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Best Winter Tires for SUVs: Stay in Control on Icy Roads

Get the best winter tires and stay safe on the road during snowy conditions

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BY/ LAST UPDATED ON February 23, 2022

Should you use winter tires on your SUV? A lot of people in your area use all-season tires without a hitch. Bully for them. You might have to travel the unkept roads they have the fortune of avoiding when the snow comes. They might also live just a mile or less from work, the grocery store, or anywhere else they need to be during the season. That isn’t to say that it doesn't help to ask locally when you decide on which tire to use. It just means that the exact situation you're facing is the ultimate deciding factor. Which is right for you? Well, that can be hard to say. The Drive is here to make some recommendations and share some insight on how to pick the right set.

Best Overall

Bridgestone Blizzak DMV2

Summary
The go-to for many northern-dwelling SUV owners. The Blizzak's name is synonymous with winter performance because of its ability to handle all conditions well. 


Pros
  • Excels on snowy roads 
  • Built to handle moisture and black ice 
  • Decent dry-road performance 
Cons
  • Relatively high road noise 
  • Poor dry-road handling
Best Value

Firestone Winterforce 2 UV

Summary
An affordable, studdable tire that's ready to tackle winter. Despite the low price, it has what it takes to swing with premier options on wintry mixes. 


Pros
  • Affordable price point 
  • Excellent performance in wintry conditions 
  • Pre-molded to accept studs 
Cons
  • Relatively short performance life 
  • Poor performance on dry roads
Honorable Mention

Continental VikingContact 7

Summary
Many feel this tire is a performance upgrade with improvements across the board. While it's built with snow in mind, it's a joy to drive on in most other situations. 


Pros
  • Excellent comfort on dry roads
  • Excels in snow and slush 
  • Longer than average tread life
Cons
  • High price point 
  • Relatively poor performance on ice
Best Winter Tires for SUVs: Stay in Control on Icy Roads

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Reviews and Buying Guide:

Specs:

Manufacturer: Bridgestone 

Model: Blizzak DMV2 

Tire Type: Studless Winter Tire


Pros:

  • Excels on snowy roads 
  • Built to handle moisture and black ice 
  • Decent dry-road performance 

Cons:

  • Relatively high road noise 
  • Poor dry-road handling

Including the Bridgestone Blizzak on this list probably isn't much of a surprise to many. As one of the more aggressive studless winter tires, this is something of a go-to for people who routinely face snow-covered roads in some of the harsher winter regions. It utilizes an adaptive NanoPro Tech Multicell compound to combat freezing temperatures, black ice, and moisture. On top of that, the tread features a directional zig-zag pattern to promote superior grip in snow and slush. It’s also worth noting that while the Blizzak excels in harsher conditions, dry-road performance is compromised as little as possible. 


As with all things, there are drawbacks. The most obvious is the price, which is considerably higher than some of the other options out there. Also, some reviewers point out that road noise is high on dry pavement, but these issues are justifiable compromises in the name of safe winter driving. 

Specs:

Manufacturer: Firestone 

Model: Winterforce 2 UV

Tire Type: Studabble Winter Tire 

Pros:

  • Affordable price point 
  • Excellent performance in wintry conditions 
  • Pre-molded to accept studs 

Cons:

  • Relatively short performance life 
  • Poor performance on dry roads

Don't let the title of Best Value fool you into thinking that the Firestone Winterforce is a cheap winter tire. Despite the lower price, this tire seems to handle northern winters on either seaboard. Thanks to the well-thought-out directional tread pattern, high sipe count, and winter compound, it's able to contend with many of the pricier options on snowy roads. And if things take a turn for the worst, they are pre-molded to accept studs. 


While there are plenty of great features, the sipes don't run nearly as deep as they do on other tires, leading drivers to believe performance suddenly drops around the halfway point in tread life. The ability to handle tougher conditions can also compromise dry-road performance. 

Specs:

Manufacturer: Continental 

Model: VikingContact7

Tire Type: Studless Winter Tire

Pros:

  • Excellent comfort on dry roads
  • Excels in snow and slush 
  • Longer than average tread life

Cons:

  • High price point 
  • Relatively poor performance on ice

The VikingContact from Continental is another heavy hitter for the country's north. These handle snow and slush like champs but also perform well on dry pavement. Some drivers feel these are an upgrade since performance and comfort are improved across the board and tread life is longer than average. The VikingContact uses a specialized Nordic compound to get the job done. Its exotic tread pattern helps these tires to excel in most winter driving scenarios. 


Unfortunately, the cost of the Continentals is going to shock many SUV owners. According to many reviewers, despite the higher price, these are also easily outmatched by more affordable options on ice. 

Specs:

Manufacturer: Michelin

Model: CrossClimate2 

Tire Type: All-Season

Pros:

  • Respectable year-round performance
  • Load road noise
  • Long tread life

Cons:

  • Not ideal for harsh winter conditions
  • Premium price point 

The CrossClimate2 is almost a cheat code for car and SUV owners. It might be the best all-around tire for these platforms on the market. It's designed to offer supreme year-round performance and excellent tread-wear characteristics regardless of the conditions. It is a true all-season tire that bears the infamous Three Peak Mountain Snowflake (3PMSF) certification common to winter tires. Thanks to Michelin's specialized combination of a carefully engineered tread pattern, compound, and noise-canceling technology, there aren't many drawbacks for those who experience all four seasons. 


While it is better than most all-seasons in the winter, it still won't contend with a true winter tire in the northernmost parts of the country. Also, the well-rounded performance characteristics make this the most expensive tire on our list, ranking it among the likes of high-performance and off-road tires.

Specs:

Manufacturer: Vredestein

Model: Quatrac PRO 

Tire Type: Grand Touring All-Weather 

Pros:

  • Decent year-round performance 
  • Economical pricing 
  • Long tread life 

Cons:

  • Not ideal for adverse winter conditions 
  • High road noise at low speeds

The Quatrac Pro is another solid option for those who'd rather run a single set of tires all year. It's a grand-touring all-weather tire that offers decent summer performance and comfort driving but is still equipped to handle heavy layers of snow. Despite positive reviews claiming it to rank among some of the more familiar names in the tire world, the Quatrac Pro sits at an affordable price point. That said, they also seem to have decent tread life.


You can't expect these to contend with a true winter tire in the worst conditions. Also, these are reported to produce plenty of road noise at low speeds, which is a fair compromise for everything they bring to the table. 

Specs:

Manufacturer: BFGoodrich

Model: T/A KO2

Tire Type: All-Terrain Tire 

Pros:

  • Solid performance on all surfaces 
  • Can be run all year long
  • Good performance in winter conditions 

Cons:

  • Relatively poor comfort 
  • High price point

The T/A KO2 gets the honor of best all-terrain tire on this list. Despite what the race-derived tread and rigid construction may lead you to believe, these are relatively mild-mannered tires as far as all-terrains go — at least when it comes to the street. As for off-road performance, this truly is a go-anywhere tire that's perfect for blasting around trails without having to tow the rig there. They also carry the 3PMSF insignia that boasts exceptional performance in winter conditions. 


It's still an all-terrain tire at the end of the day, so there are some drawbacks. On-road driving is accompanied by road noise, and these aren't as comfortable as a regular street tire. Also, this is one of the most expensive options on the list. 

Specs:

Manufacturer: General Tire

Model: Altimax Arctic 12 

Tire Type: Studdable Winter Tire 

Pros:

  • Comfortable in wintry mix
  • Studdable 
  • Doesn’t need studs to perform well in snow 

Cons:

  • Poor wet/dry pavement performance
  • Road noise can be an issue

The AltimaxArctic12 is not the first studdable winter tire on this list, but it's one that's hard to ignore for particularly harsh areas. It offers decent performance in the snow, even before you give it teeth. General's recipe for this tire includes a specially designed winter compound paired with a directional tread pattern. This combination makes for a winter tire that can bite into layers of snow for traction while remaining controllable and comfortable in wintry conditions.


These tires are notoriously poor performers outside of that territory, though. Wet or dry pavement can be serious issues, meaning you can expect to change driving styles frequently in some areas. Also, it seems as though road noise is something of an issue at highway speeds. 

Specs:

Manufacturer: Nokian Tire 

Model: Hakkapeliitta LT3

Tire Type: Studded Winter Tire

Pros:

  • Excellent performance in snow and ice 
  • Decently comfortable in characteristics in harsh conditions 
  • Low rolling resistance

Cons:

  • Poor performance on pavement 
  • High price point

The Hakkapeliitta comes with a gnarly set of chompers. These studded tires are the perfect match for the SUV owners dealing with heavy winter conditions. The metal teeth aren't all that's at work, though. The winter compound and directional tread make sure you can maneuver safely down those treacherous roads. It's also made with an eco-friendly compound that works to reduce rolling resistance, meaning you can worry less about excessive fuel consumption as you go. 


As a studded tire, you can't expect it to handle pavement as well as the alternative. These also have a price tag that's significantly higher than many studless tire options. 

Types of Winter Tires:

Studless

A studless winter tire can look a whole lot like an all-season or all-whether tire to the untrained eye. There are some major differences, though. You'll notice that most winter tires have deeper tread blocks and more sipes. Many feature a directional pattern, which all comes together for a slightly more aggressive-looking tire. 

While the tread features are important to winter performance, they're not all there is to consider. The compounds and chemical formulas used are also essential to winter performance. Winter tires are much softer than other tire types to help them remain pliable and maintain traction when temperatures drop below roughly 40 degrees Fahrenheit. So, even if you live in an area with relatively well-kept roads, studless winter tires are a wise choice. 

Studded/Studdable

A stud is a simple cylindrical metal component that's installed to the tire's tread to add a little more bite in wintry conditions. Where even the best winter tires may fail to get a grip in ice and snow, the studs dig a little deeper to provide the necessary traction. 

Most of us won't need studs. These are generally intended for more extreme ice and snow conditions. Studdable tires are a great option for those who live in something of a grey area since studs can be added if conditions are generally mild but can become treacherous. 

All-Season/All-Weather

The nice thing about all-season tires — and the heavier-duty all-weather tires — is that you won't need to worry about swapping tires as seasons change. This is very handy for areas where winters remain relatively mild and the streets traveled are well kept. Unfortunately, they still won't perform as well in wintry mixes as a respectable winter tire will, even with the 3PMSF rating stamped on the side.

Key Features:

Three Peak Mountain Snowflake Rating

A lot of all-season tires have an M+S rating stamped on the side, and this tells us that the tire will perform in mud and snow. All it really means is that the tire performs adequately on packed mud and snow, not that it excels in wintry conditions. If that's enough for you in your given circumstances, more power to you, all-season tires with this marking may be what you need.

If you need a true winter performer, look for a 3PMSF rating. This symbol appears on the tire's sidewall in the form of an outline of three mountain peaks with a snowflake in the middle. This is only given to tires that pass testing to ensure it's able to handle severe winter conditions. It isn't limited solely to true winter tires and can be given to all-weather and other tire types that do well in the particular winter testing the Rubber Manufacturing Association subjects them to. 

Intended Performance 

It's not always better to have it and not need it. For example, you can spend your money on a good set of studded tires because they offer the best performance in snow and ice, but performance will suffer if you drive primarily on roads with just a bit of slush. The same is true for a snow tire that performs well on dry pavement when you drive mostly on snow-covered back roads. 

The point is that you need to think about what conditions you typically face and pick a tire accordingly. Getting advice from others is always good. Don't get too caught up much in what others are running unless they face similar situations as you. 

Quality Manufacturing 

It is essential to make sure you buy your winter tires from a reputable manufacturer. If you don't, you might wind up with a winter tire that's outperformed by a decent all-season tire in its supposed territory. 

Thankfully, it's easy to find which tire brands you can trust. That isn't to say you shouldn't trust a tire brand just because you've never heard of it. A little bit of research into a brand will go a long way.

Benefits of Winter Tires:

Safer Driving 

The number-one reason to use winter tires is to keep your vehicle safe. What they really bring to the table are improvements in cornering, accelerating, and stopping, which are typically problem areas for other tire types in wintry conditions. 

Obviously, these improvements can keep you out of the ditches on the outskirts of town, and other drivers are depending on your vehicle functioning properly in traffic. That's why some areas of Canada require the use of winter tires. These laws aren't common in the U.S., but there are safety issues with using the wrong tires on slick winter roads. 

Maintained Performance and Efficiency 

Summer tires slip in the winter. Having the tires break traction frequently means you're letting power go to waste, which translates to performance issues and reduced fuel economy. 

Depending your driving and how bad the roads are, the gains and losses in this area vary. You will notice a difference with the right tires equipped.  

Less Wear on Primary Tires 

By not subjecting your regular tires to winter conditions, you're not beating them up by sliding all over the place. That means you'll get more out of them. However, winter tires aren't free, and you can expect them to eat up some of those savings. Owning a set and using them regularly can ultimately mean not having to buy replacement tires as frequently. 

Tips:

Ask Your Neighbor. Who’s more likely to face the same conditions than someone who lives in your neighborhood? Ask folks who live nearby what they run for some insight on what you should consider. 

Tire chains are still good to keep around. Sometimes you'll get hammered with snow with no warning. Keeping a set of tire chains in the trunk is a great way to make sure you can still safely get where you need to be. 

Put your winter tires on cheap wheels. Winters are hard on those beautiful wheels, and the cost of mounting/dismounting winter tires will add up. Investing in a cheap set of wheels for the winter is a great way to save yourself from headaches. 

Store them properly. Make sure to store your winter and regular tires in a dry, climate-controlled room when they aren't in use. It's best to stand dismounted tires on their tread, while mounted tires can be stacked in storage.

Quality is a factor. Just because a tire is designed for the winter doesn't mean it's any good. A high-quality all-season tire can outperform a cheap winter model. Spend a little extra money to make sure you're getting a solid, reliable set of winter tires under your SUV. 

FAQ:

Q. Does an SUV really need winter tires?

A. Yes, SUVs still need winter tires. Even if they have weight in their favor and different driving modes for the conditions, the tires are still on the front line. Having a set that is designed specifically to function in the snow will make a difference. 

Q. Are winter tires worth it with all-wheel drive?

A. If you're in an area where snow and ice cover the roads you drive, then yes. Winter tires are always worth it in these conditions. Even if the roads are relatively clean, a winter tire's ability to remain pliable and supply traction in the cold months can ultimately be the best match.  

Q. Can you drive on winter tires all year long? 

A.  Only if you live in an area where conditions are wintry all year long. Winter tires are soft, and they'll wear rapidly when spring and summer conditions roll around. There's also the matter of poor tire performance, which will result in poor fuel economy, acceleration, and so on.

Q. Are all-season tires as good as winter tires? 

A. That depends, but not in snow. It all comes down to the situations you're dealing with. If the roads you drive on are well-kept and winter conditions are relatively mild, an all-season tire can be just as good or better than a winter tire. However, a winter tire will always be better on poorly kept roads in harsh conditions. 

Q. When should you change winter tires? 

A. It's best to remove winter tires when temperatures are steadily above 45 degrees Fahrenheit. That doesn't mean you should panic over that warm January day. Just change the tires when spring has returned to your area. 

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