You can trust any of these tires to add confidence and safety to your winter commute.
If you inhabit a region that frequently sees hefty amounts of ice, snow, and slush in the winter—or find yourself traveling to places that suffer from that kind of weather—we highly recommend that you invest in a set of winter tires. You may think that your all-season tires have you covered, but contrary to their name, all-season tires are far from great in the winter conditions.
Winter tires, on the other hand, use specialized rubber compounds and tread designs that are engineered to maximize traction in freezing temperatures and on icy surfaces.
•Winter-tire treads have specifically engineered grooves, channels, and biting edges designed to dig into snow and push water away from the tire’s contact patch.
• Winter tires come in shapes and sizes to fit all vehicles: there are passenger-car winter tires, high-performance winter tires, SUV winter tires, and even truck winter tires. If you can’t find a winter tire that fits your vehicle from our list of recommendations, try using Tire Rack’s selection tool. Additionally, the pricing of tires depends at least partially on the size you require; bigger often means more expensive. For safety, only fit winter tires in sets of four. And we find it convenient to have winter tires mounted on a separate set of steel or alloy wheels, so they’re always ready to bolt on. That way, you don’t have to get them swapped at a tire shop every fall and spring.
Our Winter-Tire Recommendations
The following are our top picks for winter tires. We arrived at these recommendations in consultation with the experts at Tire Rack, who conduct their own independent winter-tire tests. For everything you need to know about buying and maintaining tires, click here.
Over the years, many of our long-term test cars have been fitted with winter tires, and many of those have been Blizzaks. The WS80 shines in braking, arguably the most important metric you can measure for a winter tire. Blizzaks are a bit pricier than most, but well worth it when the weather gets rough. Additionally, with the release of the WS90, you can expect prices to slightly decrease for older variants of Blizzaks as time goes on.
The WM02 is Dunlop’s second generation of the Winter Maxx tire. Like the outgoing WM01, the Dunlop uses an asymmetric tread pattern that is supposed to help it run quietly. The Winter Maxx typically is a bit more affordable than some other tires on this list. That’s not to say they’re of lower quality; the previous-generation WM01 nearly matched the braking performance of the best tires in our most recent winter tire test.
The Viking Contact 7 is an all-new offering from Continental that could be one of their best yet. A specialized rubber compound containing canola oil helps the tires stay more flexible in extreme cold, and is also more environmentally friendly to manufacture. The tread pattern is composed of innumerable biting edges and sipes for maximum snow traction.
The Michelin X-Ice is another line of winter tire that has been on the market for a long time. It’s still an excellent option and one of the most well-rounded winter tires in terms of braking, acceleration, and handling. The X-Ice comes with a premium price, but with that comes excellent quality; think of it as added insurance for your vehicle this winter.
Since 1932, Nokian has been a pioneer in the winter tire world. In fact, the Finnish manufacturer invented the winter tire. The Hakkapeliitta R3, Nokian’s top-line winter tire, utilizes a highly aggressive tread pattern and silica compound to find grip in deep snow and ice. We’ve yet to test an R3 on one of our long-term vehicles, but if it’s anything like its predecessor—the winner of our last winter-tire test—then we’re sure it will be a trustworthy winter companion.
New for 2019, the Blizzak WS90 is an evolution of the previous-generation WS80. The WS90 improves on the old tire with an updated tread design and compound, increased tread life, and more available sizes than ever before (even two 19-inch sizes are available). Based on our early experience with the WS90, we are very excited to fit a set to one of our long-term vehicles this winter to see how it performs in Michigan’s frosty environs.
The Sottozero 3 is a compelling option for people who deal with occasional snow and ice but would like to retain the best possible handling in dry conditions. It delivers an enticing combination of enhanced winter-weather competence and dry-weather fun for enthusiasts. While the Sottozero 3 is slightly compromised when it comes to deep-snow traction and braking, the Pirelli makes up for that deficit with deft dry-pavement grip that will nearly match that of a summer tire. In a recent test, we measured the lateral grip of a Porsche 911 at 0.95 g, not far off from the numbers it produces with its standard summer tires.
Aside from having an exploration-inspiring name, the Discoverer True North is a great winter-tire option for cars and SUVs alike. Cooper claims the True North has the highest silica content of any Cooper winter tire, giving it great ability to dig into icy surfaces. To that point, our long-term Chrysler Pacifica hybrid was able to traverse Donner Pass in California during the dead of winter (without chaining the tires) with little effort.