It is a regulation that was brought in by the EU in 2012 to offer more information to consumers on tyre safety (which you can read more about here) and the tyre’s impact on the environment.
The labels comprise three pictures which each denote three separate things - fuel economy, wet grip and noise. They are effectively a rating system that lets you know how efficient your tyres are in certain areas, but what repercussions do these different efficiencies have on you, your car and your wallet?
Tyre labelling for fuel economy ranges from A to G. It uses a coloured scale: a black arrow with a large white letter points to the rating for the tyre. Tyres with the best fuel economy have a green ‘A’ rating. Tyres with the worst mpg have a red ‘G’ rating.
The difference between the best and worst rating can be 7.5%. As tyres account for 20% of a car’s overall fuel consumption, choosing wisely here can give significant savings. The more miles you do, the more money a fuel-efficient tyre will save.
Tyre labelling for wet grip ranges from A to G. A black arrow and white letter points to the rating for that tyre. The rating depicts stopping distances in rainy weather.
The difference between each letter is around 2.5 metres when braking from 50mph – that’s well over half a car-length. An ‘A’ rated tyre will come to a stop 18 metres before an ‘F’ rated tyre in the wet. For more information about tyre safety in general read our complete tyre safety guide.
Tyre labelling for noise is made up of three ‘sound wave’ bars. The rating can be either one, two or three black-coloured bars; the overall decibel rating is given in large white numbers.
It is an external noise rating: one black bar means the tyre is 3db or more below future EU legislation. Two black bars means the tyre meets current and future legislation. Three bars means the tyre meets current legislation – but will fail to meet future legislation (although you will still be able to use it if you’ve already bought it).
READ MORE: The RAC's complete guide to tyre buying
Where will I see a tyre label when buying car tyres?
Tyre labelling is stuck on all new car tyres – but you probably won’t see this if you’re buying from a tyre retailer. Instead, the salesperson will be able to advise you before purchase, and show you labels of the tyres you can choose for your car.
Your sales invoice should also include a copy of the tyre label for the tyres fitted to your car.
If searching online, you can see and compare tyre labels to help you choose.
READ MORE: What is an eco tyre?
Do all new car tyres have tyre labelling?
All new tyres sold from November 2012 will feature a tyre label. However, retread or remould tyres are not required to carry tyre labelling.
Many organisations advise against buying retread or remould tyres, for safety reasons.
READ MORE: How to check the legal tyre tread depth
What does tyre labelling mean in the real world?
Tyre labels can tell you a lot. Fuel economy is the measurement likely to mean most as choosing well can save you money.
Michelin estimates that choosing four A-rated tyres instead of four G-rated tyres will cut fuel consumption by 7.5%. Over the lifetime of a car, it will use 80 litres less fuel – that’s a potential saving of £110.
Wet grip is a key safety measurement. Modern cars have ABS and many have ‘brake assist’ which automatically applies maximum braking force in an emergency. It’s thus easy to ‘brake as much as your car is capable of’ when you have to.
The difference in braking distance can thus be down to how well your tyres grip – and just a one-letter distance in wet braking is the difference between you hitting the car in front or stopping well clear of it. The EU-assessed difference between an ‘A’ and ‘G’ tyre label is almost five full car-lengths…
Noise levels are measured externally, but a quieter tyre on the outside will also be quieter inside. You’ll notice this particularly on the motorway, where a better tyre with fewer black bar ‘sound waves’ will generate less background roar that one with more bars.
A quieter tyre will mean you can talk to others more easily and won't need to turn up the radio so much as speeds rise.