Whether you’re fitting new tyres on your existing car or looking to buy or lease a new one, it’s important to ensure that the tyres are fit for purpose.

With regards to the speed at which you can drive, this means making sure the speed rating of the tyres is appropriate for the car they’re installed on – as well as taking care not to exceed that speed while in operation.

It’s a good idea to gain a basic understanding of what a tyre speed rating is, where you can find it and what the different letters mean. This handy guide should answer any questions you have, providing a one-stop shop for all your tyre speed rating doubts and concerns.

Read on for the basics, a full list of tyre speed ratings and why tyre speed rating is important…

Tyre Side Wall

What is a tyre speed rating?

Simply put, a tyre speed rating is the maximum speed that a tyre is legally approved to travel at.

Where can I find the tyre speed rating on my car?

The tyre speed rating is printed on the sidewall of the tyre itself. You can find it listed in the form of a single letter at the end of the tyre’s size, which is indicated by a long sequence of numbers and letters. The speed rating is normally preceded by a number itself. Here’s an example:

205/50 R17 89V

In this example, V indicates the tyre speed rating. The other information indicates the tyre’s width (in millimetres), the tyre’s side profile written as a percentage of its width, the diameter of the wheel which is appropriate to the tyre (in inches) and the load capacity of the tyre, respectively.

How is the tyre speed rating calculated?

Tyre speed ratings are based upon European standards, which means they use kilometres per hour (km/h) rather than miles per hour (mph). A team of engineers test the tyres by running them at 10kmh (6.2mph) increments, with each increment lasting for 10 minutes, until the maximum safe speed has been reached.

What do the tyre speed ratings mean?

The letter which indicates tyre speed rating corresponds to the maximum speed in km/h (and mph) at which it can safely travel. Tyre speed ratings begin with the letter N (87mph, 140km/h) and go all the way up to Y (186mph, 300kmh).

While there is also a Z category, this is reserved exclusively for high-performance supercars made by brands such as Ferrari and McLaren and is used more for specialist purposes than consumer ones.

The full list of tyre speed ratings can be found below:

Tyre Speed Rating Miles per hour (mph) Kilometres per hour (km/h)
B

31

50

 
C

37

60

 
D

40

65

 
E

43

70

 
F

50

80

 
G

56

90

 
J

62

100

 
K

68

110

 
L

75

120

 
M

81

130

 
N

87

140

 
P

93

150

 
Q

99

160

 
R

106

170

 
S

112

180

 
T

118

190

 
U

124

200

 
H

130

210

 
V

149

240

 
W

168

270

 
Y

186

300

 
Z

150+

240+

 

As you can see, tyre speed ratings technically begin at B (31mph, 50km/h), but since these (and many that follow) are unpractical for real-life driving conditions, they only really start for commercial purposes at N (87mph, 140km/h).

Why are tyre speed ratings important?

When cars move at higher speeds, their wheels turn faster – which generate heat. It’s for this reason that tyres are attributed speed ratings, since some are engineered specifically to be able to handle this increased heat. What’s more, the load capacity of a car will place greater strain upon the tyres when accelerating, braking and taking corners at speed.

If you use a tyre with a speed rating that is not adequate for the car itself or the speeds to which you drive it, you risk these factors compromising the performance of the tyre. In the worst-case scenario, this could cause failure of the tyre at high speeds, which could be a lethal danger to yourself and others on the road.

How do tyre speed ratings affect my insurance?

As well as impacting upon the performance and safety of the car, it’s also important that you use the correct tyre to fulfil your insurance obligations.

There is no problem in replacing your tyres with ones of a higher speed rating than the manufacturer’s original fit. However, installing ones with a lower speed rating could invalidate your insurance in the event of an accident.

How do I know which tyres are appropriate for my car?

For most modern cars, the tyre speed rating isn’t usually a problem, since they are generally fitted with tyres whose speed ratings far exceed the maximum possible speed that the engine is capable of.

This is done for safety purposes, to ensure that the tyres’ capabilities are never exceeded by those of the car. However, it’s also common practice to install higher performances for aesthetic reasons, as well. It’s currently fashionable to use alloy wheels with tyres that catch the eye, and higher performance tyres can often look more attractive to prospective buyers or leasers.

Generally speaking, smaller cars used in urban environments will have tyre speed ratings of T (118mph, 190km/h), while family vehicles most commonly use either H (130mph, 210km/h) or V (149mph, 240km/h) tyres, meaning the speed rating is not an issue.

However, if in doubt, it’s always a good idea to check whether the tyres on your car – or that you’re planning to fit – are appropriate for the vehicle. You can do this either by asking your local mechanic or using online tools to find out the relevant information.

Rest assured that all of the cars leased by Leasing Options are always fitted with tyres that match or exceed the capabilities of the car, so you never have to worry about driving with the appropriate tyres in place.