Staggered Tires: Why or Why Not

I had a question from a customer that surprised me the other day. After doing this for as many years as I have, I tend to think that I've heard it all. We were talking about an older BMW, and he asked me if the original tire sizes were staggered. I replied that they were not. His follow-up question was, "Well, why not? It's not like the car is all-wheel drive."

There are a couple of assumptions in that simple question, and they are a mixture of true, false and revealing statements.

Assumption #1: All-wheel drive cars do not or can't have staggered tires.

Assumption #2: If a car can have staggered tires, it should or is expected to.

Assumption #1 is somewhat accurate, but isn't set in stone. Many AWD systems will wear prematurely if there is too much difference in the rolling diameter of the tires. And, it's hard to get staggered tires with perfectly identical diameters. They are usually close enough that it looks identical, but the actual revolutions per mile may be too different than a given AWD system can tolerate.

With that said, there are some vehicles that come with staggered tires from the factory. And in fact, the first example off the top of my head comes from within the BMW marque that we were discussing. The X5 is AWD (or xDrive in BMW-speak) and many of them have staggered 20" or 21" sizes.

Assumption #2 is the one that really surprised me. Staggered wheels and tires have become more common in recent years, and it seems they've become ubiquitous enough that some people think of that as the default configuration. This still blows my mind!

The default configuration for a car or truck is to have all four tires the same size. This set-up has a number of advantages. First, It is easier to find tires when one does not have to look for something that is available in two different sizes. The tires can be rotated from front to rear to help maintain even treadwear.

Next, there is less chance for confusion. I've seen staggered set-ups installed with the back on the front and vice versa; and I've seen customers assume that if they check the size of one tire, that all four tires will be that size. Also, a full-size spare or extra tire can be used on any position of the vehicle.

With that said, there are a few reasons to go with staggered tires. One is weight bias. If you have a car that has a large majority of its weight over one axle, that axle should have bigger tires. See Porsche 911s with their rear-engine weight bias as an example.

Two is power. If you have a rear-wheel drive car that has a lot of horsepower, you may need bigger tires on the rear to help put that power to the pavement. Why not just make all of the tires bigger in that case? The size of the front tires is often limited by the fact that the front wheels have to steer left and right. Too wide of a tire may rub when the steering wheel is turned. Super-wide tires in front can also aggravate the tendency to hydroplane when hitting puddles, and may make the steering feel unduly heavy.

Three, and often the most relevant, is style. The staggered look, with big tires on the back, is generally considered to be cool. I think part of that is driven by the fact that it's usually the more exotic cars that need staggered tires: rear or mid engine, high horsepower, RWD. These attributes describe some of the most iconic cars in history, from the Ferrari F40 to a Top Fuel dragster. Such is the cachet of wide rear tires, that I will often have customers with FWD cars ask for a RWD-style staggered set-up, causing Isaac Newton to spin in his grave at 8,500 RPM. (For the right way to stagger FWD, take a look at "Automotive Oddity: Correctly Staggered Tires on a Front-Wheel Drive Car")

In the case of the old BMW, it had balanced weight distribution and horsepower, that by today's standards is moderate, and the staggered-tire style trend was not nearly as widespread in the late 1980s. Therefore, there was no reason for it to diverge from the normal tire configuration. I didn't bend my customer's ear with all of these musings, but a highly condensed version was enough to give him the general idea.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015 by Joe

Thanks for the info. I am looking at new tires for my 2011 X5 and like the wide look of the 315/35R20 tires. If I do not opt to stagger the tires, is it possible/prudent to put the same size tires on the front or will this cause a significant degradation in handling? Thanks!
Sunday, June 26, 2016 by Sal Cavallaro

I'm wondering about using the same size snow tire all around? I have 245/45/19 on the front and 275/40/19 on the rear. I'm planning on putting on new rims with 245/45/19 snow tires all around. Any issue?
Monday, June 27, 2016 by Tire Rack Team

Sal Cavallaro, It depends on the vehicle, but since they are the same overall diameter, there shouldn't be any issue. -
Wednesday, August 10, 2016 by fahad

I have Porsche panamera 2013 standard V6 engine , If it possible to use 245-45-19 front ,,275-40-19 rear, also can I use square wheels instead of staggered ?? thank you very much
Friday, August 12, 2016 by Tire Rack Team

Fahad, The sizes you have noted would be shorter than what we normally see on the Panamera. You can run a square setup instead of a stagger if you are so inclined.
Monday, October 3, 2016 by Yves Renaud

Thank you for this helpful information. I was looking to buy winter rims for a BMW 320i xdrive and I was told the rims were staggered. Never heard of that expression before so your article was good information for me.
Thursday, October 13, 2016 by L. M.

On a 2010 Lexus IS 250C the original tire specs are staggered, Front:225/45R17, Rear: 245/45R17. Is it safe to put new tires size 245/45R17 on all four wheels. Will it change handling and/or in emergency stopping.
Monday, October 17, 2016 by Tire Rack Team

L.M., We do not advise running the same size tire front and rear on the Lexus as it can negatively impact some of the vehicle's stability controls.
Saturday, March 4, 2017 by Rodney D

I have a 2006 BMW 750 LI and looking to downgrade to 20's. I'm torn between putting 245/40/20 on all four. Or going staggered with 245/40/20 on the fronts and 275/35/20 on the backs. What would you recommend?
Wednesday, March 8, 2017 by Tire Rack Team

Rodney, If you would like the additional benefit of longer tread life by being able to rotate I would go with a 245 front and back. If you want more performance and to have the vehicle look nicer I would go 245 front 275 rear.
Wednesday, September 6, 2017 by Orlando Camposagrado

I have a 2013 Mercedes Benz C 300 4Matic Sport with OE staggered tires. 225/45 R17 front and 245/40 R 17 rear. Can I use 225/45 R17 front and back so that I can rotate the tires?
Monday, December 4, 2017 by jong

I have a 2017 genesis gl90. Can I place all same size for winter tires? It came staggered.
Wednesday, December 6, 2017 by Tire Rack Team

Jong: You can use the same size tire size all the way around with the same size wheels for winter in size 245/45R19. If you are looking to use the existing staggered wheel size, the size would need to be 255/45R19 to accommodate the wider rear wheels as well as the narrower fronts. Click here to see the options for your car:
Tuesday, December 12, 2017 by JASON

I've got a 2014 Ford explorer sport. I've got two 265/50/20 sitting in my garage, and have found a super deal on a pair of 275/55/20. Would the extra 40mm difference in height front to back potentially cause problems?
Thursday, December 14, 2017 by Tire Rack Team

Jason: The recommended size is 255/50R20 so both are bigger than we could guarantee would fit. The 275/55R20 are almost two inches taller than stock so it is unlikely. Even if they fit you would potentially be creating problems for the traction control system and especially if it were an all-wheel drive model.
Wednesday, December 27, 2017 by Glenn

I have an '11 Shelby GT500 with the SVTPP. Running 265/40/19 in the front and 285/35/20 in the rear. I'm looking at the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S, they don't come in my front tire size. Would a 275/35/19 in the front work with the 285/35/20 in the rear? Is that enough size difference to benefit from a staggered set-up? I'd love to go up to a 295 in the back but the wheel is only 9.5" wide.
Tuesday, January 2, 2018 by Tire Rack Team

Glenn: It might work. It is wider than we could guarantee and then it is 8/10ths of an inch shorter, so we're not sure if that would cause any issues with traction control or general handling. You might try an online forum for the GT500 to see if other owners may have tried it.
Sunday, January 21, 2018 by John Sicuro

I’d like to run staggered tires on my 2010 silverado 4x4. 275/55/20 up front and 305/50/20 in the rear. Just cause of the cool factor. The difference is a 31.9” tire in the front and 32” diameter tire out back. Would that be ok of a difference to run the auto 4 wheel drive without a problem?
Sunday, January 21, 2018 by Mile Loft

BMW does not recommend rotating tires ever.
it could impair driving characteristics. Even of the same size.

Trust the engineers of BMW.
The car suspension was designed with the approved BMW tires.

Softer ridding non runflats will removes the sharp handling.
BMW OEM rims do not accept non BMW approved tires.. They are specially made to hold the tires in place in case of a blow out.

There are reason for everything. Do your research with the engineers who designed the car and its componentsm before listening to Tire Rack,
Reference Owners manaul: Page 220
BMW equipped with runflat tires have rims with a special
Tuesday, January 23, 2018 by Tire Rack Team

John Sicuro, if it is an all wheel drive all the time system, we recommend keeping all tires within 2/32nds in tread depth of each other. Though these start out the same height, you could not rotate so keeping the wear even could be a challenge so we wouldn’t recommend it. If it you only put it in four wheel drive off-road, the tread depth difference is not as much of an issue.
Wednesday, February 7, 2018 by Matt Koch

I own a 2016 challeneger 392 hemi shaker i currently have 245/40/r20 i am looking to go to 275/40/r20 all season tires continentals extreme contact dsw06 all around or should i be staggered
Wednesday, February 14, 2018 by Tire Rack Team

Matt, the widest tire that will fit all the way around guaranteed would be in the size 255/45R20. If you want the 275/40R20 that would be a rear size and you would need at least a 9-inch wide wheel. We're seeing your stock was 8 inches.
Friday, February 16, 2018 by Liam

My father has a Macan which has a staggered set 235/60/r18 in the front and 255/55/18 in the back. He really wants a much more aggressive tire than is available but he’d need to run 235/60/18 all around. We’ve been asking and looking everywhere to see if it would hurt the car to do that. We realize the performance loss it would cause but would it hurt the car at all or would it be fine to do?
Wednesday, February 21, 2018 by Tony Pavone

Tire rack team. I have a 2012 BMW 328i with 225/35zr20 in the front and 245/35r20 in the rear. I would really like to get away from the staggered look. What tire size do you recommend I go with? Thanks
Monday, February 26, 2018 by Tire Rack Team

Liam, unlike many other applications, here we do not recommend using the same size tires on this vehicle. Porsche has specified it not be done even for winter packages.
Monday, February 26, 2018 by Tire Rack Team

Tony Pavone, in the 20-inch wheels you would need to keep the stagger, there is not a recommended size that will work on all four corners. The lower profile tires need the additional width to carry the load on the rear. There are size options in the 19- or 18-inch wheels though.
Tuesday, February 27, 2018 by Jessica Lofton

I also have a 2013 MB C300 4matic sport..can I change the wheels to 20inch non staggard tires all around?
Wednesday, February 28, 2018 by Diego

Hello need help my front tires are 225/40r18 and rear tires are 255/35r18 will my new rims fit 5x112 18x8.5
On my mercedes c350 coupe 4matic thanks a lot.

Cheers from Montreal.
Wednesday, February 28, 2018 by Regan

Hi guys, I have a 2005 Infiniti fX35 awd. I’m wondering if it is possible to run a staggered wheel set up without damaging anything. I’ve read different opinions and reviews on this. The set up I have bought is from a stock 2013 Nissan GT-R. The front wheels are 255/40R20 with an overall diameter of 27.9”. The rears are 285/35R20 with an overall diameter of 28”.
Friday, March 2, 2018 by Dan

I have a Panamera with staggered tires, but I want to buy a spare wheel/tire for long road trips in case of emergency. If I buy a wheel/tire identical to the front wheel/tire on the car, can it be used in emergency if a larger rear tire (but same wheel diameter) blows out, until I get to a place to have it replaced properly (which could be hundreds of miles)?
Friday, March 2, 2018 by Tire Rack Team

Jessica Lofton, a 20-inch is not recommended for your car. 19-inch would be the largest diameter that would have a tire with enough sidewall to support the weight. You can go to a non-staggered set up with a 235/35R19.
Friday, March 2, 2018 by Tire Rack Team

Diego, generally speaking, those tire sizes will fit an 8.5-inch wide wheel if the wheels are right for your car.
Friday, March 2, 2018 by Tire Rack Team

Regan, we would not recommend it. Even if the wheels fit, the tires sizes would be too short for the Infinity FX35.
Tuesday, March 6, 2018 by Herman

I have a 2012 lexus that has a staggered rim with 8.5" in the front and a 9.5" in the rear. Will it be ok to run a 8.5" rim all the way around with the same tires?
Thursday, March 8, 2018 by Jacqueline McStay

Hello, I have just purchased a 2005 Carrera 911 S with 19" rims and run flat tyres. Am I able to replace the run flats with ordinary tyres on the 19" rims? Thank you for your help. Jacqueline
Friday, March 9, 2018 by MJ

I purchased a 2015 Mercedes s5504matic. It also came with a set of staggered OEM wheels (245/45 front & 275/40 rear). The overall diameter is within .25mm based on my calculations. Can I safely use these on the 4matic?
Friday, March 9, 2018 by Moreno

Hey guys I’m looking to add a staggered tire appearance and a bit more performance. I cureently Run 265/35/22 on all fours but want to change the rear tires to 305/40/22. Will this work and the car is a Dodge Charger 2006. If so I’m putting in my order today. Or suggestions please.
Monday, March 12, 2018 by Tire Rack Team

Dan, often times a front wheel will work all the way around on a staggered setup but with your Panamera, unfortunately, we do not show a front wheel that would work on the rear as well.
Wednesday, March 14, 2018 by Mark

Hi guys. I own a 2016 BMW M235i with OEM wheels and tires. Front 18x 7.5J ET45 (225/40/R18). Rear 18x 8J ET52 (245/35/R18). I plan to change to 19x 8J ET42 wheels all round, with 245/30/R19 on the rear. My question is; will I be able to fit the same tires (245/30/R19) on the front as well, without any problems or issues? Cheers, Mark
Friday, March 16, 2018 by Tire Rack Team

Herman, we would need to know which Lexus you have but, generally speaking, yes. You could find out by loading the vehicle and searching our site as if you were getting a winter tire and wheel package and if there is an option for a front and rear wheel in the same size then that is a wheel that would work. Follow the link below and/or call in:
Friday, March 16, 2018 by Tire Rack Team

Jacqueline McStay, you can run non-runflat tires on your 911. We do not show that a runflat came on it originally.
Friday, March 16, 2018 by Tire Rack Team

MJ, yes, we show the 245/40R20 and the 275/35R20 as a recommended fitment for your car.
Friday, March 16, 2018 by Tire Rack Team

Moreno, the recommended fitment on your 2006 Dodge Charger with a 22-inch stagger would be 225/30R22 and 285/30R22 and you would need at least a 9.5-inch wheel to fit the rear size. We could not guarantee anything wider for the back.

Leave a comment