Best Winter Tires for SUVs: Stay In Control on Icy Roads
Get the best winter tires for SUVs and stay safe on the road during snowy conditions
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PUBLISHED ON November 4, 2019
Driving on icy terrain is one of the hardest tasks, even for seasoned drivers. When winter comes, roads can get very slippery, and your chances of having an accident increase. Poor visibility, slippery roads, and bad tires are a bad combination. This buying guide includes the best winter tires for SUVs to help you make an informed purchasing decision.
- Best OverallTreadWright CLAW M/T TireSummarySummary
This tire is designed for snow conditions and has a rugged tread pattern that helps increase grip. Its most unique quality is the remolded and reinforced sidewalls that make it extra strong and resistant to punctures.ProsPros
The tire offers up to 25 percent more tread life than conventional tires. The manufacturer uses an eco-friendly manufacturing process and less harmful materials to create a tire that performs extremely well in snow. The tire is backed by a two-year workmanship warranty.ConsCons
The tire has a tendency to produce an irritating noise on normal roads. The company has an unclear warranty policy, so you may have difficulty returning unwanted tires.
- Best ValueFirestone Winterforce 2 UV Winter Radial Winter TireSummarySummary
If you want a tire that’s specifically made for winter and SUVs, it’s the Firestone Winterforce 2 UV tire. It delivers great performance on icy roads and has a computer-modeled tread pattern that provides superior traction.ProsPros
The tire features deep grooves, directional notches, and open shoulder slots—which are all effective against hydroplaning. It is modeled to accept optional metallic winter studs for added traction. Its inner steel belts have a polyester casing for enhanced durability.ConsCons
It is a poor performer in warm weather and on dry roads as it tends to experience quicker wear. Its sidewalls are not very durable and can’t withstand long-term use.
- Honorable MentionBridgestone Blizzak LT Studless-Winter Radial TireSummarySummary
The studless build of this tire makes it a great choice for SUVs as it is highly flexible and offers great performance during seasonal transitions. It adheres to the industry's severe snow service requirements and excellently tackles the elements.ProsPros
Instead of studs, it features a company-specific multicell compound that uses small pores to deliver a powerful grip on the road. The high sipe density provides great traction in wet conditions. Tie bars in the outboard shoulders help prevent irregular wear.ConsCons
It may be out of reach for some people because of its prohibitive price. The company also has an unclear warranty policy, and returning faulty tires may be difficult.
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Benefits of Winter Tires for SUVs
- Improved traction. Driving in winter weather can be hard, especially if your tires don’t have sufficient grip. Winter tires can help your car maintain stability and grip so that you’re less likely to slide or spin out while you’re on the road.
- Improved safety. By extension, if your tires offer better traction, assuming that you drive carefully, your road safety will also improve. This means your car will be able to react in time in case you need to brake suddenly or quickly change lanes.
- Improved maneuverability. Even if your car features all wheel drive (AWD), that isn’t a guarantee that you’ll automatically drive better in poor weather conditions. Regular all-season tires can slide in slippery conditions, making AWD an irrelevant feature. Adding winter tires to your SUV can help provide the grip your car needs so that it can be responsive when AWD is activated.
- All-season tire preservation. Nothing wears tires out faster than being exposed to rough conditions. Swapping out your all-season tires for winter versions can help your “regular” tires last longer.
Types of Winter Tires for SUVs
Like the name suggests, snow tires are designed to optimize your tire’s performance in snowy and slushy conditions. These types of tires focus on improved tread, siping, and rubber composition to create a safer driving experience that channels water away from your tire’s pads to prevent your car from sliding in slippery road conditions.
These tires feature metal studs in the outer perimeter. They are best suited for drivers in extreme conditions where they will frequently encounter ice through a prolonged winter. While they definitely enhance a tire’s grip, they’re not ideal for the average winter driving experience. When deep snow or ice aren’t present, they can destroy asphalt. Some regions even ban studded tires because of this, which could leave you open to incurring fines.
TreadWright topped the list with our Best Overall selection, the TreadWright CLAW M/T Tire. But more importantly, it’s a brand that focuses on performance tires that are designed to give drivers better grip and control in difficult conditions. Specifically, it crafts premium tires for not just SUVs, but rugged vehicles like Jeeps and utility vehicles. In addition to winter tires, you can also choose from all-terrain tires designed for off-road conditions, like this Dirt Lord A/T Tire.
Firestone is a brand that needs no introduction and is typically at the top of people’s minds when they think about replacing their tires. In addition to being our Honorable Mention selection with the Firestone Winterforce 2 UV Winter Radial Winter Tire and offering a quality product catalog of tires that range from all-weather to snow-specific, this brand is also best known for building quality parts for all of your auto care and commercial vehicle needs, like the Firestone Industrial Products 2582 Ride-Rite Air Spring Kit.
Bridgestone is another brand that is synonymous with quality tires for not just SUVs, but sedans and pickup trucks as well. It’s best known for pairing quality products with an affordable price, which is why its Bridgestone Blizzak WS80 Winter Radial Tire is our Best Value selection. Unlike the other brands on our list, Bridgestone also has the unique distinction of creating products for golfers, like the Bridgestone 2019 e6 Golf Balls, which are a fan favorite among serious players.
Winter Tires for SUVs Pricing
- $80-$300: Within this range, you should be able to find a quality winter tire that features enhanced grip and a rubber compound composition that’s optimized for cold weather and slippery conditions. Note that this is usually the price per tire, but you may find sets of four at the upper end of this range.
- $300 and up: If you’re looking for enhanced tires, such as studded winter tires, plan to shop with a higher budget in mind. Typically the price still reflects just one tire, but you can find four-set deals for traditional snow tires within this range.
Tread & Sipes
This is the most important feature you need to use to gauge whether a set of SUV winter tires is best suited for your SUV. The right tread design will feature specially designed sipes—or grooves and channels—that are built specifically to create a better grip and quickly wick water away to prevent your SUV from sliding.
While all tires are composed of rubber, winter tires also feature additional materials, like silica, that are optimized for use in frigid weather or slippery road conditions to help your tires maintain their shape and improve their grip. It’s obvious that slippery roads can be dangerous for driving, but freezing temperatures can impact your tire’s performance and even cause them to lose pressure.
The type of winter tires for your SUV that you select are going to depend on whether or not they’re designed to fit your vehicle. To select the right tire size, take note of the rim diameter, section width, and aspect ratio. The rim diameter references the distance between the inside edge of the tire to the inside portion of the rim and ranges between 12 to 22 inches. Your section width describes the width of the tire and ranges between 125 to 295 millimeters. The aspect ratio references a percentage of height to width and will impact your ability to corner or turn your SUV. You don’t need to guess at these figures because your SUV’s wheel well will have a sticker with this information clearly listed.
- Typical Winter Conditions: The type of winter tires you select for your SUV are going to be dependent upon the type of winter your region typically experiences. For example, it wouldn’t make sense to purchase studded tires when the worst weather you face will be a bit of slushy snow a few times a month.
- Mountain and Snowflake Designation: If you’re going to upgrade to winter tires, you shouldn’t buy just any tire. Look for those that contain the mountain and snowflake stamp. This means that the tire meets the snow traction requirements of the Rubber Manufacturers of America.
Best Winter Tires for SUVs Reviews & Recommendations 2019
Best Overall: TreadWright CLAW M/T Tire
Our Best Overall choice is the TreadWright CLAW M/T Tire. These muddy terrain tires might be rated for the mud but are ideal for slippery conditions you can expect to encounter during the winter. The remolded and reinforced sidewalls enhance the tire’s strength, and they’re also rated to withstand being punctured by debris.
You’ll love the enhanced traction due to the wide, self-cleaning lugs. And with a rating of 40,000 miles, you should be able to use these winter tires for multiple years before they need to be replaced. An added bonus is the two-year company warranty and the emphasis on sustainability that guarantees that 70 percent of every tire comes from recycled materials.
However, some drivers may have a hard time getting these tires to balance properly, even after taking them in for professional adjustments. And in other circumstances, frequent blowouts shortly after switching to these tires are possible. You can also expect to hear a lot of noise from the tires.
Best Value: Bridgestone Blizzak WS80 Winter Radial Tire
Even if you know that you need winter tires, that doesn’t mean that you’re ready to make a huge investment. Bridgestone’s highly-rated Blizzak WS80 Winter Radial Tire is our Best Value choice because it marries quality with a budget-friendly price that’s realistic for anyone to afford. These tires feature a hydrophilic coating so that you cut through slush and slippery roads without compromising on stability or performance.
They’re designed from an Advanced Multicellular Compound with Nano Pro-Tech to ensure that their responsiveness won’t be impacted by the cold. The enhanced tread helps to improve grip on the ice or through snow and slush. You’ll feel more confident when you’re on the road and will be able to brake quicker and see your SUV’s responsiveness improve.
As is to be expected with winter tires, expect to hear more road noise due to the heavy-duty nature of these tires.
Honorable Mention: Firestone Winterforce 2 UV Winter Radial Tire
Firestone rounds out our list of top winter tires for SUVs with its Winterforce 2 UV Winter Radial Tire. A specialized rubber compound construction ensures that your tires won’t be impacted by freezing temperatures, and a full depth tread helps to give you an enhanced grip in slippery conditions.
You’ll feel confident with these tires thanks to their mountain and snowflake stamp, letting you know that they’ve passed the rigorous guidelines as set forth by the Rubber Manufacturers of America. And their superior construction means that you’ll be able to use these tires for several seasons before they need to be replaced.
A common issue—as with most winter tires—is that you’ll experience increased road noise when you’re driving during normal road conditions.
- Many winter tires for SUVs have metal studs; however, not all states allow metal studs on tires. Before getting winter tires, check whether they are allowed in your state.
- To save money, get studless all-season tires for use during all months of the year. As winter approaches, you can install studs for extra traction on wet and icy roads.
- If you can't afford to get winter tires for your SUV, use off-road tires, as they have deep tread blocks. However, off-road tires don’t offer the same grip or flexibility.
Q: What is the difference between studded and studless tires?
A: Studs improve the traction and handling of a car during the winter. However, some new-generation winter tires feature studless technology and can be used in normal driving conditions as well.
Q: When do I install winter tires on my SUV?
A: Temperatures below 45 degrees Fahrenheit tend to affect the performance of all-season tires. The right time to switch to winter tires is when temperatures start to dip below 45 degrees.
Q: How often should I check my winter tires?
A: It’s best to inflate, align, and rotate your tires every six months (or every 6,000-8,000 miles) to minimize the chance of an accident. During winter, check your tires every month.
For its innovative design and high functionality, we recommend the TreadWright CLAW M/T Tire.
The Firestone Winterforce 2 UV Winter Radial Winter Tire performs well too if you’re looking for a budget-friendly alternative.