The Manual’s Top 5 Best Winter Tires

best winter tires

Soon enough, the first snow of the year will blanket portions of the country. This winter—like most winters—will catch many motorists off guard, causing thousands of accidents and millions of dollars in damage.

While some people have the luxury of staying home and sipping hot toddies until the ice melts, the rest of us have things to do. If you live in the snow belt, step up to the elements and outfit your chariot with the best winter tires available.

Why Are Winter Tires Necessary?

Winter tires are ideal for areas where the temperature stays below 45 degrees all winter long. So-called “all-season” tires don’t actually perform well in the winter—the cold temperature causes the rubber to become rigid and less likely to grip the road. Winter tires are made of softer, more pliable compounds that are much better suited to snow and ice. Also, winter tires have complex tread patterns that collect more snow, providing additional traction. In short, winter tires make driving in snow much easier and much safer.

How Many Winter Tires Do I Need?

If you’re a cheapskate, a daredevil, or a cheap devil, you might try to get away with just two winter tires or none at all. Four-wheel drive vehicles can handle anything, right? Wrong. Numerous winter accidents occur as a result of people who forego winter tires and put too much stock in their four-wheel drive capability. Also, driving with two winter tires and two all-season tires will give your vehicle something of an identity crisis, making it more difficult to control.

Which Tires Should I Get?

In the old days, all winter tires were outfitted with mean metal studs. These tires chewed up asphalt and are now banned in many areas. While studs offer an advantage when driving on solid ice, you’re likely best off choosing non-studded tires with sophisticated tread patterns. If road conditions are particularly bad in your part of the world, consider getting a set of tires for which studs are optional. Whichever tires you get, make sure they have the three-peak mountain snowflake symbol on their sidewalls.

Dean Tires Wintercat X/T

Dean Tires Wintercat X/TTop Performance Vehicle Tire: If you need winter tires for your coupe, sedan, or crossover, you won’t do much better than Dean’s Wintercat X/T. These tires offer an aggressive tread design and can be studded, should conditions require it. The tires were designed with deeper grooves than the average rubber tread to collect more of Mother Nature’s worst and prevent hydroplaning.

Starting at $153 per tire.

Yokohama iceGuard iG51V

Yokohama iceGuard iG51VTop SUV and Pickup Tire: Despite the clunky name, this is one of the highest rated tires to elevate your already winter-rated vehicle. Its grooves have been 3-D shaped and specifically set to expel snow and slush. The iceGuards are reinforced at just about every opportunity from the tread to the tirewall, meaning that these are the perfect complement to your off-road plans.

Starting at $101 per tire.

Blizzak W965

BLIZZAK-W965Top Heavy-Duty Tire: If you drive a mean mother trucker, consider slapping these puppies on your ride. The Blizzak W965 looks somewhat like the tread on a tank, and performs like it, too. The unique tread blocks provide superior traction for vans, full-size trucks, and other heavy vehicles that typically perform commercial tasks. This tire’s sheer number of biting edges will keep you and your vehicle in business all winter long.

Starting at $203 per tire.

Nokian WR G3

NOKIAN-WR-G3Top Legit “All-Season” Tire: Switching between winter tires and all-season tires isn’t as tough as you might think. Still, if you’d rather not swap your tires every year, consider buying four Nokian WR G3 tires. This tire can hold its own in snow and ice, and has the snowflake symbol on the sidewall to prove it; however, it isn’t the best for severe storms. No tire performs perfectly under all conditions, but this fella comes close.

Starting at $99 per tire.

BF Goodrich g-Force Super Sport A/S

g-force-2Top Budget-Friendly Tire: If you can’t afford to “make it snow” at the club, you might think you’re too poor for snow tires. Fortunately, Bf Goodrich’s affordable Super Sport tires can keep you safe on the road without putting you in danger with your bank. Its internal structure is reinforced by the company’s “Equal Tension Containment System” – a wrapped reinforcement under the tread to maintain consistent coverage at high speeds. Although it comes with a healthy 6-year/50,000 mile warranty, you may want to go with a more substantial winter tire if you live in an area with considerable snowfall.

Starting at $93 per tire.

If you must drive in snowy and icy conditions this winter, buying high-quality snow tires is definitely a good call. You could probably get by with standard all-season tires, but winter tires will allow you to venture farther and faster. The improved accelerating, braking, and handling will blow you away, and you’ll have a much greater chance of making it to spring in one piece.

Article originally published December 9, 2014. Updated November 14, 2016 by Geoff Nudelman