16 vs. 17 vs.18 Inch Wheels: Best Choice For Off-roading?

Choosing the right off-road wheel size, whether it’s 16, 17, or 18 inches, can be challenging due to their similarities.

In this article, we’ll explore the 16″, 17″, and 18″ wheels by comparing various factors, including appearance, brakes, tire size, cost, handling, traction, and noise to help you make an informed choice.

16 vs. 17 vs. 18 Inch Wheels: An Overview Of The Differences?

When choosing a vehicle wheel, carefully analyzing the differences between the tire wheels is paramount. You need to check through the properties for each one before settling. We have carefully sorted out the properties for your benefit. Go through the table for a quick overview.  

Differences Between 16 vs. 17 vs. 18 Inch Wheels
Differences Between 16 vs. 17 vs. 18 Inch Wheels

16 Inch Wheels

17 Inch Wheels

18 Inch Wheels

16 vs. 17 vs. 18 Inch Wheels: Detailed Analysis

Above, we have broken down the 16, 17, and 18 inch wheels based on their features. If you have gone through the table, you will understand that each wheel has pros and cons. Still not sure which is better? Below we have provided you with a detailed analysis of these wheels. 


In this comparison, the most aesthetically appealing one is the 18-inch wheel. Because of the wider surface on the 18-inch wheel, the tire can embody a more stylish thread pattern. 

This thread pattern helps improve its traction, hence giving the tire a better grip. 

Smaller wheels like the 16-inch wheel accommodate even smaller tires. These tires have less traction and are also prone to damage. Small wheels don’t fit well into the wheel arches, and a change in wheels by 1 or 2 inches can fill the gap between the chassis and wheel. This fitting improves the look of the car ultimately. 

Wheels’ Size & Tires’ Size

The 18-inch wheels are the most prominent in this set of wheels. The larger the wheel size, the larger the tires. Therefore the 18-inch wheel requires larger tires when compared to the 16 and 17-inch wheels.

Larger tires will fit in the rims of larger wheels better, even though you can opt for a larger tire with smaller wheels. Bigger wheels are rigid or stiff, while small wheels are considered flexible. Smaller tires for 16-inch wheels don’t perform well in off-road conditions, and they are less resistant to potholes and rocks.

Large wheels also give your vehicle good ground clearance. The drawback of a bigger wheel is its stiffness and rigidity, which reduces the comfort level.

Wheels’ & Tires’ Cost

The cost of wheels and tires increases as the size increases. The bigger tires help increase the towing ability of the vehicle. Making bigger wheels and tires require more workforce, more resources, and more time. Based on this fact, it’s only normal for the 18-inch wheel to be more expensive.

Meanwhile, the 16-inch wheels are economical and easy to install. The most undersized wheels are the most cost-effective ones. 17-inch wheels are right in between the three in regards to regards price and value for money. 

Brakes’ Size

The brake size for the tires will also increase as the size of the wheels increases; therefore, the 18-inch wheel has the largest brake size. Larger wheels make it possible for you to install larger brakes. 

Keep in mind that big and heavy wheels are not suitable for your brake. Why? A 10% increase in your wheel size will result in a 10% decrease in brake performance. Bigger wheels like the 17-inch and 18-inch are also more tolerant to the heat generated by friction.

The smaller wheels need small brake pads. They put less strain on your brake, unlike the bigger wheels that require bigger brakes. Larger brakes are typically better than the smaller ones because the surface area of pads and discs creates more contact and friction. 


The most straightforward wheel to handle is the 18-inch wheel, as it is the most stable. The larger wheels, due to their sidewall, provide more lateral stability when driving. 

In contrast, the 16-inch, which is the least stable of the trio, has a taller sidewall, leading to weak handling. The taller sidewalls allow more flex on the pavement, which makes it less stable.


Bigger wheels go hand-in-hand with bigger tires, and larger tires have wider tread patterns. The deeper the tread on the tire, the more grip/traction it will have. A tire with better traction ensures safety. From the three wheels we are comparing, the one with the best traction is the 18-inch wheel.

The 18-inch wheel has more of its surface coming in contact with the road, improving traction. The wide wheels help increase the grip in harsh driving conditions, i.e., mud, ice, rocks, etc. Besides, the larger wheels give you more control when driving in harsh conditions.

While the smaller wheels are more cost-effective and easier to handle, they have less traction. If you do a lot of off-road driving in steep and rigid areas, you should opt for bigger wheels.


The 16-inch wheel should be your choice among the trio when picking a wheel based on its acceleration. Smaller wheels have the best acceleration. It is easy for them to accelerate as the engine needs to put in little work to get them running. 

Large wheels are nice, but they do not have good acceleration. While for the larger wheels, the car engine has put in more work to speed. The difference in acceleration is not easily noticeable, primarily if you haven’t used a different inch wheel in a while. 

Newton’s second law of motion states that an object’s force equals its mass multiplied by its acceleration. This bolsters the point that an increase in wheel size will result in a decrease in acceleration. 

Noise & Comfort

The 16-inch wheels produce noise the least, and it is the most comfortable. Smaller tires that are associated with smaller wheels offer more flexibility and are therefore more comfortable. The air cushion helps reduce the effect of bumps on the road, and smaller tires have more air cushion. 

Moreover, larger wheels like the 17 and 18-inch wheels are not as comfortable because they have tall tread blocks. Tall tread blocks increase traction but also increase noise while decreasing comfort level. The air cushion helps reduce the noise in the tire, giving you a fantastic driving experience. 

16 vs. 17 vs. 18 Inch Wheels: Which Is Best For Off-roading?

Of these three, the 18-inch wheel is your best choice for off-road performance. This wheel raises the car’s height, giving you good ground clearance. The higher the wheel, the easier it is to maneuver sturdy, bumpy, and complex surfaces familiar to the off-road.  

The 18-inch wheel helps you climb steep hills and navigate through muddy terrains with its large tire, which features in-depth treads. It also helps protect the vehicle frame from these harsh terrains as it lifts the vehicle a reasonable distance from the ground. A giant wheel would require larger brake pads for off-road, which will go hand in hand with the 18″ wheels. 

Following closely is the 17-inch wheel which in itself isn’t a bad off-road wheel. Since wheel size is a crucial factor affecting off-road driving, the 16-inch wheel won’t hold up compared to the 17 and 18-inch wheel.

16 Inch Wheels

17 Inch Wheels

18 Inch Wheels


Choosing a wheel is often influenced by the type of surfaces you want to ride the wheels on. You can choose if you prefer an aesthetically pleasing one, a comfortable one, or even one with the best acceleration. The three wheel sizes discussed above have their pros and cons. You would have to decide which suits your needs best. We advise you to be thorough when picking a wheel size. You can always move up and down an inch, but it’s mainly advisable to choose a size and stick with it to avoid putting your speedometer at risk. 

When changing the size of your wheels, make sure the brake matches your wheels. With all the information given above, I am sure you would choose a wheel that suits you best.

Finally, based on these wheel size comparisons, the 18-inch wheel wins a majority of the categories. Should we say bigger is better? Not necessarily. However, what the 18-inch wheel offers speaks for itself. 

Read more: 18 vs. 19 Inch Wheels: Which Size Is Better?

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