If you're considering buying winter tires, ask yourself one question: Will temperatures drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit this winter? If the answer is yes, then fitting winter tires will improve your vehicle's traction on both wet and dry roads. And, if you're going to encounter any snow or ice this winter, then the answer is a resounding yes, they're a necessity. If temperatures in your area stay above 40 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, then save yourself some money and get a good pair of all-season tires.
I've created a buying guide to help you know what to look out for when choosing a set of winter tires. Below, you'll a list of the best winter tires on the market, which are all Three Peak Mountain Snowflake (3PMSF) certified.
Tested Snow Tires
To choose the best winter tires on the market, I employed The Drive’s comprehensive research methodology and evaluated dozens of tires before choosing the top contenders. Although I haven’t personally tested these products, my selection is informed by consumer testimonials, expert reviews, discussions on relevant online forums, and my institutional knowledge of the automotive industry.
I visited Tyre Reviews to see how each set of tires performed against competitors in a variety of conditions and situations. I also visited the Car Talk subreddit to get a more informed opinion of what automotive enthusiasts felt about the products on the market.
Some brands are already well-established in this niche, and priority was given to their products. However, other lesser-known brands were also evaluated. The main features taken into consideration were materials used, tread patterns, performance over snow, performance over ice, performance over wet and dry pavement, lifespan, available sizes, and warranty. Tires were immediately disqualified from consideration if they provided inconsistent levels of grip or weren't 3PMSF certified.
Best Snow and Winter Tires Reviews & Recommendations 2022
Our Verdict on Winter Tires
We've chosen the Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 as our best overall winter tire. This model performs exceptionally well over both ice and snow, and it even holds its own on wet and dry pavement. If you're on a tight budget, then check out our value pick, the Cooper Evolution Winter.
What to Consider When Buying Winter Tires
In the automotive world, tire selection is one of the most important and trickiest areas. There are tons of manufacturers producing a near-infinite selection of models for practically all driving conditions. So here's a buying guide to help you understand what features and brands to look out for, and more importantly, what type of winter tire is right for you.
Types of Winter Tires
All-weather tires offer the lowest level of grip over snow and ice but are still 3PMSF certified. These tires deal with snow and ice better than regular tires, but they're best suited to wet and dry roads when the temperature drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. So, if you're facing cold temperatures and wet weather but are unlikely to drive over snow or ice, these tires will provide the best traction for you.
Nordic Winter Tires
Nordic winter tires are the best option for anyone who regularly drives over snow, slush, and ice. These tires are made from malleable compounds that stay soft in cold conditions and provide more traction when compared to a regular tire's compound. If you're driving over snow, you'll have more traction when accelerating, braking, and turning thanks to their deep, aggressive tread design. Nordic winter tires will produce more rolling resistance and noise when compared to all-weather tires and generally perform worse on dry and wet roads.
Studded tires are for the most extreme winter conditions and get their name from the metal studs that protrude from their surface. These tires perform better than other winter tires over ice since the studs dig into the surface. Think carefully before getting a set of studded tires as they make a lot of road noise and are banned in the majority of the states in the U.S. due to the damage the studs cause to the road's surface.
One of the most important things to consider before buying a winter tire is that its compound is designed to work with extremely low temperatures. Once temperatures drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, regular tires become hard and provide less traction. Winter tires are made of different compounds, which ensure they stay soft and grip the groves of the surface below them.
The tread on winter tires is arguably as important as the compound used. As the tire rides over snow and ice, it forms a layer of water that's then kicked out by the treads. Thick, deep grooves are the norm on winter tires as they provide better traction and allow snow to build up in the voids. The buildup of snow between the groves of winter tires is crucial, as snow-on-snow traction is greater than rubber-on-snow traction. The downside to having deep groves with wide gaps between them is that it increases road noise and decreases fuel economy, so it's a tradeoff that you'll need to consider.
Sipes are slits within the tread pattern that provide a biting edge to surface irregularities and are a must on winter tires. If you usually travel on windy and relatively low-speed roads when it snows, you should consider getting a tire with no center groove. Tires with a lateral-tread pattern throughout provide better lateral traction. But, if you often drive at relatively high speeds on straightaways, such as highways, then a tire with a central groove is essential for stability.
Studded tires have metal studs that protrude through the tire to provide more traction and are worth considering if you know you'll encounter the most extreme winter weather conditions. However, these tires perform poorly on wet or dry pavement, are particularly noisy, and increase fuel consumption. Moreover, they're illegal in most states as the studs damage the surface of the road, so you'll need to check the laws in your state before buying.
A better option for many people will be to buy a Nordic-style winter tire that uses a compound specifically designed for ice.
Most winter tires don't come with a mileage warranty, so you'll need to sift through user reviews to find out how long a model generally lasts. Some premium models come with a six-year/40,000-mile warranty, so if you're willing to pay top dollar, you can get a guarantee.
Unless you see a three-peaked mountain with a snowflake on the side of a tire, it's not a suitable winter tire. This image is found on tires that meet the 3PMSF performance criteria. This certification used to be reserved for winter tires, but some all-season tires now meet the performance criteria.
Michelin is a French tire manufacturer and a travel-assistance service provider. The company was founded in 1889 and has grown to become one of the most premium tire manufacturers in the world. Michelin owns some subsidiaries including Uniroyal, BFGoodrich, Tigar, Riken, Uniroyal, Kleber, and Kormoran. It's one of the few brands to offer a lifespan warranty on certain winter tires.
Bridgestone is a renowned auto and truck parts manufacturer based in Japan. The brand also has other facilities in Europe, the U.S., the Middle East, and Africa. It operates as a multinational corporation and was started in 1931 by Shojiro Ishibashi. In terms of premium winter tires, this has been the recent brand to beat for the past few years, and it still is.
Continental is a German multinational automotive parts manufacturing company that was founded in 1871. The brand produces a wide variety of premium tires, including tires for motorcycles and bicycles. The company makes particularly good all-weather tires, which are a great option for anyone who lives in a milder climate.
Nokian Tyres has its headquarters in Nokia, Finland, and was founded in 1988. This company's Scandinavian heritage shines through, meaning you won't find a poor winter tire from this brand. This is undoubtedly the brand of choice for anyone who wants studded tires or tires that are good in very icy conditions.
Tips and Tricks
- Store your winter tires in a cool dry place when the cold season is over and clean them, as dirt and other debris may cause degradation of the rubber. Finally, wrap the tires with plastic-coated 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 that aren't placed on rims as they might lose their shape. Instead, store them upright against a wall.
- Once temperatures start to rise and stay consistently over 40 degrees Fahrenheit, take off your winter tires as their soft rubber compound will wear away quickly.
- When compared to the regular tires you use, it's a good idea to opt for a narrower winter tire. Choosing a narrower winter tire can improve traction, as it helps your vehicle cut through the snow instead of riding over it.
FAQs on Winter Tires
You've got questions. The Drive has answers.
Q: Do snow tires actually make a difference?
A: Yes, it can't be overstated how much more traction vehicles have when accelerating, braking, and turning over ice and snow when using winter tires.
Q: Do you need two or four winter tires?
A: It's recommended that you fit all four of your wheels with winter tires, and this goes for FWD, RWD, and AWD vehicles. If you fit just two winter tires, one end of your vehicle will react differently to the other, making it feel less stable.
Q: Can winter tires be used all year?
A: In theory, you could use winter tires year-round, but it's not recommended. Once temperatures rise, winter tires have less grip on wet and dry roads compared to regular tires. A winter tire's soft compound will also wear away quickly if used throughout the year, costing you in the long run.
Q: Are all-season tires the same as winter tires?
A: Winter tires are made with hydrophilic rubber, which provides more traction over snow and ice. Winter tires also have deeper grooves and sipes for added traction. 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.