Best Winter Tires
Throughout your life, you have probably heard it time and time again from your friends, parents, or other family members that you should equip your vehicle with winter tires when the snow begins to fall and when ice begins to form. They only say this for your safety because, with your summer and spring tires, they will just not cut it when things get slick. You see, the tread compound on these types will stiffen and the likelihood of them providing sufficient traction is greatly reduced when temperatures decrease. If you are on the road quite a bit during the winter season, you should make it mandatory to shop for specially designed tires. And, with this guide, we are going to help you do just that.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 2.75 hrs of research
Many size options are available
Stays balanced and wears evenly
Delivers excellent traction on both ice and snow
- Michelin X-Ice Xi3
- Bridgestone Blizzak WS80
- Firestone Winterforce 2
- Goodyear Ultra Grip
- Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2
- Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V2
- Pirelli Cinturato P7
- Continental WinterContact SI
- Toyo Observe GSi-5
- Pirelli Ice Zero Fr
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Frequently Asked Questions
OUR TOP PICKS FOR THE BEST WINTER TIRES
1. Michelin X-Ice Xi3
Many size options are available
Stays balanced and wears evenly
Delivers excellent traction on both ice and snow
A little noisy at higher speeds
Michelin is another top-name brand when it comes to manufacturing products for vehicles so seeing them so high on this list should not be much of a shocker.Read more
To improve the hydroplaning resistance and to also offer firmness at higher temperatures and also flexibility at lower temperatures, this has been outfitted with a tread rubber compound that is molded into a directional tread design.
First off, the internal structure of the X-Ice XI3 includes twin steel belts and these are reinforced by spirally wound nylon. Also, though, the cross Z sipes will increase the shoulder block stability to enhance the treadwear.
The same cross Z sipes that enhance the treadwear also increase the driving precision on dry roads. However, some users have noted this can be a little noisy on the freeway (over 70 miles per hour).
Michelin designed their tire to be suitable for a wide range of vehicles and also offers it in sizes 14 inches to 19 inches.
Each and every Michelin tire is backed by their standard limited warranty. This will cover defects in workmanship and materials for the life of the original tread.
Much like the top option on this list, you can put your faith in Michelin and feel safe on the icy roads ahead. Besides the loudness at higher speeds, this is a good as it gets.
2. Bridgestone Blizzak WS80
Features 20 percent more block edges
Distributes force evenly for better stability
When 50 percent worn, you will be alerted
At higher speeds, it can howl a bit
The WS80 from Bridgestone seems to be universally recognized as the best winter tire out there. With the placement on this list, you will get no argument from this guide.Read more
The combination of the next-generation adaptive NanoPro-Tech Multicell compound and the water-loving hydrophilic coating ensure this tire remains flexible in below-freezing conditions. Additionally, the compound is molded into a directional tread design and features 20 percent more block edges.
While the treadwear seems to very good, when this does become 50 percent worn, you will be alerted as a tread depth indicator has been molded into the tread design.
In addition to being fairly quiet at lower to medium speeds, this is also designed with an optimized footprint and this allows it to distribute force evenly for enhanced stability.
The WS80 is designed for those of you who drive sedans, coupes, compact vehicles and also minivans.
With your purchase, you receive Bridgestone’s winter tire limited warranty and for more information, you can visit their website.
It just appears as if the WS80 is the top-of-the-line option for slick conditions. Better yet, it is made by Bridgestone so you know the quality is going to be there.
3. Firestone Winterforce 2
Meets the industry’s snow service requirements
Provides thousands of biting edges for improved traction
Work tremendous in snow and ice
At highway speeds, it does not perform the best
If you can look past the rather poor highway driving of the Winterforce 2, you can enjoy a tire that is built with a high-quality internal structure and also superb hydroplaning resistance.Read more
So many features help to improve the performance here including the deep circumferential grooves and wide lateral notches that help to channel both slush and standing water away from the contact patch.
As with other models, the internal structure of the tire includes twin steel belts that have been topped off by a polyester casing to combine ride quality with superb strength.
Here is the deal; the ride is superb until you reach freeway speeds. The responsiveness is not the best and keeping the vehicle straight is nearly impossible without steering.
In addition to the fact that you can get different sizes, this is ideal for owners of minivans, coupes, and sedans.
On the official webpage of Firestone, they have their warranty in detail. Basically, they will replace your model if it becomes unusable for any of the conditions on their webpage.
Given how expensive tires can be, it is a welcome sight that such an incredible model is rather cheap. But, do not let the price fool you, this is a high-quality snow tire.
4. Goodyear Ultra Grip
Alternating rows of optional metal studs can be added
Backed by Tire Rack’s road hazard warranty if you buy through them
The hydroplaning resistance is superb
Can feel strange on dry pavement
Goodyear designed their tire to be all but perfect for all drivers around the world. In regard to its performance when things get slick, it passes with flying colors.Read more
To accommodate the use of optional metal studs, this radial tire has been molded. Also, it is designed to offer high levels of traction when you drive on slicker surfaces.
To promote even treadwear, Goodyear designed their model with strong shoulder blocks.
While a few users have claimed this has a strange feeling when driving, others rave about the comfortable ride and the fact that this handles bumps extremely well.
As mentioned, this is all but designed for every driver out there. It is a suitable solution for drivers of crossovers, sport utility vehicles, light-duty trucks, sedans, coupes and minivans.
If you buy this through Tire Rack, you will receive their road hazard warranty which provides you with a great peace of mind.
A theme is developing with this list and that is the top-end manufacturers make the best winter tires. Much like with the others, Goodyear definitely delivers the goods (no pun intended).
5. Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2
Grip is dramatically improved in slick conditions
Designed with sipe activators
The sidewall compound is very durable
Sometimes it feels like (with all four on your vehicle) they can be unbalanced
At the price of admission, the Hakkapeliitta R2 better be a high-performing model. Well, it is safe to say that even though the price is steep, the improved driving experience in the winter is worth it.Read more
What enhances the traction provided from this model are the diamond-tough grip particles in the rubber compound. Plus, the grip claws also improve the traction when braking and accelerating on ice.
To ensure that this tire would be as durable as possible, Nokian designed it with a sidewall compound that contains extremely strong aramid fibers (which is the same material used in aerospace industries).
There have been a few reviewers who have felt this model is not the most comfortable at both lower and higher speeds.
At the official product page, you can shop by the size you desire which is a really nice feature.
Nokian does back their product with a warranty but it is vital to note that if you buy this from an unauthorized dealer or via an online auction, the warranty will not apply.
With an excellent combination of durability and performance, it is hard to go wrong with this option. While the comfortability of the ride has been brought into question, it still remains superb.
6. Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V2
Backed by a limited warranty
Will stick to the snow
Features 15 percent more aggressive block edges
Some users have expressed issues with the performance
Can be a bit unresponsive in dry conditions
No matter what, you know that you can put your faith in Bridgestone to deliver a high-quality option. While the DM-V2 is not quite as impressive as their WS80, it is quite good in its own right.Read more
Bridgestone integrates their Multicell compound to get the job done here as this will allow the DM-V2 to remain flexible in below-freezing conditions and improve braking and traction on ice.
55 percent of the tread depth of the DM-V2 features the Multicell compound and the other 45 percent features a standard winter tire compound.
As one reviewer pointed out, on dry road conditions, this can provide a ride that is a bit unresponsive. This is to be expected from most models so it is not too much of a shock.
If you drive a pickup, crossover or sports utility vehicle, the DM-V2 model is going to be more than suitable to your needs.
As with the other model that is made by Bridgestone on this list, this bad boy right here is backed by a limited warranty (with more details available on Bridgestone’s website).
It is Bridgestone and it can’t be overstated enough that it is never a bad thing to go with a top-name brand. Now, their DM-V2 is not a perfect design but it will get the job done very well.
7. Pirelli Cinturato P7
It is an all-season model
The internal structure is reinforced
Features a continuous outboard shoulder
Some buyers have felt the performance is not the best on wet roads
Now, do keep in mind that this next model is an all-season tire. With that said, Pirelli has designed it specifically to handle winter weather thanks to its special compound.Read more
To increase the hydroplaning resistance of this tire, it has been made with four wide circumferential grooves to help evacuate water. But, some users have claimed this does not work that great on wet roads.
A few features increase the durability of this model including an internal structure that features twin steel belts that are reinforced by spirally wrapped polyamide. Also, the Cinturato P7 sports a progressively flexible sidewall.
Being all-season, this is outfitted to be driven in wet and dry conditions. It helps that the continuous outboard shoulder promotes steering response.
This is a grand touring all-season model that is designed for drivers of luxury and touring vehicles.
Pirelli offers a limited warranty and if you want to know a little bit more about it, you can check out the official product page.
Though some drivers have questioned the performance on wet roads with the Cinturato P7, it is a fantastic all-season model that will give you peace of mind during all four seasons.
8. Continental WinterContact SI
Will warn you when it is 50 percent worn
Backed by a one-year warranty
The compound is molded into the tread design
Can feel “floaty”
A few users were disappointed by the performance
This is not the only model to be designed with it but what is so convenient about the WinterContact SI is that once it is worn 50 percent, you will be alerted of such.Read more
In addition to the PolarPlus technology which uses additives to offer an increased enhancement in grip over summer tires, this also uses zipzag sipes to increase the tread surface’s snow biting edges.
One really cool feature of this design is that when it becomes 50 percent worn, you will be warned as there is a tread depth indicator that is molded in the tread design itself.
Admittedly, this does not seem to be the best model for non-snowy conditions. The road noise can be an issue and at faster speeds, the steering response is lacking.
On top of the fact that there are plenty of size options available to fit a number of different vehicles, this is designed for drivers of crossover vehicles, sedans, minivans, and coupes.
Within the first 12 months of use, if this becomes unserviceable then you can have it replaced for free.
In a way, this can be seen as a cliché model. Most people do not like snow tires because of their performance elsewhere and this is a perfect example of such. Of course, it does what it was designed to do.
9. Toyo Observe GSi-5
The center rib design ensures stability
Sports a spider sipe design
There are many sizes available
More than a few users feel this is inadequate on ice
Out of all the models on this list, perhaps none of them have received quite the feedback of the Observe GSI-5. Most drivers love it but there are those who claim it struggles mightily on ice.Read more
Both the microbit technology and advanced tread compound allow the GSI-5 to improve traction on slick surfaces. Although, some users have not been shy in their criticism of this model.
For the most part, the build quality seems average to good. Many reviewers have felt lukewarm about the treadwear of the GSI-5.
While the center rib design ensures straight-line stability, the absorbent carbonic powder offers superior contact to the road. Also, this does not howl as bad as other winter tires out there.
Most of you will be able to find an appropriate size as Toyo offers their model in sizes 14 inches all the way up to 20 inches.
This is another model that is backed by a limited warranty and while it is not much, it is certainly better than nothing.
Let’s not act like there have not been drivers out there who have felt uneasy about their experience with this model because there have. But, the general consensus is that this offers increased traction and performance on slick roads.
10. Pirelli Ice Zero Fr
Has a great responsive steering feel
Features a wide and stable footprint
Designed with interlocking 3D sipes
Some users have felt the response is not ideal in all seasons
We come back to Pirelli and this is another one of their all-season tires. But, to enhance the grip in icy conditions, this is outfitted with specially designed sipes to wick away water.Read more
The specially designed sipes do wonders for the performance of this model and wick away the film of the water that will develop between the contact path.
To enhance the wear characteristics of this model, it has been designed with a wide and stable footprint and this is going to evenly distribute the pressure across the face.
Feelings seem to be split with this tire on dry roads. Some feel the response is much better than other snow tires while others feel it offers a sluggish ride.
You can choose between sizes 14 inches to 20 inches. Also, this is optimized for family sedans, minivans, and coupes.
On the manufacturer’s website, there is no indication of an included warranty.
When it comes to delivering traction on slick surfaces, the Zero FR succeeds with flying colors. That is certainly the main objective here and this alone makes this a suitable option.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
What is the point of a winter tire that does not provide traction in slick and cold conditions?
Strap in boys and girls because there is a lot to cover here. Did you ever wonder why winter tires are special? Well, the main reason is due to their composition and this all starts with the rubber compound. With winter models, there will be no compromise of performance in regard to the summer and spring (unlike all-season models which are limited in icy performance as they need to remain feasible in warmer weather). Basically, specially designed compounds made for colder weather will not lose their grip at lower temperatures (with others losing their grip below 45 or 50 degrees).
But, the tread design is also important and this is where hydroplaning comes into play. This refers to when a vehicle begins sliding uncontrollably because the tires encounter more water than the treads can displace. To enhance the hydroplaning-resistance, look for models that offer deeper treads and also more sipes (which will enhance the grip even more). Oh, and you can also look for studded versions if they are legal in your place of residence. Because studded tires can damage the roads, they may not be legal but if they are the embedded small metal studs will offer increased traction.
While factors can accelerate the wear of a tire, not all models will possess the same durability.
Due to the abuse that all tires will endure in their lifetime, it is normal for them to gradually lose their tread. This is to be expected but what you also need to know is certain factors can lead some models to lose their tread at a more accelerated rate. Of course, there are models (such as high-performance tires for sports cars) that will naturally wear faster than others (such as touring ties for sedans).
But, this is also where it is important to understand why snow tires are designed to be during the appropriate season and not during warmer climates. Due to the fact that the tread rubber is more flexible than all-season and summer models, it also means it will wear considerably more if driven on warm and dry pavement. Other factors such as inflation pressure and alignment conditions can also lead to early tire wear, so be aware of that. As far as what you need to look for, as a consumer, just look for rubber compounds and tread that are high in quality and thick.
One of the downsides to this design is its performance on dry pavement. But, some options will be more tolerable than others.
It is time to address one of the biggest issues with snow tires and that is their performance when you are driving on dry pavement. Most models will not provide an unbearable ride but the thing is, due to the nature of the rubber compound, they will not perform as well as summer models on dry pavement. But, summer models offer no traction during the winter. And, as for all-season models, they are not really great at either one (but are decent at both). So, all this wraps up with this one statement; winter tires work great at their job and manage their tradeoff very well (most of the time).
One of the most common complaints is with the noise of a snow tire. However, designers have done everything in their power to fix this issue with modern technology. Nowadays, the noise factor is limited but you will still come across models with a lot of noise at higher speeds. Stability and steering response can also be issues on dry pavement but, again, not all options will be dreadful at this.
The size you get needs to be right for your vehicle; it is as simple as that.
There are different types of tires out there and determining the type you need will come down to your vehicle. You have passenger and light truck tires and the latter will be able to handle larger loads than the former. So, if you need new winter tires for your truck then you should probably stick with light truck models (especially if you plan to drive with heavy loads in your bed). For cars, small pickups and coupes then passenger models will probably suffice.
That is just one step of the process as the other is the size. To keep things consistent, it may be wise for you to stick with the tire sizes that your vehicle was originally manufactured with. Then again, you do not always have to do this and you can opt for narrower models. To help you from getting stuck, narrower models can actually pay dividends. It makes sense, when you think about it, as with wider tread the likelihood of snow floating on the top of the surface is enhanced.
It is never a bad idea to look out for warranties.
Let’s just say that it is never a bad thing when the product you invest in is backed by a warranty. However, it may be even more so for snow tires as you never know what is going to happen. It was mentioned earlier but any type of tire is going to go through a lot of abuse during their lifespan. Plus, you can’t account for sharp objects that can penetrate through the rubber compound when you are driving. If you find a warranty that will cover for that (while most sellers probably will not) that can only be seen as a bonus. At the end of the day, though, you probably at least want a warranty that will cover defects in workmanship and materials.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
100 guides could be constructed on various consumer products and all 100 of them could have “performance” as one of the top priorities. It really goes without saying that performance is everything and literally when your life can be on the line (and this is not a hyperbolic statement), it is more than evident here. It is simple; look for winter tires that are designed with special rubber compounds, several sipes, and also wide and high-quality tread.
There are certain factors that can accelerate the wear on a tire and this is something you need to keep in mind to ensure your model lasts as long as possible. With that being said, however, not all models will sport the same durability and treadwear and it is vital to choose the designs that are built to last. It also helps when you take them off during the warmer seasons as avoiding to do so can accelerate the wearing of the rubber.
Now, no one is going to deny that these types of tires struggle a bit when it comes to riding performance on dry pavement. This is the main tradeoff that you will need to deal with because due to the composition of the rubber compound, winter models will be tailored for effective performance on slick roads and not for the best ride possible on dry pavement. Still, as you may expect, some models will be a bit less noisy and will offer increased steering response.
Frequently Asked Questions
The million dollar question is always going to be if you really need these or not. Well, if you live in areas that do not experience slick conditions including snow and ice then no, you probably do not (and should not use them as they are not optimized for summer driving). If you do need to drive on slick roads then you probably should install them on your vehicle because the rubber compound will remain flexible below 45 degrees and provide you grip and traction. However, if you drive very little then maybe you do not believe they are worth the investment (because they can be expensive). Is this justified? Well, keep this in mind; it only takes one accident to seriously hinder your life (or end it).
One would think that an all-season tire would be optimized for all seasons, right? Well, this is partially true but it is not as if one performs admirably during all seasons. Due to the nature of the rubber compound, it is not really possible to have the best of both worlds. But, some all-season models made their way on this list so they can be good. With that said, though, all-season designs will sacrifice their summer performance for a little bit more effectiveness during the winter. Yet, that is all they will do, a little. Their ride will be a little better but their performance in colder weather will still not be as great as could be.
The reason why this becomes an investment is that you really should install four brand-new winter tires on your vehicle when the season approaches. As one of them can be over 100 or 200 dollars, you can quickly realize how much money it can cost. Without a shadow of a doubt, though, it is worth it because your safety is on the line. Even with only three of them installed, it can create balance and handling issues when you drive on slick roads. It seems steep but do yourself a favor and go with four.
No one is ever going to tell you that driving with more care will have no impact on your safety. In fact, one of the first lessons you learn in drivers training is to drive with caution on the road. But, the mere fact that your brain thinks of this question ironically means that your brain is also aware of how dangerous winter driving can be. Plus, while driving slow can sometimes be the safer way it can also disrupt the flow of traffic. Speed does kill but sometimes so does slowing down. Do yourself a favor and make the investment so you do not have to worry as much behind the wheel.
Talk about ironic; it does not get much more so than this. Some people will honestly believe that because their vehicle has traction control they are exempt from needing winter tires. This logic of thinking could not be more flawed and it all comes down to what traction control provides. You see, this does not actually provide any more traction for a vehicle. Instead, it will limit the amount your wheels spin in conjunction the amount of traction they currently have. So, this means that your tires need traction, to begin with, in order for the traction control to be effective.
At this point, it has been drilled into your cranium that you need to install your vehicle with some new wheels come the winter season. Nothing is going to be reiterated for this question and, instead, we want to take a look at when you should install them. The sarcastic folks out there will obviously say, “in the winter, duh.” However, in some areas, the fall season can bring with it colder weather and this is the key. Once the weather outside is consistently under 40 to 45 degrees, you should have them installed. You should not wait for the first snowfall and should be proactive to install them before you ever need to drive with them.
Along the same line, once the weather is warmer than 45 degrees consistently you need to replace them with your summer tires for the reasons that have been documented in this guide.