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

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. Let's go!

Summary List

Bridgestone BLIZZAK DM-V2




Vredestein QUATRAC PRO


General Tire ALTIMAX ARCTIC 12

Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9

Our Methodology

We can’t put our own hands on every item available. In these instances, we put our collective experience in journalism, research, and prior product testing to use to make our product picks. Items that are used by our own staff may get earnest endorsements as well, but we’ll never accept fees or bonuses to sell you stuff we’re not actually excited about. Affiliate revenue is always disclosed.

The Drive aggregates reviews and research from all over the internet to figure out which products are worth buying. We also put out shopping guides to help you understand how to assess the value of these things on your own.

Best Winter Tires for SUV Review and Buying Guide

Types of Winter Tires


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. 


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. 


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 on 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. 


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. 


You've got questions. The Drive has answers.

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