THESE TIRES GO WHERE OTHERS FEAR TO TREAD
If you live in a region where winters are fierce and snowfalls are measured in feet instead of inches, even the best all-season tires won't handle as well as snow tires can when the weather gets rough. To find the best snow tires Cheapism.com scoured sources nearly to the poles and back, consulting product assessments from Consumer Reports and comparative testing from automotive professionals at sites like Car and Driver and Tire Rack, a well-respected tire retailer known for independently testing many of the models it sells. We also looked at expert winter tire feedback from Canada's Automotive Protective Association (APA) and results from the much-vaunted Norwegian Auto Federation's (NAF) annual testing, which subjects its tires to harsh winter conditions — much harsher than most U.S. drivers are likely to encounter. All of our picks deliver top-safety when the white stuff piles up, at a wallet-pleasing price.
True snow tires have deeper treads and are made of softer materials than all-season tires, allowing them to maintain traction on wet and slippery surfaces. So, regardless of which snow tire you choose, bear in mind that these are not intended to be driven in warm weather or on clear, dry roads; doing so will cause the tires to wear quickly and driving performance could be compromised. Also, the majority of tires in this category do not carry a treadwear warranty. If you're considering studded tires, we'd suggest you seriously weigh the pros and cons; research calls into question whether studs offer any real advantage, except under limited conditions on ice. In addition, many states have laws that either restrict the usage of studded snow tires, or ban them altogether. None of our picks come pre-fitted with studs, but we do have one set of studdable tires. For drivers who live in climates where snow and ice may be only an occasional annoyance, all-weather tires might be a consideration, and we've included a recommendation on our list. They are much better on dry pavement and wet roads than standard snow tires, and better on moderate snow and ice than all season tires, but they're not made to navigate heavy snow cover.
*Prices and availability are subject to change. Starting prices are generally for smallest tire sizes for each line.
MICHELIN X-ICE XI3
Best Value Snow Tire
Est. Price: Starting around $83 | Buy them from Tire Rack
- Top-of-class traction and braking on snow and ice.
- Low road noise.
- Comes with relatively long treadwear warranty where others offer none.
- Long braking distances on wet pavement.
- Warranty can be a challenge to collect on, consumers say.
Takeaway: These Michelin snow tires have been a reviewer favorite for years, and have stood up well to the tests of time and harsh winter driving. Most experts have no quibbles concerning the Michelin X-Ice Xi3's handling on ice and snow, with Consumer Reports awarding it "excellent" marks for performance in both of those categories. We saw mixed input on dry pavement driving, with some experts suggesting it's only okay in that regard, while reviewers at Canada's Automobile Protection Association designate it best in class. Other pluses include a relatively quiet and extremely comfortable ride, and they're designed for low rolling resistance and better gas mileage. Snow tires have short lifespans — pros say to expect 20,000 miles or so for a typical set — and manufacturers rarely provide tread life coverage, but Michelin bucks the trend with the X-Ice Xi3 and offers a treadwear warranty of 40,000 miles. That said, APA cautions that the mileage warranty is a bit "tricky" and "requires the tires to be virtual banana peels before you can collect."
NOKIAN HAKKAPELIITTA R2
Best Snow Tire Overall
Est. Price: Starting around $88 | Buy them from Simple Tire
- Top-tier winter tire according to multiple tests.
- Terrific traction in ice and snow.
- Excellent ride comfort.
- Poorer performance on wet roads than competitors.
- Below-average dry-road performance.
Takeaway: Nokian, a Finnish brand, wasn't always the easiest to find in the U.S., but it's been a reviewer and driver favorite for years. Indeed, experts agree the Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2 is one of the very best snow tires you can buy. The R2 isn't a stellar performer on dry or wet roads, but test after test find it at or near the top on the most treacherous of winter roads. As reviewers at Car and Driver sum it up, "If the best winter traction is what you want…look no further." Even better, with the introduction of the Nokian Hakkapeliitta R3, the pricing of the still-available Hakka R2 has dropped considerably.
BRIDGESTONE BLIZZAK WS80
Good Snow Tire
Est. Price: Starting around $97 | Buy them from Tire Rack
- Top-rated snow tire in comparative review by Canada's Automobile Protection Association.
- Outstanding traction on snow and excellent ice braking.
- Very smooth, comfortable ride, according to experts and users.
- Relatively long braking distances on wet roads.
- Noisy, especially on dry roads.
Takeaway: The Bridgestone Blizzak WS80 is well liked by most reviewers, but opinions on how it fares against the competition are not unanimous. It's among the highest-rated snow tires with Tire Rack users, and that feedback is based on over two million miles of driving experience. The site's experts are fans, too, and based on their testing they say this Bridgestone tire "sets a new standard" among snow tires. Canada's APA can be counted among the tire's proponents, as well, giving it an A rating and ranking it above the Michelin X-Ice Xi3, in part due to its superior performance on slushy surfaces. Other experts aren't necessarily onboard with rating this tire the best of the best, however, and it falls below our other top choices in testing by the Norwegian Auto Federation and Car and Driver. Still, all of the results taken into account, if you can find the Bridgestone Blizzak WS80 at an attractive price, it's on close-to-equal footing overall with the top performers in its class and it bests most on ice.
GENERAL ALTIMAX ARCTIC 12
Studdable Snow Tire
Est. Price: Starting around $75 | Buy them from Tire Rack
- Can be used studless or fitted with studs.
- Excellent snow traction.
- Short braking distances on ice.
- Quiet ride.
- Weak performance on dry and wet pavement.
- Higher rolling resistance (so worse fuel economy) than some competitors.
- Newer tire with limited driver feedback, although existing reviews are overwhelmingly positive.
Takeaway: The General Altimax Arctic 12 is the successor to the General Altimax Arctic, a competent snow tire that despite its comparatively cheap price was consistently just a notch or two below the top-tier choices in professional tests. Initial expert feedback is that the Arctic 12 is every bit as good as its predecessor, if not better for winter driving; its enhanced performance may be thanks to the new rubber compound and modified contouring, both of which are also supposed to improve tread life. Much of the praise the Arctic 12 receives is based on how well it already handles on snow and ice without studs, but drivers facing extreme winter conditions and roads sheeted with ice have the option of adding rubber or metal studs for an extra measure of confidence.
BRIDGESTONE BLIZZAK DM-V2
Best Snow Tire for Trucks and SUVs
Est. Price: Starting around $131 | Buy them from Tire Rack
- Snow traction and ice braking are outstanding.
- Good performance on dry pavement.
- Enthusiastic reviews from industry professionals, and ranked well above the competition in Tire Rack consumer survey.
- Braking distance on dry and wet roads can be a little long, similar to other snow tires.
- Noticeable road noise.
Takeaway: While there are a few good choices when it comes to snow tires for light trucks and SUVs, the consensus is that the Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V2 is one of the all-around best truck snow tires available. It earns very positive reviews from both owners and professional testers, particularly for providing excellent traction on snow and reassuring braking on ice. Ride comfort is respectable, too, although some drivers say this tire isn't quite as responsive and "refined" as it could be. We also saw a bit of mixed feedback regarding how well it does on dry and wet roads, although the majority of users and experts who've tested these tires out on the road say that performance on those surfaces is actually quite good. There is agreement, however, that the tires transmit more road noise than competing models. Like many snow tires, this truck tire does not carry a treadwear warranty.
NOKIAN HAKKAPELIITTA R2 SUV
Runner-up Snow Tire for Trucks and SUVs
Est. Price: Starting around $120 | Buy them from Simple Tire
- Excellent snow traction.
- Above-average braking performance on ice.
- Better performance on dry roads than many competing tires.
- Some drivers complain of a rather stiff ride.
- Braking distances on wet roads is a little long.
Takeaway: The Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2 SUV is among the highest-rated snow tires for light trucks and SUVs that you can buy. Like its smaller brother we recommend for cars, this model has impressed experts and owners for years with its incredibly competent performance in winter weather. In fact, tire reviewers at consumer site ThoughtCo.com, who have extensive experience with hands-on tire testing, say these R2 SUVs have a "contemptuous disregard of snow at any depth – they simply grip no matter what." Their place in the Nokian lineup has recently been usurped by the company's newest premium truck and SUV offering, the Nokian Hakkapeliitta R3 SUV, but that tire has yet to be extensively tested, and is priced much higher than the still-current and still-superb Hakka R2 SUV. At their current cost, these tires are a sensible steal for drivers battling serious snow.
MICHELIN CROSSCLIMATE +
Bonus: Best All-Weather Tire
Est. Price: Starting around $134 | Buy them from Tire Rack
- Very good on snow and ice.
- Better-than-average handling on dry and wet roads.
- Outperforms many all-season tires in expert testing
- Comes with relatively long treadwear warranty where others offer none.
- Can't replace dedicated snow tires for driving on serious snow and ice.
- Mixed feedback on noise and ride comfort.
- Relatively expensive, but could potentially save on cost (and hassle) of switching out two sets of tires.
Takeaway: The CrossClimate + carries the official three-peak mountain snowflake symbol (3PMSF) indicating that it can capably handle "severe" winter conditions, but unlike dedicated snow tires it's designed to offer driving comfort and great handling all year round. Relatively new in the U.S., this all-weather tire and its predecessor, the Michelin CrossClimate have been a hit with European reviewers and drivers for quite some time. On this side of the pond, initial reviews are overwhelmingly positive, as well. Consumer Reports places the CrossCimate + at the top of its all-weather recommendations, and expert testers at Tire Rack confirm its versatility, praising its "sportiness" and grip in wet and warm weather and saying it does, indeed, hold its own equally well in snow. Even better, Michelin offers a 55,000-mile treadlife warranty on these tires, which is a bit shy of what you'd typically get with an all-season (those warranties usually run about 70,000 miles or higher) but way more generous than anything you'll find on a set of winter wheels. True, there's really no "perfect" tire for every driving condition, but if you're looking for a tire that can tackle moderate snowfalls while providing very good performance under most circumstances, reviewers say the Michelin CrossClimate + competently fills the bill.