LAST UPDATED: July 16, 2019
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.
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All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Tested Snow Tires
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
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.
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.
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.
This Firestone winter tire delivers solid traction in the toughest of winter conditions. The evenly designed tread pattern helps the tire to deliver a smooth and comfortable ride. There are two wide circumferential grooves that are combined with multiple lateral grooves. Deep siping can be throughout the tire and onto the shoulder blocks for effective moisture evacuation. This tire comes in size 185/60R15, but it comes in several other sizes to fit wheels 13 to 22 inches in diameter.
What makes this tire stand out is the tread pattern. It has a ton of grooves and siping. This gives the tire superior traction in water and slush. It also has the ability for stud mounting for extra traction.
Unfortunately, this tire can dry rot easily, which isn’t good for a tire that you only use in winter. You may only get one season out of the tire before it rots out. The tire is also quite loud when on dry roads or the highway.
The tread pattern on this tire is enhanced with wide tread grooves for wet weather traction. They help push snow and slush away from the tire. The tread has a directional pattern to it for better functionality. It also has lots of edges for biting the road and creating plenty of traction. There are also strong and bold shoulder blocks to improve traction and handling when turning and cornering. This tire is a size 225/55R17, but it comes in several sizes for vehicle compatibility.
What’s nice about this tire is the enhanced traction during winter weather. This is improved even more with the ability to attach studs. You’ll enjoy improved stopping power. Goodyear claims you can stop up to six feet sooner on snow than its competitors.
The downside of this tire is that it’s very loud, and it gets even worse on the highway. The studs struggle to stay seated in this tire. This can result in you losing the studs and unknowingly reduce traction.
This radial winter tire is pinned for studs and rated for severe weather. It features a patented snow groove design that has a sawtooth center rib. This gives the tire increased stability and more even tread wear. The siping on this tire uses D-Squared technology for more gripping edges and deeper channels.
What’s really nice about this winter tire is that it can handle extreme winter weather with ease. It also comes in an extensive size range, making it one of the most versatile tires on this list. The stud pins are also strategically placed for the most traction when driving on ice.
Unfortunately, the tread does wear quickly on this tire when you drive on dry roads. It also loses traction quickly when the tread starts wearing out because the siping isn’t deep enough. This tire lacks durability and also makes a lot of noise when driving on dry roads.
This winter tire is designed for driving in snow and ice. The directional tread pattern helps the tire hold the road laterally. It has stud holes for stud installation. The siping across the entire tire is sawtooth-shaped to give you the greatest amount of edges and the most grip in snowy weather. This tire is a size 235/65-17, but it comes in several other sizes to help you find the right fit for your vehicle.
The stud distribution on this tire is really nice and evenly spread throughout the width of the tire. The stud holes are also gear-shaped to give you even more traction and grip. This tire also has walnut shell micro bits. These bits dig into the ice surfaces and give you an environmentally superior grip.
Unfortunately, this tire can be quite loud when driving on dry roads or on the highway. This tire is also not meant for more aggressive driving and hard cornering.
This Courser MSR tire is meant for use in ice, snow, and sleet. Included in the tire is D-Squared Sipe Technology. It helps the tire maintain traction on wet roads. The sipes are across the tire and extra deep to give you increased performance. This tire is specifically rated M+S, which stands for mud and snow. This tire is a size 245/75R16, but it also comes in several other sizes.
What makes this tire stand out is that it’s pinned for studs. This gives you even more traction and versatility. Remove the studs when prohibited by state law, then add them when allowed. The stud pin hole design is also improved to give your studs greater stability and retain them better.
The one downside of this tire is the tread life. The tread tends to wear quickly. Their performance tends to wane on warm, dry roads. This makes them a bad choice if you’re looking for a year-round tire.
Drive with confidence during winter with this cold weather tire. It has 3D siping on the outside of the tire to give you solid handling and reduce braking distance. This is combined with a functional rubber compound that’s designed to stay flexible in colder temperatures. This tire is a size 225/45R17, but it comes in several sizes, so you should be able to find a set that fits your vehicle.
A standout feature of this tire is the directional tread pattern down the center of the tire. It has a unique double arrow design and high sipe density. This gives you better water and snow channeling and more edges to grip. There are also two large circumferential grooves that are wider than the grooves on other tires.
One downside of this tire is that they don’t run well in deep snow. They also create a lot of road noise when driving on the highway.
This Nordic tire will give you a strong grip on the road when it’s wet and snowy. The rubber compound of this tire uses grapeseed oil to help it be more environmentally friendly and excel in snow and ice. The diamond pattern of the tire increases the drainage to reduce aquaplaning and slush planing. The ContiSeal technology in this tire will help the tire to immediately self-seal and reduce the need for roadside assistance. It also has the SSR system that helps the tire to continue to run when it’s flat to prevent damage to your rims. This tire is sized 185/60R15, but it comes in several sizes for broad compatibility.
The increased grip of this tire will reduce your stopping distance. There are a high number of edges thanks to the differing thicknesses of the 3D Trapez Sipes. ContiSilent technology reduces road noise to make driving a quieter and more pleasant experience.
One downside to this tire is that the tread will wear quickly when driving on dry roads. The handling is also reduced on dry roads. The sidewalls feel really soft, which can reduce handling at higher speeds.
- 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.