best tires for snow and winter driving

The Best Winter Tires 2019

When it comes to driving in the snow, you cannot simply rely on your standard tires to provide you with the traction. Winter tires is what is required as they have been designed primarily for water, slush, snow and salt.

The best winter tires are the Michelin Latitude X-Ice Radial Tires that are designed to maintain their flexibility regardless of the cold weather conditions.

For drivers that find themselves driving in deep snow, it may also be worth investing into a quality set of tire chains for additional traction. These simply wrap about your winter tires with a low profile design and will improve traction massively.

Best Winter Tires for Cars, SUV & Trucks

Winter TiresTypeSpeed Rating
Michelin Latitude X-IceSUVT
Bridgestone Blizzak WS80Average CarH/T
Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2Average CarR
Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3PerformanceH
Antares Grip 20BudgetH

The tire industry technology has seen big advancements and tires these days have unbelievable amount of grip in a variety of weather conditions. From tire tread patterns designed to channel slush, snow and ice away from the tire to superior flexibility, winter tires are the safest they have ever been.

Compared against a summer tire, the winter alternative contains are far more aggressive tread pattern and will have a snow flake on the sidewall to indicate that it is in fact a winter tire.

The tires on your vehicle is the only grip you have to the road and its important that you do not neglect your tires. Below is a list of the best winter tires that give you the edge even in extremely low temperatures or roads covered in snow.

Michelin Latitude X-Ice SUV Winter Tires


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.

Some of the notable features of the Michelin Latitude X-Ice include:

  • Special FleX-Ice compound for flexibility of the tire
  • Wide tread contact patch for maximum traction
  • 235/65/17 tire size
  • T speed rating
  • Tread depth of 11 inches

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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Bridgestone Blizzak WS80 Snow Tires


Bridgestone is another premium brand in the tire industry and the Blizzak series is dedicated to winter tires. These are available in sizes for passenger cars, SUVs, trucks and various other vehicles and use a zig-zag tread pattern for pushing away the winter elements on the road. Below are some of the features of the Bridgestone Blizzak WS80 Winter Tires:

  • Advanced multi-cellular compounds
  • Complex 3D zig-zag tread pattern
  • Optimized construction
  • Contains a hydraulic coating

Bridgestone is a brand that you can trust and these Blizzak tires are the best tires for winter use and are compatible with a range of vehicles. Considering that they are produced by a big brand, they also offer excellent value for the money.

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Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2 Studless Winter Tires


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 very low for maximum safety.

Features of the Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2 studless winter tires include:

  • Grip particles in the rubber compound
  • Pocket shaped pump sipes
  • Sharp triangle-shaped slush penetrators
  • Environmentally friendly by using purified oils

There are reports on various forums 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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Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3


If you are brave enough to drive a performance car during the winter season, you will want to ensure you have the most amount of grip possible on the road. This can be achieved with the Sottozero 3 winter tires by Pirelli that are designed for winter performance.

Features of the Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3 include:

  • H speed rating
  • Optimized design ensures a longer life
  • Rounded shoulder and deep groves for water dispersal
  • Directional double arrow tread pattern

These are performance winter tires and they are designed for high capacity engines and performance cars. This therefore results in a premium price tag that will put off many drivers of standard passenger vehicles. Overall, they are the best performance winter tires you can buy and being developed by Pirelli, they are going to performance as expected.

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Antares Grip 20 Tires For Winter


Purchasing a set of winter tires can be a substantial investment and you will usually buy 4 at a time unless you are simply replacing worn tires. To ensure that you keep costs down, you may want to look for a set of cheap winter tires to begin with.

The Antares Grip 20 do exactly that and feature the following:

  • High traction tread pattern
  • Wet and dry performance
  • Zig-zag cuts in the tread blocks
  • Lots of sipes for additional traction
  • Solid center rib

Overall, the Antares Grip 20 are the best cheap winter tires and they conform to all the regulations with the snow symbol stamped upon the sidewall. Even though they are shipped from China and are the cheapest, you have peace of mind that they are indeed meeting the requirements set by the Rubber Manufacturers of America.

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Winter Tires Buying Guide

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 now exists for winter tire makers to add compounds to the tires to improve grip. The most common is to add tiny grit particles into the rubber for further traction on the roads.

You can easily tell the difference between a standard tire compared with winter tires. The most obvious is of course the large snow symbol that is on the side wall, which defines that it meets certain requirements but there are more differences.

The edges are different because winter tires are designed to grip the road and of course, the tread pattern gaps are usually larger to disperse the water, snow and slush. This does result in a bit more noise but traction is the most important thing within these sorts of driving conditions.

winter tires

Benefits of Using 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

Drawback of Using 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

Performance Winter Tires

Types of Snow Tires

With the variety of vehicles out on the road, there needs to be a large amount of different types of winter tires available. Our recommendations above provide a winter tire for each type of vehicle.

To begin with, there are several standard winter tires that are designed for passenger cars. The budget you set aside will depend on the amount of grip as the larger brands usually have better grip but come at a much greater cost.

You will also find many SUV and truck winter tires with the Michelin being our teams most rated. These will have a larger profile and designed primarily for the heavy load vehicles.

Finally, you will find performance winter tires that are designed for vehicles with large engine capacities or require wide tires for the design of the vehicle.

With each type, there will be a number available at a range of different budgets. The amount you spend is completely up to you but remember, the tires are the only thing connecting you to the road.

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.

Snow Tires For Winter

Studded Vs Studless

The majority of drivers on the road will use a studless winter tire as they perform well and are cheaper. However, those that choose a studded winter tire will have additional traction via the metal studs along the key points in the tread. These make traction in deep snow ice or snow far better and generally improve the overall performance whilst driving in the snow.

Of course, not every vehicle on the road will make use of the studs. They also come with a drawback which is damage to the road and a large increase in noise.

If the snow is that bad, you are better of investing into a set of tire chains that can be put on and taken off in minutes. This way you can have the best of both tires and at a far better cost too.

Cautious Winter Driving

When driving in the snow, your driving style plays a huge part. You can have the best winter tires on your vehicle but if you fail to follow basic driving rules in the snow or ice, things will not end well. Below are some of our tips for winter driving:

  • Slow down gradually without harsh braking
  • Increase your distance between cars
  • Slow right down
  • Avoid sudden accelerations
  • Build up speed before hitting hills
  • Never stop on a hill
  • Use public transport driving routes

For further winter driving tips, visit the AAA exchange tutorial.

Conclusion

The tires of your vehicle are the only contact you have with the road and you should ensure you have maximum grip at all times. Investing into a quality set of winter tires will ensure you are able to drive safely on the road and not get caught out.

All of our recommendations in this article are available in a range of tire sizes and you should be ensure you pick the correct size for your car.

Many trucks that use all terrain tires may not require winter tires as they are designed to be used on any surface. However, some all terrain tires perform poorly when the temperature drops and it may be worth testing a set of winter tires on your truck.

What Are Your Thoughts?

  1. So from reading this article i still am not entirely sure i should get the best SUV winter tire (michelin x-ice xi2) or just go for the Blizzak or the Michelin x-ice xi13 as these two seem to have the best and more extended track record.
    Also, what is your take on the Nokian R2??

  2. Hey Igal – For SUVs, the Michelin X-Ice is highly recommended and the one our team think is the best winter tire for SUVs. We have just updated this article for this year and the Blizzak is another that is highly rated. But the X-Ice would be the one to go for with regards to SUVs or trucks.

  3. Hi Dan,
    I came to know that Michelin X Ice is not compatible with 19 inch wheels and they have Michelin Latitude as the equivalent. Can you tell me if it’s as good as the X ice model. I am contemplating whether to buy Michelin Latitude X or Bridgestone Blizzak WS80 for my SUV.

  4. That is a shame! However, this is pretty common and not many brands have all their models in anything over 18 inch. The Latitude is still a great winter tire mind. What about purchasing a second set of wheels that are 18 inch and using them with winter tires? That way you can just switch without the hassle of changing tires all the time?

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