Difference Between Mud-Terrain And All-Terrain Tires?

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All-terrain tires basically provide the best of both on and off-road worlds. So with these tires you are able to go on all types of tougher terrains, without compromising too much on highway comfort. Mud-Terrain tires although offer better off-road grip in all types of tracks, especially mud of course, they are just not as good as all-terrain tires when it comes to on-road traction and stability.

Mud-Terrain Tire
BF Goodrich KM3 is the most popular mud-terrain tire.

Compared to mud-terrain, all-terrain tires

All-Terrain vs Mud Terrain Tires

When comparing both tires, you have to consider their tread design and their affects, along with durability, comfort performance and tread life, fuel economy. I’ve talked about them all below.

Dry Performance

Mud tires, while suitable for off-road conditions, are known to have limited performance on paved roads. And this is because of their limited contact area with the road surface, so the grip gets limited.

Their softer lugs with deeper tread voids cause them to over-steer on corners, and so you not only get limited directional traction, but also lateral one.

All-terrain tires don’t have to carry as much weight, and they have closed up ribs through the tread. This not only increases the surface area to meet up with the road, but also the overall steering response.

That’s why A/T tires are rated for higher speeds, up to H, whereas mud terrain tires are limited to speeds of up to Q.

(Basically speed ratings have to do with heat generation, as the tire rolls faster, and with more bending lugs, the mud tires get heated up quickly not allowing them to run any faster).

Wet Performance

If I talk about wet roads, again all-terrain tires offer superior traction here as well. That’s because on wet roads, there are two things which make a tire great, sipes and grooves.

And although there are a lot of grooves on mud tires, they severely lack in siping, whereas all-terrain tires feature interlocking full-depth sipes throughout the tread that effectively wick away water.

And since I already discussed why all-terrain tires have superior speed ratings, it doesn’t matter how wider the grooves are on mud tires, you get superior float speed on all-terrain.

Winter Traction

All season traction requires tiers to run in all kinds of temperature conditions, and although both tires are good enough in summers, mud-terrain tires really lack on snow.

Basically all-terrain tires have smaller biters and increased number of sipes providing exceptional snow grip. And that’s the reason why these tires are almost always rated with the 3 peak mountain snowflake symbols.

Whereas on mud-terrain tires, there’s not even a single model capable of earning that sever winter traction rating.

Furthermore, these tires are a disaster on ice, whereas you can expect some kind of traction from A/T tires.

Off-Road Traction

Off road there are various terrains, and let me discuss what both tire categories have to offer.


When it comes to driving on muddy terrain, self-cleaning grooves are very essential. This is why mud-terrain tires simply excel in it. Which is no surprise.

These tires basically have a wide combination of lateral and longitudinal grooves that allow mud to easily escape, preventing slipping caused by mud-to-mud contact.

Additionally, they also get to have larger, staggered shoulders with thick “mud scoops” that aid in throwing mud backwards and providing forward-moving force.

In contrast, all-terrain tires are not equipped to handle thick slimy mud as effectively, as their closed up grooves easily become filled with mud, and the lugs do not have thick enough traction scoops or ample sidewall lugs to throw mud around.

This is why mud is often referred to as an all-terrain tire’s biggest enemy.

Recommended Read: All-terrain tires on mud.


When it comes to driving on rocky terrain, durability and toughness are major ranking factors. And that’s the reason why mud-terrain tires are well-suited here with their 3-ply sidewalls and Kevlar reinforcements on the inside, and chunkier lugs on top rubber skin.

In comparison, all-terrain tires do not have the same level of toughness as they don’t have thicker sidewall biters, though you can’t complaint for the 3 ply polyester casing they have.

With skinnier sidewall lugs, these tires basically have limited contact patch to make with the rocky surface with lowered air pressure.

Moreover, they don’t offer soft enough lugs, and with less tread depth, the blocks aren’t as flexing or bending, whereas mud tires offer up to 24/32″ of tread voids, which provide ample groove mouth to bite in to the rocky surface with much greater force.

But one thing to note is that, all-terrain tires do have the advantage of being lighter weight, which allows for better directional grip. However, overall, they still fall short of mud-terrain tires when it comes to performance on rocky terrain.

Recommended Read: What to know about all-terrain tires on rocky terrains.


Sand is a challenging environment for tires with heavy, harder compounds. That’s because the weight and hardness of the tire make it difficult to move on slopes, and the presence of sandy dunes exacerbates this problem.

But this problem gets fixed by lowering the air pressure on these tires.

That’s why mud terrain tires still get to float better despite having a heavier construction.

Moreover, as these tires have elongated shoulder lugs (compared to all-terrain tires), they get to provide the paddling effect, throwing sand backwards and creating forward momentum.

Recommended Read: Are A/T tires good on sand?


Mud-terrain tires are known for their durability, in the category of off-road tires.

This is because these tires have a solid design and construction. And both are optimized to withstand the rigors of off-road driving, particularly in muddy conditions.

These tires are made with more robust materials, such as 3-ply polyester casing, 2 steel belts, and nylon cap plies internally. Whereas their outer make-up consist of more resistant to cuts, rubber.

That’s why even though some all-terrain tires, such as the BFG KO2, may have similar construction, they are still not as durable as even the least aggressive mud-terrain tires.

Additionally, mud-terrain tires have a much deeper tread depth, with some models, such as the Pro Comp M/T2, offering up to 24/32″ of tread voids.

So with thicker tread voids, these tires are very hard to puncture.

Noise and Comfort

Tread noise is generated by the flow of air striking the walls of the tread, and so that means, the more bald the tire is, the more area for the air to come in and strike the tread, resulting in noise.

That’s why M/T tires are so loud with their large shoulder gaps from where air is able to get in very easily and hit around the walls with full force.

In comparison, all-terrain tires offers better noise dampening with their whisper grooves. These are basically ridges between the shoulder gaps which blocks the air from coming in and creating noise.

Additionally, the engineered tread of all-terrain tires is better at pitch sequencing, which means that air particles hitting different parts of the lugs create different sound frequencies and wavelengths, which cancel each other out.

Furthermore, mud-terrain tires have deeper tread voids, which means that the lugs are less supported. This, combined with the fact that they don’t make consistent contact with the road while rolling, results in a less comfortable ride compared to all-terrain tires.

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To Summarize

All-terrain tires are better suited for driving on paved roads and in all-season conditions, with superior performance on wet and snowy roads, as they offer closed up rib placements and shoulder lugs that provide more stable lateral/directional traction and steering response.

Mud-terrain tires, on the other hand, are better suited for off-road conditions, particularly in mud, with wider combination of lateral and longitudinal grooves, and thicker sidewall lugs that provide better traction on rocky, sandy and muddy terrain.

Moreover, they are more durable with 3-ply sidewalls and Kevlar reinforcements, and have deeper tread depth. Though they are also very louder, and their heavier built make them uncomfortable on roads.

And yes, these tires also don’t get to have ample speed ratings, or sever winter ratings like the 3pmsfr (though they do have M+S).

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