best tires for snow and winter driving

5 Best Winter Tires 2018

Finding the best winter tires or the best snow chains can be difficult as the market is fairly saturated. If you go to your local tire fitter, they will more than likely push you in the direction is the most expensive brands. However, this article will provide you with greater knowledge and the best winter tires to buy.

Snow chains are the best alternative to winter tires as they provide maximum traction with the ground during the snowy season. Avoid cheap snow chains that are available at your local store and buy the best universal snow chains for cars and SUV’s.

However, snow chains have their disadvantages as discussed below and winter tires are always worth paying the extra. As times have changed, more and more car owners are buying their tires online through and paying the fitting price.

Of course, its important that you get to grips of the best winter tire brands for your needs rather than buying any brand.

Best Winter Tires for Cars, SUV’s And Pickups

Best Winter TiresSeasonOur Rating
Goodyear Eagle RS-AAll Season4.9
Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2Winter4.8
Bridgestone BlizzakWinter4.7
General AltiMAXWinter4.7
Michelin Latitude X-IceWinter4.9

Read Best Winter Tires for Cars, SUVs and Trucks Reviews.

Nothing makes a driver as crazy as realizing too late that snow tires would be a good idea. To many drivers, the price of said tires is prohibitive. Time to get them installed is another serious problem for winter drivers. However, snow tires save lives and prevent insurance companies from cashing out for accidents.

Drivers living in areas that might get a dusting of snow a couple times during the winter should still have winter tires. The roads will be cold, wet or icy, whether or not there is snow. Ordinary tires are made of the wrong kind of rubber for winter driving. Nor do they provide the traction on cold, wet pavement that winter tires do. Winter tires give drivers an edge even on wet winter pavement.

Goodyear Eagle RS-A Winter Tires

Goodyear Eagle RS-A Review

For your standard car, the best all season tire to buy is the Goodyear Eagle RS-A series with its superior grip. The Goodyear brand is a premium tire brand worldwide but at less than $100 dollars for the wider tires, they are still rather cheap.

Not all car owners can afford to have another spare set of wheels with dedicated winter tires but the Goodyear Eagles check this box. I personally run these tires all year round on my E55 AMG E-Class Mercedes and can safely say that they coped perfect on the icy roads.

With wide lateral grooves for improved wet traction and vulgar should tread for increased grip around the corners, these tires have it all. I cannot put a finger wrong with these tires but if you do have a spare set of alloys that you want dedicated winter tires, the other tires are probably better for you.

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Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2 Winter Tires

Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2 Review

The Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2 series is a winter dedicated tire with excellent properties for snow and ice. Rest assure, these are the best winter tires for the money and the stopping distance in the snow is second to none.

There are reports that the Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2’s are fairly noisy but this is a small trade off for the best grip in the snow. They are rated for all vehicles from cars to SUV’s and although slightly expensive, they are the best buys.

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Bridgestone Blizzak Winter Tires

Best Winter Tires Bridgestone Blizzak

Another premium brand is Bridgestone but unlike GoodYear, they have their own dedicated winter tire series called Blizzak. I was recently in Germany in heavy snow in the back of a German BMW taxi. The driver had no trouble with the steep inclines or stopping the big diesel 5 series with these Bridgestone Blizzak’s. He said that they were the best snow tires without studs.

After some investigation, I found out why they were highly rated winter tires. With advanced multi-cellular compounds, optimized construction and complex tread patterns, the price makes sense. For driving on slush and ice, the 3D zigzag tread gives impressive biting edges for improved handling.

If the German taxi drivers are using these tires to transport passengers during the winter season, you can rest assure, that these are top rated winter tires.

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General AltiMAX Winter Tires

General AltiMAX snow tire reviews

Not everyone can afford to pay for a second set of wheels with winter tires. However, if you are on a budget, the General AltiMAX Winter Tires are the best cheap winter tires for the money.

The tread is non directional and these winter tires are great for low noise compared with other tires. The General AltiMAX Winter Tires are very popular across the US for the reasonable price and excellent performance.

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Michelin Latitude X-Ice SUV Winter Tires

Michelin Latitude X-Ice SUV Winter Tires Best SUV Winter Tire Review

Michelin are another big brand in the tire industry and the Michelin Latitude X-Ice is the best winter tires for SUV’s. Unlike other winter tires that cater for all sizes, the Michelin Latitude X-Ice is dedicated to only SUV’s and Trucks with a high profile.

This means all the research and development has been focused on how SUV’s handle on snow and ice. Another great reason to buy these Michelin’s is the excellent 40,000 mile warranty that no other manufacturer offer.

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Why Should I Buy Winter Tires?

Many snow tire buyers see the words “all season tires” and think “I got this”! What these drivers aren’t aware of is that such tires are fine for dry weather driving. When the roads get cold, and we’re talking below zero temperatures, the rubber can’t navigate the pavement, because the rubber is harder with less surface on the road. One of America’s biggest tire merchants and testers, The Tire Rack, says that “winter tires provide up to 21 percent more traction than all season tires in similar circumstances”.

The reason winter tires are superior is that the rubber is softer, providing more surface on the road and a much better grip. Additionally, the tire treads are designed with grip in mind. The technology exists now for winter tire makers to add compounds to the tires to improve grip. One tire maker even uses crushed walnuts.

Perhaps one of the most important reasons for buying snow tires is braking capability. Such tires are made specifically to stop the car in a shorter time. They are also engineered to corner on icy turns instead of sliding into them. The Tire Rack testers report seeing “a 35 percent improvement in braking between all season tires and snow tires”. And there’s a life saved.

Last, but certainly not least, winter tires provide a more comfortable ride than their studded counterparts or even their all season cousins.

Note to snow tire buyers: Studded tires include tiny metal spikes that slice through ice on roads. However, they also damage pavement. They are noisy, too. These tires don’t do well in snow, even compacted snow, but in ice they rule. Check with your state to see if studded tires are allowed, and that’s if you live in an area with more ice than snow.

How Long Do Winter Tires Last?

This question depends on a couple things. What kind of temperatures do you drive in? Do you drive on mostly cold pavement (from about 20 degrees to below zero) with sometimes wet roads? Do you drive in powdery snow or is it packed down? Does ice and snow combined give you nightmares?

If winters are punishing, then snow tires will only last a season or two on cold asphalt. If you live in a mild climate, then you can expect two to three seasons’ worth of wear. How much driving do you do? If you drive from home to the office and back, then winter tires will last perhaps two to three years. If, however, you deliver pizza or drive for Uber or Lyft, then your tires will only last a season.

The Tire Rack tells us that “a typical tire has a tread depth of 10 to 11/32 inches. Winter tires have deeper tread depending on what vehicle the tire is going on”.

Since the tire has more surface on the road and the tread is deeper, those driving only a few miles might see two seasons’ worth of wear on their winter tires. Drivers going farther or driving more might only see a season’s worth of driving. Remember that when the tread gets down to 6/32 inches, then it’s time for new snow tires.

Pros and Cons of Tire Chains vs Winter Tires

Winter drivers have a choice of driving aids, but they come with a cost, both literally and figuratively. They also have their benefits, to-wit:

Tire Chains Pros

  • Unless you wait until the middle of the first snowstorm, chains are usually between $60 and $100 for a full set
  • There are two types of chain: one you drive onto and the other you wrap around the tire
  • They are durable
  • They cut through ice and snow like a sword
  • Chains can be put on when snow is present and taken off when it’s over
  • Chains give their best performance in deep snow and ice

Tire Chains Cons

  • In that first snowstorm, tire chain costs can rise dramatically
  • They’re a pain to install
  • They come with no warranty (although the brand Thule has a one year warranty)
  • Most drivers only use chains when nothing else is available, and generally end up installing them in the snow
  • You can only drive 30 mph with chains
  • Chains come off on dry pavement, thrashing about the wheel well. They will break whatever gets in their way, like sensors, fenders and moldings

Pros of Winter Tires

In addition to improved grip and better braking capability, winter tires offer:

  • Longer life for your all season or ordinary tires
  • Tread is designed to sluice ice and slush away from tire surface
  • Engineered to provide a quiet, comfortable drive
  • Changing the wheels in winter keeps your other wheels from being eaten by harsh ice/snow melting chemicals
  • Better traction provides superior stopping and corner-turning capability for a safer drive
  • All four wheels with winter tires provide a safer ride for drivers than just two wheels with winter tires

Cons of Winter Tires

  • Not made for higher speeds (not that you’d drive fast in snow anyway)
  • Poor handling
  • Tread digs into asphalt, causing cracks and potholes in the roads
  • The softer rubber means they will wear down quicker
  • The extra cost of wheels onto which to mount winter tires
  • Storage for said tires
  • In addition to being more expensive, most garages charge extra for mounting winter tires

Winter Tire Buying Guide

There is still plenty of information about winter tire buying. We know this is a lot to remember, but keep in mind that this information will go toward snow tires that will save your life.

You see, every component, including the tires of a car, act together as a well-designed machine. The wrong winter tires or all season tires in a snowy, icy winter setting throws off the whole thing. This could cost you your life. Here are a few more facts to consider.

Know Thy Area

If your part of the country sees distinct changes in season, then you will need to consider types of winter tires. Does your part of the country see mostly cold dry or wet winter days? Does snow come only once or twice in the winter? Do the roads ice over only once or twice a season?

Mainly cold and dry/wet winter days require performance winter tires. These will be prepared for snow, but will handle wet/dry winter days as well

Snowy icy days require winter snow tires. They corner better, stop quicker and prevent sliding better than all season tires

Carriers stock winter tires only in the fall. If you know your area well, and you know that you’ll need them, get your winter tires when they are offered. Don’t wait until it’s too late, or they won’t be there

Types of Snow Tires

Don’t be confused by various names and descriptions of basic winter tires. There are two types:

  1. Performance winter tires. If your area is mild in winter, these tires will do. They don’t grip like other winter tires, but for a cold dry place, they’re good
  2. Studless winter tires. These are regular winter tires, with good grip, softer rubber and better cornering capability. Not made for high speeds in colder weather

Purchase and Installation of Winter Tires

Always buy four winter tires. Buying two tires gives the other two, whether they are mounted in front or in back, more latitude for sliding and cornering like a sled on ice. Four winter tires means the car is balanced, and that well designed machine we spoke of above will perform at the top of its game.

Whether you buy your winter tires online or in-store, you’ll need to budget for a couple things. First, budget for installation. Some stores charge fifteen or twenty bucks to mount and balance the tires. Second, it’s quicker, easier and less expensive to buy wheels on which to mount your winter tires.

This saves a lot of time unmounting and remounting tires. Some stores are even providing specific locked containers for customers’ all season or ordinary tires when winter tires are installed. Check into that, too.

Note to winter tire purchasers: there is a new law on the books that prohibits tire pressure monitoring sensors from being messed with or disabled in changing tires. Ensure the workers attach new sensors to your winter tires or change the tires on the existing wheels. This won’t disable the sensors, and you won’t be fined for non-compliance.

Winter Tires By the Numbers

Now we come to the nitty-gritty or the numbers of winter tires. What’s printed on the sidewalls of tires confuses a lot of people. Here, we will explain the numbers, so you’ll know what you’re buying.

Rim diameter is the distance between the inside edge of the tire to the inside portion of the rim it sits on. These diameters range from 12 to 22 inches. Notices on the doors of the car will tell drivers the diameter tire appropriate for the car. Larger or smaller tires will cause problems or fail altogether

Section width means how wide the tire is. These numbers run from 125 to 295 millimeters. Always get the right width for the rims. Taller tires rub against the wheel wells and wear the tread down. Smaller tires can’t take the higher speeds that taller tires do.

The aspect ratio is the next number drivers need to heed. This is the percentage of height to width, expressed from five to 85 percent. This ratio is important to cornering, as a smaller ratio corners better due to stiffer sidewalls

The snow tire speed index is the speed at which the tire is driven and still maintain reliability and safety. It is expressed in the letter “Q”, and may be driven at 99 mph and still be safe and reliable. This is the max speed at which the tire may be driven, and drivers should maintain a safe speed at all times, but especially in inclement winter conditions

Note to Winter Tire Buyers. Anyone can carry winter tires. They may or may not be of good quality, and remember, your life and the lives of your passengers are riding on those tires. Only buy winter tires with a mountain and snowflake designation.

This stamp means that the tires meet the exacting snow traction requirements as expressed by the Rubber Manufacturers of America and are of good quality.

The Best Winter Tires for Cars

Winter tires appropriate for sedans and family cars come in two types: performance and ultra high performance all season tires. These tires are rated for higher speeds, but swap some of the speed for some little handling capability.

Their tread will not last long. Ultra high performance all season tires are mainly meant for sport cars and coupes. These tend to be higher priced than ordinary winter tires, but their appropriateness depends on the winter conditions in your area and your checkbook balance.

The Best Winter Tires for Trucks

There are trucks and then there are trucks. Light pickup trucks often use ordinary car tires, because the load is right around the same.

In these cases, the tread offers a clearly superior biting edge and a softer rubber, but these are traded off for wearing down quicker.

Performance tests on light pickup truck winter tires showed that an empty bed light truck accelerated and stopped better than with ordinary tires. These tires also perform well on cold asphalt. Such tires, though, should be changed when harsh winter weather abates.

The Best Winter Tires for SUVs and Crossovers

Considering the fact that there are almost more SUVs and crossovers on the roads than regular passenger cars, it just stands to reason to make a winter tire specifically for them. The guiding principles for such tires would be braking on dry and wet pavement, traction in snow, cornering capability, the propensity to hydroplane, handling, noise and tread life.

The result of testing by many engineering and tire entities offers a winter tire that holds up under all the testing. Users were also satisfied, even if the tires were more expensive than car tires.

One of the few drawbacks to winter tires designed for SUVs and crossovers is that traction in deep snow is almost nil, but traction in a light dusting or dry but cold roads is excellent. Drivers noticed less noise, better handling and a more comfortable ride than with ordinary car winter tires. Testing on ice and hard packed snow provided a nice grip.

Testing has also been performed on all season tires meant for winter driving on SUVs and crossovers. The tests showed that while vehicles could use all season tires in milder winter conditions, heavy snows and ice required proper winter tires.

While the tires did perform well, proper winter tires are still recommended by testers to be driven on cold pavements.

If you’re going to budget winter tires, then follow a few safety tips when you get them installed. Drive the speed limit or slower, allowing for stopping time in traffic.

Leave enough room in front of you in case a car stops suddenly, and you won’t hit it. Take extra time turning corners in ice and snow. Give yourself extra time to get to your destination. Be safe and arrive alive!

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