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Upgrading your vehicle’s wheels is one of the most common modifications out there, but with all the options on the market, where do you even begin?

Learning about the different types of wheels is a great place to start.

Types of Car Wheels Based on Material

If you’re thinking of upgrading your wheels, consider choosing among the different types of wheels based on their material, such as the following:

Alloy Wheels

Alloy wheels might not be the cheapest choice out there, but that doesn’t mean you should write them off. After all, they’re one of the most common wheel types out there for a reason.

Pros

In the long run, alloy wheels can help you save a little money on fuel over time compared to other wheel types. Alloy wheels are typically lighter than other types, so your vehicle will likely consume less fuel.

But don’t expect to see an increase you can measure. The difference will be very slight, but alloy wheels are, according to some sources, 40% lighter than steel wheels.

Cons

Unfortunately, alloy wheels aren’t the strongest type out there. They’re more prone to cracking and bending, which can be a dealbreaker for some.

Note, however, that many new vehicles come with alloy wheels that last the entire life of the vehicle without a single bend or crack. Any wheel can be damaged by the trauma of running over curbs and through potholes.

Steel Wheels

If you’re looking for the cheapest option on the market, then you don’t have to look any further than steel wheels. They’re the go-to option for many, mostly because of how affordable they are.

Of course, steel wheels aren’t cheap, they’re just cheaper than alloy wheels. New stamped steel wheels can cost as little as $70, but some are as high as $150 depending on the vendor.

steel wheels for cars will typically have holes
Steel wheels for vehicles will typically have holes like the ones on the left. This makes the wheel lighter without compromising the strength of the wheel. Meanwhile, old-fashioned steel wheels look more like the wheel on the right. | Image Source: Richard McCuistian

Pros

Of course, steel wheels aren’t just more affordable. They’re stronger than most wheel types, so they’re a lot less resistant to bending or cracking.

, The Pros and Cons of Different Types of Wheels

Pro Tips are nuggets of information direct from ASE-certified automobile technicians working with CarParts.com, which may include unique, personal insights based on their years of experience working in the automotive industry. These can help you make more informed decisions about your car.

Pro Tip: Steel wheels can still be bent though, so don’t think they’re immune to being damaged if you drive your vehicle hard and hit a lot of obstacles.

Cons

Their durability does come with a price: steel wheels are heavier than most types of wheels. You’re likely to burn a bit more fuel with steel wheels. So while they might not cost you much at first, you might end up paying a little more for gas down the road.

Steel wheels are also known for their function rather than their fashion, so don’t expect much from their designs.

Aluminum Wheels

Technically there is very little difference between an alloy wheel and an aluminum wheel. They are both terms for the same type of wheel, which is made from a mixture of aluminum and another metal, such as nickel, magnesium, or titanium.

Pros

Aluminum isn’t the strongest material out there, but it’s certainly strong enough to withstand potholes and other demanding driving conditions.

It’s also a lot lighter than steel, which means your vehicle will have better acceleration and fuel efficiency.

You’re more likely to find stylish aluminum wheels than steel wheels too, so if you’re going for a specific look, you’ll have more luck with aluminum wheels.

Cons

Aluminum wheels aren’t the most expensive ones on the market, but they aren’t exactly cheap either. If you’re on a budget, you might have to consider a different type of wheel.

Carbon-Fiber Wheels

Name a popular high-performance vehicle, and they’re likely to come with carbon-fiber wheels. If performance is your top priority when it comes to wheels, then consider going for this wheel type.

Pros

Looking for a new set of wheels for your race car? Carbon-fiber wheels are stronger than steel but lighter than aluminum, making them a great choice for racing.

Cons

One downside to carbon-fiber wheels is that they aren’t really ideal for day-to-day commutes. They aren’t great for most highways, so you might want to reconsider buying a set if they aren’t for a race car.

Plus, carbon-fiber wheels can be crazy expensive. Depending on the brand, you can pay upwards of $7,000 just for one wheel.

Titanium Wheels

Titanium wheels are one of the less common wheel types out there, mostly because making wheels out of titanium can be a complicated process, with some companies using 3D printing.

Pros

With titanium wheels, you get the best of both worlds, namely the strength of steel without all that weight. You’ll have strong, durable wheels that won’t drag your fuel economy down.

Cons

Unfortunately, titanium wheels are far from budget-friendly, which isn’t really a surprise given their expensive material and complicated manufacturing process.

Magnesium Wheels

While they certainly aren’t as common as they once were, you can still find magnesium wheels on the market today, though they’re actually magnesium alloy wheels now instead of just pure magnesium.

On its own, magnesium is flammable, which can be extremely dangerous given the friction wheels constantly meet against hot, concrete roads. Mixed with alloy and calcium, however, magnesium is less likely to catch fire.

Pros

Magnesium wheels are one of the most lightweight wheel types, which can greatly improve your vehicle’s fuel economy. They also offer great dampening properties, so you can expect your ride to feel a lot smoother.

Cons

Unfortunately, magnesium corrodes quickly, so wheels made from this material have a relatively short shelf life. You’ll have to replace them after a few years, which can certainly be a dealbreaker considering how expensive they can be.

Wheel Types Based on Manufacturing Process

Did you know you can also choose your wheel type based on the manufacturing process? The following are two of the most common ways to manufacture wheels:

Cast Wheels

Cast wheels are made by pouring molten aluminum into a wheel-shaped mold. The process is relatively quick and results in one-piece wheels.

Forged Wheels

On the other hand, forged wheels start off as a solid block of billet aluminum, which is then shaped into a wheel and pressurized for added strength until a machine cuts it into the final design.

Most forged wheels are two-piece wheels with a centerpiece separate from the spokes and rim, but some are also three-piece wheels with two separate rim halves and a centerpiece.

What Are the Different Types of Rims?

Feeling overwhelmed by your choices in wheel types? Well, you’ve still got one thing left to consider: the type of rim you should go for. Luckily, there are only a few common types of rims, namely the following:

Safety Rims

Most passenger vehicles have safety rims, which are rims with bumps extending inward to hold the tire bead to the rim.

Split Rims

Most tractors, forklifts, and other heavy-duty utility vehicles use split rims, which have a multipiece assembly that uses a side or lock ring to hold the tire in place.

Beadlock Rims

If you like off-roading, then you might want to consider beadlock rims. They physically clamp the tire bead to the rim so that your tires are less likely to detach from the rim even when they’re underinflated with low tire pressure.

About The Authors
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Reviewed By Technical Reviewer at CarParts.com

Richard McCuistian has worked for nearly 50 years in the automotive field as a professional technician, an instructor, and a freelance automotive writer for Motor Age, ACtion magazine, Power Stroke Registry, and others. Richard is ASE certified for more than 30 years in 10 categories, including L1 Advanced Engine Performance and Light Vehicle Diesel.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

File Under : Wheels and Tires , DIY
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