What Does LT Mean on a Tire? And, Does It Matter?

By Tire Agent Staff

January 17, 2022

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Unless your work involves dealing with tires, as ours does, you probably think about tires only when something goes wrong. So when you do need to search for new tires you’re met with a lot of terms, abbreviations, tire codes, and numbers that look a lot like alphabet soup. There is, literally, a lot riding on selecting the right tire for your vehicle and driving needs, so smart shoppers need to know what those terms mean. 

LT on a tire stands for "light truck," which is a type of passenger tire, but LT tires are intended for very specific heavy-duty jobs, which we'll explain.   

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Light Truck Tires Vs Passenger Tires

Exactly what is a light truck? To understand if your vehicle requires LT tires or passenger tires, you first have to understand what a light truck is, which is a bit more complicated than it may seem. This is because most people think of a specific body style when they think of a truck, which is not how the classification works. The designation actually refers to weight and payload capacity, which means plenty of vehicles you wouldn’t call a truck actually fall into this category. 

What Does Light Truck Mean? 

In the United States, what is considered to be a light truck refers to vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of up to 8,500 pounds. Additionally, light trucks are capable of payload capacities up to 4,000 pounds. This refers to the total weight the vehicle can safely carry, including everything in the cabin and trunk or bed. 

Many sport utility vehicles (SUVs), crossover utility vehicles (CUVs), vans, minivans, and pickups fall into the light truck category, but not all. An SUV may be rated for less weight and a truck or van may be rated for more. Because you cannot tell simply by looking at a vehicle if it is officially a light truck, you need to check your vehicle’s instruction manual to be sure. 

What are LT tires? 

A tire designated as an LT tire means the tire maker constructed it to accommodate the extra weight and payload capacity up to 4,000 pounds (1.81 ton). This helps to provide a safer ride but also impacts the fuel economy and life of the tire. undefined

Do you need LT tires? Look inside your driver's side door jamb. There should be a sticker that lists your payload capacity, or a warning that says the limit of the combined weight of passengers and cargo. If it's not there, check your owner's manual.  

LT tires are marked with “LT” plus a variety of symbols and numbers. Each marking gives you important information about the tire’s intended use; however, all LT tires have some characteristics in common. For example, LT tires have more rigid sidewalls with thicker rubber to provide the strength for all that extra weight. They may have an extra steel belt, deeper treads, and generally heavier construction so they stand up to more harsh driving conditions.

Do LT tires last longer?

That's a good question, and we wish we could definitively say yes or no. The answer really depends on your driving style, the vehicle itself, and the terrain on which you drive. LT tires will last longer on a light truck than passenger tires will, that's for sure. Falken WildPeak H:T.jpg

In short, LT tires are more ruggedly constructed, built to carry heavier loads and to perform under more harsh driving conditions, including off-road driving.

Can I use passenger tires on a light truck?

Tire Agent does not recommend that you use passenger tires on a light truck, especially if you transport a lot of people and carry heavy loads. 

Can I put LT tires on my SUV?

Yes, but always check your owner's manual to ensure your SUV requires LT tires. P metric tires vs LT might be better options.

Better yet, use Tire Agent's tire-matching technology to find the right tires for your vehicle. 

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What are Passenger Tires? 

Passenger tires are made to be used on your average passenger vehicle. You may also see them referred to as passenger automobiles and light-duty vehicles. Typically, this refers to vehicles designed to carry no more than 10 people, with lower weight capacity than medium-duty vehicles and light-duty trucks. In general, most cars fall into this category, but there are also some SUVs and CUVs that do as well. 

Sometimes you'll see passenger tires referred to as "p metric" tires. Manufacturers engineer them to deliver a safe and reliable driving experience for lighter vehicles. You’ll find a variety of passenger tires options, such as touring and high performance. Each of these has its own unique characteristics, but in general, passenger tires use flexible rubber for a more comfortable ride with less road noise. They also have tread patterns to match their use, such as enhancing traction on ice or reducing the risk of hydroplaning. 

The question we're often asked is, can you use LT tires on passenger vehicles? Because LT tires are more rugged and designed to handle heavy loads on and off-road, this might be overkill for your four-door sedan or lighter passenger vehicle.  

At the end of the day, passenger tires are made for lighter vehicles and intended for daily driving on paved roads under a variety of weather conditions.

Do You Need LT Tires or Passenger Tires? 

Since LT tires are constructed to be extra tough and withstand rigorous driving conditions, one might be tempted to just use them for any vehicle. After all, if you put tires built to withstand difficult driving conditions on your car, wouldn’t you be less likely to have a flat or blowout? 

While you could put LT tires on a car, it would not be as beneficial as you may think. LT tires tend to cost more because they are built to carry heavy loads and resist punctures. This makes them less economical for your average daily commute. They also tend to be more rigid, and that translates to a ride that is less smooth with more road noise. 

To sum it up, LT tires ... 

  • Rigid sidewall reinforcement for carrying heavyweight
  • Offer more rolling resistance
  • Tend to decrease fuel economy because of rugged construction and rolling resistance
  • Cost a little more than P metric tires (passenger) because of their rugged construction
  • Rugged construction comes with bumpier rides
  • Ideal for larger pickup trucks, SUVs, crossovers, and vans

So how do you decide between LT and passenger tires? Your best bet is to always search for your vehicle's make and model first. This will narrow your options and display only tires that are suited for your specific vehicle. Next, you should consider how you use your car and the climate you live in. For example, do you use your car for daily commuting through stop-and-go traffic? Do you live in an area that experiences all four seasons, including snow? By answering these questions, you will be able to target the correct tire options available for your vehicle and match the tires you buy to how you drive.

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