One of the most exhilarating off-road experiences is driving on the beach. That soft, shimmering sugar sand may cause you to want to transform your car or truck into a dune buggy for the day, but what about the tires?
If you’re not sure what tires will hold up or be suitable for this environment, keep reading. In this post, I’ll break down everything to know about what tires to purchase or use for beach sand driving.
Do you need a certain tire or vehicle to drive on beach sand?
When it comes to beach driving, factors like tire traction, sidewall depth, and vehicle ground clearance are critical, which is why all-terrain tires and SUVs are ideal.
Since many makes and models of trucks and SUVs already check the boxes you need to drive on sand safely, they are ideal if you are looking for a fun beach toy.
Opt for a 4WD
If this is your first foray in sand driving, stick with a four-wheel drive–you’ll need all of the traction you can get!
If you’re new to beach driving there are also some things to keep in mind: stay in the ruts, try not to spin the tires, and know the limitations of your vehicle.
As an example, some Jeep Wranglers can be modified to essentially become dune buggies that can go just about anywhere on the beach, while a stock Ford F-150 on stock tires cannot.
Tires + beach sand: what to keep in mind
In outfitting tires to your vehicle, remember that you will be on the sand and not on the road.
On the highway it is popular to increase the size of the wheels and reduce the height of the tire sidewall; on the sand, you want more sidewall. Ground clearance to avoid sinking is also key.
It’s also important to deflate your tires before driving on the beach to provide better traction and control. I cover this later in the post 🙂
Can you drive cars on the beach?
Since smaller sidewalls tend to sink into the deeper beach sand, it’s not a good idea to drive sedans, coupes, and other cars with low-profile tires on the beach.
What’s a good beach tire choice for most people?
Unless you plan to dedicate an old vehicle as a dune buggy (which some people do), you won’t want a tire only designed for sand use, but rather an all-terrain tire you can re-inflate if you decide to drive on the highway.
Paddle tires: designed for sand driving
There are tires designed for use in the sand called paddle tires that can make your experience more fun. These essentially have ridges that push/propel a vehicle in heavy sand.
That being said, unless you have a trailer to haul your makeshift dune buggy to the beach in, or feel like swapping tires, you probably just want to stick to something more versatile.
5 best tire options for driving on beach sand
To make things a bit easier, I put together a list of what I think are 5 of the best tire options for beach driving. Keep in mind that there are tons of solid choices, but this is just a basic list of a few affordable and popular options.
I personally have the Falken Wildpeak AT3Ws, which are really a great value compared to others, and would buy them again after 3 years of riding them. Many tires on the list below are also practical for snow driving as well due to their versatility.
I’ll leave links to Amazon where you can view more specs on these, but always be sure that they will fit your wheel setup using proper fitment data. I also recommend checking with a certified tire installation professional if you have any questions.
1. Mickey Thompson Baja Boss A/T
This is an excellent tire in the sand, yet is quite good on the road, with a 50,000-mile warranty. Its effectiveness in loose and deep sand comes from not only its open tread but its Power Ply XD.
The Power Ply XD is a 3 ply sidewall construction, which allows one to deflate the tire to low air pressure, and not damage the tire.
The Baja Boss A/T is also very good in off-road mud and rocks, with Side Biters in its tread, and has the 3PMSF (3 Peak Mountain Snow Flake) designation for severe snow service in most sizes.
2. BF Goodrich All-Terrain T/A K02
Popular among truck and Jeep enthusiasts, BF Goodrich may not have invented tires for sand driving, but with its long-standing participation in the field, and its experience in the Dakar Rally and other sand events, it knows a lot about driving in the sand.
The BF Goodrich All-Terrain T/A K02 uses Sidewall Armor for durability and to allow it to be deflated and tackle the loose and deep sand. Its aggressive tread pattern not only powers through the sand, but is excellent in off-roading expeditions, and has Core Guard Technology–thicker sidewalls to help prevent punctures.
It even has Upper Sidewall Traction Bars near the tread, which give additional traction when the tires are aired down. All with a 50,000-mile warranty and a 3PMSF designation; however, it is quite noisy on the road.
3. Falken Wildpeak AT3W
Another tire that has the 3PMSF designation, and is more of an economic model that I personally own is the Falken Wildpeak AT3W. This versatile tire is not only superior in the snow, but quite good in off-roading, and has a 55,000-mile warranty.
For deep sand, it has the Outer Apex Sidewall, which allows it to be deflated to get through loose and deep sand. It also incorporates Heat Diffuser Technology to improve stability on hot summer days, and 3D Canyon sipes and silica tread compound which helps the tire to run cooler.
These can be a bit noisy which is common, but it is useful as an all-around tire and is also available in many sizes.
4. Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain Adventure with Kevlar
A tire that is not nearly as noisy on the road is the Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain Adventure with Kevlar, a tire with a 60,000-mile warranty. While the tread compound is not as aggressive as the above-listed tires, the LT (light truck) sizes have 2 layers of Kevlar, which gives it ruggedness and the ability to be aired down with its DuraWall Technology.
While it is not as good as the other tires in loose and deep sand, it is more than adequate in most sand and off-road conditions and comes in many sizes.
5. Firestone Destination XT
The Firestone Destination XT is a jack-of-all-trades: it is 3PMSF, has a 50,000-mile warranty, and feels at home in the snow, off-road, and in the sand.
Its sidewall is designed for an extra amount of grip while adding extra protection against punctures. Unlike most of these tires, the Destination XT is surprisingly quiet; like most of the others, it is not the best in wet weather.
The importance of reducing tire pressure prior to beach driving
It’s important to reduce the air pressure of your tires prior to driving on beach sand, which makes the tire contact patch larger and increases traction. You’ll want to reduce the air pressure to around 20 psi or 15 psi.
As soon as you get back on the highway, make sure you inflate the tires back to the manufacturer’s recommended air pressure! Keep in mind, if the beach does not have an air inflator at the exit, a portable tire inflator in your vehicle is a must.
The video below illustrates the difference airing down your tires can make.
When you “air down”, you not only improve your vehicle’s traction but also help to preserve the beach and the entrance and exit ramps. Tearing up the beach with overinflated tires is definitely a rookie move.
A short drive to the nearest service station with a deflated tire may cause tire failure, not to mention poor steering and decreased braking. The low air pressure can even pop the tire off of the rim!
Choose a tire rating suitable for beach driving
If your tire size has a choice of a P-metric (passenger tire) or LT (light truck), go with the LT. It will have a higher ply rating, which means it has a tougher sidewall, and can better withstand tire deflation and reinflation.
To conclude, it’s important to not only have the right vehicle and tires to drive in beach sand but also to have your tires properly deflated.
Lastly, along with your tire inflator for when it’s time to hit the road…bring a tow rope or winch in case you have a little too much fun.