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Making an informed choice when opting to buy wider or narrower tires

Wider 20-inch tire
Wider 20-inch tire
Benjamin Matro

Several new vehicles are available with the option to purchase a trim package or upgrade having up to 20-inch tires. Shoppers seeking a new automobile benefit from knowing the advantages and disadvantages of selecting wider or narrower tires. It is important to determine if the larger size offers a functional value that is a reasonable return on investment or if the offering is purely aesthetic, if not both. A little research on this subject offers a plethora of insight towards making a more informed purchase.

It is unclear why, but there has been a progressive demand for increasingly wider tires on new vehicles when purchased stock from dealerships. Not surprising, with regard to the trend, is the amount of information available about the topic. There appear to be both disadvantages and advantages for selecting either wider or narrower tires. Researching the subject is worthwhile, since insights that are favorable and unfavorable address points of view that consumers seeking a new automobile might not consider while shopping uninformed. Reading a lengthy list of automobile trim packages from among different automobile manufacturers can be confusing. The fact that more expensive trim packages are the ones having wider tires possibly gives the impression that wider is better.

If driving comfort is the primary goal, narrower tires tend to be a more comfortable ride and there is less noise made by them. In addition, replacing just the tire or tires is usually cheaper when compared to the price of replacing the wider version. Wider tires are perceived to be a harsher driving experience.

If the primary goal is to enhance performance, be aware how to avoid investing in diminishing returns. If the weight of the vehicle is increased, the consequence is that performance is affected. After researching the effect of larger wheels and tires on a car, author Tony Quiroga states, “What’s immediately apparent from the results is that as the wheel-and-tire packages get larger and heavier, acceleration and fuel economy suffer.” Increasing the weight of the vehicle affects both acceleration and braking. On the other hand, if the upgrade is from a narrower steel wheel to an alloy 20-inch wheel, the wider tires can still weigh less and thus improve performance.

Wider tires have more rubber in contact with the driving surface and this increases traction. More rubber also means more physical mass to distribute heat, which theoretically can increase the life of the tire. Some folks might prefer wider tires for aesthetic reasons, for functional reasons, or for both reasons. Other folks might prefer narrower tires for aesthetic reasons, functional reasons, or for both reasons. It is a preferential and financial matter, a purchase best handled as an informed choice.


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