19 Inch vs. 20 Inch Wheels: Balancing Style and Performance
Last Updated: January 14, 2021
If you’re a muscle car fan in the modern age, then there’s a good chance you subscribe to the mantra “bigger is better.” Bigger engines. Bigger burnouts. Bigger noise. Those that have gasoline pumping through their veins know precisely what we’re talking about. We love to push our cars hard and get the most bang for the performance buck and one of the first places any Mustang lover should look when attempting to improve the overall performance and appearance of their car is the wheel and tire combo.
One question remains: is bigger really better when it comes to wheel and tire combos? The answer is not a cut and dry ‘yes or no’ but a less satisfying ‘it depends’. Don’t worry, we’ll help you sort through it. This article will cover the advantages and disadvantages of 19-inch Mustang wheels vs. 20-inch Mustang wheels to help you determine the best setup for your individual car:
Why Upgrade Your Wheels and Tires?
There are 2 reasons why most Mustang owners choose to upgrade their wheels and tires: appearance and performance. Luckily for those of us passionate about these cars, these two things are not mutually exclusive! Bigger wheels not only look better but also can provide better overall performance for both track-focused and street-focused applications.
Upgrading your wheels and tires increases both wheel diameter and wheel width. When you go up in diameter, the sidewall of the tire must shrink to properly fit in the wheel-well of your Mustang. To compensate for the slimmer sidewall, the width of the tire must also increase to maintain the load capacity of the tire. A wider tire means more tire tread on the ground and more tire tread on the ground means better handling as well as better acceleration and braking performance.
The tradeoff here is that this increased performance comes at the expense of ride quality and interior noise. Less sidewall means less tire cushioning while going over bumps or expansion joints and more noise from the aggressive tread design of proper performance tires. You can also expect less overall tread life depending on tire choice, as well.
Talking Wheel and Tire Numbers - What Does It All Mean?
Let’s start by taking a look at this performance-focused Steeda Spyder 20" Wheel and Tire Combo:
Wheels: 20” Diameter x 9.5” Wide
Tires: Nitto INVO tires sized 275/35R20
There’s a ton to unpack here with this potentially confusing set of numbers and each one is a crucial part of the performance story for your Mustang. When considering 19-inch vs. 20-inch Mustang wheels, you’ll need to keep in mind the following information in addition to wheel diameter:
- 275: Overall width of your tire, measured in millimeters, from sidewall to sidewall (275)
- 35: Aspect ratio of the tire height to the width of the tire (35% of 275 MM)
- 20: The diameter of the tire (20 Inches)
Every tire has a range of wheel widths that it can fit. For example, the NITTO INVO tires noted above can fit rims that range from 9.5” to 11”. The ideal fit is a completely different story and that will depend on the performance goals for your Mustang.
19-inch Mustang Wheel Pros and Cons
When considering a 19-inch vs. 20-inch wheel for your Mustang, you’ll have to keep in mind the overall goal of your build. 19-inch wheels offer an opportunity to upgrade performance for a bit less money than going with a set of 20” tires but they give up ultimate good looks associated with bigger wheels.
19-inch Mustang Wheel Pros
- Cheaper cost overall than a 20-inch wheel and tire combination
- Better ride than a 20-inch wheel due to thicker sidewall
- Increased resistance to potholes and poor road conditions
- Wide variety of tire types and styles available
- Lighter weight than most aftermarket 20” wheel options
- High availability of D.O.T. Competition sizes for Road Racing or Autocross
19-inch Mustang Wheel Cons
- Less handling “feel” and turn in response due to higher sidewall, depending on your tire size choices
- Less visually appealing than a 20” wheel
20-inch Mustang Wheel Pros and Cons
If you’re looking for the ultimate set of street tire bragging rights, a 20” wheel will provide stunning looks and ultimate performance for your Mustang. There’s an incredible amount of styles available and a wide variety of tire choices to match your needs. Keep in mind, that due to the increased cost, selection, and tire replacement needs, a 20” tire may not be the best choice for a weekend racer or autocross.
20-inch Mustang Wheel Pros
- Less sidewall means better handling feel and turn in, depending on tire choice
- Fills out the wheel well better than a 19” wheel
- High overall performance capabilities
- A wide selection of tire styles available
20-inch Mustang Wheel Cons
- More expensive than a 19” wheel/tire combo
- Heavier than most aftermarket 19” wheel options
- Rougher ride and louder road noise
- More susceptible to damage from potholes or poor roads
- Not ideal for racers or autocrossers due to higher replacement cost
Street vs. Track Set-Up
If you intend to run your Mustang at the track, you’ll need to consider your tire choice heavily. Essentially, you’ll want the maximum performance for the least amount of money , and to put it bluntly, track sessions completely destroy tires so you’ll be replacing your tires often. This fact alone can often point to a 19-inch wheel as the optimal choice for a track-focused car since the real performance gains are marginal from a 20”.
Consider the awesome Nitto NT01 D.O.T. Competition Road Course Tire, for example.
The Mustang experts at Steeda price this tire at $462.00 for the 285/35-20 and $373.00 for the 285/35-19. That’s a difference of $89 per tire or $356 for a set! If you’re racing on a budget, this should be top of mind when considering whether to go with a 19-inch wheel or a 20-inch wheel for your Mustang.