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Best Brake Pads

Updated October 2023
Bottom line
Pros
Cons
Best of the Best
ACDelco Ceramic Front Disc Brake Pad Set
ACDelco
Ceramic Front Disc Brake Pad Set
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Trusted Brand
Bottom Line

Solid set of brake pads. Leads the pack on performance, versatility, and workmanship – what you'd expect from ACDelco.

Pros

Quality brake pads by a trusted name. Fits many makes and models. Earns rave reviews from mechanics and gearheads who find them to be quiet, stable, and long-wearing.

Cons

Some issues with the clips not fitting properly. A few arrive missing hardware.

Best Bang for the Buck
Bosch QuietCast Premium Disc Brake Pad Set
Bosch
QuietCast Premium Disc Brake Pad Set
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Customer Favorite
Bottom Line

Budget-friendly brake pads that deliver the reliable performance, stopping power, and quiet braking of pricier models.

Pros

A fast-stopping, low-cost set of brake pads that is very easy to install. Boasts multi-layer design with rubber core shims that result in quiet performance.

Cons

Missing parts such as clips and sensors reported. A few sets didn't fit as expected.

Akebono ProACT Ultra-Premium Ceramic Brake Pad Set
Akebono
ProACT Ultra-Premium Ceramic Brake Pad Set
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Mid-grade Pick
Bottom Line

A good buy for most, though some drivers may be annoyed by noise and brake dust accumulation during the break-in period.

Pros

A well-made ceramic brake pad that works quietly once broken in with no noticeable vibration. Smooth-stopping with normal driving. Installation is straightforward.

Cons

Fit may be a problem for older Honda models. Some dust and noise during break-in period.

StopTech Street Performance Front Brake Pad Set
StopTech
Street Performance Front Brake Pad Set
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High Performance
Bottom Line

These brake pads provide long wear under high performance-level driving conditions.

Pros

Best for performance vehicles, with high-temp compound materials that hold up well. Provide reliable braking power under most conditions. Easy to install.

Cons

Dusty under some driving conditions. Can be noisy. On the higher end of the price spectrum.

WAGNER QuickStop Ceramic Disc Pad Set
WAGNER
QuickStop Ceramic Disc Pad Set
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Bargain Pick
Bottom Line

A good low-cost set, but other manufacturers may offer slightly quieter performance for some drivers.

Pros

A lot to offer for a reasonable price – good bite, consistently smooth stops during pad life, and low brake dust build-up. They are also easy to install.

Cons

Squeaks noted on some vehicles, but may fade after break-in period. Instructions are vague.

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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. About BestReviews  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.About BestReviews 
HOW WE TESTED

We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

30
Models
Considered
111
Consumers
Consulted
14
Hours
Researched
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Buying guide for best brake pads

When it comes to safety, arguably the most important part of your car is your brakes. If you can't stop, not only do you put yourself in danger, you put other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians in danger as well. That’s why it’s a good practice to check your brake pads at least once every six months when you rotate your tires. If you do most of your driving in the city or apply your brakes forcefully at the last moment, however, it's best to check your brakes every three months.

As you probably know, brake pads squeeze the brake rotors when you step on the brake pedal. This action creates the friction needed to slow the rotation of the wheels, ultimately bringing the vehicle to a stop. While brake rotors are most often made of gray cast iron for durability, brake pads are manufactured using ceramic or metallic materials that wear away much more quickly than rotors.

As long as there is sufficient padding left, your vehicle will stop as expected when you apply the brakes. Once most or all the padding has worn off, however, your braking may not work as expected. Also, you will notice that it is louder than usual because you are grinding metal on metal. That sound usually means you are damaging your rotors. If the damage is sufficient, even when you get new brake pads, your vehicle might not stop as expected because the rotors are no longer even and smooth. If you hear a squealing sound when you apply your brakes, get your brakes checked immediately to minimize damage.

Buying new brake pads for your vehicle is not difficult. Once you understand how brakes work, what your vehicle needs, and the different options you have, you can make the best choice with confidence and ease. Our top choice is the ACDelco Gold Ceramic Front Disc Brake Pad Set, which offers durability and premium performance. 

Best brake pads

ACDelco Gold Ceramic Front Disc Brake Pad Set

These front disc brakes have been tested to make sure they meet industry standards for braking effectiveness. They offer impressive durability with reduced noise, vibration and braking harshness. The all-important friction material, the part that does the stopping, is molded to the backing plate to maintain its integrity.

ACDelco Gold front disc brake pads have premium shims, slots and chamfers. These important features give the pads exceptional fit and functionality. They also reduce the chance of noise and vibrations. The pads have a stamped backing plate that can help diminish brake pulsation and protect the pads against premature wear. All of these features combine to make ACDelco Gold a top option.

Bosch QuietCast Premium Ceramic Disc Brake Pads

When this brake kit arrives, it contains everything you need to replace your brake pads. These original equipment disc brake pads have a premium shim that features five layers: adhesive, steel, rubber, steel and an outer coating. The copper-free formula in these pads contains the same aluminum-based alloy used in aerospace engineering to offer premium performance. 

These QuietCast pads also feature a transfer layer that offers protection for the rotor and pad surface to help extend the life of both. Most important of all, the materials used in this pad were chosen for their exceptional stopping power.

Akebono ProACT Ultra-Premium Ceramic Brake Pad Set

Akebono is a Japanese company that was established in 1929. It has been around since the dawn of the Japanese automobile industry. The innovative approach to being an original equipment manufacturer has allowed this company to remain in business for nearly 100 years. Akebono doesn't just focus on brake pads; the company also makes a wide range of brake friction materials and foundation brake assemblies.

This ultra-premium set is considered an original equipment upgrade. There is no break-in period required, and the pads are specifically manufactured to be rotor-friendly to extend the life of the essential parts of your braking system.

StopTech Sport Brake Pads with Shims

Not all drivers have the luxury of highway commutes that allow for long, smooth stops that increase the longevity of brake pads and rotors. If you need something suitable for high-performance driving conditions, these StopTech Sport brake pads are a solid option. 

Because they are manufactured to endure high maximum operating temperatures, the brake pads do not have any reduction in braking power, even when braking repeatedly under heavy loads or at high speeds. Additionally, these brake pads use para-Aramid fibers to reduce grabbing and create a linear braking response. The pads are tough enough for autocross and light track use.

Wagner Brake QuickStop Ceramic Disc Brake Pad Set

These QuickStop brake pads have an original-equipment fit that employs stainless steel hardware with lubricant to deliver a superior performance. The asbestos-free pads have been tested and found to have even friction throughout their lifespan. The company states that this is a result of the gradual post-cured manufacturing process.

For convenience, Wagner brake pads are made to serve as original equipment for a wide variety of vehicles. This makes them a good go-to brand no matter what type of vehicle you own. And, like other quality options, the application-specific shims, slots and chamfers reduce noise-causing vibration.

ACDelco Silver Ceramic Disc Brake Pad Set

This line from ACDelco was previously known as the “Advantage” line. The promise of the Silver line is to deliver quality parts at an economical value. These parts are made for most Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles.

Like their Gold counterparts, the Silver brake pads have premium shims, slots and chamfers to ensure original equipment fit to reduce noise, vibration and braking harshness. The brake shoes have a rust-resistant coating that helps protect them from corrosion, while the pads are made of ceramic and nonferrous materials to extend their durability.

These brake pads can be installed right out of the box, as they require no curing or machining.

EBC Brakes Disc Brake Pad Set

This independently owned company has two factories, one in the U.K. and one in the U.S., that make a broad range of brake parts for all types of motor vehicles. Its focus is on quality control and superior performance. The company manufactures aramid brake pads, sintered brakes, ceramic brake pads and carbon long-life brake pads for cars, trucks, SUVs, military applications and more.

Since EBC specializes in high-performance and race brake pads, its products offer maximum stopping power along with durability. The asbestos-free pads also have a double-segment vented design that keeps them cooler to prevent loss of braking power, even under extreme conditions.

How disc brakes work

People often think of disc brakes as complicated mechanisms, but in essence, they’re quite simple.

  • Visualize the brake on a bike tire. When you squeeze the hand brake, a caliper (like an upside-down U in cross-section) squeezes against each side of the tire, slowing the bike.
  • In a car, a disc called a rotor is attached to the axle and wheel hub. Like the bike tire, the rotor also has a caliper wrapping over the top edge, with brake pads on the surfaces that contact the rotor.
  • Long story short, when you press on the brake pedal, you squeeze the caliper (and the brake pads) against the rotor. The resulting friction stops the rotor — and the car’s wheel — from rotating. That friction inevitably causes wear, so the brake pads – and eventually the rotor — need to be changed periodically.

Brake pad materials

Obviously, you need to find brake pads that fit your vehicle, but people sometimes forget that it’s vital to know the correct model and year. With automotive makers, things can change quickly. What fits a 2015 model doesn’t necessarily fit the 2014 or 2016 model. Sending stuff back gets frustrating, so check carefully before ordering.

The other main difference is what the brake pads are made of: ceramic or semi-metallic.

Ceramic brake pads

When somebody mentions ceramics, if you think of clay pots or dinner plates, you aren’t far off. Ceramic brake pads are basically a fired clay product. Historically, copper fibers were added to these pads for increased friction, but this is changing. Environmental issues have led to legislation that will ban copper in brake pads by 2025. As a result, many manufacturers are already using alloys instead of copper.

    Pros:

  • Good for town, city, and highway driving under normal conditions
  • Quiet
  • Less brake dust
  • Low wear on rotors
  • Cheaper

Cons:

  • Not as good in the cold or wet
  • Not recommended for towing or trucks carrying heavy loads

Semi-metallic brake pads

These brake pads are an amalgam of copper, steel and iron with mineral or organic fillers that bind everything together. There’s also graphite that provides lubrication without reducing the braking effect. Manufacturers keep the actual composition secret. “High-performance” and “street performance” brake pads are invariably semi-metallic.

Pros:

  • Good for heavy braking, high-mileage, and sporting situations
  • More efficient in varied conditions
  • Absorb heat, reducing brake fade
  • Last longer

Cons:

  • Can be noisier
  • More brake dust
  • More expensive
  • Tougher on rotors

Other brake pad considerations

With aftermarket brake pads, you get more choices. You can go for the budget option (usually ceramic), or you can go for better stopping power (usually semi-metallic). Much of the rest of the description you’ll read, while not incorrect, can sometimes get more attention than it deserves. In the final analysis, your choice largely depends on whether you’re looking for brake pads for the family car (and family driving) or something for a more enthusiastic driver for whom the ability to brake hard in varying weather conditions is demanded.

Scorching

This is a method used to accelerate the bedding-in process so your brake pads are near optimum performance straight out of the box. It might not make a great deal of difference to most vehicle owners, but it can be of benefit to stop-and-go drivers such as commercial travelers and delivery drivers.

OE

Manufacturers use the letters OE a lot to suggest their products are as good as “original equipment.” In truth, the brake pads probably are, though it’s just the manufacturer saying so rather than an independent view.

Multi-layer

“Multi-layer” shims, slots, and chamfers sound impressive. All the term really means is that it fits like the original! That’s no bad thing, of course, but it doesn’t do much to differentiate one set from another, save the possibility that a budget brand may not pay as much attention to those details.

Brand

The premium brands you’ll probably recognize almost always produce a better-quality product. These brake pads last longer and give better stopping power. But budget brands do a perfectly adequate job. There’s no suggestion that these brake pads are unsafe. In a panic stop situation, they still get the job done — but you do get what you pay for.

Tips

  • You should always change the brake pads for both wheels on the same axle at the same time. However, it isn’t always necessary to change the brake pads on all four wheels at the same time,
  • Get your brakes checked immediately if you experience juddering or excessive vibration when braking. These are sure signs of wear, damage or misalignment of the wheels, rotors or brakes.
  • Check your tire treads, too. Your tires are an important part of your braking system. If you replace your brake pads but your tire treads are shot, you’re not going to get the stopping power you need.

FAQ

Q. Do I need to change the rotors when I change the brake pads?

A. Normally, the metal of the rotor is harder than brake pads, so it doesn’t need changing as often. That’s not always the case, though. The pads used in NASCAR, for example, are so hard that the rotors, not the pads, need changing after every race.

Squeaking or scraping noises coming from your brakes — or vibration when you brake — could indicate that the rotors need changing. When you’re changing the brake pads, it’s an ideal time to check the rotors, too.

Q. What does OEM mean, and is it important for my brake pads?

A. OEM means “original equipment manufacturer.” In other words, an OEM product is what was fitted to your car when it was new. Companies like Ford and Nissan don’t actually make brake pads; they buy the pads from another manufacturer. These are the OEM brands.

You can usually save money by buying aftermarket (non-OEM) replacements, and those manufacturers often claim their products are as good as or better than OEM. You might also gain superior braking. An OEM product is generally chosen for all-around economy and performance. However, if your vehicle is still under warranty, you need to check carefully. Using aftermarket items of any kind may invalidate the warranty.

Q. Should I swap out the standard rotors and pads for a “big brake” kit?

A. It isn’t something we would recommend. Things like rotor diameter, material, construction and the surface area of the pads are all carefully calculated by the vehicle manufacturer to give optimum performance in a wide variety of conditions. In theory, big brake kits can reduce stopping distances, but the weight change could affect tire wear, suspension and steering. If you’re doing a full custom build, it’s an option. If you’re simply replacing worn components, stick with the standard sizes.

Q. How much should I spend on brake pads? 

A. We usually try to provide a range of prices in our reviews to help you with your buying decision. The sheer number of vehicles and brake pad manufacturers makes that impractical.

However, we can make a few generalizations. Note: These really are generalizations. The price of brake pads for specific vehicles — particularly old or unusual ones — could well be different.

  • Ceramic brake pads: You can pay between $30 and $50 for a pair of ceramic brake pads. Good budget ceramic brake pads at around $30 per pair will fit a surprisingly wide selection of vehicles, from compacts to family sedans and small pickups, though finding the right ones for your vehicle could be frustrating. Spend between $40 and $50, and you’re more likely to find what you need. These more expensive brake pads will probably last longer and have marginally shorter stopping distances, particularly in the rain.
  • Semi-metallic brake pads: If you want “street performance” or “high performance,” you’ll be paying more to buy semi-metallic pads — about $60 to $100. The majority of people say braking is noticeably better with these pads, but it comes at the cost of greater wear on the brake rotors.

When it comes to high-performance sedans, sports cars and RVs, the price is even higher, but perhaps not by as much as you’d think. We looked at Bentley, Pontiac GTO and Winnebago brake pads, and all could be found for $110 to $150 per pair.

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