All Terrain vs Hybrid Tires: What's The Difference?

July 27, 2022

What Is The Difference Between All-Terrain and Hybrid Tires and Which Is Better?

With all-terrain tires starting to look more and more like hybrid-terrain tires, more and more of us are starting to wonder what exactly the differences are between them. We're starting to see all-terrains having larger shoulder blocks like a hybrid tire, and a more tightly grouped together centered tread pattern, also like a hybrid tire.

So is it possible that at some point in the future, we'll just have a hybrid tire design and a mud-terrain design, and not even an all-terrain at all? That's what we want to discuss today - come see the main differences between all-terrain and hybrid tires to find out what's best for your rig.

What Are The Different Types Of Tire Configurations?

There are four main types of terrain designations, and these four categories should usually tell us which terrain the tire is best suited for, but that's not always the case - well, outside of highway-designated tires. But for the other three categories, it's really up to us to figure out what we think is best for each one of our own personal situations and circumstances.

Besides highway tires, we have all-terrain, hybrid-terrain, and then the mud-terrain tires. The confusion comes into play because of those exact words: "all-terrain." You'd think that should mean that an all-terrain tire is going to be capable on every terrain, but for many brands, that just isn't the case.

In fact, the majority of all-terrain tires are actually better suited for the pavement, or were, anyways. Since the introduction of the hybrid tire to the American market in 2014 or so, many all-terrain tires have started to look more and more like a cross between a mud-terrain and an all-terrain tire, which is exactly what a hybrid tire is.

How Are All-Terrain and Hybrid Tires Different From Each Other?

Knowing all this, the question still remains - what's the difference between an all-terrain designated tire that looks like a hybrid tire, and an actual designated hybrid tire? First, to keep things simple, a hybrid, rugged-terrain, and crossover tire are all the same thing. They're a step up and more aggressive than most of your all-terrains, but not as aggressive as a mud-terrain.

A hybrid tire has a center tread pattern, more similar to an all-terrain, with the shoulder lugs being widely separated along with having a scooping-style shape to them, just like mud-terrains. This helps give hybrid tires a good blend between all-terrain and mud-terrain performance capabilities and design cues. And just for uniformity in this piece, we'll be referring to them as "hybrid" tires from now on.

2020 Toyota Tundra with Falken Wildpeak AT3 tires

Are All-Terrain Tires Better Than Hybrid Tires For On-Road Performance?

In most cases, an all-terrain designated tire is engineered for life on the road. The rubber composition is designed to last longer, along with higher-mileage treadwear warranties. The tread is designed in a way to maximize on-road comfort and performance, meaning that they are more quiet than your mud-terrain options, and most importantly, they're engineered for safety and performance in all types of weather. Many all-terrain tires receive the Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake rating for use in severe winter driving conditions.

However, when a tire is designed for better on-road performance, that means there are going to be some compromises when it comes to off-road performance. All-terrain tires are not great for all types of terrains, as we mentioned earlier, but in more of a "jack of all trades, master of none" kind of way. This is because their tread blocks are more closely grouped together and trying to drive through thick mud, for example, is an all-terrain's archenemy. Their tread voids will pack full of mud more easily and are much harder to clean out and gain traction, even with excessive wheel speed.


Read More: Which Off-Road Tire Is Better? Mickey Thompson Baja Boss A/T vs. M/T


What Are The Best All-Terrain Tires?

Now, that's not speaking to every single brand of all-terrain out there, as there are a few brands that will perform more like a hybrid tire when off the road, like the General Grabber A/TX, BFGoodrich KO2, Toyo AT3, Mickey Thompson Baja Boss A/T, and Falken Wildpeak AT3, just to name a few. These are all good examples of tires that carry an all-terrain designation but perform more like a hybrid terrain tire.

All-terrain tires are best suited for those that plan on doing most of their driving on the pavement or dirt roads, with the occasional off-road adventure once in a great while. Plus, keep in mind that additional off-road traction can always be gained by airing down the tires and increasing the footprint.

2022 Jeep Gladiator Sport with Kenda Klever R/T hybrid tires

Are Hybrid Tires Better Than All-Terrain Tires For Off-Road Performance?

So then, what about hybrid tires? What are all the major differences there? Well, starting with the visual appearance of the tire, the first two things you'll notice are the aggressive scooped shaped shoulder lugs, combined with the more aggressive side biters, which are really what gives the hybrid tires their advantage for off-road traction and a wide variety of terrains, including extra mud traction. Those aggressive shoulder lugs and side biters are what give the tire its ability to claw and bite through the mud or get over the rocks.

Another noticeable feature is that hybrid tires, because they are a blend of all-terrain and mud-terrain tires, will have a much more tightly packed center tread pattern than your typical mud-terrain, which helps aid in the on-road comfort and quietness and handling performance. Hybrid tires will also have specially-designed sipes that will be a variety of full-tread, block-depth sipes, angled sipes, and shallow sipes. These are designed to allow the sipes to grip better on a variety of off-road terrains, and not only that, they can keep the structural strength of the tread block intact and prevent it from being folded over itself when really being put to the test.

The other reason a tread block needs to be structurally sound is that the tread voids and valleys in between the tread blocks are deeper and wider than most all-terrains along the tread pattern - this helps the tire to better envelope over obstacles, but it also improves evacuation of mud, sand, snow, water, and dirt, or any other loose debris that you'll be going through. A hybrid tire's design is more applicable to those who will be going off the road more, but they'll also pick up and throw gravel like a savage, so be aware of that when choosing one.


Read More: What Are The Best Do-It-All Off-Road Tires?


Should You Buy An All-Terrain or Hybrid Tire?

So, to sum up the basic differences between a hybrid and all-terrain tire, your hybrid tires will have better cut and chip resistance, a softer rubber compound to better conform and grip to the variety of off-road terrains, larger more aggressive shoulder lugs, and a thicker, stronger sidewall.

And like we said at the beginning, if you're wondering which direction to go with, just take a look and consider how much off-road driving you really do. If more than 70% of your driving involves the pavement, then an all-terrain tire is an easy answer here, unless you're willing to give up some fuel mileage, tire road noise, and some on-road handling to gain more off-road performance - in those cases, a hybrid tire is an easy choice.

And keep in mind that not every all-terrain tire is designed to perform well just on the road, as some do really well both on and off the road. The same goes for hybrid tires too, as some can offer great performance whether you're on the trails or the pavement .Some of the best hybrid tires we've had experiences with are the Kenda Klever R/T, Nitto Ridge Grappler, Radar Renegade R/T, Atturo Trail Blade X/T, and Venom Power Terra Hunter X/T.

Shop All-Terrain and Hybrid Tires at TrailBuilt Off-Road

So that's about all we've got for you today, and if you've got a good idea in mind about which tire type might be best for your needs, feel free to head on over to our tire store and pick out the tire that best fits your build. Financing, free shipping and quick delivery are all available, and we'll even handle the mounting and balancing for free when you package your tires with new wheels. Thanks so much for checking this piece out, and we'll see you guys out on the trails!

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