Hands-On Review: Best Brake Pads for Performance and Safety

How to choose the best brake pads for your ride and driving style.

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Hands-On Review: Best Brake Pads for Performance and Safety © Hands-On Review: Best Brake Pads for Performance and Safety

The safety of you and everyone around you depends on your brake pads. So, even if the first thing you can grab at the parts store will work, it's worth making an educated decision. The parts people might take care of you, but you can't always take it on faith that they're going to give you the pads that you're after. There's a good chance they'll throw whatever pops up at you without putting any thought into it. Luckily, pads aren't that complicated. Even if manufacturers use different blends for different purposes, some basic information is all you need to set yourself in the right direction. If that's not enough, I'll talk you through some of the best options on the market. 

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Summary List 

Best Overall: Bosch QuietCast

Best Value: TRW Premium

Honorable Mention: Wagner ThermoQuiet

Best Performance: Power Stop Z26 Street Performance

Best for Trucks: Power Stop Z36 Truck and Tow 

Our Methodology

Brake pads are something our team has plenty of experience with. While building world-class vehicles might not be something we get to do on a regular basis, we do get to do our fair share of brake work. Over the years, the team has built up a good amount of knowledge when it comes to brake pad selection. We didn't go on just that, though. As always, plenty of homework was done to ensure you're getting sound recommendations. This is also one of the instances where hands-on testing was a part of things, helping us to further fortify the soundness of our suggestions to you. 

Brake Pad Reviews & Recommendations

Our Verdict

Again, Bosch QuietCast pads take our top pick. They offer a great blend of all the things you want in brake pads and deliver them to a wide range of vehicles. However, you really can't go wrong with pads TRW Premium if they're available for your application. 

Things to Consider Before Buying Brake Pads

Buying brake pads is a relatively simple task. That doesn't mean you won't need to know at least a little bit about what you're getting into to make the right choice, though. Take a look at some of the key considerations below to get a handle on the process before you dive in.  

Friction Materials


Non-asbestos organic (NAO), or simply organic, pad compounds are easier on rotors and more affordable than others. However, that comes at the expense of pad life. These pads aren’t designed to handle heavy braking. They also produce a considerable amount of brake dust. They may be a great option for manufacturers looking to keep costs low, but you’re almost always better off moving to pads that use other friction materials. 


Moving to a semi-metallic or metallic brake pad is where pad performance starts to pick up. Semi-metallic pads with a 30-60% metal content are most common for street applications. These pads offer improved performance and pad life. More metal improves these aspects, which also makes the pads harder on rotors and increases brake dust. Pads with high metal content are a great choice for racing, motorcycles, and powersports applications, but are a little too aggressive for daily driving purposes. 


Ceramic brake pads are growing in popularity. These compounds are favorable for their ability to combine performance, durability, and comfort aspects drivers value. The exact blend varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, but the name is derived from the use of kiln-fired ceramic in the pads. An interesting characteristic of these pads is that when they make noise, it's generally in frequencies undetectable by the human ear. As you might expect, these are the most expensive of the bunch, but many view the extra cost as a fair trade for all the benefits. 

Brake Pad Pricing 

The application you're working with, and the type of brake pad you select are the biggest determining factors in the price. Still, you should expect to pay anywhere from $25-$60 for most applications. As with most things, moving to high-end and high-performance applications can multiply the price of brake pads substantially. 


You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.

Q: How do brake pads work?

A: Brake pads mount in a caliper with pistons that apply pressure, and the brake rotor is sandwiched between the pads. As the brake pedal is pressed, hydraulic pressure builds up in the system, driving the pistons, which causes the pads to clamp down on the rotor. 

Q: What are the symptoms of worn-out brake pads?

A: A dead giveaway is sound. Worn-out pads tend to squeal under braking and may produce a grinding noise while coasting or accelerating. Loss of braking power and excess dust are also signs that pads are due for replacement. 

Q: How long do brake pads last?

A: In a perfect world, brake pads will last anywhere from 30,000-70,000 miles. However, your driving habits, the application, and your environment will all impact pad life.

Q: Can I replace my brake pads myself?

A: Absolutely. Changing brake pads is one of the easiest jobs you can perform on a vehicle and is where many DIYers get their start. But before diving in, you will need to study the service procedure for your vehicle to decide what tools you need and whether it's a job you want to take on. 

Q: How do I break in my brake pads?

A: Breaking in brake pads is essentially the process of mating the wear surfaces of the rotor and the pad together. The process of doing so varies by pad. However, the process should go something like gradually braking from 30-35 mph without stopping, then again from 50-55 mph. After that, it's important to avoid hard braking for a few hundred miles.

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