16 vs 18 Inch Wheels Ride Quality – Does Size Matters?

When buying wheels for your vehicle, an important factor to consider is ride quality. And to achieve a good one, you need to discover the best wheel size for your car.

In this case, you are presented with choosing from two options for passenger or commercial vehicles – 16 vs 18-inch tires.

Find out what will be perfect for your everyday use in this article.

Why people are considering 16-inch or 18-inch wheel Sizes

Generally, the size of a wheel determines the size of the tires that go right in.

For instance, larger diameter wheel size means larger tires; small wheels mean smaller tires.

However, the benefit of each tire size varies – larger tires have better traction while smaller tires have improved handling and are more flexible.

Considering this relationship between wheels and tires, it is impossible not to notice the debate between a 16 and an 18-inch size rim.

The reason car owners go for either option is to discover which gives the absolute ride comfort.

What is the difference between 16 inch and 18 inch wheels?

16-inch and 18-inch wheels are quite similar – they are both winter tyres. However, there are significant differences between them that affect their performance on a vehicle.

An 18-inch wheel is one of the larger diameter wheels that need lower profile tires to maintain stability and enable good clearance on the road, especially when it comes in contact with bumps, curbs, and potholes.

And with larger rims, the suspension compresses and rebounds.

However, you get shorter, stiffer sidewalls with this size because larger wheels are matching with lower-profile tires.

And if that persists, there is a good chance that a pothole can destroy your wheels and tires.

In retrospect, some larger diameter wheels and tires have better handling and high-speed performance than low profile tires that guarantee a firmer but noisy ride than fresh rubber.

A 16-inch wheel, on the other hand, is a smaller wheel but comes with a larger and taller sidewall, providing good cushioning against road hazards, including sharp edges, potholes, and bumps.

This wheel, however, is cheaper and guarantees better fuel consumption. It also produces minimal road noise.

One more noticeable difference is the unsprung weight. Generally, adding an extra pound of unsprung weight affects every other thing such as braking, cornering, and acceleration.

So, in summary, the difference between the two sizes is weight, handling, price, ride harshness, and road noise.

What is the advantage of an 18 inch wheel size?

If you must use 18 wheels (or other bigger wheels), then, you need to know the advantages that come with them. They include:

Better Road Comfort and Traction

Larger wheels guarantee a comfortable ride. The reason is that they are mostly merged with smaller sidewalls.

And because of this, there is reduced air pressure, making it only possible for it to maintain more contact with the road and deliver excellent traction on dry and wet roads.

However, the interesting thing is that air cushion in smaller diameter tires only helps improve ride quality. They act as shock absorbers when going over potholes and bumps – hence, maintaining stability.

It also produces low road noise and delivers the best driving performance.

Engine Maintenance

Apart from a better ride and sidewall flex, there is also good engine maintenance with big wheels. There is less pressure on the engine to speed up the car.

That means 18 wheels decrease wear on expansion joints, suspension and brake assembly.

Good Fuel Economy

Since a larger wheel is moving at slower speeds, there is reduced mileage. That makes it able to save fuel. However, the ability to do this sometimes depends on the car’s power.

What is the disadvantage of an 18 inch wheel size?

If there are good things to say about the 18 wheels, there should also be bad ones.

Poor Appearance

As an 18-inch wheel increases the maximum load of your vehicle, the only problem most people have with it is the appearance. It looks so aggressive and powerful.


Even though you get good performance, you will spend more money getting larger diameter wheels and lower profile tires.

What is the advantage of 16 inch rims?

Let’s check out the benefits of using a 16 inch wheel or tyre on a vehicle below.

Comfortable Ride

One of the noticeable features of the 16 rims is the larger sidewalls. With this feature, your vehicle is able to maintain good contact with the road and produce minimal road noise – hence, a comfortable ride.

Good Traction

Smaller wheels like the 16 inch are better at ensuring a good contact patch. However, one thing more than anything else is to provide good traction for all road conditions.


Without an additional weight, a 16-inch wheel is an affordable option and it comes in varieties depending on vehicle fitment.

What is the disadvantage of 16 inch wheel sizes?

The disadvantage of this wheel or tyre is:

Unstable Driving

As comfortable as your ride can be, it may not be a stable one because the wheels are small to absorb bumps or impact from the road. In turn, they start developing suspension and speed issues.

In short, a 16-inch tyre may not deliver the best performance for road driving.

Does wheel size affect ride quality? – lighter wheels or larger wheel sizes?

Yes, it does.

Generally, wheel size determines ride quality. Handling, Noise level, and Overall Performance are influenced by this factor.

However, before you choose a wheel size, you need to consult some factors, such as vehicle type, budget, and sidewall height. And while at that, you need to keep in mind a rule of thumb:

  • Larger wheels/rims have a rougher ride quality, high stability, responsive handling, and high road noise.
  • Medium rims have a good ride quality, average stability, predictable handling, and average road noise.
  • Smaller rims have the best ride quality but low stability, predictable handling, and minimal road noise.

If you know this, then you know what to expect when you get a wheel size for your car.

Other things you need to consider are car weight, engine, suspension, and transmission.

Does Tire Size Affect Ride?

Yes, it does.

It would surprise many car owners to know that tire size has more effect on handling, noise level, and even drive quality than wheel size.

If you have a bad tire, there is a likely chance you have problems with body roll, stability, grip, and traction.

However, new tires provide excellent traction, stability, and cornering.

More so, you need to make sure your wheels are properly aligned with your tires. If misaligned, you will experience uneven tire wear in no time, and that affects the quality of your ride more than anything else.

Why sidewall profile matter more than size?

Before choosing the side of your wheels and tires, the sidewall profile is an important feature to consider. It determines what happens to your suspension, speedometer, and odometer readings.

If you don’t match the wheel with the correct sidewall, your wheels may be turning at a totally different speed that poses a threat to even your safety.

Larger wheels go well with short, stiff sidewalls, while smaller wheels go with tall sidewalls.

Do smaller rims ride better?

If there is anything that comes from the combination of smaller wheels and tires, it is a comfortable ride.

This combination also enhances good mileage, better car acceleration, and minimal road noise.

Besides, the rule of thumb is: “larger wheels mean rougher ride.; smaller wheels mean smoother rides.

Why is a larger diameter wheel ride better?

Your car has more grip on the road.

If there is something larger diameter wheels and tires guarantee, it has more grip with the road. This is only because as you have wider tires, there is more surface area to cover.

Thus, you get more contact with the road due to this increased width – in the process, handling increases, and cornering around sharp edges won’t be difficult.

In short, larger wheels improve handling and high-speed performance.

What is Plus Sizing?

Plus Sizing is a situation where car owners choose larger diameter wheels with shorter/stiffer sidewalls over the ones provided by the manufacturer.

However, the interesting thing about this sizing is that the tire’s outer diameter is unaffected, so speedometer and odometer readings are usual.

The benefit of doing this is to get better cornering, grip, handling, and overall performance.

Final Thoughts

If you are confused about what to choose between the 16 and 18-wheel/tyre sizes, this article has explained everything you need to know.

While you learn about the benefits of either wheel or tire size, you also see the disadvantages and know what to expect.

Choose whatever you think delivers the absolute real-world experience of driving you are looking for.

And if you must buy wheels and tires worth the money, ensure to visit a reliable auto shop in your location. 


Dean Alvarez, TireForge Head Author

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