Experience a Safer Ride During Winter with Winter Tires
Winter’s here, and it’s time to get a grip.
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If you're considering buying winter tires, ask yourself one question: Will temperatures drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit this winter? If the answer is yes, as it is for us, then fitting winter tires will improve your vehicle's traction on both wet and dry roads. And, if you're going to encounter any snow or ice this winter, then the answer is a resounding yes, they're a necessity. If temperatures in your area stay above 40 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, then save yourself some money and get a good pair of all-season tires.
I've created a buying guide to help you know what to look out for when choosing a set of winter tires. Below, you'll a list of the best winter tires on the market, which are all Three Peak Mountain Snowflake (3PMSF) certified.
Bridgestone Blizzak WS90
Cooper Evolution Winter
Michelin X-Ice Snow
Fantastic grip when braking, accelerating, and turning on ice or snow. Good grip on wet and dry pavement. 40,000-mile treadwear warranty.
Tested Snow Tires
Why Trust Us
Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.Learn more
To choose the best winter tires on the market, I employed The Drive’s comprehensive research methodology and evaluated dozens of tires before choosing the top contenders. Although I haven’t personally tested these products, my selection is informed by consumer testimonials, expert reviews, discussions on relevant online forums, and my institutional knowledge of the automotive industry.
I visited Tyre Reviews to see how each set of tires performed against competitors in a variety of conditions and situations. I also visited the Car Talk subreddit to get a more informed opinion of what automotive enthusiasts felt about the products on the market.
Some brands are already well-established in this niche, and priority was given to their products. However, other lesser-known brands were also evaluated. The main features taken into consideration were materials used, tread patterns, performance over snow, performance over ice, performance over wet and dry pavement, lifespan, available sizes, and warranty. Tires were immediately disqualified from consideration if they provided inconsistent levels of grip or weren't 3PMSF certified.
Best Snow and Winter Tires Reviews & Recommendations
Best OverallBridgestone Blizzak WS90Check Latest Price
Does It All for a Reasonable Price
The Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 is one of the most high-performance winter tires on the road. These tires will suit drivers who encounter severely harsh weather, such as ice and snow, on their daily commute. If winter isn't too hard-core where you live, you'll find a better option further down this list. This model should provide excellent grip in snowy and icy conditions thanks to its NanoPro-Tech Multicell compound and larger contact area. The tread compound wicks moisture and slush from the contact patch and works with a dense siping pattern with angled and horizontal sipes, along with thousands of biting edges. In terms of traction when accelerating and braking on ice or wet roads, this is one of the best non-studded tires money can buy.
It's not known for its dry- or wet-weather handling, but it's made notable improvements over its predecessor. When compared to the WS80, it has 30 percent more tread-block stiffness. There's an audible hum, especially when driving at high speeds, which is one of the few areas that this model is bested by its competitors.
- Brand: Bridgestone
- Model: Blizzak WS90
- Type: Nordic tire
- Tons of lateral grip over snow and ice
- Great traction when braking and accelerating on ice and snow
- Good traction on wet snow-free roads
- On the higher end of the price spectrum
- No treadwear mileage warranty
Great Value for the Money
Winter tires aren't cheap, it costs a lot to produce something that provides grip in low-traction conditions, but the Cooper Evolution Winter is arguably the best value winter tire you can get. This tire is suited to people who know a harsh winter is coming, meaning they'll need to deal with snow and ice but don't want to break the bank. You have the option to fit studs to the Evolution Winter, making it a great option for anyone who regularly encounters ice. The tread has a wide contact patch and a sawtooth circumferential design for enhanced lateral stability. A center rib combined with multi-angled corrugated siping provides plenty of traction and stability at high speeds and on straightaways.
The Snow Groove Technology traps snow in the tread, which creates friction and provides good traction over snow. This is a Nordic-style tire, so it will perform considerably better over ice and snow than a regular or even mild-winter tire. However, it doesn't provide the same levels of traction when braking, accelerating, or turning when compared to other Nordic tires on this list. This model has a high rolling resistance, resulting in higher fuel consumption and road noise.
- Brand: Cooper
- Model: Evolution Winter
- Type: Nordic (optional studs)
- Relatively good traction over snow and ice
- Great value for money
- Option to put studs in
- Less traction over snow and ice when compared to other Nordic tires
- Noisy due to a high rolling resistance
- Increases fuel consumption
Honorable MentionMichelin X-Ice SnowCheck Latest Price
A Supreme All-Rounder
The Michelin X-Ice Snow replaces the X-Ice Xi3 and takes the brand's winter performance tire offering to the next level. Again, this is a tire for people who are likely to encounter extreme weather conditions, such as snow and ice. The tire uses two types of 3D sipes, which results in a claw effect when you meet snow or ice. Michelin has incorporated its Flex-Ice 2.0 compound and EverWinterGrip technology, ensuring this model is one of the best on the list in terms of braking. It has long-lasting biting edges and is one of the very few winter tires that come with a warranty, which is 40,000 miles.
The X-Ice Snow is less prone to hydroplaning than its predecessor, thanks to its increased void ratio and aggressive V-shaped tread pattern. This tire provides consistent and predictable grip when braking, accelerating, and turning and is easily one of the best models in the game. Unfortunately, all this performance doesn't come cheap. It also loses the wide center groove that its predecessor had, making it less stable at high speeds.
- Brand: Michelin
- Model: X-Ice Snow
- Type: Nordic tire
- Fantastic grip when braking, accelerating, and turning on ice or snow
- Good grip on wet and dry pavement
- 40,000-mile treadwear warranty
- One of the more expensive models on the market
Best Studded TireNokian Hakkapeliitta 10Check Latest Price
Best on Ice
If you live in one of the few states that allow studded tires and think you need a set, we unequivocally recommend the Nokian Hakkapeliitta 10. In terms of snow and ice traction, this tire outperforms its competitors in every measurable way. This model features a new compound mix and tread design with a V-shaped center block pattern, which is similar to but not as exaggerated as the previous version. This version has an even softer compound, which combined with its Double Stud technology makes it handle particularly well over ice.
When compared to previous models, this version is more competent on dry pavement. If you meet the pavement, the ride will also be smoother and less noisy than the Hakkapeliitta 9. However, studded tires are noisy and cause excessive vibrations over pavement when compared to regular tires. If you opt for this model, be prepared for the noise that comes with it, and make sure that it's legal in your state and permitted in your parking garage, if necessary. Another thing to keep in mind about studded tires is that they're considerably more expensive than regular winter tires.
- Brand: Nokian
- Model: Hakkapeliitta 10
- Type: Studded
- The best option for driving on ice
- Great traction on snow
- Stable at high speeds on straightaways
- High rolling resistance produces a lot of noise
- Not legal in all states
- Average wet braking performance
All-Weather TireContinental WinterContact TS 870 PCheck Latest Price
Best on Dry and Wet Roads
If you live in a milder climate where your winters are wet and cold and you still want your car to handle well, check out the Continental WinterContact TS 870 P. This tire will have the edge on most other models on this list when you hit streets that are free from snow and ice. It features Continental's new Cool Chili compound, which increases performance in the wet and provides a lower rolling resistance. To say this tire performs well over wet surfaces is an understatement. The new compound also increases this model's mileage by up to 16 percent compared to its predecessor.
For an all-weather tire, this model performs exceptionally well over ice and snow and isn't hugely behind when compared to some of the Nordic tires on this list. It features an improved sipe and pattern concept, which should help keep everything under control if you encounter snow. Of all the tires on this list, this model arguably produces the least road resistance and noise, making it the most comfortable for long-distance commutes.
- Brand: Continental WinterContact TS 870 P
- Model: WinterContact TS 870 P
- Type: All-weather tire
- Fantastic grip on wet and dry surfaces
- Great traction on snow and ice, for an all-weather model
- Low noise
- Good fuel economy
- Doesn't perform as well as Nordic tires in extremely snowy or icy conditions
Best Snow TireContinental VikingContact 7Check Latest Price
Unbeatable in the Snow
If snow is essentially all you're going to drive over this winter, the Continental VikingContact 7 is for you. This model's 3D Trapez sipes, which have different thicknesses and effective snow edges, come into play to ensure top-class braking when temperatures are extremely low. Where this tire really shines is handling over snow and slush, thanks to its wide-block spacing and no center groove. The only downside to choosing not to fit a center groove is that stability at highway speeds is reduced.
Relatively speaking, it performs better over snow than ice, but it still provides good levels of grip over ice for a studless tire. When compared to the other Nordic tires on this list, the VikingContact 7 performs slightly worse on dry and wet roads that are snow free. In terms of rolling resistance, this model is about average, but it's one of the noisiest studless tires on the road.
- Brand: Continental
- Model: Viking Contact 7
- Type: Nordic tire
- Best handling tire in the snow
- Plenty of traction when braking in the snow
- Great traction over ice
- Below average traction on wet and dry roads
- Very noisy
Our Verdict on Winter Tires
We've chosen the Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 as our best overall winter tire. This model performs exceptionally well over both ice and snow, and it even holds its own on wet and dry pavement. If you're on a tight budget, then check out our value pick, the Cooper Evolution Winter.
What to Consider When Buying Winter Tires
In the automotive world, tire selection is one of the most important and trickiest areas. There are tons of manufacturers producing a near-infinite selection of models for practically all driving conditions. So here's a buying guide to help you understand what features and brands to look out for, and more importantly, what type of winter tire is right for you.
Types of Winter Tires
All-weather tires offer the lowest level of grip over snow and ice but are still 3PMSF certified. These tires deal with snow and ice better than regular tires, but they're best suited to wet and dry roads when the temperature drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. So, if you're facing cold temperatures and wet weather but are unlikely to drive over snow or ice, these tires will provide the best traction for you.
Nordic Winter Tires
Nordic winter tires are the best option for anyone who regularly drives over snow, slush, and ice. These tires are made from malleable compounds that stay soft in cold conditions and provide more traction when compared to a regular tire's compound. If you're driving over snow, you'll have more traction when accelerating, braking, and turning thanks to their deep, aggressive tread design. Nordic winter tires will produce more rolling resistance and noise when compared to all-weather tires and generally perform worse on dry and wet roads.
Studded tires are for the most extreme winter conditions and get their name from the metal studs that protrude from their surface. These tires perform better than other winter tires over ice since the studs dig into the surface. Think carefully before getting a set of studded tires as they make a lot of road noise and are banned in the majority of the states in the U.S. due to the damage the studs cause to the road's surface.
One of the most important things to consider before buying a winter tire is that its compound is designed to work with extremely low temperatures. Once temperatures drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, regular tires become hard and provide less traction. Winter tires are made of different compounds, which ensure they stay soft and grip the groves of the surface below them.
The tread on winter tires is arguably as important as the compound used. As the tire rides over snow and ice, it forms a layer of water that's then kicked out by the treads. Thick, deep grooves are the norm on winter tires as they provide better traction and allow snow to build up in the voids. The buildup of snow between the groves of winter tires is crucial, as snow-on-snow traction is greater than rubber-on-snow traction. The downside to having deep groves with wide gaps between them is that it increases road noise and decreases fuel economy, so it's a tradeoff that you'll need to consider.
Sipes are slits within the tread pattern that provide a biting edge to surface irregularities and are a must on winter tires. If you usually travel on windy and relatively low-speed roads when it snows, you should consider getting a tire with no center groove. Tires with a lateral-tread pattern throughout provide better lateral traction. But, if you often drive at relatively high speeds on straightaways, such as highways, then a tire with a central groove is essential for stability.
Studded tires have metal studs that protrude through the tire to provide more traction and are worth considering if you know you'll encounter the most extreme winter weather conditions. However, these tires perform poorly on wet or dry pavement, are particularly noisy, and increase fuel consumption. Moreover, they're illegal in most states as the studs damage the surface of the road, so you'll need to check the laws in your state before buying.
A better option for many people will be to buy a Nordic-style winter tire that uses a compound specifically designed for ice.
Most winter tires don't come with a mileage warranty, so you'll need to sift through user reviews to find out how long a model generally lasts. Some premium models come with a six-year/40,000-mile warranty, so if you're willing to pay top dollar, you can get a guarantee.
Unless you see a three-peaked mountain with a snowflake on the side of a tire, it's not a suitable winter tire. This image is found on tires that meet the 3PMSF performance criteria. This certification used to be reserved for winter tires, but some all-season tires now meet the performance criteria.
Michelin is a French tire manufacturer and a travel-assistance service provider. The company was founded in 1889 and has grown to become one of the most premium tire manufacturers in the world. Michelin owns some subsidiaries including Uniroyal, BFGoodrich, Tigar, Riken, Uniroyal, Kleber, and Kormoran. It's one of the few brands to offer a lifespan warranty on certain winter tires.
Bridgestone is a renowned auto and truck parts manufacturer based in Japan. The brand also has other facilities in Europe, the U.S., the Middle East, and Africa. It operates as a multinational corporation and was started in 1931 by Shojiro Ishibashi. In terms of premium winter tires, this has been the recent brand to beat for the past few years, and it still is.
Continental is a German multinational automotive parts manufacturing company that was founded in 1871. The brand produces a wide variety of premium tires, including tires for motorcycles and bicycles. The company makes particularly good all-weather tires, which are a great option for anyone who lives in a milder climate.
Nokian Tyres has its headquarters in Nokia, Finland, and was founded in 1988. This company's Scandinavian heritage shines through, meaning you won't find a poor winter tire from this brand. This is undoubtedly the brand of choice for anyone who wants studded tires or tires that are good in very icy conditions.
Tips and Tricks
- Store your winter tires in a cool dry place when the cold season is over and clean them, as dirt and other debris may cause degradation of the rubber. Finally, wrap the tires with plastic-coated paper to prevent oils in the tire from evaporating.
- The best way to store snow tires on rims is to hang them or stack them on top of each other. Do not hang tires that aren't placed on rims as they might lose their shape. Instead, store them upright against a wall.
- Once temperatures start to rise and stay consistently over 40 degrees Fahrenheit, take off your winter tires as their soft rubber compound will wear away quickly.
- When compared to the regular tires you use, it's a good idea to opt for a narrower winter tire. Choosing a narrower winter tire can improve traction, as it helps your vehicle cut through the snow instead of riding over it.
FAQs on Winter Tires
You've got questions. The Drive has answers.
Q: Do snow tires actually make a difference?
A: Yes, it can't be overstated how much more traction vehicles have when accelerating, braking, and turning over ice and snow when using winter tires.
Q: Do you need two or four winter tires?
A: It's recommended that you fit all four of your wheels with winter tires, and this goes for FWD, RWD, and AWD vehicles. If you fit just two winter tires, one end of your vehicle will react differently to the other, making it feel less stable.
Q: Can winter tires be used all year?
A: In theory, you could use winter tires year-round, but it's not recommended. Once temperatures rise, winter tires have less grip on wet and dry roads compared to regular tires. A winter tire's soft compound will also wear away quickly if used throughout the year, costing you in the long run.
Q: Are all-season tires the same as winter tires?
A: Winter tires are made with hydrophilic rubber, which provides more traction over snow and ice. Winter tires also have deeper grooves and sipes for added traction. Summer and all-season tires, on the other hand, are made of a stiffer rubber compound that’s designed to be resistant to rough and hot pavements.