Cars come in different body styles, but the sedan is easily recognizable with its three-box design – a front compartment holding the engine, a larger middle compartment usually with two rows of seats for passengers, and the rear compartment that is the trunk.
Sedans are designed with comfort in mind and are one of the most popular car styles. And if you have just become the new owner of a small to mid-sized sedan or are looking to give a refresh to your old beast, think of starting with the tires.
Apart from the main body, the tires are usually what people will look at next and when chosen properly, can give a great first impression. Your tires should not just perform well – they should be free from any defects, meet federal regulations, should be very durable, generate enough traction in different driving conditions, and must be properly sized to your vehicle.
As the owner of a small to mid-sized sedan, you will quickly find that the tires available on the market are biased towards larger cars and SUVs. But not to worry, we have done the work for you and given you an outline of how to find the best tires for small to midsized sedans that stand out from the bunch.
But which to choose? We’re still here to help.
In the rest of this buying guide, we will take a look at the considerations you want to make and qualities you want to look out for in a set of tires for small to midsized sedans before you make a purchase.
Your Current Tire Type
The first consideration you want to make is the type of tires on your sedan. All four tires will most likely be of the same type (and if they are not, that might be a problem). Car tires come in different forms, namely:
All-season tires are exactly that – tires designed for all seasons. Vehicle tires are sensitive to the varying temperatures and traction changes that come with different seasons. All-season tires are designed to work decently well come rain, come shine, and will work in a pinch if there's ice or snow on the ground.
Terrain or season-specific Tires
Terrain or season-specific tires are designed for particular terrains or different seasons and are further classified based on terrain and season.
Based on terrain, tires will usually be classified as all-terrain tires, off-road tires for rocky terrain, loose-terrain tires for mud, snow, and sand, etc. With a few exceptions, these tires are geared towards trucks and SUVs and are not as suitable for sedans.
Season-specific tires will generally come as summer tires, winter tires, and tires for rainy weather. Summer tires can work year-round if you live in an area with a mild winter season, while winter tires are a must-have if ice and snow is a common sight during the winter months.
You can either decide to replace your tires with the same type of tires on your sedan or go for a complete upgrade.
Every car tire and every vehicle tire for that matter comes with a set of specifications written in a universal code you should understand. This code will typically come as a set of numbers and letters stamped on the tire’s sidewall.
A letter at the beginning or end of the sequence indicates the type of tire. The tire you’ll want for your sedan will typically have a code that begins with 'P', indicating that it is a tire for a passenger vehicle. Some tires have no letter at all, with the code starting directly with the tire width. There is a difference - the 'P' designation stands for the 'P-Metric' system of passenger car tire sizing, while tires with no letter are considered 'Euro Metric' and are typically found on (you guessed it) European vehicles. The sizes are more or less interchangeable, but the 'Euro Metric' tires tend to have a higher load index than their 'P-Metric' counterparts.
Other letters used to denote the type may include ‘ST’, ‘LT’, and ‘T’ indicating a special trailer, light or medium-weight truck, and a temporary tire like a spare tire.
The next sequence of numbers following the first letter (or the first three numbers, if it's a 'Euro Metric' tire) and before a slash indicates the tire width – this is how wide the tire is from sidewall to sidewall when measured in millimeters.
The aspect ratio is represented as two numbers and is denoted by the numbers after the slash. It is the ratio of the height of the tire (the distance from where the wheel meets the tire to the part in contact with the road) to the tire width expressed in a percentage. So a higher aspect ratio means a higher sidewall. Aspect ratios under 50 indicate a 'low profile tire', and are typically found on higher-performance automobiles.
The aspect ratio is followed by another letter that indicates the construction type; it's almost always a single 'R' on modern vehicles. On a tire set for your sedan, the ‘R’ means that it is a radial tire. Unless you're dealing with classic cars, you'll very rarely encounter the following letters: B, D, or X. These letters are applied to tires with diagonal or bias-ply construction, and are seen as an obsolete design. In general, if you see anything other than an 'R' in this space, you're looking at the wrong tire.
Two numbers follow the letter denoting the construction type, and this section represents the measurement of the wheel size in inches. The wheel or rim diameter is an extremely important specification to look out for, as it indicates the size of the wheels the tires are designed to fit. This measurement should be an exact match to the size of the wheels equipped on your sedan; if not, the tire either won't fit (best case scenario) or create an extremely dangerous driving condition that could lead to catastrophic tire failure.
Load Index or Weight Capacity
The load index usually comes next as a number specified with a letter. It gives the maximum weight one tire can carry in good condition. You may have to refer to charts provided by the tire manufacturer to get an exact figure usually in lbs. or kgs. The letter is not always found on every tire; this indicates the tire's maximum speed rating.
Federal Regulations Guiding Tread Depth
Federal regulations and standards provide the minimum depth of tread different vehicle tires should have.
The minimum legal depth of tread for car tires is 2/32 inch, and this can be eyeballed easily by looking for the raised 'bumps' molded into the tread grooves. If the rest of the tire is worn to the point of being flush with these wear indicators, it must be replaced.
How to Maintain Your Tires
Caring for the tires on your sedan will ensure that they deliver maximum traction and last for as long as possible. Frequently check the air pressures in the morning when it’s cold and if your tires are old, check that they meet the minimum legal tread depth. Avoid hard acceleration and harsh braking when driving as these can hasten tire wear.
Q: What is the difference between a sedan and a coupe?
A: The difference between a sedan and a coupe used to be very clear but today it isn’t. Most coupes will usually come with only two doors unlike the four doors on a sedan. There are some four-door coupes and two-door sedans, but the former is more commonly encountered than the latter.
Q: What equipment should I have in my tire maintenance kit?
A: To ensure your tires are in good working condition, you’ll need a tire pressure gauge, a mini tire inflator on hand, compatible hose and valve sets, and a spare tire.