For much of the U.S. (and all of Canada) winter is fast approaching. That means it’s time to outfit your vehicle with winter tires. But with so much choice available to people today, how do you know which winter tires perform best on snow and ice? Fortunately, we have scoured the internet, read lots of reviews and compiled a list of brands that have the best reputations. More importantly perhaps, these choices also have great safety ratings. Performance and prices all vary, but you can’t go wrong with one of these options. (All pricing in U.S. dollars).
8. Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3
Cost: $140 per tire
We start with a tire that is designed for people who deal with snow and ice on occasion but mostly have to contend with rain and cold roads in winter. Places like Seattle, for example. While not the very best tire for snow and ice, the Sottozero 3 is highly rated for its performance on rain slick roads. They also retain their exceptional handling in dry conditions.
It’s a great tire of you have to contend with winter driving conditions, but still have to stop on dry or wet roads. Be warned though; this is not the tire to get for deep-snow traction and braking. If you have to plow your way up to a ski lodge on the side of a hill this winter, consider a different option. Tests have found thatthe Sottozero 3 is able to stop just as well on winter roads as it does in summertime. Overall, this is a solid winter tire for places that don’t get massive dumpings of snow.
7. Bridgestone Blizzak WS90
Cost: $179 per tire
The Blizzak WS90 is a new tire being released by Bridgestone for 2019. Blizzak is already one of the best-known winter tire brands around. They have an excellent reputation. The new WS90 has been winning praise from reviewers since it was unveiled over the summer. Bridgestone says the Blizzak WS90 is an evolution from the previous-generation winter tire, the WS80.
The WS90 apparently improves on the old tire with an updated tread design and compound, increased tread life, and more available sizes than ever before, including two 19-inch sizes. Early reviews have praised the new tread design. These tires are designed to last longer and provide more value to owners, which is always welcome. Expect more reviews to arrive once these tires can be properly tested on frosty, sub-zero roads.
6. Dunlop Winter Maxx WM02
Cost: $165 per tire
Dunlop is another distinguished name in the tire business. The Winter Maxx WM02 is among their best offerings. A second-generation Winter Maxx tire, the WM02 provides excellent grip and handling no matter how severe the driving conditions. It’s also known for being whisper quiet. Dunlop claims that an asymmetric tread pattern helps ensure the tire runs quietly and smoothly.
The latest Winter Maxx tire equals the braking performance of the previous-generation WM01 tire. It also has the added advantage of not being as expensive as other available winter tires (many of which can be found on this list). The WM02 is a good option with middle-of-the-pack pricing.
5. Michelin X-Ice Xi3
Cost: $173.97 per tire
From the king of tires that is Michelin comes the X-Ice Xi3. The X-Ice tires have been on the market for many years, and remains a top brand that provides first-class performance. Critics continue to praise the X-Ice for its well-rounded braking, acceleration, and handling. The price of the latest X-Ice Xi3 is a little steep, but the premium price reflects excellent quality and superior performance.
If you’re someone who doesn’t want to skimp on quality and are willing to pay a bit extra for peace of mind, then you should consider the X-Ice Xi3 option. In safety tests, its braking performance received among the highest rating possible when tested by Consumer Reports, Car and Driver, and other leading automotive organizations.
4. Firestone Winterforce 2
Cost: $120 per tire
The Firestone Winterforce 2 wins praise for offering both affordability and performance. For people in extreme winter conditions, the Winterforce 2 can even have studs added. That provides extra grip and capability in truly treacherous areas. The Winterforce 2 also comes with a five-year workmanship and materials warranty, putting some guarantee behind the rubber.
What makes the Winterforce 2 a top performer is the fact that it has very deep grooves, wide lateral notches, as well as open shoulder slots to help channel slush and standing water. That reduces skidding and hydroplaning, creating better traction. The tire uses twin steel belts and a polyester casing, which Firestone says combines strength with enhanced control and ride quality. If you run down the list, you’ll see that this tire provides affordability, versatility, a decent warranty, and a wide set of sizes too.
3. Continental WinterContact SI
Cost: $200 per tire
The “SI” in this tire’s name refers to “snow and ice.” That’s very fitting, as these are definitely the weather conditions the WinterContact is best suited for. This tire succeeds largely because it features a special compound that ensures the tires stay flexible in cold weather, which is excellent for maintaining traction and grip in winter conditions. Multi-angled zigzag siping helps in the wet, slushy, and snowy conditions. There are also special groove ridges that help improve braking in deeper snow.
The tire also features a special tread depth indicator, so that drivers know what kind of traction is available at any given time as the tire wears. Continental tires are a bit more expensive, but they come with a lot of benefits. These have a one-year uniformity warranty, one-year road hazard warranty, a 60-day trial warranty, and six years of workmanship and materials warranty. All combined, that’s among the best warranties available for winter tires today.
2. Goodyear Ultra Grip Ice WRT
Cost: $145 per tire
Another top brand of winter tire that has been on the market for many years is Goodyear’s Ultra Grip. This is a very popular choice because they arere available in a wide variety of sizes and for many different vehicles – from sedans to SUVs. There stellar performance on snow and ice is due to the two types of different sipes used on the tire, which provide additional grip and improved traction.
Combined, the two sipes work in tandem to improve stability and braking distances on snow and ice. The warranty on these tires is also worth mentioning. They come with one year of uniformity warranty and six years of workmanship and materials warranty. Buyers praise the Ultra Grip tires for their cornering in winter and for preventing them from getting stuck — no matter how bad the road conditions.
1. Nokian Hakkapeliitta R3
Cost: $215 per tire
Finnish manufacturer Nokian is more of an obscure brand. At $215 per tire, the Hakkapeliitta R3 is among the most expensive winter tires on the market today. However, gear heads swear by them. You could say there is a bit of a cult following surrounding them. Despite its lack of name recognition, Nokian has been a pioneer designer of winter tires since 1932. In fact, the Finnish company is credited with inventing the very first tire designed exclusively for winter conditions. Nokian regularly wins awards for having the best winter tires, year in and year out.
Today, the Hakkapeliitta R3 is Nokian’s top-line winter tire. It has top ratings across the board in terms of safety and performance. The Hakkapeliitta R3 employs a highly aggressive tread pattern and silica compound to find grip in deep snow and ice. Critics love them, as do people who put these tires on their vehicle. Although they aren’t cheap, most owners say they are worth the investment. A standard five-year warranty accompanies the Hakkapeliitta R3. If you can afford them, these are the winter tires to get.