Tyre ratings and tyre labelling explained

There are hundreds of different tyre brands and choosing the best can be a minefield. We explain the differences and reveal how to get the best deal...

Tyres advice

How tyre labels help you compare products

Introduced in 2012, tyre labels provide useful information on tyre performance in three areas: wet grip, fuel efficiency and noise.  

Although the labels were introduced as part of an EU directive to reduce fuel consumption by providing drivers with easy-to-read information, we’d also recommend using them to compare the wet braking performance of tyres. 

The wet braking rating on the label relates to the stopping distance from 50mph and is graded from A to G, with A being the best performance and G the worst. The difference between these two extremes can be around 30%, or one to two car lengths, so it’s important to pick tyres with a good rating. 

The fuel efficiency rating is also useful, because a car’s tyres can account for around 15% of its fuel consumption. It is based on the rolling resistance of the tyre and again is shown on a sliding scale from A to G. 

Having too little rolling resistance can increase the car’s braking distance, so check that any potential purchases also have a good level of wet braking. 

There are two ratings for external noise. The first is a decibel (dB) reading that tells you how much noise the tyres generate outside the car, measured in laboratory conditions. There are also up to three sound wave arcs, which are used to demonstrate how noisy the tyres are compared with others. One arc means the tyre is relatively quiet, while three means it’s relatively loud. 

What does the writing on your tyre sidewall mean? 

Tyres advice

We used a Michelin Pilot Exalto, 205/45 R16 83V tyre for our example

A - 205 The width of the tyre in millimetres.

B - 45 The tyre profile. This relates to the depth of the sidewall; this tyre’s profile is 45% of the tyre’s width.

C - R Indicates that it’s a radial tyre. This relates to the way it’s constructed. 

D - 16 The diameter of the wheel to which the tyre is fitted, in inches.

E - 83 The tyre’s load index. This tells you its load capacity. In this case, 83 relates to a capacity of 487kg.

F - V The speed rating for the tyre. This tells you the maximum speed for which it’s legally approved; V is 149mph. Other ratings range from N (87mph) to Y (186mph).