We’ve covered the best all-season tires in the past, but you’re in the frosty north, the areas of the country where Nor’Easters and freak snow storms are common. You don’t need standard, everyday tires; you need top performance in adverse conditions, tires that will tear through powder and rip up the road. We’ve found the best for you, and explained everything you need to look for in your tires in our comprehensive buying guide to the best winter tires below.
Quick Answer: Best Winter Tires
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.
Warranty: First 1/32” of wear / 5 years
Max Load: 1,047 / 4,188 (lbs)
3-D Zig-Zag Sipes
- ModelBlizzak 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.
Warranty: First 2/32” of wear / 5 years
Max Load: 1,609 / 6/436 (lbs)
Triple 3-D Sipes
- ModelBluEarth Winter
Michelin is one of the most-trusted brands in America, and it’s no wonder why – they provide some of the highest quality tires available, and they never stop improving. With these stellar winter tires, they’ve equipped their 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.
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)
- ModelX-Ice X13
You need stupendous levels of safety in the winter, especially if your little ones are in the backseat. FInding the right tires isn’t just a purchase decision – it’s a matter of safety. That’s why Dunlof put their heads together and developed the Digital Rolling Simulation technology to increase the strength, durability and total stress that your tires can handle.
Outfitted with a unique tread pattern, these tires work well on the highway in adverse conditions, and have a well-balanced rating for wet, dry, and comfort performance. Many Dunlof tire owners have been able to extend their expected winter tire life from three seasons, up to five, all from this series of tire. If durability, dependability and cost are all on your must-have list for winter tires, you’ve just met your match.
Warranty: First 2/32” of wear / 1 year
Max Load: 1,047 / 4,188 (lbs)
Digital Rolling Simulation tech for additional tread strength
- ModelWInter Maxx
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.
Warranty: FIrst 2/32” of wear / 1 year
Max Load: 1,168 / 4,672 (lbs)
Additional performance in severely cold weather (subzero)
- ModelUltra Grip 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.
Warranty: First 2/32” of wear / 1 year
Max Load: 1,047 / 4,188 (lbs)
Wide footprint for maximum stability
- ModelWinter CInturato
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.
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
- ModelBlizzak 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.
Warranty: First 2/32” of wear
Max Load: 2,756 / 11,024 (lbs)
High-density compound ideal for low temperatures
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.
Warranty: First 2/32” of wear / 1 year
Max Load: 3,196 / 12,784
Unique treads to propel slush outwards
- Model LTX Winter
Firestone’s quality and value in pricing lands it at the tenth and final spot on our list, bringing with it an excellent extension of your abilities. When you’re in full control of your vehicle, the weather may have different plans for you. A good, quality tire between you and the road can make or break your safety. Winterforce UV utilize a unique tread design to clutch closer to the road with a wider contact pad, allowing for enhanced durability.
If you’re like most wintertime drivers, turning is a bit of an issue. Don’t let the conditions beyond your control get in your way – put yourself in full command of your maneuverability with tight and wide turn enhancement. These tires are equipped for you to install studs on your own, should you believe that to be the best course of action. Meeting the safety standards of the industry and conquering the road – that’s the FIrestone standard.
Warranty: First 1/32” of wear
Max Load: 1,742 / 6,968
High-density tire siping
- ModelWinterforce UV
Best Snow Tires Buying Guide & FAQ
There’s more to your tires than meets the eye. Explore every detail, every possible aspect of what makes them tick, and how to pick the best one for your specific needs. If you’ve ever wanted to get unstuck from the snow on the road or figure out what the hell studded tires are, you’re in luck - it’s all included below.
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 effectivity 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.
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, while providing 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.
Essential Tips For Driving In Winter
You ever notice how, when it’s either raining or snowing, nobody knows what the hell they’re doing behind the wheel of a car? It’s like everyone is on their first day of Driver’s Education class, with no prior experience in that seat of power. These are some critical tips and tricks to stay safe in the winter, whether it’s about your driving, or everyone else’s.
- Stay Alert: If you’re on a crummy road or a curving bend, the worst thing you can possibly do is lose sight of your attention to detail. Between slippery roads, patches of powder and other drivers, wintertime commands a far greater attention to the road than any other season.
- Avoid Uphill Climbs: Living in a hilly area when the snow hits? Even if your car or truck can head up a two-way road’s hill with relatively no issues, you should steer clear. If you can go up a less steel side street or alternate path, always take that option. Assuming your snow tires help you keep perfect control over your handling and mobility, you still have other drivers cresting over the hilltop to worry about. They may not be so keen to stop, and could crash into you head-on.
- Never Slam on the Brakes: Sounds a bit odd, right? If you smash your foot down on the brakes, you’re admitting defeat and succumbing to the hazards of the weather. You need to remain in control of your vehicle. Braking is okay, so long as you ease into it and go with the flow. If the road is dangerous and you slip on it, it’s already chosen your path. Be smart, ride with it while gently applying your brakes, and emerge safely.
- Increase Your Distance: Even with snow tires, you’re still operating under inclement weather conditions. Putting additional distance between you and the next car is absolutely crucial to maintaining your safety and the safety of everyone else on the road. If you follow the second rule (3-4 seconds between you and the next vehicle), you should increase it to 9-10 seconds.
- Don’t Go the Speed Limit: If the weather is really that bad, and they haven’t cleared the roads with plowing yet, you’re going to want to go under the speed limit. If people honk at you and try to pass you, that’s on them. You’ll be able to judge this when you’re actually on the road. Again, the key here is everyone else on the road; not just you. If you have the perfect snow tires for your car or truck, and you’re in complete control of your vehicle, you’re doing everything right. It’s the rest of the drivers you should worry about.
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 looking to save a bit, going for two snow tires instead of getting a whole set, is going to be a complete waste of time. Even if you’re only rocking front wheel drive and you just switch out those two tires, you’re still going to run into a bunch of problems. Think about this: when you lose control of your vehicle due to inclement weather, is it because of your idle tires? Not in the slightest. Your drive tires made contact and slipped out of control.
Okay, so that should mean switching out the drives is completely acceptable, yeah? It’s not that simple. When you lose control of those two tires, (which can still happen with snow and winter tires if you’re not careful), you immediately rely on all four tires to help reposition your car, whether you want to or not. Those back tires could either help you immensely in regaining traction and avoiding an accident, or, if they’re all-season or multipurpose tires, they could work against your snow/winter tires, and level-out your vehicle’s handling capabilities in the winter. Thats why it is important to choose four of the best winter tires for safety at all times.
Our Top Pick for the Best Snow Tires
Our #3 option, the Michelin X-Ice X13 takes the cake for us. In areas where slush pops-up while the snow is melting, people tend to drive their worst. They think, “Oh, the snow is almost gone, so I can treat the road like a blacktop in summer.” In fact, it’s more dangerous in these conditions because of how wet/icy the road is the X-Ice C13 tires really did the trick against the wet road below.