Many tire-makers offer run-flat models of their tires. But are they as good as their non-run-flat counterparts?
That’s why today we are comparing run-flats vs. non-run flats tires in an attempt to provide you with all information you need to make an appropriate decision for yourself.
The main difference between run-flats and non-run flats is that run-flats are specially designed to allow you to drive them for at least 50 miles at speeds up to 50mph when they lose air pressure due to a puncture.
But this ability requires certain engineering choices that cause certain drawbacks of run-flat tires.
Because of this, for many people, non-run-flat tires can offer a higher number of pros or be a better choice. So, let’s dive into the details.
Run-Flat vs. Non-Run-Flat Tires Comparison
If we were to make a quick rundown comparison of these two different types of tires, it would look like this table below.
These are some characteristics of tires that most people care the most about when it comes to choosing the next set of tires to purchase. Call it a snapshot of comparison.
As you can see, there aren’t all that many differences between run-flat and regular tires.
Run-flat tires are generally among the select and more expensive models from their respective makers, and their longevity tends to be decreased compared to similar standard models.
But let’s get into a more detailed comparison and also answer when and why these differences may matter.
Ask anyone, and they will tell you that run-flat tires are expensive, though it is received wisdom in the eyes of proponents of using this type of tire. When you look at the prices of regular tires, they can range from $50 to $1,500 per tire.
And this price range describes the wide variety of quality ranges and specifications these tires come in.
On the other hand, run-flat tires can cost anywhere from $120 up to $1,100. Many people presume that this is only because lower range regular tires do not have their run-flat counterparts, which also holds for the very expensive extreme and ultra-high-performance tires.
But, the situation is slightly more complicated than that.
While it is true that only mid and top-range tire models of any manufacturer have run-flat counterparts, their price is between 50% and 200% higher.
So, it’s not just that more expensive models have run-flat variants, but they are also higher priced.
Regarding performance, run-flat tires have the same Uniform Tire Quality Rating as their non-run-flat equivalents. So, we will not compare them in this regard, as it is frankly pointless.
But, when it comes to performance, some things and differences can be noticed when either of these tire types is used on the road.
The very first thing you will notice is the rougher ride quality of run-flat tires. They allow you to continue driving your car with no tire pressure because their sidewalls are thicker and more reinforced.
This means they are also stiffer and unable to soak up small shocks from the road surface.
Another problem is that when a run-flat tire’s sidewall is damaged, it loses all of its functionality. It will not allow you to drive anymore as a damaged sidewall can’t carry the weight of a vehicle.
But there is also a question of how advantageous is the ability to drive for 50 miles on a flat tire. Per some sources, 80% of flat tires are caused by an object that gets embedded into a tire, causing a slow leak.
About this, you should be made aware by the TMPS, which should allow you to inflate your tire sufficiently to drive to the nearest shop.
When it comes to durability, run-flat tires often have a decreased tread life than their regular counterparts.
Because their sidewalls are much stiffer, causing the whole tire to be more rigid and unable to soak up vibrations from the road, many tire manufacturers use softer compounds for them.
There isn’t much that can be said about such a decision. It produces a tread surface that is bound to last shorter than the treads on non-run-flat tires.
The softer compound is used because more rigid run-flat tires can’t flex as much as the regular ones.
So instead of the whole tire, it is left for just the tread material to flex and absorb vibrations from the road.
Softer compounds are more susceptible to the abrasiveness of road surfaces. Whether it is asphalt or concrete, roads and tires are made to have a lot of friction with each other.
That friction is what keeps your vehicle safely connected to the road surface.
The absence of it makes it slide uncontrollably. But also it causes the wear of the tires, which is increased in run-flat tires.
When it comes to the variety of models and sizes, regular non-run-flat tires come in many shapes, sizes, and price points. The tire market is very large because every car in its lifetime will require several tire changes.
Tire makers also produce many different models for either various types of vehicles, terrains, or even purposes, such as high fuel economy.
On the other hand, the majority of the tire makers have a comparably limited number of run-flat tires.
You can find around 120 run-flat tire models from different brands at some online retailers compared to more than 1,000 non-run-flat models.
But, when it comes to physical stores, the choice is much more limited, and it is not unusual for some to have no run-flats available.
As a general rule, run-flat tires have the same warranted miles as their non-run-flat counterparts regarding the warranty policy.
But, because they are usually placed in the mid or top-tier of products, you could be led to assume that they have particularly extended warranties.
Many non-run-flat tires have much shorter warranties because they are a lower quality product in general, not because of the differences between these two types.
When tires are constructed to serve the same purpose and are comparable in all other aspects, run-flats and regular have the same manufacturer warranties.
Pros and Cons of Run-Flat Tires
The main pro of run-flat tires is that you can continue driving them for at least 50 more miles at speeds up to 50mph when they are flat.
This is useful because you will not get stuck on a roadside waiting for assistance, or having to know how to change a tire if you have a spare, or how to use a repair kit.
Run-flat tires allow you to continue driving to the nearest tire shop and get the punctured tire either fixed or replaced.
They also remove the need to carry any spare tire, jack, and other tools in your trunk, leaving more space for other (un)necessary things.
But all of that comes at a price of a higher price, a rougher ride, and very often a worse fuel economy as they weigh on average 50% more than their non-run-flat counterparts.
And you are saving the weight of a single tire in the trunk to add practically the weight of two additional tires on wheels.
Also, you should be aware that if the sidewall of a run-flat tire is slashed, its pros are gone.
And you can be left stranded on the side of a road, but in this case, without the ability to quickly change the tire and continue on your way.
Pros and Cons of Non-Run-Flat Tires
The major pro of regular tires is their considerably lower price, but also the fact that all tire stores carry them.
And because such tires can better soak up the vibrations from the road, the ride is much smoother.
The con is that you will have to carry a spare in the trunk and also a jack and other tools.
Or at least some type of repair kit, or an electric compressor or a high air-flow pump.
As you can see, all of the pros of run-flat tires come with a literal price to pay. And those pros very easily disappear.
This is the main reason why people do not like them, along with rougher ride quality.
And find it much more economical to spend five minutes learning how to change a tire and don’t choose them when deciding between run-flats vs. non-run-flats.