Improve traction in the snow and ice with a good set of winter tires
By | Last updated: November 11, 2021
best winter tires

If you live in a region that gets harsh winters, with snow and ice that makes driving a nightmare, you want the best winter tires possible. Whether you drive a car, truck or sport utility vehicle – even one with four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive – proper snow tires will allow your vehicle to accelerate, steer and brake more confidently and more safely than an all-season tire.

For people who have always lived in an area that gets heavy snowfall, the odds are good that you already have an idea of what brands of snow tires you want to buy. If you just moved to an area with harsh winters and you have never dealt with driving in the snow, you will want to have the best winter tires possible. There are many options on the market, with multiple tire lines from just about every brand sold in North America, making it tough to pick the tires that are right for you.

Are the most expensive options really the best option or can you get by with the cheaper options? Do you need specific snow tires for your truck or SUV compared to a car? Are there performance oriented snow tires for performance vehicles?

Below, we take a look at a collection of the best winter tires for your car, truck or SUV, including some budget-friendly options and tires that are specific to trucks, SUVs and performance machines.

1. Editor’s Choice - Bridgestone Blizzak WS90

If you walk into most tire shops in North America and tell them that you want the absolute best winter tires for your car, the odds are good that the person behind the counter will recommend the Bridgestone Blizzak WS90. The WS90 is the newest entry in the Blizzak lineup and as is the case with every tire to wear that name, it is one of the ultimate snow tires. Whether you drive a subcompact hybrid or a high performance sport sedan, Bridgestone’s legendary winter tires should be on your shortlist.

The Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 has a new tread compound that has a larger contact patch for improved grip on ice, but it is the tread design itself that makes this such an amazing tire in harsh winter weather. The angled channels run from the center row of tread out to each side, helping to evacuate liquids and slush. In addition, the fine microsipes running through just about every section of the tread allows the tire to get a grip in deep snow with help from the patented multicell technology. Not only does the WS90 offer great grip, but the company expects this tire to last longer than other snow tires.

The Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 is available in a long list of sizes from 14-inch to 20-inch, serving most common sizes for cars and minivans.

Pros/The undisputed best winter tire available, will help even high performance cars drive in deep snow
Cons/On the upper end of the price range, although it is regarded as the best tire by most experts

2. Best Truck/SUV Winter Tire - Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V2

If you have a car or minivan, the Blizzak WS90 is, in our opinion, the best winter tire on the market and if you have a sport utility vehicle or pickup, a Bridgestone Blizzak is still the answer to your snow-driving needs, but the company offers a unique tire for heavier, larger vehicles. The Blizzak DM-V2 is engineered specifically for larger, heavier vehicles, so it is not just a WS90 with a heavier load rating. This tire has a unique tread pattern and rubber with advanced hydrophilic properties to make your big vehicle as safe as possible on slick roads.

The Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V2 has a thick center section with a single row or smaller blocks on the inner and outer edge of the tire. Deep, wide grooves channel water and slush out from under the tire and to take that a step further, the rubber is actually formulated to draw moisture off of the surface. As a result, your truck or SUV will have a better grip when accelerating, turning or stopping on wet or icy surfaces. When on snow-covered roads, the many fine lines running through every section of tread allows these tires to dig in with the full weight of the vehicle.

The Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V2 is available in many of the most common tire sizes for trucks and SUVs that have wheels ranging from 15 inches to 22 inches.

Pros/The biggest name in snow tires, incredible traction in the worst winter conditions, wide range of sizes
Cons/One of the more expensive tires on the list

3. Best Performance Car Winter Tire - Michelin Pilot Alpin 5

If you drive a high performance car, the odds are good that you put it away when the snow begins to cover the roads, but there are some people who drive their go-fast machines in the ice and snow. If you are one of those people, you likely know the importance of having the best winter tires possible, but you may want a tire that still offers great performance when driving on cold, dry winter roads. That is where the Michelin Pilot Alpin 5 comes into the conversation.

If you have a high performance car, you surely know the Michelin Pilot name, especially if you want a road tire that offers the best handling grip possible. The Pilot Alpin 5 is built with the same fundamentals in mind, but it is engineered to perform well in the cold while getting great grip in harsh conditions. This tire has a central channel that divides the tread into two sections and helps protect against hydroplaning. Within those sections, there are thick channels running at an angle to the outside of the tire to move water and slush out of the way. Between those channels are rows of smaller blocks that will grip the surface when driving hard on a clear day, but the microsipes help these blocks grip the road when it is covered with snow.

The Michelin Pilot Alpin 5 is available in 12 different tires sizes ranging from 17 inches to 21 inches.

Pros/Combines dry performance with great grip in the snow and ice, known performance tire brand
Cons/The most expensive tire on the list, fewer size options

4. Best Budget Winter Tire - Hankook Winter I* Pike RS

Hankook has made big strides in breaking into the mainstream tire world over the past decade, offering a wide variety of types of tires for all sorts of vehicles. One of the key attractions of Hankook tires is the combination of function and low pricing, making their Winter I* Pike RS tires a great option for anyone who wants a snow tire on their car that will perform well in all conditions without a huge price tag.

The Hankook Winter I* Pike RS has an aggressive tread design with a continuous center block running the entire circumference of the tire that the company claims has a similar shape to the footprint of a Siberian Husky. The flared edges of that center block angle out into the thick channels running out to the edges of the tire, allowing plenty of space for water, slush and other debris to be cleared out. The outer tread blocks are large, allowing for great grip in all driving conditions, but the three-dimensional microsipes help these large blocks to grab the surface when it is covered in snow.

One of the most unique aspects of the Hankook Winter I* Pike RS tires are the snowflakes found throughout the tread design. These snowflakes are stud points for those who want to add even greater grip in harsh winter weather. They are good snow tires, but with the studs, they grip the road like few tires on the market.

The Hankook Winter I* Pike RS is available in many sizes for wheels ranging from 13 to 18 inches, with and without studs.

Pros/Only tire on the list designed to accept studs/can be purchased with studs, very inexpensive
Cons/Not a proven brand, fewer sizing options – excludes most large cars and SUVs

5. Yokohama BluEarth Winter V905

Yokohama has long been a popular choice among drivers who want incredible handling, with many of the company’s top options being ideal for the best combination of road racing and daily driving. While Yokohama is familiar for those who want to attack the curves on a hot summer day, the Japanese tire manufacturer also offers a set of the best winter tires available, combining handling and functionality like few tires on the market today.

The Yokohama BluEarth Winter V905 features an aggressive directional tread design with wide channels that run from the center out to the edges, forcing water and slush out of the water as the vehicle rolls forward. Unlike other winter tires, the Yokohama BluEarth Winter V905 does not have a solid row of tread blocks wrapping the tire, instead relying on the staggered angles with smaller blocks within to maintain as much contact with the road as possible. In addition to the sharply angled tread blocks and grooves, hundreds of three dimensional microsipes allow the tire to flex around inconsistencies on the snow-packed road surface. The advanced silica compound allows this tire to perform well in warm and cold temperatures while also yielding a low rolling resistance for improved fuel economy. Finally, the rigid bead filler helps these tires to handle well on clear roads, making these ideal for performance cars and spirited drivers.

The Yokohama BluEarth Winter V905 is available in a wide variety of tire sizes ranging from 16-inch to 22-inch, with options for many cars, trucks and sport utility vehicles.

Pros/Designed to perform well in snow and ice without compromising dry handling, low rolling resistance rubber leads to better fuel economy
Cons/One of the most expensive tires on the list

6. BFGoodrich T/A KO2 All-Terrain Tire

If you are familiar with the BFGoodrich T/A KO2, you may know that it isn’t a winter tire. The T/A KO2 is one of the most capable tires for trucks and SUVs that want to drive on- and off-road with the same tires without any compromise. This is one of the best-known tires in the world of off-roading and those drivers who like to play in deep mud are likely to have owned a set of two of these BFG tires in their days. However, many of the same properties that make the BF Goodrich T/A KO2 a great mud tire also make it a great snow tire.

The BFGoodrich T/A KO2 doesn’t look like any other tire on this list because it isn’t like any other tire on this list. There are no direct channels running to the outside edge of the tire and there is minimal microsiping through the tread blocks, but that doesn’t stop this tire from conquering the worst winter footing. The thick, curved tread blocks have deep channels running between them, allowing water, slush, mud and pretty much anything else to be moved out from under the tire. There is even tread on the side of the tire, so when your vehicle digs into deep snow, even the sidewalls of the T/A KO2 will help you maintain forward progress.

The BFGoodrich T/A KO2 is available in select sizes for 15-, 16-, 17-, 18-, 20- and 22-inch wheels and while some people have surely made these fit a car, they are intended for trucks and SUVs.

Pros/Great year-round option for off-road-ready trucks and SUVs, capable in every driving condition
Cons/Only offered for trucks and SUVs, expensive, may be a bit noisy on the highway

7. Continental VikingContact 7

Continental is another brand known for its high performance and all-season tires, so it comes as little surprise that they also offer one of the best winter tires with the VikingContact 7. This tire is marketed based on the premise that Vikings who would have driven in Nordic areas needed to get around in the harshest conditions, and if they would work in the Nordic winter, they will surely work well for your commute through suburban America.

The Continental VikingContact 7 is another snow tire that doesn’t have any solid rows of blocks running around the tread face. Instead, this Continental tire uses a tight system of diamond-shaped blocks running down the center, with a row of long blocks extending out to the inner and outer edge of the tire. The channels running between the diamonds in the center have many different channels to choose from, leading to smoother, more effective evacuation of water and slush. Every block has m”3D Trapez Sipes”, so in addition to the sharp edges on each of the blocks, the microsipes allow for better flexibility in the snow, helping the tire to grab onto slippery surfaces.

The Continental VikingContact 7 is available in a huge range of tire sizes, starting with 14-inch wheels and extending up to 21-inch wheels, so these tires are available for many of the most popular cars, minivans and smaller crossovers.

Pros/Aggressive tread pattern leads to great grip and water displacement, designed for use in extreme cold
Cons/Upper end of the price range, tread design isn’t ideal for dry handling

8. Michelin X-Ice

Just about every person who drives and watches television in North America knows of Michelin tires due to the brand’s unmistakable mascot, The Michelin Man, but this company is more than just great marketing. Michelin offers many popular tire lines for vehicles of all sizes, but their X-Ice snow tires are among the best winter tires on the market for your car, minivan or small crossover.

The Michelin X-Ice showcases a V-shaped tread pattern with a sort of woven design, with alternating rows of tread blocks channeling water to opposite sides. Each row of tread blocks is separated with a thick, deep groove that helps to channel water and winter slush away from the surface of the tire while the angled design helps to ensure a good connection to the road at all times. These tires feature the brand’s interlocking 3D sipe system, Flex-Ice 2.0 rubber compound and an innovative Evergrip Technology, to ensure great acceleration, cornering and braking in even the harshest conditions, but they do so without wearing as quickly as some winter tires.

The Michelin X-Ice tire is offered in 116 different sizes, ranging from 14-inch wheels up to 22-inch wheels, so these snow tires will fit most of the most popular vehicles sold in North America.

Pros/Improved longevity, aggressive tread design for great winter traction, available for cars, trucks and SUVs
Cons/Upper end of the price range

9. Pirelli P Zero Winter

Many cars come from the factory with Pirelli tires, many of which are part of their P Zero lineup and many of which are perfectly suitable all-season tires for those drivers who really don’t see much accumulating snow. However, your all-season Pirelli tires aren’t likely to help much when you run into heavy snow, ice and other wintry slush. If you are a fan of your OEM P Zero tires and you would like to run the same brand of tire in the winter, the P Zero Winter is the answer.

Unlike most of the tires on our list, the Pirelli P Zero Winter has an asymmetric tread design that looks more like a high performance tire than one of the best winter tires on the market. There is a thick row of blocks on the outside of the tire, two rows of thinner blocks in the middle and then an inside section with a near-solid row of blocks running around the tire with angled grooves that lead through the outer block. These tires are designed to offer incredible grip in the snow and ice, but without much compromise on a cold, dry day. With both traditional and block-style microsipes, the P Zero Winter will get lots of grip on snow-covered roads.

The Pirelli P Zero Winter is available in limited sizes for 18-, 19-, 20-, 21- and 22-inch wheels, and they are the approved snow tires of Audi, BMW, Mercedes Benz, McLaren and Porsche.

Pros/Familiar brand, approved by multiple automakers, minimal compromise in performance
Cons/Limited sizes, asymmetric tread may not grip as well as more aggressive tires, on the higher end of the price spectrum

10. Nexen Winguard Ice Plus Winter Snow Tire

If you are not involved in the world of drifting or drag racing, you may not have ever heard of the Nexen brand. For years, Nexen was known primarily as a budget brand for road racers and drift racers, but the company burst into the mainstream when its drag radial tire was chosen as the OEM tire for the Dodge Challenger 1320, which is a factory-built, street legal drag racing package which serves as the quickest naturally aspirated performance car on the market today. Even though the brand is known for performance tires, it also offers one of the best winter tires for those drivers who are shopping on a limited budget.

The Nexen Winguard Ice Plus has a similar tread design to some of the pricier options, with a directional pattern featuring a V-shape that leads to constant contact with the road surface. These Nexen snow tires have thick grooves running around the tire, separating the sections of tread blocks, along with angled grooves that move water and slush out from under the vehicle. Multi-directional microsipes run across every tread block, allowing for more flex and more ability to dig into the snow while the thick outside blocks provide great support for spirited driving on dry roads.

The Nexen Winguard Ice Plus snow tires are offered in a variety of sizes for wheels measuring 13 to 19 inches, all of which apply to cars, minivans and small crossovers.

Pros/Low cost, performance oriented tread design for constant contact, great dry performance
Cons/less winter grip than more aggressive tread designs, only available in smaller sizes

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Why You Need Proper Snow Tires

Some people will insist that an all-season tire is good enough for driving in the snow while others will claim that with either four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive, there is no need for snow tires. All-season tires might do fine in very light snow, but as soon as the snow gets deep, all-season rubber is likely to leave you stranded. As for vehicles that spin all four tires, they might be able to get moving with their all-season tires, but both handling and braking are compromised significantly. Realistically, a four-wheel-drive truck on snow tires will perform better in every way in deep snow and ice compared to all-season rubber, but the most noticeable advantages will come during turning and braking.

The best winter tires on the market are better than all-season tires in a variety of ways. First, proper winter tires are made of a rubber compound that remains softer in cold temperatures. When the rubber is softer in cold temperatures, the individual sections of the tire can more effectively grip the surface. All-season tires tend to get hard in the bitter cold, reducing flexibility and contact surface.

Next, the pattern carved into the tread of the best winter tires is designed to eject water, slush and other materials out from under the vehicle. The tread pattern itself is laid out in a specific configuration and the grooves are deeper, promoting the flow of water and slush and helping to prevent the tread from getting clogged up. In addition to helping to channel more water and slush out from under the tire, the tread design is more aggressive, helping to get a better grip of the ground, improving traction in every condition.

Finally, many of the best winter tires have fine lines called microsipes that are cut through the larger tread blocks. These small cuts allow the tread blocks to spread to dig into the surface, creating more edges to aid with traction on slippery surfaces. When coupled with the softer rubber and the grooves that evacuate water and slush, snow tires help to make the most contact with the road surface as possible, helping to get traction during acceleration, cornering and braking in winter weather.

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(Editor’s note: This post is meant to both help you be an informed shopper for automotive products but also to pay for our ‘90s sedan shopping habits operating expenses. Some of you don’t find these posts fun, but they help pay for Junkyard Finds, Rare Rides, Piston Slaps, and whatever else. Thanks for reading.)

[Main photo credit: Krasula / Product images provided by the manufacturer.]

20 Comments on “The Best Winter Tires for Your Car Truck or SUV...”

  • avatar

    “If you live in a region that gets harsh winters, with snow and ice that makes driving a nightmare, you want…” to move.

    Problem solved. (Don’t move as far as Texas; you’ll have other problems.)

  • avatar

    4WD with the proper tires can make winter an adventure, no need to move to someplace warm like the other lightweights

  • avatar

    This a copy/paste of ebay ratings? The check price links & glaring lack of Hakkas on here makes one think so.

    • 0 avatar

      came here to say this same thing about the missing Nokians.

      • 0 avatar

        As well as missing any studded tires.

        Studless has come a long way, but if you’re in a place where it’s seriously wintery every day, and you don’t head for California every month, the latest studded tires are all that the latest studless are, plus a lot more predictable grip on ice.

        Especially if you drive an awd vehicle with a somewhat tight center coupling (anything other than a purely reactive, 100% front biased Haldex, or perhaps the latest BMW awd), or anything other than a fully open diff, the “always at least _some_ grip” offered by the studs, are a clear benefit. Not saying you can get by without, but your “triple torsen” or similar awd, not to mention GR-Four and whatever Subaru brands the STI’s system, works a lot more predictably with studs, across icy patches.

  • avatar

    This list is incomplete without Nokian tires.

  • avatar

    I’ve been thoroughly pleased by the DM-V2s on our Highlander. I took them over several snowy passes and through a couple of snowy two-tracks last winter with zero drama whatsoever. On non-snowy roads they have low grip (as expected) but ride very smoothly and quietly.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Nokian and Hakka’s should certainly be included in this list.
    Also this article largely ignores the main reason for riding on winter tires.

    I ran Michelin X-Ice for many years. Found that they were excellent on ice and slippery roads, relatively quiet and got good MPG. However they were somewhat squirrelly on loose packed or deep snow.

    Purchased a set of ‘all weather’ tires for my mother’s vehicle. As she rarely drove in ‘bad’ weather or when the roads were not clear. All weathers are different from ‘all seasons’ in that they have the ‘winter symbol’ on them and therefore ‘pass’ as winter rated tires, for insurance/government purposes. However once their tread recedes to a specific depth they are no longer adequate for winter use. They have proven adequate for urban use in winter weather.

    As for those complaining about extra cost. Mounting/dismounting winter tires is the same cost as rotating your tires. So therefore no extra cost, if you have the winters mounted on rims.

    Mounting on rims preserves your summer/good rims. And when you are finished with the winter rims there is always a market for used ones. So minimal overall cost.

    The only drawbacks are if you have a tire pressure monitoring system in your vehicle. I just ignore mine in the winter. The other is storage. If you do not have a garage/shed to store them in dealers charge up to $200 per year ($100 each turnover) to store them.

    As for those claiming that “I have AWD/4Wd so do not need winter tires”. Well you are just ignoring physics. Winter tires are meant to help with stopping not going. Your AWD/4wd may mean that you are driving faster than the other vehicles, meaning that your stopping distance will be longer. And without winter tires, it will again increase. Thus increasing your risks.

    Anecdotally after driving well over a million miles, over 5 decades, throughout Ontario, Quebec, northern Michigan and upper New York State, with frequent trips for hockey games/tournaments and ski trips in the worst types of weather, I can confirm what many of my law enforcement friends/family say. That they see more pick-ups and AWD/4wd vehicles in ditched and in single vehicle collisions/incidents in the winter than mundane FWD family sedans.

    • 0 avatar

      @Arthur- TPMS is not a legal requirement in Canada. Somr dealerships and tire shops will try to tell you they are.
      I like the Michelin X-Ice tire. Blizzaks are a dual compound tire. Once they get down to 30% they are just another all season.

      I gotta laugh at them claiming BFG T/A KO2 are good winter tires. GoodYear Duratracs and Yokohama Geolander GO 15’s are much better.

  • avatar

    The standard refrain on tires in the truck community is that not only are winter tires completely unnecessary but all of that slipping and skidding is not a flaw of their Chinese mud tires but instead complimentary of their vehicle’s power.

    I try to like people but even my people make it hard sometimes.

  • avatar

    You have miss the Nokian. So, you miss the best winter tyre manufacturer. in not a God.

  • avatar
    Add Lightness

    Drive according to the conditions and the hardware you have to work with.
    The best/greatest tires are nice but one should frequently test the traction they give you with the throttle or brakes when the coefficient of friction is uncertain.
    Here in BC, The RCMP often issue special advisories for SUVs because the drivers become oblivious to the conditions.
    Studs always give you something to work with when you come around a bend on predictable hard ice and discover the sun turned the surface wet 10 minutes ago. Spoiler alert – no studs and it didn’t go well…..

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      “The best/greatest tires are nice but one should frequently test the traction they give you with the throttle or brakes when the coefficient of friction is uncertain.”

      That’s what I do, hit the brakes hard when it is safe and see just how much stopping power you have. Never had a need for snow tires. AS tires work just fine on the ‘Hoe during winter, even when towing.

      • 0 avatar
        Add Lightness

        You got it.
        The problem with AWD/4WD is that there is lots of go masking the situation.
        With 2WD, you only need to explore up to 1/2 the available friction to ascertain what you have to work with.

  • avatar

    I just went through the process of selecting my next set. This list is very skewed. Bridgestones may be great in heavy snow and ice but most people in the US (and possibly NA, considering population distribution north of the border) encounter these conditions fairly infrequently, compared to slush and wet/cold pavement. Bridgestones are ok in prevalent weather/road conditions but they are certainly far from the best. I ended up ordering Hakka R3s — they are not as good as R2s but I could not find XL R2s in my size. Contis are by far the best non-studded snow tires you can buy right now, with Hakka being in 2nd place, according to all testing I have seen. I got Hakkas because of a sale that made them 1/3 less expensive. Bridgestones are better than average in harsh conditions but towards the bottom for dry/wet pavement braking and handling. They are definitely great for places like upstate NY where you do have a lot of snow/ice covered roads. I don’t see where the ratings on this list come from.

    • 0 avatar

      On personal experience only, based on almost four decades of winter driving, these days you can’t go wrong with Nokian or Bridgestone. I like the Michelin X-Ice too but these days when I need new winter tires I go with the better deal between Nokian and Bridgestone.

  • avatar

    I recently picked up a set of Blizzak WS90s on -2 diameter rims because the Turanza EL440s that came on the car are garbage (how much of that is the absurd lack of a sidewall is anybody’s guess). The Turanzas are okay above 55° or so, but below that not so much. I’ll keep them because there’s still tons of tread.

    Last year I tried the Vredestein Quatrac 5s, an all weather tire, and was still underwhelmed. Since I live in a bowl and the lot jockeys are lazy, sometimes not bothering to plow until noon, I’ve needed as much of my own grip to get out of my lot.

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