Square vs Staggered Wheels

Square vs Staggered Wheels

Last Updated October 19, 2021 | 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.

Diagram of vehicle with smaller wheels up front and larger wheels in the rear

What Is the Advantage to 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.

    Advantages

  • Improved traction
  • Faster cornering
  • Better launches

    Downsides

  • 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 a square wheel fitment.

Diagram of vehicle with all four wheels the same size

    Advantages

  • Front end grip while cornering
  • High speed stability
  • More "planted" front end
  • Reduced understeer

    Disadvantages

  • 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 vs Square Wheel Fitment Pros and Cons
Wheel LayoutProsCons
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.

An S197 Mustang GT with staggered wheels

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 came stock with a square wheel setup, and it shouldn’t keep you from enjoying your ride.

SN95 Mustang GT with square wheel setup

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.

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About the Author

Meghan is a Classic Mustang geek with a soft spot for four-eyed Foxes. She has over 300 in-depth articles to her credit that have been cited by some of the top news sites in the US. Read full bio →

This article was researched, written, edited, and reviewed following the steps outlined in our editorial process. Learn more about CJ's editorial standards and guidelines.

Square vs Staggered Wheels

There are advantages and disadvantages to both square and staggered wheel fitments. Depending on how you’re driving your Mustang, one may be a better fit for you.