Best Winter Tires: Experience a Safer Ride During Winter
Control your vehicle when turning and braking during the cold season with our top picks for the best winter tires.
The Review Team
How We Decided
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PUBLISHED ON July 16, 2019
During winter, the temperatures may go below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the area where you live. That’s when it gets hard to pull your car through deep, unplowed snow. What you need is a winter-specific tire for the best braking, traction, and control on ice and snow. Our review offers a buying guide to some of the best snow and winter tires.
- Best OverallMichelin X-IceSummarySummaryA versatile tire that offers summer-like traction on snow, ice, and muddy roads.ProsProsAdmirable braking and acceleration. Improves your vehicle’s fuel economy. Comes with extra warranties. Includes a special wear indicator. Low noise level.ConsConsExpensive. Moderate lateral grip. Average traction on deep snow. Stiff construction.
- Best ValueDunlop Winter MaxxSummarySummaryOne of the best, cheap winter tires with an aggressive design that can handle heavy snow scenarios.ProsProsThe tire runs quietly. Great traction. More affordable than most winter and all-season tires. Balanced performance on wet and dry conditions.ConsConsLimited sizes. Poor traction on melting ice. Average bounce resistant.
- Honorable MentionBridgestone BlizzakSummarySummaryA well-balanced, aggressive, and an all-season tire optimized for deep snow and icy surfaces.ProsProsExcellent traction on snow, ice, and mud. Great braking. Can be used on a variety of car models. Backed by a five-year warranty.ConsConsExpensive. Sloppy handling on extremely wet roads. Higher road noise than most tires.
Why Trust Us
All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, and practical experience with each product we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Snow and Winter Tires
- Stay safe on the road. The treads on winter tires are designed to “bite” into the snow for maximum traction and exceptional handling. Winter tires also provide outstanding cornering grip to keep you safe and stable on the road during the cold weather.
- Maintain traction. All-season tires lose their grip on ice as the tires get frozen and stiff. Winter tires, on the other hand, are made from a different compound that stays soft and flexible in cold weather to maintain a comfortable grip on the ice.
- Prepare for the snowfall. All-season tires start to become stiff and lose traction when temperatures dip below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. You should prepare well in advance of the winter season by replacing them with winter tires that are designed to maneuver through snow and ice.
- Enjoy insurance discounts. Most insurance companies reward their clients with discounts on their automobile coverage if they switch to seasonal tires. The chief reason is that seasonal tires enhance confidence and safety on the roads.
Michelin is a French tire manufacturer and a travel assistance service provider. The company was started 130 years ago and has a worldwide serving of auto and truck parts. Some few subsidiary brands owned by Michelin include BFGoodrich, Tigar, Riken, Uniroyal, Kleber, and Kormoran. Some of its best snow tires for winter driving include the Michelin X-Ice and the Michelin LTX Winter.
Yokohama is a Japan-based manufacturing company that specializes in motor vehicle tires. The company also has manufacturing facilities in West Point, Miss., and Salem, Va. It also sponsors NBA teams like the Boston Celtics and the San Antonio Spurs. One of its best tires for driving on ice is the Yokohama BluEarth Winter.
Bridgestone is a renowned auto and truck parts manufacturer based in Japan. The brand also has other operating facilities in Europe, America, the Middle East, and Africa. It operates as a multinational corporation and was started in 1931 by Shojiro Ishibashi. One of its best passenger car snow tires is the Bridgestone Blizzak.
Goodyear is an international manufacturing company that makes tires for SUVs, race cars, trucks, airplanes, and farm and industrial equipment. The company was started in 1898 by Frank Seiberling and is headquartered in Akron, Ohio. Goodyear goes down in history as the brand that designed and manufactured the tires for the Apollo 14. It’s also one of the best snow tire brands, and one of its best performance winter tires is the Goodyear Ultra-Grip Winter.
Best Snow and Winter Tires Pricing
- Under $150: This is the price range for most winter tires. It’s almost impossible to find a winter tire that’s priced under $100. Most tires here have adequate snow, ice, and slush traction, and exhibit great braking and cornering capabilities. Most tires are covered by a warranty, but the warranty only covers the tread life and typically doesn't stretch over a year.
- Over $150: Most tires here are either studded or studless tires that offer driving comfort by promoting a smooth ride and minimizing road noise. The products are durable and cover more than 50,000 miles before any damage starts to occur. They are backed by warranties extending to two years or longer.
The chief reason for getting winter tires is to improve traction in the snow and consequently promote your safety on the roads. Some tires may have the best grip on dry roads but may get slippery on icy or wet surfaces. Buy snow tires that are designed and tested for enhanced traction when driving through the harshest winter conditions.
Studded vs. Studless
Studded tires have metal studs strategically placed along with key points in the treads. The studs can effectively dig into thick ice and deep snow. However, they damage the roads and pavements they dig into. Studless tires have deeper treads that allow the tire to disperse snow and slush from under the tire. Also, studless tires pack the tread blocks with snow for better traction on deep snow.
The construction of the tire, with regard to the material and tread design, is a sign of its durability. Most winter tires have an average lifespan of 30,000 miles. However, if you want a product with a longer tread life, you will need to spend more money to get a high-quality tire.
- Warranties: Winter tires have a different set of warranty conditions in comparison to all-season tires. Most manufacturers barely mention treadwear mileage markers on the warranties as with all-season tire warranties. Nonetheless, you should go for a product with at least a one-year tread life warranty.
- Certification: Snow tires are marked with the Three Peak Mountain Snowflake (3PMSF) symbol, which shows that the tire meets the minimum requirements for maneuverability and traction in severe cold weather conditions. Most winter tires and all-season tires carry the symbol.
Best Snow and Winter Tires Reviews & Recommendations 2020
Best Overall: Michelin X-Ice
The Michelin X-Ice is engineered with a silica-based compound. It has micro-pumps and angle Cross Z sipes that improve traction in cold and wet weather. The internal structure includes spirally-wound nylon and twin steel-belts that enhance high-speed performance. Also, the tire has a low-rolling resistance construction aimed at improving your car’s fuel economy. The tires are not only good in deep snow but also when the snow starts to melt.
The tire has a special wear indicator that lets you know when the tire’s snow and ice traction is reduced. It also features unique tread marks and an independent shoulder function to maximize performance. The manufacturer backs the tire with a 30-day satisfaction warranty, a one-year uniformity warranty, a six-year tread life warranty, and a three-year flat changing assistance. The tire is recommended for family vans, sedans, coupes, and small crossovers.
The Michelin X-Ice is an aggressive snow tire, but its main drawback is that it comes at a higher price than most winter tires. When pitted against most high-end winter tires, the Michelin X-Ice has average traction in deep snow and a moderate lateral grip. Moreover, while it has great dry road performance, it feels harsh on potholes and bumps due to its stiff construction.
Best Value: Dunlop Winter Maxx
The Dunlop Winter Maxx is an inexpensive and high-quality winter tire with an aggressive tread pattern that drives out snow, ice, and slush. The tire takes an asymmetric tread design, which helps it run smoothly and quietly on the road. In addition, the tire has unique Miura-Ori shaped sipes that improve treadwear and increase traction in snow and ice.
The Dunlop tire is engineered with Digital Rolling Simulation technology that increases the strength, durability, and reliability of the tire. With this technology, the tire maintains a well-balanced performance on wet and dry conditions and commendable stability on highways during adverse weather conditions. Moreover, the manufacturer backs the product with a warranty for the first 2/32 inches of wear.
The downside is that the tire only comes in sizes ranging from 14 to 18 inches. There are, therefore, no options for SUV owners. It also has poor traction on melting ice. You’d have to change to all-season tires when the temperatures start to rise for better grip. Moreover, it’s not resistant to bounces and bumps.
Honorable Mention: Bridgestone Blizzak
Blizzak is a high-performance tire constructed with a next-generation NanoPro-Tech Multicell compound. The compound comprises of microscopic bite (stud) particles and a hydrophilic (water-loving) coating. It’s designed with both circumferential and lateral grooves that direct water, snow, and slush away from the tire. Additionally, it has 3D zigzag sipes to increase the surface area of the biting edges.
The tire has superior traction on snow, ice, and wet surfaces. A tread-depth indicator fitted inside the tread design lets the driver know when the level of the Multicell compound drops to 10 percent. Additionally, it’s an all-season tire as it also exhibits great performance in wet and dry weather conditions. The tire is compatible with minivans, compact cars, coupes, and sedans, and there are variations available for SUVs.
The downside to this product is that it comes with a more expensive price tag than most winter tires. The handling and stability of the tires are also not that great on very wet surfaces, which is not what you would expect from an all-season tire. Additionally, it’s a noisy tire due to its aggressive tread design.
- Store your winter tires in a cool dry place when the cold season is over. Clean the tires as dirt and other debris may cause degradation of the rubber. Finally, wrap the tires with polythene 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 with no rims as they may get misshapen. Instead, store them upright against a wall.
- Winter tires aren't a license to speed. Maintain at least a nine-second distance between you and the next vehicle so that you have enough braking distance in case of an emergency. In case you need to stop in the middle of an icy road, ease into the brakes and maintain control of your vehicle.
- Allow time for your car to react to the slippery surface. It may take some time to move around and respond to the driving conditions, but you should relax your hands, concentrate on the road, and let the car find its way. Do not force the car to maintain a certain speed or drive out of your means as you could end up in an accident.
Q: Are all-season tires the same as winter tires?
A: No. First, winter tires are made with hydrophilic rubber, which makes the tires roll over soft, snow-covered pavements. Second, winter tires have larger grooves on the tread to cut through and scoop snow. 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 and often lose traction on soft surfaces.
Q: Are tire chains substitutes for winter tires?
A: Although they function in a similar fashion, they have a slight difference in their uses. Winter tires can be used on all snow or ice-covered surfaces, including mountains, and highways. Tire or snow chains, on the other hand, are great at adding traction on hilly places but can get damaged on bare pavements or when driving at high speeds on highways.
Q: Could I install a set of winter tires only on the front wheels?
A: That's a risky and bad idea as you could offset the stability of your vehicle, especially when cornering. In such a situation, the front wheels will struggle to maintain traction and control while the back wheels lose their grip. Your vehicle could eventually skid off the road. Ensure that all the winter tires are of the same quality and size for the best stability and handling in icy driving situations.
Q: I have an all-wheel-drive vehicle. Do I still need winter tires?
A: Yes. AWDs may have the power and stability to offer the best control on slippery pavements, but they have limited braking and stopping capabilities in such situations. Also, AWDs are beasts on the road but may not have enough power to pull you through deep snow unless backed by high-quality winter tires. The winter tires increase friction between the tires and the road and can help your AWD move through a snowy hill.
Our top pick for the best snow tire is the Michelin X-Ice. The tire maintains an excellent grip on slippery surfaces, and it’s great for high-speed performance while improving your car’s fuel economy.
Our best budget winter tire is the Dunlop Winter Maxx. It’s even more affordable than most all-season tires.