Closeup of a mechanic replacing brake pads

Let’s be honest—most of us only think about our brakes when we need to panic stop. Otherwise, we take this critical safety system for granted every time we bring ourselves to a gentle halt with each stop light and four-way. But our brakes demand and deserve more attention—and at the very least—brake pads will need to be periodically replaced to ensure safe and proper braking performance.

To work out which brake pads are genuinely worth buying, we analyzed a range of brake pads on the market. In the end, the top option was the Bosch QuietCast Premium Ceramic Disc Brake Pad Set. If you have a rear-drive GM vehicle built between the 1960s and 1990s, these pads offer exceptional stopping power, quiet operation, and emit minimal brake dust.

Best Overall
Bosch QuietCast Premium Ceramic Disc Brake Pad Set
For the best in brake pads, look no further than the Bosch QuietCast Premium Ceramic.

Oh, and before you set out to change your own pads: be sure you’ve positioned them correctly in relation to your vehicle’s rotors.

Our Automobile Expert’s Top 5 Brake Pads

Here are the top brake pads on the market. Use this table to compare their ratings and features.

Editor's PicksBrandRatingMaterialOE FitVariety of Sizes
Best OverallBosch QuietCast Premium Ceramic Disc Brake Pad Set4.6Ceramic
Best Budget BuyWagner QuickStop ZD1451 Ceramic Disc Brake Pad Set4.6Ceramic
Best CeramicPower Stop Extreme Performance Carbon-Ceramic Brake Pad4.7Ceramic
Best Semi-MetallicACDelco Silver Semi-Metallic Disc Brake Pad Set4.7Steel strands
Best for MotorcyclesEBC Brakes Disc Brake Pad Set4.6Stainless steel, copper

*Ratings are on a scale of 1 to 5 and based on reviews, feedback, and opinions of actual customers

Who Should Buy Brake Pads

  • City drivers. Like many components on a vehicle, brake pads are subject to wear and tear as you drive your vehicle. While there are things you can do to make your brake pads last longer, everyone will have to replace pads eventually. However, city drivers will find their pads wearing out more frequently due to the constant stop and go that’s so pervasive in urban driving.
  • Those who want improved stopping performance. Upgrading your pads—say, from synthetic to ceramic—brings improved performance. Pair this with a new set of rotors for maximum stopping power.
  • Racers and autocrossers. If you like to take your car to the track, you’ll need to be extra attentive about keeping an eye on the condition of your brake pads.1 Depending on how hard you try for that lap record, you may want to replace pads after just one day of hot laps.

Who Should Not Buy Brake Pads

  • Those with new brakes. Brake pads should easily last for 50,000 miles. Don’t fret about pads if you replaced yours recently or drive a new car.
  • Happy stoppers. If you’re happy with your vehicle’s stopping performance, it doesn’t make sense to replace your brakes with aftermarket parts.
  • Those with drum brakes. Before discs and pads became widespread, most cars used drum brakes. This design didn’t require replaceable pads (relying instead on adjustable drum shoes). If you have drum brakes, you only need to fiddle with the shoes.

Research Tips (from an Expert)

Here are some tips and best practices to consider when purchasing brake pads. Be sure to do adequate research on the product you are considering purchasing to look for key features and ask your friends, family, or mechanic if they have any recommendations on options for your vehicle.

  1. Determine the best material for you. Brake pads are made from a variety of different materials, including metallic, ceramic, and organic.2. Each material has its own benefits and drawbacks. Ceramic brake pads, for instance, are the most expensive—but also last the longest and have the best overall performance. Organic pads provide great braking power but wear out quickly. Metallic pads are great in high temperatures but make plenty of noise.
  2. Ensure the pads you’re purchasing fit your vehicle. Not all brake pads are compatible with all vehicles, so make sure to check your owner’s manual to ensure you’re replacing your brakes with the right size product. When shopping online, most websites allow you to plug in your make and model, making it is to determine what is and isn’t compatible with your car.
  3. Consider your driving style. If you like to stomp your brakes or otherwise need pads that can withstand track driving, use that to narrow down your choices. You want to choose pads that best matches your driving style.

How Much Do They Cost?

For most brake pads, you can expect to pay between $30 to $60 a set and still get a quality product. The cost is primarily influenced by the materials they’re made from, with ceramic brake pads being the most expensive of the lot. Metallic brake pads are a more economical choice, but wear quickly and create more dust. Performance parts unsurprisingly carry a higher price tag, with the best of the bunch costing you upwards of $100 a set.

The Best Brake Pads: Full Reviews

Best Overall
Bosch QuietCast Premium Ceramic Disc Brake Pad Set
For the best in brake pads, look no further than the Bosch QuietCast Premium Ceramic.

The Bosch QuietCast Premium Ceramic Disc Brake Pad Set took the top spot on our list of the best brake pads thanks to their exceptional stopping power and quiet operation with low dust. We’ve highlighted the pads for the mid-2010s Toyota Camry and Lexus ES, but this lineup of Bosch ceramic pads is compatible with a wide range of foreign and domestic vehicles. A quick Amazon search will bring up the right pads for your vehicle.

These pads can be purchased as either a front or rear set, or a complete combination for added convenience. Made of ceramic, they feature a rubber core multilayer shim which offers increased strength and insulation against noise.

Pros
  • Incredibly quiet
  • Available in a choice of sizes
  • Advanced aerospace alloy
  • OE fit

Cons

  • Didn’t live up to their quiet claims according to some reviewers
  • Customer service seems to be lacking

Best Budget Brake Pads
Wagner QuickStop Ceramic Disc Brake Pad Set
For budget-conscious consumers, look no further than the Wagner QuickStop Ceramic Disc Brake Pad Set.

The Wagner QuickStop Ceramic Disc Brake Pad Set is a great option for those looking for a budget-friendly choice. Costing under $20 and offered in a wide range of sizes, these pads offer premium performance at an excellent price.

The set also includes the necessary hardware for proper mounting, so don’t feel that you need to save your rusty old pad clips. Customers have largely been happy with these pads, though a few have complained about squeals. Generally, however, these are top-rated pads that won’t break the bank.

Pros
  • Hardware clip kits included
  • Low dust for added longevity
  • Available for all makes and models
  • OE fit

Cons

  • Some reviewers had fitment issues
  • Premature squealing isn’t uncommon

Best Ceramic
Power Stop Extreme Performance Carbon-Ceramic Brake Pad
Thermal scorched pad surface for a fast break-in.

The Power Stop Extreme Performance Carbon-Ceramic Brake Pad is a great option for those who insist on ceramic but aren’t sold on the Bosch or Wagner pads. The Power Stop boasts a thermal scorched pad surface for a fast break-in and features chamfered slots and stainless steel shims also help to reduce braking noise. What’s more, this option is resistant to rust and corrosion thanks to its upgraded powder coat backing.

Pros
  • Thermal scorched pad surface
  • Premium stainless steel shims
  • Includes brake grease
  • Hardware kit included

Cons

  • Some reviewers had issues with fitment
  • Some reviewers found these pads squeaky

Best Semi-Metallic
ACDelco Silver Semi-Metallic Disc Brake Pad Set
Safe and reliable for a range of vehicle applications.

Suitable for the rear wheels, the ACDelco Silver Semi-Metallic Disc Brake Pad Set offers basic shims, slots, and chamfers help to reduce noise, vibration, and braking harshness for a smoother ride. It keeps the price down by employing a heat-resistant, semi-metallic material.

Being ACDelco, these pads are an excellent choice for General Motors vehicles, but they’re compatible with a variety of other makes and models as well.

Pros
  • Formulated with steel strands
  • OE fit
  • Hardware clip kits included

Cons

  • Some reviewers had issues with fitment
  • Expect the noisiness typical of metallic pads

Best for Motorcycles
EBC Brakes Disc Brake Pad Set
For the best choice for two wheels, look no further than the EBC Brakes Disc Brake Pad Set.

Looking for brake pads that are specially designed for motorcycles? Look no further than the EBC Brakes Disc Brake Pad Set. This product provides maximum stopping power and durability for the long term. Customers have said they offer excellent performance and are a major upgrade over stock pads.

Among other things, these brake pads have superior cooling capabilities thanks to their double segment vented design. This also helps prevent pad drag, which can cause further damage to the rotor and caliper if left unchecked.

Pros
  • Double segment vented design
  • Asbestos-free
  • Ultra-high friction sintered copper alloy construction
  • Made in the USA

Cons

  • Some reviewers noted premature rotor damage
  • Some reviewers found them noisy

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do brake pads last?

Generally speaking, brake pads should last anywhere from about 25,000 to 65,000 miles before they need replacing. A number of factors will affect how frequently you need to replace your brake pads, including driving conditions and braking style. Generally, highway drivers will see more miles out of a set of pads than city drivers.

Are ceramic or metallic brake pads better?

Most experts would agree that ceramic brake pads are superior to metallic brake pads. Not only do ceramic pads wear more slowly than metallic brake pads, but they also offer quieter operation at no expense to performance. However,ceramic pads tend to be the priciest choice on the market.

Do ceramic brake pads prematurely wear rotors?

Ceramic brake pads actually wear rotors more slowly compared to organic and metallic brake pads. Besides elongating your rotor life, the reduced wear also means less dust to contend with.

How do I know when my brake pads need changing?

There are a few different signs your brake pads need changing. Some common symptoms may include: squeaking or squealing when applying the brakes; a deep, grinding metal sound when you apply your brakes; pedal vibration when applying the brakes; and if your pads appear less than ¼-inch thick. If you notice any of these signs, consider changing your brake pads.

Article Sources

Ride Digest uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Baruth J. Everything you need to know about brakes and track days. Roadandtrack.com. Published May 21, 2018. Accessed July 19, 2021.
  2. ADVICS Aftermarket North America. Ceramic vs. semi-metallic brake pads: How they work and what they’re made of. Advicsaftermarket.com. Published October 9, 2020. Accessed July 19, 2021.