monthly payments with our rent-to-own program that gives you 78 weeks to pay off your balance? It helps alleviate the financial burden while still letting you get back to your off-road excursions.

In short, don’t worry about the cost. We’ll work with you to come up with a financial solution that works. All you need to think about is what terrain you’re going to try taking on next.

Which is Right For You?

Mud tires and off-road/ all-terrain tires have many similarities, but they have even more differences. The bottom line here is that you should pick a tire that works best for you. We can offer you some advice, but we won’t be offended if you don’t take it.

If your lifestyle is split about 50/50 between on and off-road, then all-terrain makes more sense. It just has a smoother ride on asphalt and performs well in most light off-road situations. However, if you spend at least 80% of your time off-road, mud tires are the way to go. They’ll perform better in intense and extreme environments, especially if you’re a fan of getting down and dirty in the mud.

While all-terrain tires are a bit on the cheaper side, don’t let price get between you and your dream wheels. With Rent A Wheel’s flexible payment plans, the only thing you need to worry about is where you’re going to take your next adventure.



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