If you frequently drive on snowy or icy roads, it’s wise to consider investing in winter-specific tires. All-season tires suffice in areas with limited snowfall, but they don’t compete with true winter tire performance.
Tire manufacturers construct snow tires from a specialized rubber compound designed to increase traction on snow and ice. This flexible, hydrophilic rubber complements large, irregular grooves that provide grip to improve vehicle handling on slick roads.
Before investing in a set of snow tires, it’s important to know your tire size and whether you’ll need studded or studless tires. Often, these parameters affect price and availability. Here are our picks of the best snow tires available.
Note: If you prefer using your normal tires, here are the best methods for installing snow chains on them.
Best Overall: Bridgestone Blizzak WS80
The Bridgestone Blizzak WS80 is a studless tire that uses the brand’s NanoPro-Tech Multicell compound. The technology features a hydrophilic coating and tiny bite particles that allow the tire to remain pliable in freezing conditions.
The WS80 is effective at wicking water off the road, and the microscopic bite particles perform like studs, improving a vehicle’s stopping ability. Its 3D Zigzag Sipes also boast a 20 percent increase on its block edges over previous models.
Bridgestone recommends outfitting your vehicle with four winter tires for optimum performance. The Blizzak WS80 is compatible with a variety of tire sizes ranging from 15 inches to 18 inches in wheel diameter. Each tire starts at $103.
Best Studded Winter Tire: Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9
Drivers looking for a performance studded winter tire should consider the Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9. The brand’s patented Nokian Tyres Functional Stud Concept gives the tire a unique appearance, with two different types of studs arranged to provide equal traction on turns and straightaways.
Development of Nokian’s Special Clinch rubber compound is directly related to the brand’s Scandinavian roots and intimate knowledge of winter terrain. The compound functions by pushing against the wheel flange, improving the tire’s durability and noise dampening. It also has deep snow grooves and self-locking 3D sipes.
Nokian’s Hakkapeliitta 9 winter tires start at roughly $120 each and are available in a variety of sizes ranging from 14 inches to 20 inches in wheel diameter. The company also offers the Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9 SUV for SUV drivers.
Best for Wet Conditions: Michelin X-Ice Xi3
Michelin designed its third generation, studless X-Ice Xi3 for minivans and small crossovers, specifically to handle ice and snow. Its Cross Z Sipes provide increased traction, shoulder block stability and overall tire stiffness.
The tire meets Michelin’s Green X Standard, meaning its low-rolling resistance reduces fuel consumption and CO2 gas emissions. However, the Green X technology is only available in some tire sizes.
The brand’s proprietary FleX-Ice silica-based winter tread rubber also features a directional tread design that helps reduce the risk of hydroplaning, making it suitable for driving in wetter climates.
Michelin recommends buying four tires for wear purposes. The X-Ice Xi3 is available in a variety of sizes ranging from 14 inches to 19 inches in wheel diameter. Expect to pay around $140 to $180 per tire depending on size.
Best on a Budget: Goodyear Ultra Grip Winter
The Goodyear Ultra Grip Winter is the brand’s most versatile and performance-focused snow and ice tire. Suitable for crossovers, SUVs and light-duty pickups, the Ultra Grip Winter features molded radials that accommodate optional metal studs for driving on hard-packed snow conditions.
The tire has strong shoulder blocks, wide tread grooves and sipes with biting edges for gripping ice and snow. The Goodyear Ultra Grip Winter model starts at $77 per tire, depending on tire size. It’s available in sizes ranging from 14 inches to 17 inches in wheel diameter.