Understanding the UTQG System for Car Tires

Uniform Tire Quality Grading gets poor marks

Tire sidewall showing UTQG Photo: John Powers/Consumer Reports

No, UTQG is not a play dictated by a quarterback during a football huddle. The Uniform Tire Quality Grading is a comparative assessment applied to most car tires (excluding winter tires) to help consumers make informed decisions. The manufacturers grade the tires themselves for temperature, traction, and treadwear. The system has been essentially unchanged for decades, despite significant advances in tire engineering. And like a set of worn tires, UTQG is showing its age.

Tires must meet their assigned grades, but the scoring isn’t precise, enabling companies to approach this strategically according to their marketing plans. As a result, even though the ratings are right on tires’ sidewalls, comparing brands is still difficult for shoppers. (See our complete guide to tires to find the best tire for your car, SUV, or truck.) Winter/snow tires are excluded from UTQG, but all-weather, all-terrain, and all-season tires have UTQG ratings. 

How the UTQG Works

Treadwear, for example, is not based on a mileage projection, but rather a numeric index of how well a tire wears in comparison to a reference tire. For instance, a tire rated at 200 will wear twice as long as a tire graded 100. That’s good, but it doesn’t tell how long the tire will last. For most consumers, the manufacturer treadwear warranty in miles is more intuitive and tends to be a better barometer because the manufacturer has to pay if the tire doesn’t achieve the miles promised in the warranty.

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The traction grade looks at the level of grip on a wet surface. Most ultra-high-performance tires achieve the best grade: AA. Most car tires get the next best grade of A. 

Designed during the advent of the radial tire, the temperature grade is a measure of how well a tire will resist heat buildup. Most all-season tires achieve a grade of A. 

The UTQG grades can be found on Consumer Reports’ tire model pages, under Features and Specs, and on the sidewall of each tire. 

We feel consumers need even more, and better, information than UTQG provides when buying a tire. And you can find that with CR’s tire buying guide and ratings

Gene Petersen

Because I took the tires off my toys as a kid, my mother thought I would be a truck driver—not a tire-testing engineer for more than three decades and counting. I still marvel at how complex and durable tires are and how much they contribute to car performance and safety. When I'm not obsessing over tires, I enjoy carpentry, gardening, and just being outdoors every chance I get.