Dedicated winter tires will help your truck or SUV get a better grip on snow and ice. Some are designed specifically for light trucks, SUVs, and other heavier vehicles, but most come in a wide selection of sizes and are also suitable for passenger tires. A case in point is the Continental ExtremeWinterContact (Est. $75 and up). As TireRack.com notes, tires in this line are suitable for anything from small coupes all the way up to light duty pick-up trucks and SUVs.
Regardless of the vehicle, the ExtremeWinterContact does well in reviews. TireRack.com tests these tires on a BMW, so it's not quite an apples to apples comparison when talking about tires for your light truck or SUV, but it comes out on top compared to others in the same face off: "The Continental ExtremeWinterContact is a great option that limits the trade-offs to get good winter traction, be it in the snow, on the ice, or just cold wet roads," they say, rating them on a par with the Michelin X-Ice Xi3 (Est. $95 and up) , covered in our section on the best winter tires.
A different, independent tester, rates the Continental ExtremeWinterContact specifically as a truck tire, looking at a 265/70R17 size (Est. $140) used on a variety of full sized trucks and SUVs, and likes what it sees. It earns a Recommended rating, with editors describing it as "mostly well rounded," and a good choice for driving on snowy roads. If there's a weakness, it's only that braking on wet surfaces could be better. However, snow traction is excellent, while ice braking, braking on dry pavement and freedom from hydroplaning are all very good.
User reviews are largely excellent as well, though again most reference using these tires on passenger cars. Among those who use the ExtremeWinterContact on heavier vehicles, one posting at TireBuyer.com notes his experience with a diesel Ford Excursion 4x4 through a harsh Michigan winter. "These tires wouldn't even spin in snow so deep my axles were dragging thru it," the owner writes. "Pulled a lot of stuck cars out with ease." A Utah ski instructor who drives his SUV on "the steepest and snowiest roads in the country for over 30 years" calls the ExtremeWinterContact "by far the best snow tires I have ever owned."
The Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V1 (Est. $110 and up) is another tire to consider. This tire is designed and sized specifically for light trucks and SUVs, is a top pick by Canada's Automobile Protection Association, and an owner favorite according to surveys at TireRack.com. It also does well in independent testing, though it's eclipsed slightly by other tires for truck owners, including the ExtremeWinterContact. It's a top performer in snow and ice, but braking on wet surfaces and overall handling are poorly rated.
Still, owners absolutely rave about its real-world grip. Customers at TireRack.com award the DM-V1 top scores on wet, snowy and icy roads and slightly lower (but still excellent) scores for dry-cornering stability and steering response.
"In my 24 years of driving experience throughout Europe, as well as here in Canada ... the Bridgestone DM-V1 tyres are the BEST tyres that I have used for harsh winter conditions," says one TireRack.com customer from Calgary, Alberta.
Two separate TireRack.com experts recommend the DM-V1 as the best winter tire for trucks and SUVs and say it's the one they run on their personal vehicles. Staffer Gary Stanley uses the DM-V1 on his family's Mazda CX-7. Once, he bought an all-wheel-drive Infiniti coupe with all-season tires -- and drove it home through a snowstorm, white-knuckled and slow. His wife sailed along in the Mazda, with the DM-V1s "making easy work of the conditions."
The Michelin Latitude X-Ice Xi2 (Est. $120 and up) is the predecessor to what experts consider to be the best all-around snow tire, Michelin X-Ice Xi3 (Est. $95 and up). Today, it's offered as a winter tire for those who drive heavier vehicles, such as vans and light-duty pickups. It's top rated in this category by one expert reviewer, though user reviews, while good, are not quite as impressive as other choices.
The Automobile Protection Association (APA) points out that consumers can sometimes save money by minus-sizing -- buying a smaller wheel and a narrower tire for snow use. While this applies to any type of vehicle, it is an especially helpful technique for light truck and SUV owners; smaller winter tires are easier to find, which can expand your range of choices. In addition, it can be cheaper than having a garage swap your tires on the existing rims -- even considering the expense of buying the second set of wheels. "Savings of $80 to $300 per set of four are possible by downsizing the wheel and tire combination, depending on the vehicle," the APA says.
However, if your vehicle is equipped with a tire-pressure monitoring system (TPMS), you'll have to buy sensors for your snow tires' wheels, too, (or install your snow tires yourself). That's because federal rules prohibits installers from "knowingly [making] the TPMS system inoperative," ConsumerReports.org reports.
Your tire retailer has guides that list appropriate substitute sizes for your vehicle.
Elsewhere in this Report:
Best Reviewed Snow Tires: Whether you live where the snow piles as high as the Rockies or in milder climes that see a few inches a year, these Best Reviewed snow tires will see you safely through.
Best Winter Tires: If you live where winter means at least a bout or two of ice and heavy snow, studless winter tires are your best bet. We name the top performers according to tests and reviews.
Studded Snow Tires: Studded snow tires are not the right choice for most drivers, but if you drive where snow depths are measured in feet rather than inches all season long, they can be a life saver.
Winter Performance Tires: Performance cars need winter tires, too. These top choices keep your wheels firmly on the road through snow and ice, and without robbing your ride of all its panache
Buying Guide: Need more info to help you make an informed choice about snow tires? Our Buyers' Guide lays out important considerations to help make your decisions easier.
Our Sources: Expert reviews and user feedback help us find the best winter tires. These are the sources we relied on, ranked in order of helpfulness, that we used in compiling this report.