When it comes to your vehicle, the sky’s the limit for customization options, but few are more important than wheel choice. Wheels ensure a smooth and safe ride and can give your vehicle some much-needed personalization.

Alloy and steel are two of the most common types of wheel you can have installed on your vehicle. Knowing which is best for you depends on your needs – for some motorists, style is paramount, while others value the wheel’s performance more heavily. Because there is no one-size-fits-all answer, what is best for one driver will be different from the next.

As with every choice, alloy wheels and steel wheels have pros and cons – from the price to the performance. If you are in the process of selecting new wheels for your vehicle, this guide will run you through your options and explain the difference between steel and alloy wheels in full.

Difference Between Steel and Alloy Wheels

The differences between alloy and steel wheels primarily lie in their durability and strength, with steel providing extra weight and strength. Of course, the additional durability is important to some motorists, but others will prefer the lighter weight of alloy wheels and the subsequently improved performance.

Generally speaking, if you want beauty and performance, alloy wheels tick the most boxes. However, if you are looking for tough, inexpensive wheels that can handle all four seasons with ease, consider steel.
Infographic: Alloy Wheels vs Steel Wheels

What Are Alloy Wheels

Aluminum wheels (often called alloy wheels) are comprised of several different metals, but a blend of aluminum and nickel is most common. The majority of wheels on the road are cast aluminum alloy, meaning the aluminum is poured into a mold – allowing for a great variety of designs and styles.

Alloy wheels are the standard rim usually selected for their cosmetic and performance advantages. Aluminum, the primary metal used in the wheel, is lighter than steel, improving handling response, performance and acceleration.

Performance isn’t achieved at the sacrifice of style, though. Alloy wheels are more appealing to the eye because they can be cast in a variety of designs. The greater styling options allow motorists to be more individualistic with their choice.

Where alloy wheels fall short of their steel counterparts is strength. When impacted, alloy wheels tend to bend or crack easier than steel. The degree to which depends on how much nickel is added to the aluminum – higher-quality alloy wheels with more nickel tend to be less brittle.

Overall, alloy wheels are a more expensive choice but provide an excellent balance of performance, aesthetics, and fuel consumption.

Alloy Wheels: Advantages

  • Lightweight aids fuel consumption
  • Available in various styles and colors
  • Lighter weight improves handling and steering response

Alloy Wheels: Disadvantages

  • Vulnerable to cosmetic damage
  • A tendency to crack or bend upon impact
  • More expensive compared to steel wheels

What Are Steel Wheels

Steel wheels, or ‘steelies’ (as car enthusiasts fondly refer to them), have been around almost since the early days of the first car and are still in common use today, although the quality and design have changed significantly.

Compared to alloy wheels, steel wheels are much heavier. Drivers tend to find that steel’s extra weight slows down the agility and lowers the car’s center of gravity. Such qualities aren’t desirable in the summer, but steel wheels come into their own when winter arrives.

The additional friction prevents the vehicle from slipping on ice, which is why many drivers switch to steel in the winter season. Robert Thibert, for example, use robust steel wheels for their winter collection.

Durability and strength are perhaps the greatest qualities of steel wheels. It is near impossible to crack a steel wheel, and bending a steel wheel would require significant impact. Even when they do dent or bend, these irregularities can be resolved by hammering the material back into shape.

Because of the cheaper material cost, steel wheels are usually around 60-80% less expensive than alloy wheels, making them great for a second set or an inexpensive replacement option. But be warned, steel wheels are not applicable for all vehicle types – most steel wheels are made with 16-inch size rims and shouldn’t be installed on vehicles designed to operate with alloy wheels.

Steel Wheels: Advantages

  • Cheaper than alloy wheels
  • Significantly stronger and more durable
  • Bends can be easily repaired.
  • Advantageous in winter

Steel Wheels: Disadvantages

  • Not compatible with all car types
  • Heavier, resulting in slower agility
  • Higher fuel consumption
  • Not as many styling options

Finding the Best Wheel for Your Vehicle

When high performance and looks are of major importance, it’s difficult to look beyond alloy wheels. However, for every-day drivers, steel wheels provide a more affordable alternative and are especially useful as an extra set of winter wheels.

With our online wheel search tool , CLICKITWHEELS.COM makes finding wheels easy. Select your vehicle type and sort through the range of different wheels available. From RTX Wheels to DAI Alloys, we are proud to offer a wide selection of wheels, so you can find a style to match your aesthetic.