Aaron Widmar
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What’s the Point of Having Bigger Wheels on Your Car?

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Large wheel on a car with deep tire tread
Photo: The News Wheel

When it comes to your car’s wheels, is bigger always better? Many models offer larger wheels on higher trim levels, equipping the sedan or SUV with, for instance, 20-inch wheels instead of 18-inch ones. While the value of having larger wheels is obvious for off-roading pickup trucks, what practical benefit does it provide to the average commuter? What difference does having larger wheels on your vehicle make?

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Eye-catching appearance

The most obvious benefit of having larger wheels on your car is one you can view with your eyes: its appearance. The bigger the alloy rims are and the more they fill the wheel well, the more pronounced they are in the model’s overall design. This gives even the most ordinary sedan or crossover a more athletic look — regardless of what’s actually under the hood.

Better performance

Think back to your high school geometry class. The bigger a circle is, the larger its circumference. That means the larger a tire is on a car, the more surface area will come in contact with the pavement. This extra road contact translates to better traction to improve braking and stability while cornering. The same principle applies to wider wheels that provide more surface area horizontally.

Disadvantages of bigger wheels

There are some downsides to having bigger wheels on your car. The extra weight and road contact make quick turns and swift acceleration a bit more sluggish, making the steering system work harder to perform the same maneuvers. That equates to more gas being consumed, resulting in a decrease in fuel economy.

It’s important that you install thinner sports tires on oversized rims rather than thick ones with deep treads to ensure they still fit within the wheel well. Thinner tires are more susceptible to punctures and road damage from potholes and bumps, as they provide less cushion.

If you plan on buying a new or used car with larger wheels, make sure you consider the implications before deciding to opt for the fanciest-looking option.