Rim vs Hubcap – What’s the Difference?

A number of car owners often get confused with rim and hubcap. This mostly happens when you look for new wheels, and someone suggests you get a hubcap as well.

The most common misunderstanding is that people think hubcaps are a replacement for rims. Meaning you can go for a hubcap instead of a rim, which is not right at all. When it comes to rim vs hubcap, there are some differences. However, any of these cannot be used as a replacement for another.

You are good to get a hubcap for your car wheels, only if the car model is compatible with it. As for rims, these are everywhere.

I think I have taken enough time to introduce you to this topic. Now, let’s jump straight into the discussion where you will get pretty much all answers to your queries.


As you have more or less knowledge about rims, so, let’s not talk about rims first.

Basically, a hubcap is a cover mostly made of plastic that is placed over the steel rim or wheel. You will see hubcaps in lower-end vehicles. Wheels covered by hubcaps look like aluminum rims, but these aren’t real.

Car owners consider placing hubcaps on the rims to cover the lug nuts. These fasteners or lug nuts make sure the wheel is well-secured to the vehicle. When these nuts get exposed to moisture such as mud, water, and saltwater, rust invades, which highly influences the fasteners, and makes the wheels unsecure.

Also, rusted nuts are very hard to remove. When you got cover for these, there will be little to no chance for rust and corrosion, and the wheels will not be loose without noticing you.

It also looks aesthetically pleasing and quite a bit aerodynamic. Protecting the lug nuts, enhancing the appearance, preventing saltwater and mud from splashing up under the car, etc. are the most common reasons why people still use such an accessory.

Moreover, its name is pretty much self-explanatory, it acts like a cap that goes on the hub or central part of the wheel. Some of these parts cover the wheels; whereas, some cover entirely.

Modern wheels don’t need hubcaps, as the rims are specially designed in a way that prevents saltwater, muds, and dirt to come in contact with the lug nuts.


You are well-familiar with this car accessory. Rim refers to the outer and circular parts of the wheel. Most rims are made of magnesium or aluminum alloys or steel sheet metals. Even though most people refer to the entire wheel or even the tire to be the rim. But, the correct view is that the rim is only the outer edge of the wheels.

What lies in the center of the wheel is called the disc. Rims go around discs. It can be permanently attached to the disc, or it’s detachable. The inner part of the tire is attached to the rim and covers it. Hubcaps secure the lug nuts. But, rims secure tires to the wheels.

Many vehicle owners experience wheel vibration and tire cupping issues. These issues have nothing to do with rims. Your vehicle might need tire balancing beads instead of changing the rims, which is a much more inexpensive investment.

Rim vs Hubcap —the Differences

The main difference would be the material that these two parts are made of. As I mentioned earlier, hubcaps are made of plastic; and rims are of aluminum or magnesium or steel sheet, in short, these are made of quality metals.

1. Hubcaps Are Not Compulsory, But Rims Are

You have both the option to add hubcaps or not. Because these are just accessories, without which, your vehicle will be fine running on the road. However, it’s hard to think about any car wheel without a rim. As it’s an actual part, and you cannot attach a tire without it.

2. Purpose

Hubcaps are for protecting lug nuts from rust and corrosion, as well as falling out. A number of vehicle owners use these to decorate the wheels. On the flip side, rims ensure that the tire is well-secured to the wheel.

3. It’s Easier to Remove Hubcaps

You can add or remove hubcaps without changing or removing the wheels. It’s very possible to do it yourself. Whereas, if you are to change the rim, you need to make sure everything is removed first that is attached to it.

The Reasons Why Hubcaps Aren’t That Common

Cars these days don’t come with hubcaps. However, there are still some car manufacturers that use hubcaps made of metals. People feel less interested in keeping these hubcaps as most of these have the manufacturer’s logo on them.

However, there are expensive hubcaps that look dope on the wheels. Those who cannot afford this decoration, prefer showing off their car’s metal rims instead.

Then, there are wheel covers that do the job of protecting lug nuts more effectively. These covers even cover up more of the wheel.

Even though wheel covers wear out much faster than hubcaps, you can fit one of these covers on pretty much all wheels due to the universal fit. But, hubcaps only fit wheels that match the diameter of the tire as well as the wheel pattern.

Final Words

The final thought about rim vs hubcap is that if you own an old model vehicle, you should get hubcaps for the wheels to protect the lug nuts. But if you have a new model vehicle, no need to purchase these aftermarket accessories as the rims are capable enough to protect the fasteners from rust.