What the best snow tires have
- Strong grip on snow and ice: Almost any winter tire will grip better on snow and ice than an all-season tire.
With the best snow tires, you'll see a dramatic difference.
- A comfortable ride: In
the past, snow tires' chunky treads made for a punishing ride, but
the best studless snow tires roll quietly and comfortably, although
studded snow tires still clatter noisily.
- Durability: Snow tires'
softer rubber wears out faster than all-season wheels, but good models should
last 20,000 miles or more (about three winters, as a rule of thumb).
- Warranty: Winter tires
don't usually carry treadwear warranties (although a
few do), but the best ones always carry at least a five-year warranty against
Know Before You Go
you need winter tires, or will all-season tires suffice? If you regularly
drive on snowy, icy roads, just about any winter tire will stop faster, climb
hills better and prevent your car from sliding around icy corners more
effectively than all-season tires. Even if there's no snow or ice, winter tires
will stay softer and perform better in cold temperatures, TireRack.com says. Tests
prove that all-wheel drive does nothing to help your car stop and corner safely
on slick roads - only winter tires can do that.
you see a lot of rainy or dry winter days? Performance winter tires might be
your best bet. They'll keep you ready for snow and ice storms, without
sacrificing grip on cold, dry or wet pavement (like regular winter tires often
you need studded snow tires? Studded winter tires have built-in metal
teeth that bite into ice. They do grip better on ice than the studless versions in tests -- but they have two big
drawbacks: They're noisy, and they can damage pavement. For that reason, some
states ban or restrict studded tires (see below). ConsumerReports.org concludes that studless winter tires are fine for most drivers, after
testing both types.
buy four matching winter tires. You might be tempted to buy just two winter
tires for your drive axle, but don't do it. When two wheels grip and two don't,
your vehicle can easily pinwheel out of control (as demonstrated in a test conducted
forget to budget for installation (unless you're a do-it-yourselfer). Tire
shops usually charge $10 to $20 per tire for mounting and balancing, but some
Buying Tactics and Strategies
- Buy early. Tire retailers stock snow tires in the fall, and that's it. If you
wait until the snow flies, you'll be stuck with a picked-over selection.
- Consider getting the wheel
package. You could re-mount your tires onto your existing
rims every time you switch, but it's easier if your snow tires are mounted on
their own wheels. It can make installation cheaper, too, particularly if your
vehicle is equipped with a tire-pressure monitoring system. "This can save up to $50 each time you swap
tires," Canada's Automobile
Protection Association says.
- You can get them installed --
whether you buy in-store or online. Tire stores
will install your new snow tires immediately, but you're limited to the brands
the store carries and available stock. Online retailers carry a wider
selection, but you'll have to pay for shipping and then find a shop to install
them. Some online retailers partner with local installers all over the U.S. and
will ship the tires directly there, if you prefer.
- You may want to minus-size, instead. Narrower tires can
more easily cut a path through snow and slush than wider tires. You can
minus-size for winter by choosing a smaller wheel size and narrower tread than
your original tire (smaller tires are usually cheaper, too). Your tire retailer
has guides that list appropriate substitute sizes for your vehicle.