Touring vs Performance vs Winter Tires: What’s The Difference?

tire difference

There are quite a lot of different options in the tire market. Because of this, it can be easy for shoppers to get confused during the selection process.

This article will break down tires into three broad categories, and explain the differences between the uses of each type of tire.

Why Is Tire Type Important?

Tires are the sole connection between your vehicle and the road, making them very important for both safety and performance reasons. Regardless of the type of car that you are driving, your car’s ability to perform on the road is a direct function of the tires that you are driving on.

Certain tires will perform better than others in different situations, but having the right tire on your car at the right time can make the difference between spinning out off the road or staying safe during an evasive maneuver. For this reason, we have outlined the effectiveness of each tire below for it’s specific application.

Touring Tires

Touring tires are the most common type of tire that are found on most passenger cars on the road. They offer the longest tread life of any type of tire that will be discussed here, as well as the best all-around performance.

This means that touring tires will be moderately effective in almost all driving situations. They will offer moderate traction performance in wet, dry and winter situations. This means that in terms of traction performance, touring tires are neither bad nor exceptional. Instead they are reasonably good in mostly all situations.

However, touring tires excel in ride comfort. Of all the types of tires that we’ll discuss here, touring tires will offer the most comfortable and smooth on-road performance. This is because they are designed to appeal to a wide audience, and most drivers prefer comfort over exceptional handling performance.

There are various different types of touring tires that will favor one area of performance, such as dry/summer traction or comfort, over others, but generally the above description will match all touring tires that are currently available. It is important to note that certain specialized touring tires however, such as Grand Touring Summer, are not suitable for winter driving conditions.

Performance Tires

Performance tires, unlike touring tires, sacrifice tread life and comfort in order to maximize their traction performance.

Many people mistakenly think that performance tires are only suitable for warm and/or dry conditions, but this is not true. Instead, performance tires are designed to offer high traction performance in wet, dry, and even winter conditions.

So, what differentiates performance tires from touring tires is that they have greater traction performance, but shorter tread life and decreased comfort.

With performance tires, it is more important to consider the exact type of performance tire that you are buying, as they are often more specialized than a touring tire. For example, a High-Performance Summer Tire will offer exceptional wet and dry traction, but very poor and unsafe winter traction. However, there are High-Performance All-Season Tires that will offer good traction in all situations, though not as good dry and wet traction as a High-Performance Summer tire.

In summary, all performance tires will offer good wet and dry traction at the expense of tread life and comfort, but like touring tires, they may favor certain aspects of performance more so than others.

Winter Tires

Winter tires are designed to offer maximum traction in snowy and icy conditions, and are only to be used within the winter season. Winter tires have reasonable tread life, though they will last longer as they are only used for a few months out of the year. They are acceptably comfortable on clear roads as well.

Winter tires also come in different categories, just like the other types of tires that we’ve discussed. For example there are Performance Winter Tires that offer reasonably good dry, wet and snowy/icy traction. Additionally there are Studless Snow Tires that offer exceptional traction performance in snowy/icy conditions, but only offer moderate traction performance on dry roads.


Choosing the correct type of tire is an exercise in need assessment. For example, someone who lives in the Southern U.S. will have no need for a winter tire, whereas someone in the northern U.S. may be best suited by an All-Season Touring tire. Doing a proper assessment of your needs as a driver and based on where you drive is the first step in choosing the right tire.