When the snow starts falling, it’s time to replace those all-season tires with something a bit more specific. This is more important if you live in an area where the streets aren’t typically plowed and there is always a layer of snow and ice caked on the pavement. We will prepare you for the icy, snowy winter with our list of top tires for snow.
Many people wonder “Do I really need snow tires?” The answer is two-fold. If you live someplace like Colorado or Utah where it frequently snows and the roads ice over, the answer is yes. In these climates, you should invest in some quality snow tires. However, if you live someplace like Texas or Georgia where it may or may not snow once a year, you may be able to get away without snow tires. In those areas, rain tires are more important.
Learn more about snow tires, then we have our Top 5 Snow Tire picks listed below!
Snow Tires Vs. Winter Tires: What’s the Difference?
In short, nothing but semantics. You may hear some tire companies use the term “winter tires,” and others use the term “snow tires.” They’re the same thing. Some people prefer “winter tires,” as they feel “snow tires” give the impression that these tires are only required in snowy weather. The truth, however, is that the tires are good for snow, ice and overall freezing conditions.
Why Do I Need Snow Tires?
You need snow tires because they offer better traction than all-season tires, help keep your car on the road, and prevent it from sliding during inclement weather. John Rastetter, a senior executive at prominent tire retailer Tire Rack, says that drivers should start thinking about new snow tires in September. “The most important thing you can do to get your car ready for a future snowstorm or just icy roads is to make sure it is riding on the right tires for the season,” says Rastetter.
Rastetter goes on to say that brand new all-season tires are about the same as half-worn snow tires. And half-worn snow tires aren’t the most suitable for icy, snowy roads.
How Do Snow Tires Differentiate From Other Tires?
Snow tires differentiate themselves from all-season and rain tires thanks to their tread. Some tread, like in the photo above, contains studs. These winter tires are therefore referred to as “studded winter tires.” Studded tires literally have metal studs embedded in their tread. The studs are designed to dig into ice and provide additional traction.
Snow tires that do not contain studs — as you can see in the image above — are called studless snow/winter tires and have deeper, specialized tread than rain tires or all-season tires. In addition to this deep tread, the rubber is made of a softer material than other tires which allows it to be more flexible during freezing conditions.
Bridgestone tire uses a tennis shoe analogy when it describes snow tires and all-season tires. They say that while you could wear tennis shoes either on the beach or in the snow, but flip-flops for the beach and boots in the snow would be even better. Bridgestone says, “winter tires are like snow boots for your car.”
So now that we’ve told you why you need snow tires and how they differentiate from all-season tires, let’s look at a few of the best tires for snow.
5.) Michelin X-Ice Xi3
People in areas where snow is occasional or light will find a great deal with the X-Ice Xi3s. You won’t want these tires if you are hitting a hard long winter in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, but those in maybe Northern Virginia/DC with light snows and heavy ice will love these long-lasting tires. For the cost, you really can’t complain. You may hear many naysayers against these tires, but not everyone can afford Hakkas or Pilots. Throw these X-Ice Xi3s winter tires on your car for those cold months. You’ll feel a little bit more in control than having those stockall-terrain tires on your vehicle.
- Long-Lasting: The tread won’t wear down after one season.
- Efficient: These tires help your care be as efficient as possible when it comes to fuel consumption.
- Kilometers/miles warranty: 60,000 kilometers/37,200 miles.
- Standard limited warranty: These tires are guaranteed to last for a least 6 years.
- Not for mild winters: These tires are designed for severe snow and ice conditions. If you live somewhere with only mild snow and ice, these are not the best winter tires for you.
- Longevity: These tires not last as long as all-season tires. However, that is true for all snow tires, not just these X-Ice Xi3s.
4.) Pirelli Cinturato Winter
- Traction: Provide excellent snow traction
- Studless: These tires not cause excess wear and tear on dry roads
- Smooth Ride: Unlike some studded snow tires, these tires provide a smooth, quiet ride.
- Ice traction: Do not perform as well on ice as other winter tires on the market
3.) Nokian Hakkapeliitta 8
Nokian makes some of the best snow tires out there and its Nokian Hakkapeliitta 8 tires are a prime example. These tires are studded, and there is no better tire for grip on ice and snow or for cutting through slush. The design of the tread uses a zig-zag pattern which will also cut through wet and soggy roads quite well. The rubber compound of the Hakkas is supposed to be highly revolutionary to perform better grip at lower temps. This tire is an incredible performer even in the worst conditions. The problem? You’ll be paying top dollar for these tires when most people will only need something a bit less intense. Of course, for northern Wisconsin winters or snowy mountain driving, you might feel safer with a set of Hakkas on your car.
- Top-notch quality: Nokian makes some of the best winter tires on the market.
- Dry road quality: These tires perform well on dry roads, not just snow and ice covered roads.
- Slushplaning technology: The tread helps displace rain and slush to prevent you from hydroplaning.
- Price: We never told you quality comes cheap. While Nokian does make some of the best winter tires around, they do come at a cost and are much more expensive than competitors.
- Studs can destroy roads: These tires are studded, and studs can wreak havoc on dry roads. Studs are also illegal in some states in non-winter months, so make sure you’re up to date on your town’s codes before investing in these tires.
2.) General Altimax Arctic 12
There are plenty of good things about General Altimax Arctic 12 studded tires. First off, they are fairly reasonably priced. In fact, they might be one of the highest quality and lowest priced snow tires you can buy. While amazing on ice and snow, the Altimax also do fairly well on wet, slushy and rainy roads. However, like most snow-specific tires, the AltimaxArtics do not hold up the same high performance on dry pavement. Because the tires are studded, they may cause damage to dry pavement (including your driveway).
- Good handling: These tires handle well on both dry and wet roads.
- Strong traction: These tires provide excellent traction, both on ice and snow
- Price: The tires are reasonably priced. They won’t be the cheapest, but they’re not the most expensive, either.
- Studded: Studs can cause damage to dry pavement.
- Noise: Studs are noisy! Driving will be loader with studded tires than with non-studded winter tires.
1.) Bridgestone Blizzak WS-80
With four main grooves to channel snow, Bridgestone’s Blizzak WS-80 tires perform exceptionally well on slush and ice. These tires excel when conditions are snowy, but if you happen to cross some cleared pavement, the Blizzaks will underperform. For drivers who begin to see ice and snow on the road in November and see no end of it until March or April, the Blizzaks are a necessity. The grip on these babies will astound you when you make the switch. However, be warned that the Blizzaks tend to wear down fairly fast. This is especially true when you hit more pavement that is dry than snow-covered roads. Still, the Blizzak’s have a great price on them for what you get.
- Price: More affordable than competing snow tires.
- Longevity: These tires tend to wear down faster than competitors, especially when driven on dry pavement.
Whether you’re driving on deep snow, packed ice, crazy slush or just cold, wet pavement, there are a variety of options depending on what you’re willing to pay. You don’t always need the most expensive snow tire to get what you need to match your driving conditions.
Do you have a favorite type of snow tire? Tell us what kind you prefer and why.