Thanks to the Dakar Rally, off-roading, and particularly driving over sand dunes, has always captured the imagination of car enthusiasts worldwide.
And there are quite a few reasons for that; people love exploring faraway and exotic places, and they also want to have a thrill. It's part of our nature, and it will always be.
However, exploring the wilderness will always be dangerous, and that's especially true when sand is involved. The issue is that any heavy object will want to sink into the sand, and getting it out will be tricky.
Hence, driving with your truck or SUV over sand dunes unprepared isn't a good idea, particularly if your tires are not up to snuff.
Yup, apart from owning a very capable off-road vehicle, you'll also need a competent set of tires. But the problem is, you'll find different opinions on the matter online, with many people recommending products that won't work well for driving on sand.
But you don't have to worry about that, as you have arrived just at the right place to find the best tires for sand.
In my in-depth review, I'll list my favorite sand tires that I've tested on sand and give you some tips and tricks on how you can further improve your off-road machine.
Moreover, we'll talk about various tire sizes and how they affect your vehicle's ability to overcome even the highest sand dunes. The size of your tire is as important as the model, so make sure you don't skip that part!
With that said, let's have an in-depth look at my favorite tires for sand!
- In-Depth Review of the Best Tires for Sand Available in 2023
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
In-Depth Review of the Best Tires for Sand Available in 2023
Best Mud-Terrain (Off-Road) Tires for Sand
1. General Grabber X3
Best for Overall
This is a tire that laughs at every off-road surface, as it just keeps on going, regardless if you attack dirt, rocks, mud, or sand. It's also very tough, meaning you needn't worry about deflating it.
On the road, the Grabber X3 feels a bit unresponsive, but that's okay for a mud-terrain tire. Crucially, the traction is very good for an off-road-focused tire, both on dry and wet tarmac.
It's also not too noisy on the highway and will even work on packed snow, something that's not a given in the category.
Lastly, the Grabber X3 is available in many flotation sizes, which is important for sand-driving enthusiasts.
2. Firestone Destination M/T2
Best for the Trail
The Firestone Destination M/T2 is a tire that many of my fellow off-roaders love because it's such a beast on the trail. I am not that big of a fan because I find it noisy on the street, even at lower speeds, but I guess experienced off-roaders are used to this.
Regardless, the Destination M/T2 is one of the best off-road tires out there when it comes to the important stuff, and that's overcoming the most challenging trails.
In my testing with the Jeep, Firestone's off-road tire works outstandingly well in mud and sand, but you can also use it for rock crawling and driving on dirt and gravel.
On the street, the tire lacks the wet traction of the best models in its category, but it's at least responsive to drive and quite grippy on dry tarmac. I was also impressed by the ride quality, which is helpful on dirt tracks.
3. BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM3
Best for Off-Road
BFGoodrich's mud tire will always have a place in any list of the best off-road tires, especially for warm weather conditions.
This is a model that was developed in the desert, and that showed in my testing – it's supremely capable of rock crawling and driving on sand.
Other off-road surfaces are also not an issue for this tire, though it does suffer from snow.
On the road, the KM3 is noisier than I would've liked, but in all other areas, it's quite excellent.
Notably, there is enough traction on dry and wet tarmac to keep you safe, accompanied by a very smooth ride, even on some very harsh terrains.
4. Yokohama Geolandar M/T G003
Best Mud Tires for Dry and Wet Road
Yokohama has produced some excellent off-road tires lately, both in the all-terrain and mud-terrain categories.
Its mud model, the Geolandar M/T G003, is one of the best in its category when it comes to off-roading, as it works perfectly on every type of surface, including sand.
But the best thing about the G003 is that it combines all of those traits with excellent on-road performance.
According to our on-road test, this is one of the best mud tires on dry and wet tarmac, providing you with enough traction for safe driving and predictable behavior at the limit. It's also fairly quiet on the highway, and the ride is reasonably smooth.
Sadly, though, you won't go far on snow-covered roads or even unpacked snow when off-roading.
Best All-Terrain Tires for Sand
5. BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2
Best All-terrain Tires for Durability
As I mentioned previously, BFGoodrich develops its tires in warmer climates, particularly on the Dakar Rally, and that shows in its All-Terrain T/A KO2.
When I tested it in the sand, I noticed that this tire was a beast on sandy dunes, as it provides as much traction as you need without digging.
It's also very good on other trails, such as rocks, shallow mud, and dirt.
On the road, however, the KO2 isn't as impressive, as it lacks the ultimate wet traction to compete with the best in its category.
It's also noisy on the highway, something that might bother a few people. On the bright side, though, it works excellently on dry tarmac, with good steering and grip, and it's a very capable snow tire.
6. Mickey Thompson Baja Boss A/T
Best All-terrain Tire for Off-road-capable
Mickey Thompson is another tire manufacturer that develops its tires in racing, and the Baja Boss A/T is no exception.
Designed particularly for sand, rocks, and dirt, and that showed in my testing, this all-terrain tire is a real off-road beast that can take you deep into the desert.
It's even usable in mud – better than any other all-terrain tire, according to my experience in the Jeep. And despite its focus on warmer conditions, the tire manages to surprise with its excellent snow traction.
But how does an off-road beast perform on the tarmac? Well, not so great; this is a tire that sits in the middle of its category in terms of dry and wet traction, and it's not particularly responsive.
Fortunately, though, it's very quiet, which is all the more impressive considering its excellent off-roading capabilities.
7. Falken Wildpeak A/T3W
Best for Winter
And my testing has proven just that, it's a beast on snow, both packed and unpacked, but it's also great for driving on sand, hardpacked surfaces, mud, and even larger rocks.
What impressed me the most in my testing was how good this tire is on paved roads. Falken did a great job with the dry/wet traction and handling, which are among the best in the category.
The ride is also reasonably smooth, and although not the quietest all-terrain tire around, the Wildpeak A/T3W is not very loud on the highway.
8. Toyo Open Country A/T III
Best for Camping and Overlanding
In my testing, Toyo's take on the all-terrain tire is great for driving on sand, providing enough traction and digging to churn forward.
But the Open Country A/T III is also excellent on hardpacked surfaces, and it even works in shallow mud.
On the road, I found the steering to be very direct and responsive, particularly for an all-terrain tire. I was also very impressed by the dry grip on offer, though I found the tire struggled a bit in the rain.
Also, while quiet at urban speeds, the Open Country A/T III can become noisier on the highway than some of its competitors.
Still, this is an excellent snow tire, meaning you can use it throughout the year without any issue, which is a big plus in my eyes.
9. Kumho Road Venture AT51
Best for Budget
Kumho is one of the few manufacturers that doesn't provide a treadwear warranty on its LT-metric and flotation sizes, which is a shame because I think it hurts an otherwise excellent all-terrain tire.
Notably, it works excellently on every off-road trail I encountered, including sand, and it looks like it can take a beating.
I was also very happy with how quiet it is on the highway and how smooth it glides over road irregularities.
Despite the excellent comfort it offers, the Road Venture AT51 provides direct and natural steering, making it, subjectively, one of my favorite all-terrain tires.
10. Michelin Defender LTX M/S
Best Highway All-Season Tires for Sand
Michelin's highway all-season tire is by far the most popular in its category, despite its exorbitant price. Put simply; no other highway tire can touch the abilities of the Defender LTX M/S, both on-road and off-road.
And my testing has proven just that, this tire is excellent on dry and wet tarmac and remains usable on snow-covered roads. It's also pretty responsive, yet supremely quiet and comfortable over bumps.
But you must ask the question – does it really belong here? In my testing, it does. I'm not the biggest sand-driving enthusiast, and I drove this tire on a sandy and sunny beach to test them, and this tire perfectly fits my needs.
It offers very good grip and traction on sand, of course, it can't be compared to the others at the top of this list.
Besides, it does come in sizes that will aid in flotation, and it's very tough and durable, meaning it can overcome some serious sand trails when aired down!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- How to prepare my tires for driving on sand?
The first thing you need to do is lower the pressure. By doing this, you'll ensure that the tire won't sink into the sand, meaning you won't get stuck. Go as low as you can without the tire coming off the wheel – you can find the value on your tire's sidewall.
You might even go lower than the manufacturer recommended pressure, but I would advise against that. Sure, it might give you slightly more flotation ability, but it would be very inconvenient if the tire comes off the wheel on some sand dune.
- What are the best tire types for driving on sand?
Ask different people, and you'll get different answers on this matter, with most off-roaders gearing toward all-terrain tires. The idea is that mud-terrain/off-road tires dig into the sand more, meaning they could get stuck more easily.
However, my experience is the opposite of that. Although the differences aren't big, in my testing, mud-terrain tires perform better on sand than all-terrain tires, provided you drive at very low pressures, and the tire is wide enough so that it doesn't sink into the sand.
As for highway tires, provided you find a suitable size, i.e., higher sidewall and wider footprint, they can also get you places. Sure, it won't be as efficient as a mud-terrain or all-terrain tire, but for most applications, it will do just fine.
The issue is, though, finding a size that can let you drive at lower pressures, as most highway all-season tires only come in P-metric sizes, and only a few are available in flotation sizes.
- What are the best tire sizes for driving on sand?
If you are serious about driving on sand, you should definitely go for flotation sizes. These models have much taller tires than usual, and most of them are also wider.
Moreover, thanks to the use of more plies, they tend to be tougher, which lets you use them at very low pressures without damaging the casing.
Flotation tires come in various sizes, though, and for driving on sand, I'd recommend getting the tallest and widest you can. These can cost a fortune, but off-roading has never been cheap.
If you want a set of tires for casual sand driving, I suggest going for LT-metric models with a high-enough sidewall and wide-enough footprint. LT-metric tires are very strong and let you drive at very low pressures without damaging the tire.
That said, you should avoid low-profile tires if you think even remotely of driving on sand. You won't be able to use these tires at low pressures, meaning no flotation. Sure, you might think a wide tire would give you enough buoyancy, but pressure plays a bigger role.
- Do I need to change my wheels for driving on sand?
Well, if you are a serious off-road that spends his time in the desert or on the beach, then yes, you'll need new wheels. And not just any wheels – you'll need bead-lock rims. These will let you lock the tire into the wheel, thanks to the mechanical bead locks.
As a result, you can deflate your tires to some crazy low pressures, and they won't come off the wheel. Bead-lock wheels usually come in sizes that fit flotation tires, making it the best combo for driving on sand!
However, it's important to note that these wheels cost a fortune to buy. Also, they make your usual 15-minute tire change a gruesome process, as you'd have to unscrew every lock and then screw it back on. Still, in this case, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.
- What about paddle tires?
Paddle tires are specifically designed to give you maximum traction on sand. Thanks to the paddles that sit transversely on the tread, these tires provide digging action for maximum traction, but they won't sink into the sand.
However, paddle tires aren't street legal and very unsafe to drive on tarmac. They are also not readily available for most trucks and SUVs and can be expensive yet won't last very long.
If you are really into driving on sand, you might want to bring a set wherever you go and change them on-site. It's a pain, but I know some people are doing that.
Still, I won't recommend paddle tires for 99% of off-road enthusiasts simply because mud-terrain and all-terrain tires already do a good enough job.
Driving on deep sand is very challenging, not just for your tires but also for your vehicle and your abilities. Thus, I recommend getting prepared before exploring the wilderness with your friends.
Start by driving on some less-challenging tracks, and build your skills there. Then, slowly transition toward some more serious off-road trails.
Also, make sure your truck/SUV is always maintained regularly so you can minimize the chances of something breaking down.
And it won't hurt that you learn about the mechanics and electronics inside your vehicle, as there won't be a mechanic to help you deep into the desert.
In the end, ensure that you always have a spare sand tire ready just in case; driving in the desert, for example, means many sharp rocks, which can puncture a tire and leave your vehicle incapacitated!