Different Types of Wheels; Their Pros and Cons

Published: August 5, 2021
Last updated: February 21, 2024

The wheels of a car uplift the exterior look of the automobile; it, however, isn’t all we need to consider when choosing tires and wheels. The wheels directly impact your driving experience and your fuel efficiency as well. There are different types of wheels suitable for different circumstances. 

So, let’s take a look at what the automobile experts share about the pros and cons of different types of wheels.

Sizes; Pros & Cons

Larger Wheels: “Nowadays, new vehicles are sold with larger wheel sizes billed as “premium wheels.” Wheel designs have become more sophisticated and being able to show them off with a larger diameter is a nice touch, especially with luxury vehicles. However, larger wheels are more expensive to replace & repair. They are more susceptible to damage. Tires cost more.

“If you are buying or leasing a vehicle with any type of “premium wheel,” make sure to buy the wheel & tire protection package. It will more than pay for itself the first time you use it. Which also won’t be the last time either!”

Smaller Wheels: “Smaller wheel sizes are nothing to shy away from. They are often the more economical choice and with wheels being the new focus of design for most brands, smaller wheels get a lot of stylish love, too. Another advantage of smaller wheel size is cabin comfort and less noise. The reason for that is there’s more rubber (and more air) between the edge of the rim and the road itself. This cushions you from bumps and surface acoustics. 

“Beyond that, smaller wheels are ideal for SUVs heading off-road. Smaller wheels accommodate tires with more tread and rubber which makes them more resistant to damage while enhancing traction and capabilities.” (Mallory Davis)

Finishes; Pros & Cons

“The standard finish for the vast majority of OEMs is “Sparkle Silver.” Bright & clean, this finish adds class and personality to any brand of vehicle, whether it's an economy car or ultra-luxury saloon. A step up from Sparkle Silver wheels offers a bit more contrast and depth. These types of wheels are commonly referred to as “Diamond Cut Alloys.” Typically, a Diamond Cut finish is a Sparkly Silver on outer surfaces with a deeper grey or gun-metal color on the shallow contours heading deeper into the wheel. 

“You’ll see this finish mostly on sports editions for most brands. Lastly, blacked-out wheels can be found throughout the model range at all price points with almost any OEM. Black wheels come in either matte or gloss and insiders usually refer to black wheels as ‘the new chrome’.”

“It can be a lot of fun to customize your vehicle with different wheel finishes, but a word of caution. The fancier the wheel, the more costly it is to repair. Curb-rash hides really well on Sparkle Silver wheels. Imagine your vehicle with glossy black wheels. Now think about the same curb rash. Nothing can ruin the appearance of a car faster than scratched finishes on custom wheels. While wheel repair services have sprung up to accommodate the demand for such repairs, it can be costly to do (not to mention a frequent occurrence).” (Mallory Davis)

Wheel Materials; Pros & Cons

“Lastly, the material itself can also affect the price, look, feel, and capability of your vehicle. Steel wheels are the cheapest. The heaviest. And the toughest. This wheel is often found on spare tires and is also ideal for off-road use. When steel wheels are damaged, they are usually just bent. In a pinch, a handy driver can beat the damage back with a hammer to fix the contact point with the rubber. 

“On the other end of the spectrum, supercars and other top-performance vehicles will use lightweight composite materials such as Kevlar/Carbon Fiber wheels. They look awesome. Reduce weight almost completely. And can be damaged before you know what happened. Replacements can cost in excess of tens of thousands of dollars. So if you’re thinking about upgrading to aftermarket wheels like this, make sure you can pay for a second set. You’ll likely need them. A happy medium exists. Most wheels are now made out of aluminum. 

“Even though aluminum is a relatively expensive material, it balances strength, style, & performance. “Aluminum wheels are easy to paint, balance, and service. Most aftermarket companies will offer a large selection of wheels made out of aluminum for this reason.”

Mallory Davis, Manager O'Steen Volvo

4 Different Types Of Rims That Will Affect Performance

Steel Wheels

“The most basic kind of wheel that is used as most entry-level options for vehicles. They are practical wheels that offer no aesthetically pleasing styles but are thick and resistant upon impact. They have a higher chance of only being bent instead of cracking like others. They can also be very bulky and heavy.” (Mark Beneke)

Alloy Wheels

“Alloy wheels tend to be more aesthetically pleasing and offer some great performance benefits over steel wheels. They are lighter, stronger, and conduct heat better. This means that your vehicle can get better fuel economy, pick up slightly faster, will resist certain types of scratches or minor impacts better, and will handle hard braking more efficiently. While they can be more resistant, a hard impact usually translates to a crack or break in the wheel.” (Mark Beneke)

Forged Wheels

“Forged wheels tend to be the best when it comes to performance. They are also visually pleasing as they are custom-made. They tend to be lighter and stronger than all other types of wheels on the market. Because of this, they are also substantially more expensive.” (Mark Beneke)

Cast Wheels

“Another type of aftermarket wheel similar to forged wheels. They offer great performance and aesthetically pleasing styles. They are lighter and stronger than other wheels, except forged and can sometimes be made even lighter than forged options. They are much more affordable when compared to forged options.”

“There are other types of rims which offer no performance benefit over alloy wheels and are just aesthetic, like chrome or diamond cut.”

Mark Beneke is the Owner of Westland Auto Sales in Fresno, CA.

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