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Alloy wheels or steel wheels – what’s the best choice for your 4×4, SUV or van?

4x4 Wheels

You might think that choosing between alloy or steel wheels is just a matter of taste – some people prefer the bling of an alloy, and others prefer the more rugged look of a steel. To some extend you’d be right, but there’s plenty more to it than that. Read on for advice from our experts on alloy vs steel wheels for 4×4 and SUV.

Our house-brand DV8 Works Edge alloy wheel

Getting the right look for your vehicle

There are an absolutely huge range of alloys available for our kinds of vehicles – 4x4s, SUVs and vans. Some are just there for cosmetics, but there are a lot of manufacturers out there building alloys to a very high spec and putting a lot of investment into R&D. You’ll get a wider choice of styles with alloy wheels compared to steels, and arguably a wider choice of colours and finishes. On trend at the moment are gold or bronze finishes, and painted inserts with polished faces for SUVs. As well as the very good performance and quality credentials of the alloys we sell, they’re of course also there to add some glamour to your vehicle, especially SUVs.

Calibre CC-U alloy wheel in on-trend bronze

Steel wheels are generally seen as more for purpose than looks, but we have a lot of customers who’ve switched from original equipment alloys to steels to get particular kind of look. If you’ve ever seen a mid-2000s Navara or L200 with black Modular steel wheels instead of the tired original alloys, you’ll know how a set of relatively low cost steels can transform the truck.

Nissan Pathfinder transformed by a set of Tuff Torque Modular steel wheels

We also see something similar with Land Rover owners, and not just modded Disco 1s and 2s. Many owners of newer Defenders and Disco 4 or 5 go for steel wheels to get the appearance they want, whether they want the heritage look or just something a bit less SUV-like.

Which are stronger, alloy or steel wheels?

You might be surprised to know that alloy and steel wheels are very comparable when it comes to strength. Our DV8 Works house-brand alloy wheels have a load rating of 1250kg for proper work, comparing favourably to the majority of our Tuff Torque steel wheels at 1200kg. At the very top end of load ratings, our steel Wolf-style wheel has a huge 1500kg rating, but we also list alloy wheels from manufacturers like Calibre that are rated to 1400kg.

Are alloy or steel wheels more durable?

Where steels have an advantage is their ability to be repaired easily. Steel wheels are highly unlikely to crack, and if they do get bent you can probably straighten them back out at the side of the road. Alloys can crack or buckle when they’re subjected to impact, and if this happens you’re looking at a costly repair or full replacement. Of course, if you use alloys in the right way they’re likely to withstand a lot of hard use. If you’re off-roading regularly you wouldn’t want to use a 22” alloy wheel with a low profile tyre on, so it’s about being sensible with the right choices for your purpose. If you’re unsure, our expert team are just a call or live chat away.

Maxxis Trepador 37inch mud terrain tyres
It’s about choosing the right product and size for the job.

Steel wheels are also likely to be easier to repaint yourself if the finish starts to deteriorate. This usually happens when rust starts to show, or you scuff the lip. It’s amazing how quickly rust can start to show through on cheap steel wheels. It’s well worth paying a bit extra for wheels with higher grade steel and thicker paint. A couple of years down the line, you’ll be glad you spent an extra tenner per wheel when they still look good.

One thing to watch out for with alloys, especially those with a polished finish, is corrosion getting underneath the lacquer, especially when there’s salt on the roads. Brands like AEZ and Dotz have addressed this by using a winter-proof paint, and you can also help to prevent alloy corrosion by being super-careful when you take your wheels off, making sure not to crack the lacquer with the wheel wrench.

AEZ Panama SUV alloy wheels with winter-proof finish

Summary

At the end of the day choosing between alloy vs steel wheels for 4×4 and SUV comes down to personal preference, but it’s worth bearing all of these points in mind as you make the right choice for your vehicle and lifestyle. And as ever, expert help is just a call or click away.