Passenger vs. Light Truck Tires and a Tire Diameter Chart
If you drive an SUV or a pickup truck, it’s important to know that you have options when selecting replacement tires.
Understanding the differences between Passenger and Light Truck tires will be critical if you are considering a switch from the original tire type for your vehicle. It’s not necessarily a simple matter of choosing between good and bad. How you use your vehicle will help determine the best choice for you, because each type is constructed for different driving needs.
If you are interested in replacing your Passenger with Light Truck tires or vice versa, read on to get a better idea of the benefits and potential trade-offs for each type.
We’ve also included a tire diameter chart to reference for size comparison and matching between Passenger and Light Truck tires.
Passenger vs. Light Truck tires: What’s the difference?
Passenger tire sizes were originally designed for cars and station wagons, but as the automobile market has grown to include more passenger carrying — instead of cargo carrying — vans, pickup trucks and SUVs, Passenger tires have become more commonplace. Most light trucks being produced today are equipped with Passenger tires because they rarely go off road, carry heavy loads or tow a trailer. Passenger tires are lighter weight, with lower rolling resistance and a less aggressive tread design. Those features add up to improved ride comfort, less road noise and better fuel economy than a typical Light Truck tire — although they shouldn’t be considered adequate for off-road driving. Additionally, Passenger tires typically have better traction on wet and dry pavement.
Light Truck tires are built specifically for light trucks and can handle heavier loads under more adverse conditions. They usually have a deeper tread and thicker rubber in the sidewall and under the tread, offering more protection than their Passenger counterparts. Plus, they are constructed with heavier plies and often have an extra steel belt. Along with heavy load uses, some Light Truck tires are built for off-roading to handle gravel, dirt or other debris that can more easily damage Passenger tires.
Generally, if your truck or SUV’s original tires were Light Truck tires, you should replace them with Light Truck tires following the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations. If you’re going to drive only on paved roads and not haul any heavy loads, you might be able to opt for a Passenger tire instead but should make sure to get a Passenger tire that has a 10% increase in load-carrying capacity in order to provide an acceptable margin of safety. You must also adjust your air pressure accordingly.
For example, if your truck or SUV weighs 4,500 pounds, each tire should be capable of carrying a minimum of 1,125 pounds. If a Passenger size is chosen to replace a Light Truck tire, the tires should be able to carry at least 1,238 pounds.
If your SUV, van or truck came with Passenger tires but you frequently haul heavy loads or pull heavy trailers, you should consider replacing your Passenger tires with Light Truck tires. The trade-off is that Light Truck tires offer a rough ride; their thicker, stiffer sidewalls aren’t very flexible and create a bumpier, noisier, less comfortable drive than Passenger tires. This stiffer tire, however, results in less sway and more predictable handling, which provides more confidence in how the vehicle drives when hauling or carrying heavy loads.
Ultimately, your tire’s construction must be able to handle the vehicle’s weight and intended use. It can create a dangerous situation if the tire you choose isn’t designed to handle the dynamics of your vehicle.
So, whether you’re taxiing your family around town or hauling heavy cargo, it's important to equip your vehicle with the appropriate set of tires. It is always best to stay with the vehicle manufacturer's recommended load range, even if you don't plan to carry a lot of weight.
If you are in the market and looking to replace your Passenger with Light Truck tires or vice versa, the chart below will give you an idea of the available tire sizes with the same approximate overall diameter.
Vehicles do not always come with a spare tire, but you might not notice this until it’s too late (when you are on the side of the road with a flat). It’s important to always have a back-up plan. Tireamerica.com has a guide created to help you understand the best options for you.