Every product is carefully selected by our editors. If you buy from a link, we may earn a commission.

The Best Winter and Snow Tires You Can Buy

Don't get caught out in the cold without proper footwear.

best winter tires
Gear Patrol

Every pro driver will tell you a car is only as good as its tires. You can go out of your way to get a car with the best handling and the most intelligent all-wheel-drive system on the market, but if you can’t put the power down with proper traction, all those millions of dollars spent in R&D are worth precisely nil. That's why you need snow tires.

The best winter tires are impressive feats of engineering: water, slush, snow and salt are controlled and pumped out from underneath via intricate channels between treads while the soft rubber composition molds to and grips the road surface, despite low temperatures. That’s why the best snow tires look so much more extreme in design than summer or all-terrain tires. Where a summer tire’s near-slick surface would simply aquaplane, the tread on a snow tire shovels and pumps water out of the way while gripping firmly to keep you going in the right direction. They are the right tools for the job; for cars that tackle winter weather, they are the most necessary upgrade.

Understanding Winter Tire Design

All tires are not created equal, and the same goes for the winter tires subset. The most basic categories snow tires fall into are Studless Ice and Snow, Studdable and Performance. From there, things get more specific depending on vehicle type: passenger cars, trucks and SUVs.

Studless snow tires have an incredibly complex tread design, specifically meant to pump standing water away from the tread. In addition, those designs also grip and hold onto packable snow and ice with super-soft rubber and intricate, multi-layered tread-block patterns in order to — counterintuitively, perhaps — provide more traction.

Studdable snow tires are, compared to their studless cousins, less extreme in design with regards to the tread but are outfitted to accept metal studs. Studdable tires greatly improve traction on ice, but as Rogers points out, “they come with a trade-off in the form of noisy clear-road driving, damage to bare road surfaces and are of no benefit when driving on snow. Many states restrict or ban the use of studded tires.” So quite often, studdable tires never see their full potential.

Performance winter tires focus more on clear road handling than on actual snow and ice. Even though you may never see snow or ice, winter tires are still recommended for cold weather and low temperatures because of their softer rubber compound which grips the road surface despite the much lower temperatures. This focus lets the driver get more use out of their sports car’s performance.

Winter Tire Terms to Know

Tread blocks: Tread blocks refer to the larger sections of rubber that give the tire’s pattern its overall design. Depending on how they are arranged and angled can affect a tire's efficiency to pump away water and grip road surfaces.

Siping: Invented by John F. Sipe in 1923, siping is the process of cutting thin grooves across a tire's tread blocks to increase grip in wet and wintery conditions. The tactic makes the rubber tread blocks more pliable and flexible and better at gripping snow, cold asphalt and pumping away water mitigating hydroplaning. (You’ve also seen siping on the bottom of Sperry boat shoes.)

Compound: The compound of the tire refers to the mixture of ingredients in the rubber of the tire itself. Modern winter tires have a higher silica content than say an all-season or summer tire because it allows the winter tire to stay softer at lower temperatures, stay malleable and grip the road better.

3PMSF: Look for the Three Peak Mountain Snowflake (3PMSF) symbol. The 3PMSF symbol confirms the tire meets a minimum requirement for acceleration and traction on snow in conditions considered severe by the weather service. All dedicated winter tires will have the symbol. But be aware that a small but growing number of all-season tires also have this mark.

Wikimedia Commons

Can You Use Tire Chains Instead of Snow Tires?

No. Tire chains are more affordable than winter tires. But if you encounter conditions where tire chains would be legal or required, you need specialized snow tires. The debate would be at the extremes, whether you need to upgrade to heavier-duty studded snow tires for the winter or supplement your extant winter tires with tire chains.

The Best Snow Tires

The winter tire market is a vast one, and picking the best snow tires for your vehicle can seem to be the hardest part — but it can actually be quite simple. Woody Rogers, tire information specialist at Tire Rack, explains: “Think about the worst conditions you’ll encounter and how often that will happen. Prioritize your needs and wants, including snow and ice traction, clear road handling and driving fun.”

There’s no need to spend hundreds of dollars on super high-performance tires if all you’re doing is commuting in the family sedan or truck. Likewise, if you’re looking to do winter autocross or you have a high-horsepower sports car, specially-designed performance rubber may be what you want.

Note: Snow tire prices can vary depending on the tire size, and in some cases, only select tire sizes are available for certain cars. Nearly every manufacturer will recommend buying a full set of four winter tires for your vehicle.

Best Standard Snow Tires

These are the snow tires most buyers need: good for commuting, driving around town and sticking to paved and plowed roads.

Nokian Hakkapeliitta R5

The Best Winter Tire for Snow and Ice

Nokian Hakkapeliitta R5

Nokian simpletire.com
$121.99

If there’s one thing a Finnish company would know, it’s traction in winter driving. We tested the Nokian Hakkapeliitta R3 and found its grip and snow and icy conditions to be phenomenal — to the point it felt like cheating. Nokian has updated that already excellent tire with their new flagship R5 version. The R5 brings a new tread pattern that enhances the contact patch between the tire and the road and microscopic crystals that emerge to provide more grip as the tire wears.

These tires are best for truly snowy winters. Some reviewers have complained about their performance in resisting hydroplaning in wet conditions. Nokian also has a smaller brand presence in America. It may be harder to find Nokian-branded tires (and consequently find replacements) at certain outlets.

  • Type: Studless
  • Vehicles: Sedans, Coupes, Minivans
  • 3PMSF: Yes

    Bridgestone Blizzak WS90

    Courtesy
    Best All-Around Winter Tire

    Bridgestone Blizzak WS90

    Bridgestone tirerack.com
    $98.11

    When it comes to balancing price and performance, Blizzaks are legendary. Bridgestone updated the WS90 with a new tread pattern that increases the contact area of the tire and provides more block stiffness for better durability. Bridgestone's unique NanoPro-Tech Multicell hydrophilic compound wicks water off the road while microscopic bite particles blended into the rubber dig into icy surfaces.

    • Type: Studless
    • Vehicles: Sedans, Coupes, Minivans, Crossovers
    • 3PMSF: Yes

      Yokohama Blue Earth Winter V905

      Most Environmentally Friendly Winter Tire

      Yokohama Blue Earth Winter V905

      Yokohama tirerack.com
      $162.44

      The Yokohoma BlueEarth Winter V905 falls closer to the high-performance end of the spectrum. Its high silica rubber and orange oil-infused compound reduces rolling resistance, improving both performance and fuel economy. The surface tread pattern works to help funnel water and slush away in wet conditions. But the tread you can’t see — the tread in between the blocks — works to grip snow and also maintain its block rigidity despite a softer rubber makeup.

      • Type: Studless
      • Vehicles: Performance Cars and SUVs
      • 3PMSF: Yes

        Continental VikingContact7

        Continental VikingContact7

        Continental tirerack.com
        $95.99

        The Continental VikingContact 7 fits an incredibly wide variety of vehicles, coming in sizes ranging from tiny 15-inch compact car to massive 22-inch crossover wheels. A proprietary Nordic compound with canola oil provides added flexibility and active grip silica for better performance in the wet. Wider sipes allow the tire to create snow pockets and use snow-to-snow traction for better grip.

        • Type: Studless
        • Vehicles: Sedans, Crossovers, Coupes, Minivans
        • 3PMSF: Yes

          Michelin X-Ice Snow

          Michelin X-Ice Snow

          Michelin tirerack.com
          $102.99

          Michelin's X-Ice Snow is the successor to the X-Ice Xi2 and X-Ice Xi3 tire. It uses Michelin's "Flex-Ice 2.0" tread compound which has micro-roughness on the surface for better snow and ice grip. Its silica-based compound allows the tire the flexibility to still provide traction in low temperatures. And increased groove widths reduce hydroplaning and help provide snow-to-snow traction.

          Michelin claims these tires will last an extra winter season vs. competitors and backs that u with a six-year or 40,000-mile treadwear warranty.

          • Type: Studless
          • Vehicles: Sedans, Coupes, Minivans and Crossovers
          • 3PMSF: Yes

            Goodyear Winter Command Ultra

            Goodyear Winter Command Ultra

            Goodyear tirerack.com
            $107.39

            Goodyear's newest winter tire is the WinterCommand Ultra. This tire features a V-tread pattern with hydrodynamic grooves designed to expel water, slush and snow from the tire's contact patch for better traction. Designed for cars, minivans, crossovers and SUVs, the WinterCommand Ultra qualifies for the Three Peak Mountain Snowflake symbol (see below).

            • Type: Studless
            • Vehicles: Sedans, Minivans, Crossovers and SUVs
            • 3PMSF: Yes

              Best Snow Tires for Trucks

              Trucks are, generally, designed to optimize traction; they generally do well with more aggressive, specifically designed rubber.

              Nokian Hakkapeliitta R5 SUV

              Nokian Hakkapeliitta R5 SUV

              nokian simpletire.com
              $156.13

              As the name suggests, these are the Nokian Hakkapeliitta R5 tires designed for use on larger trucks and SUVs. They have similar features to the car tires, like the embedded grip crystals that give the tire extra bite when it starts to wear. But they come with tougher Aramid sidewalls to handle the bigger load from a larger vehicle.

              • Type: Studless
              • Vehicles: Crossovers, SUVs, Light Trucks
              • 3PMSF: Yes

                Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V2

                Courtesy
                Best Winter Truck Tire

                Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V2

                Bridgestone tirerack.com
                $140.15

                Bridgestone makes a great all-around snow tire for coupes and sedans. The DM-V2 carries that reputation into the truck universe. It uses the same NanoPro-Tech Multicell compound with a hydrophilic coating. The tires' aggressive siping pumps away slush and holds on to snow for more grip on ice. The sizing is designed to fit larger vehicles like trucks.

                • Type: Studless
                • Vehicles: Pickups, SUVs and Crossovers
                • 3PMSF: Yes

                  Pirelli Scorpion Winter

                  Courtesy
                  Best High Performance Winter Truck Tire

                  Pirelli Scorpion Winter

                  Pirelli tirerack.com
                  $148.22

                  Pirelli is known for its high-performance tires for F1 and sports cars — and handling in the dry is still a concern here. But the Scorpion Winter is designed as a great cold-weather tire, first and foremost. Performance on snow and ice is its main objective, thanks to rubber packing a new polymer blend and more silica than its predecessors for improved grip in winter conditions. It may not have studs, but it should have your back even if you find yourself in winter conditions that are really getting out of hand.

                  • Type: Studless
                  • Vehicles: Luxury Crossovers and SUVs
                  • 3PMSF: Yes

                    Firestone Winterforce 2UV

                    Courtesy
                    Best Winter Truck Tire on a Budget

                    Firestone Winterforce 2UV

                    Firestone tirerack.com
                    $107.06

                    Firestone’s Winterstone UV is made to help everything from minivans and crossovers to burly body-on-frame SUVs and trucks handle the slop and snow. The directional tread pattern helps channel slush away from the tire's contact patch to prevent hydroplaning. The tires also have high-density siping for extra bite on snow and ice. The Firestone UV provides a solid snow tire at a price that’s easy on your wallet.

                    • Type: Studdable
                    • Vehicles: Pickups, Minivans, Crossovers, SUVs
                    • 3PMSF: Yes

                      Best High-Performance Winter Tires

                      Sports cars can definitely tackle winter conditions, so long as your skills are sharp and you take care to clean the salt off your ride as often as possible.

                      Michelin Pilot Alpin 5

                      Courtesy
                      Best High-Performance Winter Tire

                      Michelin Pilot Alpin 5

                      Michelin tirerack.com
                      $205.23

                      Just because the skies aren’t blue and road conditions aren’t ideal for high-horsepower performance cars, it doesn’t mean your sports car has to stay hidden all winter. The Pilot Alpin 5 is the winter equivalent of Michelin’s remarkable Sport Cup 2 summer tires. The highly-siped directional tread pattern blends dry road cornering performance with hydroplaning resistance. A specialized undertread reduces rolling resistance and helps fuel economy. These tires come with a six-year, 30,0oo-mile treadwear guarantee.

                      • Type: Studless
                      • Vehicles: High-performance performance sedans, coupes and sports cars
                      • 3PMSF: Yes

                        Pirelli P Zero Winter

                        Courtesy
                        Best Premium High-Performance Winter Tire

                        Pirelli P Zero Winter

                        Pirelli tirerack.com
                        $294.51

                        Pirelli manufactures the tires for Formula 1. The P Zero Winter is their snow tire alternative to their high-performance P Zero summer tires — if you still want to daily drive your sports car in the less clement months. The P Zero Winter tires use a brickwork pattern siping that creates more biting edges for better stability.

                        • Type: Studless
                        • Vehicles: High-performance sedans, coupes, sports cars, crossovers and SUVs
                        • 3PMSF: Yes

                          Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3

                          Courtesy
                          Best Budget Winter Performance Tire

                          Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3

                          Pirelli tirerack.com
                          $144.27

                          Pirelli also sells a more affordable winter tire option, the Sottozero 3. These are described as more winter seasonal tires than snow tires per se. Think more "it can get cold from time to time" vs. "I reside in the Arctic." Though they do have three-peak mountain snowflake certification. A directional tread pattern enlarges the contact patch for better grip while expelling water and slush. The tire's internal structure is reinforced by spirally wrapped polyamide that helps the tire retain thermal stability in changing temperature conditions.

                          • Type: Studless
                          • Vehicles: High-performance sedans, coupes, sports cars, crossovers and SUVs
                          • 3PMSF: Yes

                            Michelin Pilot Alpin 5 SUV

                            Best High-Performance Winter Tire for SUVs

                            Michelin Pilot Alpin 5 SUV

                            Michelin tirerack.com
                            $243.25

                            Now that manufacturers are building more and more street performance-oriented SUVs and crossovers — and the public is buying them up — there’s more demand for a specialized winter tire that can keep up with those fast high-riders. The Michelin Pilot Alpin 5 SUV brings together the best aspects of performance winter tires and also meets the demands an SUV or truck asks of its tires.

                            • Type: Studless
                            • Vehicles: High-performance pickups, crossovers and SUVs
                            • 3PMSF: Yes


                              Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
                              More From Buying Guides