Alloy wheels vs steel wheels: Which is better for your car?

Published on 29 Oct, 2021, 2:00 PM IST
Updated on 6 Jun, 2022, 10:18 AM IST

Team Ackodrive
7 min read
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Alloy wheels or steel wheels? It’s a dilemma for every car buyer who is purchasing an entry-level or mid-range segment car. Alloy wheels bring aesthetic appeal to the table, whereas the steel wheels are affordable and practical. However, both types of wheels have their share of pros and cons. In this article, let’s shed some light on one of the most debated topics in the automotive world, alloy wheels vs steel wheels: which is better for your car?

Alloy wheels vs steel wheels

Alloy wheels vs steel wheels: Which one should you choose?

Most modern cars come equipped with alloy wheels. They not only enhance the looks of the vehicle but also aid in superior handling. On the other hand, steel wheels are mostly seen on entry-level cars. Because they are affordable and durable at the same time. This brings us to the same old question—steel vs alloy wheels: which is best for your car? 

To determine which wheels are better for your car, you need to understand the difference between steel and alloy wheels. Glance through the next section to identify key differences between both types of wheels.

Difference between alloy wheels and normal steel wheels

Refer to the below table for the key differences between alloy wheels and normal wheels.

Parameter Alloy wheels Steel wheels
Price Expensive. Affordable.
Weight Lighter than steel wheels. Heavier than alloy wheels.
Durability Alloy wheels are prone to cracks and bend in case of an impact. Steel wheels are rugged and can take a lot of beating.
Performance Alloy wheels are light. Hence they aid in superior handling. Due to the increased weight, steel wheels may hinder vehicle performance.
Safety Although alloy wheels are strong enough, they are prone to cracks upon impact. It may be fatal if you are driving at high speeds.  Since steel wheels are stronger, the possibilities of cracks are very low. They may bend upon impact. Hence safer than alloy wheels.
Fuel efficiency Alloy wheels are light. Hence, the car may deliver better fuel economy. Steel wheels add to the unsprung weight of the car. Hence, they may reduce fuel efficiency.
Looks Alloy wheels enhance the exterior look of the car. Steel wheels do not look appealing.
Repairability The repair process is complex and expensive. Steel wheels are easily repairable.
Maintenance One should regularly check the alloy wheels for any cracks or bends. No frequent checks are required as steel wheels are strong, and they rarely develop cracks.
Customisation You can choose the alloy wheel design and size as per your liking. Steel wheels come with pretty much a standard design. There's not much scope for personalisation.
Application Suitable for high-end and sports cars. Suitable for entry-level cars.

What are alloy wheels?

Modern-day cars come with factory-fitted alloy wheels. But why are they so popular and look so flashy? To understand it, let’s get into more details in the points below.

Alloy Wheel

  • Alloy wheels are made out of a mixture of metals.

  • Car alloy wheels are manufactured using a mixture of two metals: aluminium and magnesium.

  • They are generally manufactured by casting or forging methods.

  • The manufacturing method allows for the complex design of alloy wheels.

  • With unique designs, alloy wheels often add to the sporty quotient of the car.

Advantages of alloy wheels

Here are some of the advantages of alloy wheels.

  • Lightweight: As mentioned earlier, alloy wheels are lighter than steel wheels, thanks to the complex manufacturing process. The weight reduction helps in better handling, increased fuel economy and initial acceleration. Alloy wheels also aid in enhanced tyre life due to better heat dissipation.

  • Performance: Alloy wheels are light in weight. Hence, they transmit less weight to the suspension system. It results in improved road grip and handling. One can also experience slightly improved cornering and steering in a car equipped with alloy wheels.

  • Aesthetics: One of the main pros of alloy wheels is their design. They look premium and sporty. Nowadays, even the mid-range hatchbacks and sedans also get alloy wheels to enhance the looks. Apart from the performance, they are also pleasing to the eyes.

  • Rust-resistant: One of the main advantages of the alloy material is that it is corrosion and rust-resistant. So, alloy wheels can last longer and retain their shine. It is significant for people residing in coastal areas where surface corrosion is a common phenomenon.

Drawbacks of alloy wheels

Alloy wheels are all shiny and look good, but they also have their set of disadvantages.

  • Expensive: Alloy wheels are heavy on the pocket. They can significantly bump the car’s price. That’s the reason why entry-level vehicles do not come with alloy wheels. The high pricing is due to the metals used and the complex process involved in manufacturing.

  • Durability: Alloy wheels look good, but they are not as strong as steel wheels. They can crack or bend upon impact. Driving on cracked alloy wheels can be dangerous as the wheel may disintegrate due to the forces.

  • Complex repair work: Alloy wheels are not as easy to repair as steel wheels. The process is complex, time-consuming and expensive. Removing a bend or sealing a crack can cost you dearly and also takes a lot of time.

What are steel wheels?

Steel wheels are often found on entry-level vehicles and older cars. They don't look great, but they are light on the pocket and serve the purpose very well. Below are more details of steel wheels.

Steel Wheel

  • As the name suggests, steel wheels are made out of steel or stamped steel.

  • Due to the material and construction, steel wheels are more robust than alloy wheels.

  • Steel wheels do not crack on impact or damage that easily due to the regular wear and tear.

  • Due to their durability, steel wheels are used in off-road SUVs, cars and even heavy vehicles such as trucks and buses.

Advantages of steel wheels

Here are some of the pros of steel wheels.

  • Affordability: Alloy wheels cost way less than alloy wheels. It’s mainly because of the material used and the simple manufacturing process. That’s why manufacturers use alloy wheels on entry-level models. They reduce the overall price of the vehicle.

  • Durability: Steel wheels are stronger than alloy wheels. The chances of cracking upon impact are very low. Worst case, they may bend, which can be easily repaired. That’s why you will see steel wheels on hardcore off-road SUVs because they can take the beating of rough terrains.

  • Easy to repair: Repairing steel wheels is easy and does not cost much. Removing a dent or bend on a steel wheel requires nothing more than hammering. The process is quick, inexpensive and straightforward.

Drawbacks of steel wheels

Steel wheels are practical, affordable and easy to maintain. But they have their share of disadvantages that are listed below.

  • Weight: Steel wheels are heavy, and it adds to the weight of the vehicle. The weight is transmitted to the suspension, and it affects the handling of the car. It also has an impact on acceleration and fuel consumption. The more the weight, the more fuel is required to propel the vehicle.

  • Rusting: Steel wheels are prone to corrosion and rusting, especially in humid environments. However, with painting techniques such as powder-coating, the steel wheel maintains its shine for some time. But they are not entirely safe from corrosion.

  • Aesthetics: Looks can be subjective, but you never see steel wheels on luxury or sports cars. They look too simple and do not appeal to the buyers. Nowadays, manufacturers offer different alloy wheel designs to enhance the appeal of the vehicle. In that regard, steel wheels look very basic and outdated.

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Both the alloy wheels and steel wheels serve the same purpose, but the appearance and construction are different. The former is aesthetically pleasing but expensive, whereas the latter is inexpensive and practical. If you are looking for an affordable option, steel wheels are the best. They don’t cost much, are durable and easy to repair if things go wrong. But you may have to compromise on looks.

Alloy wheels are best suited for premium cars. So, if there are no budget constraints, you can go for alloy wheels. They are aesthetically pleasing, come in various designs, and have an impact on the handling and fuel efficiency of the vehicle. So, the choice depends on what you are expecting from your set of four wheels.

Frequently asked questions

Let's look at some of the most commonly asked questions related to alloy wheels vs normal wheels.

Can I use alloy wheels for off-roading in my SUV?

Yes, you can use alloy wheels for off-roading. However, you have to be cautious with your manoeuvres as alloy wheels can crack and deform under impact. They are sturdy enough but still not as strong as steel wheels. So, be careful when you tackle off-road terrains with alloy wheels.

Do alloy wheels affect the fuel efficiency of my car?

Yes, alloy wheels have an impact on the fuel economy of the car. Since they are lighter than steel wheels, it may enhance the fuel economy to a certain extent. It all depends on the weight of the alloy wheels.

Do alloy wheels affect my car insurance?

If the alloy wheels are factory-fitted, you need not worry about their implications on car insurance. But if you modify your car with aftermarket alloy wheels, you may have to inform your insurer about the modification. It helps to avoid any chances of claim rejection.

Can I change the design of the alloy wheels?

There are several options in the market when it comes to alloy wheel designs. You can choose a design of your liking and change the existing alloy wheels. However, remember that they are an expensive affair, as alloy wheels cost way more than steel wheels.

Are steel wheels suitable for long-distance driving?

Yes, you can use steel wheels for long road trips. They are more robust than alloy wheels and durable in varying road conditions. They are also easy to repair, so you need not worry about any significant hiccups related to wheels.

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