Tires are, quite possibly, the most important part of an off-road rig. Let’s be honest here: the Donner Party wasn’t exactly dominating the Rubicon with those wooden wheels, and while tires may simply seem like a necessity to some, off road enthusiasts know that the innovation and engineering behind their tires can play an integral part in the performance of their ride, both on and off the pavement.

Like other performance parts, tire manufacturers are releasing new tire models designed to meet the needs of their customer base: better fuel efficiency, additional traction, deeper tread – and keeping up with what’s out there can be a hobby in and of itself. Take for instance, the Toyo A/T II, released this Fall to replace the Toyo AT in the company’s lineup of popular light truck and SUV tires. The updated tread pattern and new look of the A/T II offers a reasonable mix of on and off –road compatibility, making it a great choice for those using a rig as both a daily driver and weekend off-roader.

In the ATV market, Trelleborg also launched a new tire this fall, designed to lower fuel consumption and reduce environmental impact via a revised tread pattern. Tire manufacturers are constantly working to stay ahead of the competition with products that meet customer standards for innovation and need; meaning that by the time you go to purchase tires again, there will likely be a whole new lineup of products for you choose from.

However, aside from an increase in performance, tires have also experienced a rapid increase in price, making tires a necessary market that consumers often struggle to come to terms with due to what seem like exorbitant prices. With a reduction in the number of rubber trees, high oil prices and tariffs on tires imported from China, those increased prices aren’t gouging by tire dealers, but rather an indicator of high costs driven by our economic condition.

And truthfully, high tire prices may be easier for off-road enthusiasts to understand than the typical consumer.  Why? As people who realize the value of a good mud tire or reliable ATV tire, tires are often viewed in the off-road world as an accessory; just as much as they are a necessity. We buy tires that are far bigger and more specialized than most anyone besides farmers. It’s not a surprise when a set runs us $1000 or more out the door, but that cost is typically viewed also as an investment in our rig’s performance as much as it is a safety or driving requirement.

The round, rubber fact of it all is that regardless of price, we’ll all continue to need and buy tires until four-wheel hover crafts gain some ground in popularity. Until then, at least we’ll have some effective new models to choose from when it comes time to drop some cash on a new set of four.