Hubcaps vs Rims

Hubcaps vs Rims (differences, pros & cons of each)

You may have heard people refer to the center of a car’s tire as the rim, the hubcap, or the wheel cover. But these terms all refer to different wheel components. Today I’ll compare hubcaps vs rims, explain the differences, and discuss why you may want certain types of wheels for your car, truck, or SUV.

Wheel covers, hubcaps, and rims each have their own special characteristics and qualities. While your vehicle probably doesn’t have hubcaps, it definitely has rims.

Let’s start with the basics. 

What is a Rim?

The rim is a round piece of metal on which the tires are secured and kept attached to your vehicle. The outer edge of the wheel is the rim.

Within that circle are the spokes and the hub. 

Difference Between Rims and Hubcaps

A rim is always comprised of metal, which may be alloy or steel. Every tire needs a rim, as it’s necessary to hold the wheel on your vehicle.

Rims are made of aluminum alloys, steel sheet metals, and/or magnesium alloys.

Maybe you’ve heard some people say that the rim is the whole wheel. It isn’t. The rim is the wheel’s outer edge. 

The disc is what you see at the wheel’s center. The rim encircles this.

A rim may be detachable, or it may have a permanent attachment to the wheel’s disc. The rims on your wheels keep your tires secured. 

What is a Hubcap?

A hubcap is an element that is added to a rim. Most modern cars don’t have hubcaps.

Some people think that hubcaps help stop dirt and salty water from damaging parts of your car. Others believe that hubcaps give your vehicle a more attractive appearance. 

Difference Between Hubcaps and Rims

This vehicle component is sometimes made of metal or plastic. When a hubcap serves a purpose, it helps prevent rust from forming on the car’s lug nuts.

If the lug nuts ever fall out, they will fall in the hubcap. 

It’s rare for manufacturers today to include hub caps on their cars. Instead of hub caps, designers are using impressive alloy wheels. In fact, when hubcaps are used, they’re sometimes made in inexpensive plastic. 

Let’s explore the pros and cons of hubcaps.

Pros of Hubcaps:

  • Quite easy to remove
  • Affordable

Cons of Hubcaps:

  • Fall off easily
  • Make car look less valuable

What Are Wheel Covers? 

Most manufacturers today use wheel covers instead of hubcaps on their cars. A wheel cover will give you the same coverage as a hubcap.

In fact, they give you more coverage, meaning that more of the wheel is protected. 

What Are Wheel Covers?

As wheel covers sometimes need to be replaced, you might consider using a wheel skin instead. Wheel skins look a bit like wheel covers, but they’re less expensive.

If you put on a wheel cover after manufacturing, it won’t last as long as the ones that come with the car. 

When comparing the difference between hubcaps and wheel covers – the latter are usually extremely versatile in that they can usually fit every kind of vehicle.

Rims and hubcaps, on the other hand, are much more specific in their sizes. They must fit your tire’s diameter, as well as its wheel pattern. 

Protecting Your Wheels is Important

Protecting your wheels is important, and rims are usually the way to go. Not only are rims standard to today’s cars, they have many advantages over hubcaps.

A hubcap only ever provides protection to the wheel’s lug nuts. They’ll protect some elements of the wheel, but not all the most significant ones. 

Rims are generally designed to provide much better protection and wheel coverage. When you have rims on your vehicle, it will give your wheels better protection.

This can help with the effects of wear and tear. 

Rims Look Better than Hubcaps

Let’s be honest – if you compare rims vs hubcaps you’ll find that not only are rims superior in terms of the protection they give your wheels, they also create a much more attractive look. Hubcaps are considered old-fashioned and can give your car a little bit of a cheap look. 

You can find rims in a plethora of designs, so it’s easy to find one you like. You can also find them in different price ranges, so you can find one that is affordable to you.

Some drivers prefer chrome rims over different types. 

Rims Give You Better Performance

Another advantage of rims is how they can improve your car’s performance. As opposed to hubcaps, rims create superior airflow.

This means that your vehicle can have greater stability when you’re driving at a faster speed. They will also reduce downforce. 

Car Tire with Alloy Rims

Of course, rims are essential for every kind of vehicle. Quality rims keep your wheels in place and not only allow your vehicle to perform but also keep you safe.

Your rims and wheels create leverage and cut down friction. The wheel’s rims rotate around axles, a type of rod.

When your tire makes contact with the road there is friction, and this is needed for the wheels to turn. Your rims intensify how much force is there, and this leads to leverage for your vehicle.

The size of your rim and wheel will impact how much leverage you get. 

Changing Your Rim Size

If you don’t like the way your rims look, you can replace them with ones that you prefer. You must, however, make sure that they’re compatible with your vehicle when it comes to safety and performance.

When you upgrade your rims, you can achieve better performance and a more upscale look. New tires don’t come with rims, but you can shop for both by shopping for a tire and wheel package that will fit your vehicle

When you change your rim size, you can achieve changes in acceleration, braking, alignment, and handling. Rim size can also impact your speedometer’s calibration.

When you install a new rim (replacing the one that came with your vehicle from the manufacturer), you must find rims that fit certain specifications. Here they are below:

  • Be the right fit and type for your vehicle
  • Align with the bolt pattern of your vehicle
  • Be compatible with the mounting plate location and wheel width (these factors are called backspacing) 
  • Correctly fit within your vehicle’s wheel-well
  • Be able to fit with enough tire options
  • Not cause any kind of unwanted rubbing on other elements of your vehicle

Choosing a new rim isn’t something that most car owners can do on their own. You should consult with automotive professionals for advice and guidance. 

What are a Rim’s Components? 

A rim has several different components. I’ve listed them below.

Valve Stem

Your rim’s valve stem is where you are given the cavity for putting air in your tire. The valve stem may be comprised of metal or even rubber. 

Outboard Face

The rim’s outboard face is the rim component that stays visible on your car. Rims come in different designs with a variety of outboard faces. The outboard face has significance beyond just appearance, however. It’s important part of the structure your rim needs to function. 

Bolt Circle

The rim’s bolt circle is the circle that stands within the different bolt centers. 

Center Bore

The rim’s center bore is in the middle of the piece, and it’s an empty hole. A cap is sometimes put on top of this when the rim is installed on a vehicle. 


The dish is your rim’s connection to the wheel exterior and spokes. 


Your rim’s spokes connect the plate to the rim’s edge. The spokes are thin and long.

You’ll find rims with different spoke patterns and numbers. Many people look for a specific spoke pattern when shopping for rims. 


The rim’s plate connects it to the rotor and axle seat. It’s found surrounding the center bore, which in turn has the lug bolt holes. 

Hubcaps Can Never Replace Rims

When you compare rims vs hubcaps, don’t make the mistake of thinking you can use hubcaps instead of rims. If you have hubcaps, they must be used in addition to rims.

As most people dislike the look of hubcaps and hubcaps can actually lead to more headaches than benefits, it’s more and more common to forego them altogether. 

Hubcap on a Car Tire

If you want hubcaps, make sure you have a vehicle that is compatible with them.

Some people decide to use hubcaps in addition to rims, so that there is more coverage of the lug nuts. The lug nuts play a pivotal part in keeping your wheels attached to your car. 

Hubcaps can help prevent elements such as saltwater, water, and mud from getting on the lug nuts and causing rust. One reason why rust on lug nuts is such a problem is that it makes the nuts difficult to remove. 

You won’t need hubcaps on a modern vehicle wheel. This is because today’s rims are made so that they will protect your lug nuts from dirt, saltwater, and other factors that can cause damage. 

Hubcaps are Primarily for Older Vehicles

A lot of the time, hubcaps are the territory of classic and vintage car owners. If you have a vintage car or just an older car that has or needs hubcaps, you’ll find specialist mechanics and other automotive professionals who understand hubcaps and the kind of hubcaps that you need or want. 

Hubcap on Classic Car Tire

You can find vintage hubcaps that are specifically made to fit your car model. 

You Can Change or Replace Hubcaps Yourself 

One reason why you might want hubcaps on your car is because you want to hide tire logos. As mentioned before, older vehicles were generally made with hubcaps.

If you have a car with hubcaps and want to change them, you can do this yourself. We discussed earlier how hubcaps often get damaged and even fall off.

If you own and drive a vehicle with hubcaps, you should know how to replace them. If you don’t know how to do this and you wish to keep hubcaps on your car, you’ll end up visiting the mechanic more than you’d probably like.

There are several different methods of replacing hubcaps. Before you start the process, make sure you understand how to do it.

Ask a professional for advice if you’re unsure. Once you learn how to do this and get in the habit of doing it yourself, you won’t have a problem replacing your hubcaps. 

Final Thoughts on Hubcaps vs Rims

As we’ve seen here, rims are essential on all modern vehicles. Hubcaps, on the other hand, are mainly found on older vehicles.

You don’t need to have hubcaps on your car. In fact, adding them may be detrimental to the look and functioning of your vehicle.

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