W vs Y Speed Rating: What’s the difference?

Last Updated July 8, 2022

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Buying a set of tires is not as easy as most people think it is. First of all, you need to decide your budget, you also need to decide if you are going to go with all-season instead of seasonal tires. If you go for all-season tires, you are saving some money when compared to buying a separate set of winter and summer tires which will also need swapping.

W vs Y Speed Rating

You can go for touring tires, performance tires, all-terrain tires, run-flat tires, directional or non-directional tires… Whatever you do, you can’t mix and match tires that simply should not be mixed. Mixing tires with different speed ratings is a prime example of something you shouldn’t do. So, W vs Y speed rating tires?

W vs Y Speed Rating

A W speed-rated tire is good for up to 168mph or 270kph which means that you can safely drive these tires up to those speeds. Even though these can reach speeds above 168mph, it is not an advisable thing to do because you will not be getting the same levels of tire longevity nor the same levels of overall on-road safety.

A Y speed-rated tire is rated for 186mph or 300kph. These are some of the most highly speed-rated tires you can buy these days which come with a few caveats we are going to discuss in this article. Either way, you should always obey the speed limit and stay within the limits of the law while driving on public roads.

Why Should I Buy W Speed-Rated Tires?

  • They tend to last longer than Y-rated tires
  • They tend to be more comfortable than Y-rated tires
  • They tend to perform better in winter than Y-rated tires
  • They are usually cheaper than Y-rated tires

Do W Speed-Rated Tires Last Longer Than Y-Rated Tires?

The higher the speed rating, the softer the rubber compound of a tire. Because a specific speed rating correlates with how well a tire can withstand the heat and friction of constant high-speed rolling, it is safe to say that a W-rated tire should, in theory, last longer than a W-rated tire. A softer compound resists heat better, but it also wears out faster.

Y-rated tires are more focused and more tailored toward performance driving which usually means that it is not as good at usual daily activities. However, the difference between these two speed ratings is less than 20mph which means that the differences aren’t substantial, but are still noticeable.

Are W Speed-Rated Tires More Comfortable Than Y Speed-Rated Tires?

A focused tire is one that compromises many aspects of what makes a good everyday tire. This means that most high-performance, high-speed-rated tires aren’t the best when it comes to refinement, noise, and ride quality. High-speed tires also tend to be wider which further increases drag and increases overall road noise.

Therefore, a W speed-rated tire should be a bit more comfortable than a Y speed-rated tire, but it all comes down to how well an individual tire model performs. If we were to compare two identical models, and if the only difference is the speed rating, the tire with a lower speed rating is likely the more comfortable one.

Do W Speed-Rated Tires Perform Better In The Winter Than Y Speed-Rated Tires?

Winter tires are, as the youth would say it, built different. This means that winter tires use different rubber compounds, different stiffness levels, and different tread patterns in order to achieve a better performance in snow, ice, and rain. These manufacturing qualities are on the opposite spectrum when compared to what makes a decent high-performance tire.

Winter tires are designed to withstand cold temperatures without deforming while high-performance tires are designed to withstand high temperatures without deforming. Therefore, a W speed-rated tire should be better when it comes to a winter driving environment. These differences aren’t too big, but they can certainly be felt while on the edge of traction.

Are W Speed-Rated Tires Cheaper Than Y Speed-Rated Tires?

A higher speed rating does not automatically mean a higher price tag. However, both W and Y speed-rated tires are at the very top end of the spectrum which means that these aren’t as common as H speed-rated tires for example. W tires can usually be found in sports cars, exotic cars, supercars, and high-end luxury cars.

Therefore, these typically come with a higher price tag. When comparing the W speed-rating and the Y speed-rating, we can see that Y speed-rated tires tend to cost a little bit more. The Y speed-rating is almost always reserved exclusively for supercars and hypercars as there really aren’t many “normal” cars that can easily exceed 186mph or 300kph.

Why Should I Buy Y Speed-Rated Tires?

  • They accelerate and stop better than W speed-rated tires
  • They handle better than W speed-rated tires
  • They offer more driver feedback than W speed-rated tires
  • They endure stress better than W speed-rated tires

Do Y Speed-Rated Tires Accelerate And Stop Better Than W Speed-Rated Tires?

We have already mentioned a few times that a Y speed-rated tire is a top-end tire when it comes to speed ratings. This means that this tire is used almost exclusively on cars that are designed for superior on-road and track performance. Brands that often come with Y speed-rated tires are Ferrari, Lamborghini, Pagani, McLaren, and many other high-end brands.

This means that Y speed-rated tires are designed for high performance. Achieving those speeds requires lots of power and torque which means that putting that power down is not as easy as it is in a regular everyday type of car. That is why Y speed-rated tires almost always offer better stopping power and better acceleration than all other tires with a lower speed rating.

Do Y Speed-Rated Tires Handle Better Than W Speed-Rated Tires?

A Y speed-rated tire should be able to handle better than a W speed-rated tire because it is designed with a more focused approach in mind. While traveling at speeds exceeding 150mph, even the slightest steering inputs can make a massive difference in the levels of heat a tire endures. If the tire is able to resist heat better, it usually means that it is going to control its performance peaks a lot better.

Therefore, a Y speed-rated tire should, in theory, handle better than a W speed-rated tire. Once again, there are many factors that go into how well a specific tire handles, but if we were to compare identical tire models with different speed ratings, the one with a higher speed rating is likely the one with better handling qualities.

Do Y Speed-Rated Tires Offer More Feedback Than W Speed-Rated Tires?

Because Y speed-rated tires are typically found on supercars, driver feedback is an essential aspect of how well a supercar behaves while on the edge. A Y speed-rated tire should be more communicative with the driver as driver feedback is necessary for the driver to be confident enough to even be willing to reach such speeds.

Knowing what your tires do is a must for 99% of supercar owners out there, and in general, the higher the speed rating, the bigger the feedback.

Do Y Speed-Rated Tires Endure Stress Better Than W Speed-Rated Tires?

They certainly do. The main difference between Y speed-rated tires and W speed-rated tires actually is how well they endure heat and friction. While continuously rolling at speeds exceeding 168mph, a W speed-rated tire is likely going to reach heat and friction levels that are going to chip away at the tire and make it perform much worse.

On the other hand, a Y speed-rated tire is certified to go 168mph continuously without breaking a sweat. This means that a Y speed-rated tire should be able to endure stresses at virtually all speeds, including speeds above 168mph where a W speed-rated tire shouldn’t even go.

Where Can I Find The Tire Speed Rating?

It is fairly easy to find a tire speed rating by simply looking at the codes stamped directly on a tire sidewall. For example, a typical tire code looks something like this: P205/60R16 82S. The last letter in this sequence is the letter S which refers to the tire speed rating. An S speed-rated tire is good for speeds up to 112mph or 180kph.

This formula is standardized across the entire industry which means that the code is always going to be the last letter in the tire code sequence. Some tires with speeds exceeding 149mhp could also come with a specific “ZR” designation. Tires that can easily exceed 186mph must come with a “ZR” designation. Such a tire code should look something like this: P275/40ZR17 93Y. If you want to know what all the other symbols in a tire code mean, click here.

Conclusion

At the end of our “W vs Y Speed Rating” article, we can easily say that there are both benefits and downsizes to both W and Y speed-rated tires. W speed-rated tires are able to withstand speeds up to 168mph or 270kph, and they tend to be slightly better when it comes to longevity, comfort, winter driving, and price.

On the other hand, a Y speed-rated tire can go 186mph or 300kph which is certified supercar territory. This means that these tires are usually better when it comes to acceleration, braking, handling, feedback, and heat & friction resistance while rolling at high speeds.

Either way, make sure to not exceed the limits for which the tires are rated as that can cause many unwanted consequences.

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