LAST UPDATED: March 28, 2020

The Best Snow & Winter Tires (Review and Buying Guide) in 2021

Best Choice Michelin X-Ice X13 Winter Tires Michelin X-Ice X13 Winter Tires
Premium Pick Michelin LTX Winter Michelin LTX Winter
Best Value Pirelli Winter Cinturato Pirelli Winter Cinturato
Tires are arguably one of the most important components of your vehicle. Fortunately, you can choose what kind of tires you want to install on your vehicle. While all-season tires are generally a good fit for many drivers, they can’t always get the job done. If you live in a snowy climate that sees everything from a light dusting to ice and deep snow, you need special snow or winter tires. A tougher type of tire that’s built specifically for winter wear and tear, snow and winter tires can offer you more traction, more stability, and better driving results in the worst weather. You can discover some of the best snow and winter tire options for your needs right here.

Quick Answer: Best Winter Tires

Michelin is one of the most-trusted brands in America, and it’s no wonder why – it provides  some of the highest quality tires available, and it never stops improving. With these stellar winter tires, its has equipped its Cross Z sipes for maximum durability. This one earned our top pick for being extra versatile in the one part of winter weather that nobody thinks about – when the snow starts melting. That slushy, muddy road weather – people are so glad to see the snow melting that they don’t stop and think about the current conditions.

Couple that with the independent shoulder function and unique treadmarks to maximize performance. Fantastic compound materials grips the road as you move, allowing for higher speeds with summer-like traction on a dry highway. Snow platform indicators are melded into the tire to let you know when your traction is reduced in snow and wet weather through visual indicators. These tires are truly revolutionary.

Key Features
  • Warranty: First 2/32” of wear / 1 year (Includes bonus treadlife warranty)
  • Max Load: 1,521 / 6,084 (lbs)
  • Cross Z Sipes (Best tire for wet weather)
Specification
  • Brand Michelin
  • Model X-Ice X13

When winter is approaching and you’re stuck with the last-minute decision to slap snow tires on your vehicle, the Michelin Man has you covered. With an excellent Eco rating and superior slush-shooting treadline, you’ll be cruising along frozen roads as if it were a blacktop in the dead of summer. These tires come with an absolutely immense maximum load capacity as well, making them ideal for larger trucks and SUVs with a full load of passengers. 

Open shoulder slots, multiple grooves and a wide contact point make wide and sharp turns a much more simplistic maneuver, while adding to high-speed handling when you hit patches of black ice or snow when you didn’t expect it. It’s all about safety – when it comes to keeping your family, your vehicle, and yourself safe, nobody has you covered like Michelin.

Key Features
  • Warranty: First 2/32” of wear / 1 year
  • Max Load: 3,196 / 12,784
  • Unique treads to propel slush outwards
Specification
  • Brand Michelin
  • Model LTX Winter

We’ve covered Pirelli before, and we’ll do it again – there’s no escaping these ultra-durable tires and their superior performance on the road. What’s unique to this tire is the wide footprint, utilizing nearly all of the custom tread pattern to make contact with the road and ice. This gives you better grip for tight and wide turns, as well as increased high-speed performance during the rough winter months.

Apart from that, you meet the industry standards for snow service requirements, while pushing slush and muck out of the way. With the tread pitch sequence, slush that gets trapped between your wheel and the pavement gets flushed out, keeping you in control and in contact with the road at all times. These mimic directional patterns, while providing the safety and stability that comes along with their sturdy construction.

Key Features
  • Warranty: First 2/32” of wear / 1 year
  • Max Load: 1,047 / 4,188 (lbs)
  • Wide footprint for maximum stability
Specification
  • Brand Pirelli
  • Model Winter CInturato

If you’ve caught our all-season tire guide, then you know how much we love Bridgestone tires. They’ve withstood the test of time for a reason, especially when it comes to the best winter tires. Sporting a unique Bridgestone-engineered addition, 3-D Zig-Zag Sipes help “bite” the snow and give you far more handling than a standard snow tire. Whether it’s on ice, through slush, muck, or around the bends on a slippery road, Bridgestone has your back.

These tires also come with a one-of-a-kind compound that essentially seeks out water. The hydraulic coating operates exceptionally well in wet conditions, giving you additional vehicle dexterity when you need it most. With a contact patch optimized for packed snow, and a rating that supersedes the industry’s requirements, you have nothing to worry about.

Key Features
  • Warranty: First 1/32” of wear / 5 years
  • Max Load: 1,047 / 4,188 (lbs)
  • 3-D Zig-Zag Sipes
Specification
  • Brand Bridgestone
  • Model Blizzak WS80

Once upon a time, Yokohama’s tires set the industry standard when they married the two aspects of any purchase that 100% of people love: good pricing and superior quality. Between the immense value and excellent warranty, you’d think these tires were too good to be true if we hadn’t tested them ourselves. These include triple 3-D sipes for maximum road grip, giving you traction when you feel like you’re losing control of the vehicle or you’re hydroplaning.

Two-ply polyester casing is designed to balance your ride, even when the conditions aren’t ideal. Your handling is determined by your control over the vehicle, and is subject to change – with these tires, the playing field is leveled in your favor. Between the Orange Oil-infused compound along the tread, unique tread design, and high-durability construction, Yokohama is determined to keep you safe through the winter months.

Key Features
  • Warranty: First 2/32” of wear / 5 years
  • Max Load: 1,609 / 6/436 (lbs)
  • Triple 3-D Sipes
Specification
  • Brand Yokohama
  • Model BluEarth Winter

The Cooper Tire Evolution Winter Radial Tire is an excellent choice if you’re in need of a tire that can handle some serious winter driving. This tire is no slouch — it’s specifically built to provide exceptional performance in all kinds of winter driving conditions, and it’s rated for severe weather. From a dusting of slick snow to untreated roads with ice to deep snow, this tire can handle the heaviest and most frustrating winter weather you’ll come across. It offers outstanding traction, and if you need even more grip, these tires are studdable. That means you can better equip yourself for ice and slick road surfaces.

Part of what makes the Cooper Tire Evolution Winter Radial Tire so prepared for wintry conditions is its tread design. The tire features a directional tread pattern that allows for smooth acceleration and reliable braking. It’s 3 Peak Mountain Snowflake certified, and it’s been tested to meet severe snow performance requirements. The tire tread also features a sawtooth circumferential center rib that helps your vehicle stay stable in all types of weather. Multi-angled corrugated siping offers biting edges, and you’ll have a solid, strong grip.

Key Features
  • Option to make these studded tires for better traction on icy roads
  • Rated for severe weather
  • Backed by a limited warranty
Specification
  • Brand Cooper Tire
  • Model Evolution Winter

The title says it all – you want the best traction you can possibly get, while driving in the worst conditions your car has ever faced. These tires up their game when the thermostat crashes into the single-digit numbers. With a grip that never quits, these tires are made to climb over snow and stick to the ice, all while superseding the industry severe snow service requirements. 

Goodyear sports a well-balanced performance in wet and dry conditions, and through fluffy powder. If you’re considering studded tires, these come ready to install studs individually in each tire, allowing you to remove them when the roads aren’t quite so bad. This versatile design puts you in control in every single way.

Key Features
  • Warranty: FIrst 2/32” of wear / 1 year
  • Max Load: 1,168 / 4,672 (lbs)
  • Additional performance in severely cold weather (subzero)
Specification
  • Brand Goodyear
  • Model Ultra Grip Winter

Similar to the highest-ranking model on our list, Bridgestone’s alternative in the Blizzak series got docked for the warranty (no year rating on this one). However, they still uphold the same great quality and give fantastic traction. Blizzak’s capabilities have set a new standard for what snow and winter tires should be, which has been felt by their competition over the years.

Surpassing industry standards is just the beginning. WIth additional grip on ice (without the use of studs), improved vehicle dexterity on slippery roads, and an immense boost in power to normal snow tires, it’s no wonder they’ve been trendsetting the industry for years. Add 15% more traction than previous Blizzak models, throw on a three-peak snowflake symbol, and you’ve got yourself Bridgestone’s greatest creations, keeping your family and vehicle safe in winter.

Key Features
  • Warranty: First 1/32” of wear
  • Max Load: 2,271 / 9,084 (lbs)
  • Visual depth indicator on treads to allow driver to know when they need to be changed out
Specification
  • Brand Bridgestone
  • Model Blizzak DM

Yokohama’s supreme tires never stop improving; featuring a high-density compound additive to these tires, making them perfect for extremely cold temperatures, the Iceguard promises to have your back when you’re pummelling through inclement weather conditions. Meeting and exceeding the industry standard, these studless snow tires mimic the same traction and ice-digging benefits of studded tires, without damaging the road.

Slush grooves are meant to spit out the muck in the road as you roll through the aftermath of melting winter, which also works great in rainy conditions to keep yourself straight and stable. Due to their construction, these are also optimal for dry weather – if it goes a few weeks without snowing in the dead of winter, you’ll still require additional traction and handling on ice-cold roads, and Yokohama’s Iceguard delivers.

Key Features
  • Warranty: First 2/32” of wear
  • Max Load: 2,756 / 11,024 (lbs)
  • High-density compound ideal for low temperatures
Specification
  • Brand Yokohama
  • Model Iceguard

The Nexen Winguard Ice Plus Studless Winter Radial Tire can comfortably, quietly, and safely traverse any winter road conditions. This tire is reliable, but it’s also very capable. And it offers a number of unique design features that can give you improved handling, control, and braking when you’re facing challenging winter weather. It’s a snow and winter tire that’s designed with a unique dual V shape, which offers more grip and better braking in slick conditions. Four tread grooves and two small semi-grooves help drain snow, slush, and water to provide you with more road contact in any weather. Also, a stiff shoulder increases the tire’s durability, while a 3D block tread design helps ensure it wears evenly.

This snow and winter tire truly delivers outstanding driving results on even snow-covered surfaces. You’ll have effective braking that you can trust in the winter, and the tire is designed to last you throughout a number of winters. This tire is even rated for fuel efficiency, which means it may help you get a few more miles to the gallon, saving money in the long run.

Key Features
  • Dual V shape increases grip and improves braking
  • Can improve fuel efficiency
  • Quiet and comfortable on every road
Specification
  • Brand Nexen
  • Model Winguard Ice Plus

Best Snow Tires Buying Guide & FAQ

Determining which snow and winter tires are the best of the bunch isn’t easy. There are a number of different types of tires available, and each one features different tread, different design aspects, and different performance in wintry conditions. If you’re searching for the best option for your vehicle and your specific needs, here’s our guide to choosing a quality set of snow tires.

Factors To Consider When Buying The Best Winter Tires

Strapping in and seamlessly gliding across the frozen tundra is harder than it looks. If you know you need snow tires but you don’t know what to look for, here’s snow and winter tire 101.

  • Distribution: Contact pads meld with the road, and are the bridge between your force, conditions beneath your car, and the safety of you and your passengers. Having proper weight distribution throughout your tires truly defines their effectiveness in adverse weather conditions. With even weight distribution, your car or truck is moving as one unit, instead of all the weight, pressure, and slippage being applied to a single tire. Weight distribution balances out your vehicle’s capability to recover on black ice or power through snow properly.
  • Flex: When you hit the road and a patch of ice at the same time, your tires have a hard time bouncing back. With flexible treads (more on design later), your tires are able to regain traction once you hit the pavement again, and even accumulate some traction while on slippery surfaces.
  • Studded vs. Non-Studded: If you’ve ever wondered just what studded tires are all about, here’s the lowdown: they actually come with metal studs along key points in the treads. These are extremely effective against thick ice and rough snow, digging into them for additional traction. The negative to studded tires is the damage they can give to paved roads when there’s nothing else to dig into.
  • Warranty: These aren’t your standard warranties like you get on all-season road tires. You’re going to encounter a whole different ball game here. Most of these don’t even have treadwear mileage markers on the warranty, but they do include years and inch depth fractions. Warranties are obviously important, but we thought it best to take a moment and give you a heads-up that these are an entirely different set of conditions.
  • Compound: One perk of snow and winter tires over all-season tires is the ability to withstand greater temperature fluctuation to regulate your tire’s air pressure. Shifts in temperatures, even when they go from low, to really low at night, can mess with the psi of your tires and make them less efficient. Depending on the compound that comprises your snow tires, you’ll be able to withstand longer times between checking your air pressure.

tires on ice

Understanding the Design of Winter Tires

More of the photographs that market snow tires focus on the treads – they’re vastly different (and superior in many ways) to the tread design on all-season tires. Firstly, take a comparison look and notice the edges between both tire types are different. That’s because the edges of snow tires are designed to grip the road comfortably and provide you with enough traction to stay safe while moving along at a brisk pace.

With all-season tires, it’s all about treadwear, but it’s not the same case for winter tires. They perform far heavier tasks, so you’re not going to see 70,000 miles on your snow tires (and in most cases, you wouldn’t need them for that long, anyway). You should expect to have your snow tires for the rule of thumb, which is three winter seasons.

With the unique tread and gaps between them, these are able to bend and contour to the road, providing traction on just about anything. They work in accordance with whatever you’re up against, so you can either glide along nice and smoothly, or your tires will hug the road/ice/snow to give you optimum handling. It’s all in the treads.

Snow Tires vs Studded Tires

Way back when, people just assumed you meant studded tires when you said winter or snow tires. Nowadays, it’s far more common to see studless for a number of reasons. Studded tires do provide excellent traction on sheets of pure ice, but unless you live in an area with 10-month winters and your home is far from civilization, studded tires aren’t what most people are looking for.

Studless tires focus more on the treads and how their engineered designs are able to provide traction, retain or improve handling, and reduce skidding/slipping on the road. In truth, nearly all snow tire users don’t need studded tires. They’re just set aside for special conditions, or handy to have if you’re the one driving around after a major storm has hit and you’re helping the community out.

Studded tires also come with a big downfall: they tear up the road if there’s no ice. In fact, in certain areas of the country, you can face a fine for damages if you’re still using studded tires after a certain date. The season usually starts on November 1st and ends the last day of March.

snow tires

Essential Tips For Driving In Winter

Driving during the winter is quite different from hitting dry or rainy roads during the other seasons of the year. Winter brings unpredictable and particularly dangerous weather — and it can leave roads slick, covered in deep snow, and filled with obstacles. So, when you hit the road during winter it’s critical that you drive a bit differently in order to stay safe and avoid potential dangers. The following are our essential tips for staying safe behind the wheel during the coldest months of the year.

  • Be Alert and Attentive: While you might be a very alert driver, others on the road can cause problems during winter. You need to be more alert than usual — you need to be able to spot trouble before it happens. Keep a close eye on the road and its surroundings. A slick road can cause sliding and loss of control; other drivers may cause accidents that you can get wrapped up in. Patches of ice can appear unexpectedly. You never know what might happen, so stay as alert and attentive as possible.
  • Avoid Hills and Steep Inclines: If you can, it’s best to avoid driving up or down hills and inclines. An incline or decline can make it challenging to see other drivers coming your way, and they can also increase the chances of losing control if snow or ice is present on the road. Particularly steep hills and inclines can be especially dangerous in slick or slippery conditions. Try to take alternate routes if possible.
  • Keep Your Distance From Other Drivers: It’s always a good idea to keep a safe distance between yourself and others on the road, even when the sun is shining and roads are dry. During winter, it’s a good idea to increase your distance even more. In inclement weather, accidents and losses of control can happen in a split second. The farther you are from other vehicles, the more time you’ll have to react and adapt. A good rule of thumb is to keep about 10 seconds worth of distance between your car and other cars.
  • Slow Down: In addition to staying farther away from other vehicles, you should also slow down while driving in winter weather. Inclement weather can make visibility worse, which leaves you struggling to see other cars or potential road dangers. Issues like heavy rain, snow spray from uncleared roads, and rapid snowfall are just a few examples of limited visibility scenarios. To stay safe, drive even slower than the speed limit. It’ll help you maintain better control on the road.
  • Avoid Abrupt Braking: Slamming on your brakes is always a bit of a gamble — you need to stop urgently, and those brakes need to be reliable in order to stop you in the nick of time. But slamming on your brakes in winter can be extra hazardous. Your car can slip and slide more easily in wintry conditions, resulting in the exact opposite effect you’re hoping for. Instead, ease into braking. Apply the brakes slowly, and you’ll be able to react to any sliding that might occur. You’ll also come to a stop more safely.

How To Get Unstuck in the Snow

After spending two decades in New England, there’s a lot of personal experience to go off of here. The number one thing to not do, is spin your tires. It’s like watching a trainwreck in motion, and it’s quite painful to tell a fellow driver that they’ve all but turned their once-moving car into a sinking ship.

Whether you have snow tires or not, this trick is going to help you out. You’re stuck; your car’s front end is jammed-up in the snow, and you’ve stopped spinning your wheels. Twisting your wheels all the way to the opposite side of your current position is your first step. You’re changing the position that the contact patch has on the snow, and giving it a new start, so to speak.

Flip your car into reverse, and move slowly. You don’t want to tire-grind this snow down, because then you’ll be super stuck. Back up slowly, and if you can feel the car getting dislodged, you have a window that you have to properly hit. When your tires pull back up out of the snow, and they’re in that spot they were in just a second before you got stuck, kick it up to 2nd gear. Be mindful of what/where you’re backing up into, and you should be able to roll on back quite nicely.

Pro Tip: Pack a small, expansive handle shovel like this one. Dig out the snow in front of (and in back of) your tires, and use the tip of the spade to break up any ice. If you’re in a really bad jam, the shovel we’ve selected comes with an excellent bonus that you’ve probably never seen before.

Can I Just Switch Out my Drive Tires for Snow Tires?

If you’re hoping to save both time and money by keeping the same set of tires on your car year-round, you certainly aren’t alone. Creative drivers try to swap out solely their drive tires, creating a combination of two all-season tires and two snow tires. But this is actually a very bad idea.

Whether your car has front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, or even all-wheel drive, you shouldn’t change out just two of your tires for snow tires. You need a complete set of four snow tires. Operating with just a half set of snow and winter tires can cause serious problems once you’re out on the road. You could find yourself slipping and sliding, and you’re likely to lose control in wintry conditions.

Even trying to replace just your drive tires — the two tires that offer the most critical road contact — with snow tires isn’t smart. Should you begin to lose control while behind the wheel, you’ll need all four tires to get back under control safely. Your back tires work as hard as the front tires in winter, and that means you need reliable tires that can handle winter weather both in the front and rear of your vehicle. If it’s traction and grip you want, you need a full set of snow tires in order to drive safely.

Our Top Pick for the Best Snow Tires

The Michelin X-Ice X13 Winter Tires are our pick for the best snow and winter tires. This winter-ready tire is made by one of the best-known, most-trusted brands, and you can be confident that this tire is high quality and very reliable. You get long-term durability as well as excellent grip on even the slickest roads. An innovative tire compound combined with unique tread design and an independent shoulder offers strong traction and the ability to ride safely even on slush and mud. This tire even offers visual indicators right on its tread so you can tell just how much traction you’ll get in snowy or wet weather. This is an all-around awesome snow tire and a great option.

Sources:

  1. Studded Snow Tires vs. Studless Snow Tires – Bridgestone Tires
  2. Studded Tire Information – Washington State Department of Transportation
  3. Winter Driving Tips – AAA Exchange
  4. 7 Tips to Get Your Car Out When Stuck in the Snow – Red Plum