Square vs Staggered WheelsLast Updated October 25, 2023 | Meghan Drummond
Your Mustang’s wheels are in either a square or a staggered fitment. Both of these wheel fitments have practical applications. Here are the pros and cons of each (and how to know which is right for you).
What Are Staggered Wheels?
When one pair of wheels is larger than the other, they are in a staggered wheel fitment. Typically the larger of the wheels will be on the drive wheels. In a RWD vehicle, those will be the rear ones, while a FWD vehicle would have larger front wheels.
Almost all vehicles with staggered wheels are RWD. That’s partially why the look has become associated with muscle cars.
What Is the Advantage of Staggered Wheels?
Wider tires grip the road better for faster acceleration. In a rear-wheel drive vehicle, you want your wider tires in the rear. That way all the power and weight is being supported by the widest tires. Smaller tires in the front allow for easier steering.
Drag racers frequently go for a staggered wheel setup, and it’s not uncommon to hear racers talk about their “bigs” and “littles.” Currently, if you order a Mustang GT with a performance package or are lucky enough to have a GT350R, then you get staggered wheels stock.
There are several advantages and disadvantages to staggered wheels.
- Improved traction
- Faster cornering
- Better launches
- Can cause understeer
- Harder to rotate tires
- Wider tires are heavier
What Is a Square Wheel Fitment?
When all four wheels are the same size they have a square fitment. This is the OEM setup on most vehicles, but many people elect to keep it for practical and performance benefits.
Rotating your tires is certainly a lot easier when all four are the same size. It’s also easier to figure out what size spare tire to keep.
Even though staggered wheel setups are common now, many of the classic Mustang performance editions, like the early Shelby and Boss Mustangs, came with square wheel fitment.
- Front end grip while cornering
- High speed stability
- More "planted" front end
- Reduced understeer
- Can feel less responsive
- Less comfortable for some
Staggered Tires vs Staggered Wheels
Theoretically, you can run a square tire setup on staggered wheels or a staggered tire setup on square wheels. But in terms of practicality, your mileage may vary.
The wheel’s backspacing and offset may make it impossible to run wider tires because they’ll rub against the wheel wells. Some drivers have also complained that the tires had a balloon-ey quality to them.
All wheels have a range of tires that will fit them. As long as the front and rear tires are within that range, they can differ.
Obviously, wheels and tires that share the same axle need to be the same size.
Staggered vs Square Wheel Fitment: Which Should You Go With?
|Staggered Wheels||- Aggressive look
- More grip on the drive tires
- Better cornering
- Improved responsiveness
|- Rotating tires is harder
- Have to keep two spares or choose one size
- Can cause understeer
|Square Wheels||- Practical
- Usually stock
- More stable
|- Less impact on stance and style
- Less rear end grip
Stagger Your Wheels If…
If your number one goal is style, then staggered wheels are definitely a way to turn heads. Staggered wheels can help contribute to a widebody Mustang look and give off a performance vibe.
If you drag race, then staggered wheels may also help with straight-line acceleration and performance.
Go For a Square Setup If…
For most people, a square wheel setup is preferable, if only for the practical benefits. Good tires are expensive, and being able to rotate from front to back helps them last much longer.
Many Mustangs that we associate with performance come stock with a square wheel setup, and it shouldn’t keep you from enjoying your ride.
Find the Best Wheels for Your Mustang Build
Whether you’re going for a staggered or square setup, there are wheel options for any build. Check out our generation-specific wheel and tire guides for more information.
Generation-Specific Mustang Wheel and Tire Guides
If you’re wondering what wheels and tires your Fox Body Mustang originally came with or what size you can upgrade to, this guide will walk you through wheel and tire selection.
Adding new wheels to your 1994-2004 Mustang will make a big difference in terms of style. Check out this guide for an overview of some of the best rims for your ride.
For enthusiasts looking to customize the look of their S197 Mustang, a new set of wheels makes a big impact. Plus, upgrading to a larger size allows you to fit performance tires.