You may already know that having the right tires is the single most crucial factor in ATV performance. Riding on tires that are well overdue for being replaced is not only dangerous but also ruins your bike’s potential.
But what kind of mileage should you expect from a set of new ATV tires? And how do you know when it’s time to replace them? I did a little digging to give you an idea of what to expect.
So, how long do ATV tires last? ATV tires typically last from just a few hundred to 4-5000 miles or more. How long they last depend on what surface you ride on, tire style, rubber hardness and quality, age, and a range of other factors. Expect 1-2 years if you ride a lot on the road or 5-10 years if you keep off the road.
Why do ATV tires wear so fast?
ATV tires will typically wear much faster than a set of car tires or any other on-road tire, for that matter.
On-road tires are designed for optimal grip on asphalt and packed gravel surfaces, high comfort, low tire noise, and longevity.
They use continuous thread patterns with as much rubber in contact with the road as possible to achieve this. There are just a few threads and grooves to handle water and improve heat dissipation.
On the other hand, typical ATV tires are designed with off-road traction and rough trails in mind. They use large rubber lugs that are sometimes spaced inches apart.
As a result, you will have much less rubber touching the ground when you ride on hard surfaces like asphalt. There is less rubber to wear on before you start losing thread depth. The spacing between the lugs causes more friction noise and tire wear than with an on-road tire.
So if you don’t want your ATV tires to wear fast, keep them off the road as much as possible.
Real-world examples of how different ATV tires wear
Here are a few real-world examples of how various ATV tire types perform regarding tire wear. I’ve included a mix of personal hands-on experience and user reviews reported on forums, youtube videos, and tire reviews.
The typical stock tire
Stock tires are typically cheap and light to keep cost and overall weight down. Some have decent wear, but you never get a premium.
They are typically all-terrain tires that will last year after year if you do most of your riding on softer surfaces.
But if you do a lot of trail riding, you will often find that stock tires wear fast. If you take your stock tires rock climbing, you will often find that the sharp rocks will shear tire lugs.
Stock Can-Am tire – Carlisle AT489
The XT models (as well as others) come stock with Carlisle AT489 tires. These are typically the type of tires you will be upgrading from. They last quite long but are not very puncture resistant.
One user on https://www.can-amforum.com reports running 1700 miles on hard-packed dirt roads and has about 40-50% tread left on the rear tires and 90% on the front.
A second user has ridden 2500 miles and has about 70% left.
Other users share that these tires should last 4000 miles on paved roads and even longer in sand or dirt. They will probably dry rot before wearing out the thread.
Stock Polaris tire: Carlisle PXT (Polaris Extreme Tire)
My Polaris Sportsman XP1000 came with stock tires from Carlisle. They are a different model than you will find on some Can-Am.
After about 900 miles, where a good chunk of the miles have been on asphalt, they are still in good shape. There is some rounding on the leading edge of the lugs, but that is to be expected.
Other users report getting about 4-5000 miles out of them, as long as you don’t tear the relatively thin sidewalls.
They are more durable and puncture-resistant than the 489s from the same brand.
ITP Terra Cross R/T
https://utvactionmag.com has tested the Terra Cross tires and finds that they still offer a decent sharp edge after doing a little over hundred miles of mixed terrain driving and show very little wear overall.
They also highlight the benefit you get from choosing a tire with a non-directional tread pattern. This feature allows you to flip the tires at the half-life mark for a fresh, new, effective edge.
One user on https://www.hondaatvforums.net reports that he has been riding his Terra Cross tires on the road for a couple of months, making them wear fast.
GBC Dirt Commander and STI Roctane
A user at https://polarisatvforums.com has been running Maxxis Bighorns, GBC Dirt Commanders, Kenda HTRs, Kenda Executioners, and STI Roctanes over several seasons. The Dirt Commanders were the worst of these tires when it comes to wearing (they grip nice tho). After just 500 miles, the rear tires were worn out.
ATVIllustrated.com has reviewed the tires and reports that the lugs will show wear quickly on the leading edge, but after this “break-in period,” they tend to settle in and wear at an average pace.
The Dirt Commanders have a wide range of use but tend to wear fast when riding on abrasive terrains like rough rocks. The GBC Kanati Mongrels are a better alternative for this type of terrain because of the ten-ply rating and road-tough threads.
The longest-lasting of these models were, by far, the STI Roctane tires. They would last him about two seasons. The others on the list would last him about one season, in comparison.
STI Roctane is a hard terrain tire that will last several thousand miles, even when riding on abrasive terrains like rough rocks or even pavement. They are very puncture resistant and offer reinforced sidewalls.
Bighorns is another very popular all-terrain tire. Because of their popularity, there are a lot of reviews to be found. Regarding tire wear, they are long-lasting, extremely durable, and offer good puncture resistance because of their thick sidewalls.
Don’t be surprised if you run them 1-2000 miles before seeing any noticeable sign of wear. Some users report having a lot of tire tread left even after 5000 miles or more.
Excellent mud tire all around. Excellent wear pattern, very long-lasting. Good threads, not as aggressive threads as implement-style tires.
Gorilla Silverback MT2
The MT2 version of their popular predecessor features an improved thread design with aggressive two-inch lugs that offer reasonable wear characteristics. Note that the old model is prone to pealing the lugs under high horsepower, which would create leaks where the lug meets the tire.
Interco Swamp Lite
Soft rubber tires with a semi-aggressive lug pattern. They will wear quite fast if you use them a lot on asphalt or other hard surfaces. Some users report wearing them out entirely after 1500 miles without even running that much on hard surfaces.
Probably the best-wearing mud tire out there. One user reports abusing them on shale rock in the mountains without showing any signs of wear.
One of the most extreme ATV mud tires out there. They have extreme lugs, are extremely heavy, and have a terrible reputation for wear.
Highlifter Outlaw 3
Outlaws, with their flat tire profile, offer good wear characteristics. But being an extreme mud tire, they will wear faster than many all-terrain tires.
Kenda Bear Claw HTR
A relatively hard and durable all-terrain tire. After 1200 miles, they show very little wear. They do not wear as good as Bighorns, but even if you use them hard, you should have no problem getting 4-5000 miles or more out of them. They are not very puncture resistant tho.
Related: This is why ATV front tires are smaller than the rear
Tire performance vs. longevity
A common misconception people have when buying ATV tires is that as long buy a high-performance tire, you will also get a long-lasting tire.
Instead, it’s usually the other way around.
High-performance tires are not going to last several thousand miles. That’s not what they are designed to do. It’s just part of the price you pay for getting that high performance.
At the same time, long-lasting tires will not perform as well as some of their high-performance counterparts.
How does rubber softness/hardness affect tire wear?
High-performance tires are typically made from a softer rubber compound. The soft and almost sticky rubber makes for optimal traction in snow, ice, mud, and hard gravel trails.
But, they come with the downside of wearing faster than a tire made from a harder rubber recipe would.
The type of surface you ride on matters the most for tire wear
The type of surface you do most of your ATV riding on is the most critical factor to how long your tires will last. As a general rule of thumb, tire wear will increase in conjunction with higher surface traction.
Rough surfaces like asphalt and pavement tires will wear down soft and big-lugged ATV tires in no time. It’s like riding on sandpaper.
Riding on sharp rocks will also wear tires quite fast, depending on what type of tire you use. As the tire spins to gain traction, it can get damaged where big chunks of rubber fall off. Doing a lot of rock climbing with a soft tire will result in a tire that does not last very long.
At the other end of the scale, you have wet mud or snow riding. These surfaces provide minimal traction as well as very little wear. The tire will only slide against the surface without wearing much.
When running typical ATV tires, it’s generally advised to stay away from hard road surfaces as much as possible. These tires are designed with off-road riding in mind and will last much longer if you stick to the dirt.
There is no exact science to this, but this graph will give you a general idea of how much the surface you ride on will impact your ATV tires’ life expectancy.
How does tire quality affect tire longevity?
Tire quality usually matters a lot to how long an ATV tire lasts. Some cheap Chinese brands offer tires with cool thread patterns at a very reasonable price, but you usually get what you pay for.
They use poor rubber quality that will likely crack long before they wear down to keep the price low.
Another way to tell a cheap tire from a high-performance tire is how they give up traction when you’re cornering.
Cheap and hard tires will lose all traction instantly with little or no warning. On the other hand, a high-quality tire should provide more progressive feedback where it “holds on” to the traction and loses it gradually.
This gives you much better control of your bike. As soon as you feel the bike begins sliding, you can just let off the throttle slightly to regain traction and control.
How do different styles of ATV tires hold up against each other?
An ATV tire is not just an ATV tire. There are many different styles of tires that are specially made for various types of riding. If you use the wrong type, your ATV will not only under-perform, the tires will wear much faster than necessary.
Mud tires are designed with one task in mind; getting through the deepest and wettest mud you can find. They typically have aggressive implement style thread patterns and are made of medium to soft rubber.
Not all, but many mud tires will wear fast when you ride them in anything but mud and snow. The big lugs provide a small surface area to wear on, as well as create high friction.
Hard terrain / Rock climbing tires
These types of tires will often feature a hard and long-lasting rubber compound. They have a high ply rating in the 8-12 ply range and often feature a steel-belted design for a more puncture and rip-proof tire core.
Most of the tires are radials that won’t have as stiff and tear-resistant sidewalls as a bias-ply tire. To compensate, they add extra shoulder lugs to protect the sidewalls and rim.
Hard terrain tires are a good choice for on-road use as many of them are DOT rated, whereas all-terrain tires typically are not. They make for a more comfortable and quieter ride and will not wear as fast as an all-terrain tire when riding on-road or on trails.
General-purpose / all-terrain
All-terrain tires are what most ATV owners use. This type of tire is designed to give you an optimal balance between overall performance and longevity. However, they will not handle the most extreme riding types, such as waist-deep mud bashing or racing, very well.
All-terrain tires are quite similar to hard-terrain tires. Some features that separate them are lug patterns that will handle both rocky and muddy (hard and soft) terrain types and a slightly softer rubber compound on the all-purpose tires for increased comfort.
However, the tread pattern on all-terrain tires is not as aggressive as on mud tires. Therefore they will not wear as fast when riding on harder surfaces.
Racing tires are designed for maximum traction and performance over shorter periods. They are made out of light and soft materials and will wear relatively fast.
You will also need to replace them more often than most other tires. You know it will affect performance as soon as you start seeing any sign of wear.
Sand tires/paddle tires
Sand tires are made for playing on sand dunes or sand drag racing. They should not be used on any other surface than loose sand. If you do, you will likely wear and damage them quite fast.
Some hard spots, like the trails out to the dunes or the occasional rock, cannot be avoided. But if you can avoid tearing up the paddles, a set of sand tires should last you several seasons, or about 500-1000 miles or even more.
What happens when an ATV tire gets too old?
It’s quite common that people running medium to hard rubber compound tires and generally staying off the road will find that it’s not tire wear that determines when they need to be replaced.
Even after many years, there is still plenty of tread left, but the rubber starts going hard and cracking due to old age and heat, and UV exposure.
Which are better for tire wear, radial or ply?
There are two main types of ATV tire construction; bias-ply and radials. I won’t go into the technicalities, but the main difference is how the different layers that make up the tire are placed relative to each other (radial vs. diagonal).
Each type has a set of pros and cons. Which of the types will last the longest depends on what kind of riding you do the most.
Radials generate less heat than bias-ply when riding at higher speeds on hard surfaces. More heat means faster tire wear. That’s why radials will last longer if you do a lot of on-road riding.
When it comes to off-road riding, it is usually not ordinary tire wear as much as sudden damage that will end a tire’s life.
Radials are more puncture resistant in the threaded part of the tire. At the same time, they have thinner and much more flexible sidewalls that are more prone to cuts and tears. A torn-up sidewall will leave the tire useless in an instant.
That’s why radial tires tend not to last as long as a bias-ply tire if you are into rock climbing and other challenging off-road ridings where you encounter many sharp objects.
That being said, radials offer many other benefits, such as higher riding comfort, less vibration, and lower fuel consumption. That’s why many choose them over bias-ply despite the higher risk of a torn sidewall.
Related: Are All ATV Tires Directional? How to Tell?
When should you replace your ATV tires?
There is no answer to this question that will fit everyone. It all depends on what factors are important to your typical riding applications.
Racing tires – where performance matters the most
If you are into ATV racing, you will probably replace the tire after each race. Any rounding of the lugs will reduce grip and slow you down in a race.
On a budget – when longevity matters the most
If your goal is to get the most life as possible out of your tires, you will have to make some sacrifices regarding performance.
You may run it until it wears down entirely or starts deteriorating and cracking due to old age, heat, UV exposure, or being of bad quality.
When most riders will replace a tire
Most riders will be looking to replace a tire when it wears so much that it’s beginning to make a bigger negative effect regarding traction than they want.
The first sign of tire wear is rounding of the thread pattern. The more rounded the lugs are the less grip the tire offer.
How much traction loss you are willing to accept is a personal preference.
Some will replace the tires as soon as the lugs are beginning to see some rounding. Others find the traction to still be acceptable at 50% tread-wear.
You should definitely replace your tires if…
If you check any of these boxes, it’s definitely time to replace your tires:
- For on-road use, you need as much thread depth as required to keep them road-legal. This number varies depending on where you live.
- When you come to the point where you have to plug your tires regularly or even have to install tubes to get them to hold air, it’s time to look for a new set. A few plugs are OK, but you know that the tires are too old or too worn when they become the norm.
- When the tire starts cracking due to UV exposure and old age.
- When the threads are more than 50% worn. At this point, the negative effect on traction is getting to a point where it may affect safety.
- Or if your tire looks anything like the tire at the beginning of this post.