Do You Need Winter Tires?
Winter tires are a necessity in many parts of the country, especially in regions that experience frequent and deep snowfall along with extended periods of below-freezing temperatures. Winter tires are designed to increase traction on snow and ice.
Additionally, winter tires are made with special rubber compounds that don’t harden in cold temperatures. This is important as standard summer tires become rigid and lose road contact in sub-freezing conditions.
All-season tires are sufficient in some climates. Areas that experience occasional snowfall and rainy winters are suitable for A/S tires, though winter tires will perform better in these areas too. Installing winter tires has really no downside for most drivers.
Types of Winter Tires
There are two primary kinds of winter tires: studded and studless. Studded tires have metal studs implanted in the tread. These are usually made of steel and act as little ice hammers to break surface ice and increase traction. Studded tires are usually considered the best winter tires, but they have some notable drawbacks.
Studded tires damage the road, and any cold climate has the tell-tale lane indentations caused by frequent studded tire use. As a result, some states ban their use outside of the winter months. Studless tires are legal everywhere year-round.
Studless winter tires use advanced tread patterns and rubber compounds to provide as much traction as possible. They usually appear more aggressive than summer tires, as they’re designed to cut into the snow and flatten out a bit to increase traction.
Virtually all winter tires are radials, which means they’re reinforced along their circumference with one or two steel bands. Winter tires use aggressive sipes, which are small horizontal zig-zag cuts in the tread that improve winter performance.
Best Snow and Winter Tires
Some winter tires are better than others, and there are numerous options to choose from. Making a decision can be difficult, so we chose five of the best and highest-rated winter tires to review. Here are our top picks.
1. Nokian Hakkapeliitta LT3 Studless Winter Tire
The Nokian Hakkapeliitta LT3 is a studless winter tire that’s one of the highest-quality options on the market. At first glance, the tread pattern reveals the high traction and slip-resistant qualities of this tire. The Nokian Hakkapeliitta LT3 is a purpose-built winter tire, not an all-season or adapted summer tire.
The Nokian Hakkapeliitta LT3 is based on Nokian’s studded model, which is also quite popular. This tire uses Nokian’s proprietary Arctic Grip rubber compound, which provides excellent traction on slippery frozen surfaces. The rubber also performs well on wet pavement in warm weather.
The Nokian Hakkapeliitta LT3 is designed for heavy-duty use and a long lifespan. As a result, it’s popular with work vehicles that have to make it to the job site regardless of the weather. This tire is also exceptionally popular on daily driver cars and trucks due to its superior handling.
The tread pattern is directional, which is a common design for snow traction. The edges are sharp, which helps the Nokian Hakkapeliitta LT3 dig into packed snow and overcome slippery road conditions. The rubber compound used in this tire is designed to stay pliable in sub-freezing conditions.
You can purchase a set of Nokian Hakkapeliitta LT3 tires from Discount Tire for between $192.00 and $287.00, depending on the size and tire load you choose.
The Nokian Hakkapeliitta LT3 is the ideal choice for daily drivers and work vehicles that must operate in all weather conditions.
2. Firestone Winterforce 2 Studless Winter Tire
The number two spot on our list is occupied by the Firestone Winterforce 2, which is one of the top-selling studless winter tires on the market. It’s affordable and provides excellent grip in cold and slippery conditions.
The outer tread bands of the Firestone Winterforce 2 tire are horizontal and uniform, which helps increase road contact and break through packed snow. Additionally, the tread voids are wide enough to shed slush and water.
Firestone Winterforce 2 tires are specifically designed for use in cold temperatures. They can handle sub-zero conditions with or without ice, and they’re equipped with semi-solid center ribs to increase road contact for better traction.
Firestone Winterforce 2 tires have the triple-peak mountain snowflake symbol, which certifies them for use in severe winter weather. That means they’re suitable for ice, snow, slush, and extreme cold. Also, the deep tread depth of these tires ensures a long life of summer and winter driving, so no need to swap them out every year.
You can buy a set of Firestone Winterforce 2 studless snow tires from Discount Tire for between $81.00 and $161.00 each, depending on size and load rating.
Firestone Winterforce 2 tires are an excellent choice for cars and trucks that need good winter performance at a reasonable price.
3. Nokian Nordman 7 Studless Winter Tire
The Nokian Nordman 7 is a non-studded winter tire that’s both affordable and effective for use in severe snow conditions. Nokian makes our list again with their Nordman 7 tide due to its unique rubber compound and high-traction tread surface.
The Nokian Nordman 7 is a true winter tire, complete with the three-peak mountain and snowflake symbol. This tire is certified for use in extreme winter conditions, such as those encountered in the Dakotas and northern Minnesota.
At first glance, it’s easy to tell that the Nokian Nordman 7 is a winter tire. The tread features numerous cuts and sipes, which enhance grip on wet and icy roads. Additionally, the edges are designed to dig into packed snow and keep you under control.
These heavy-duty tires are available at a low price point, which makes them highly accessible to most drivers who want safer winter handling. And though they’re not as grippy as studded tires, they’re still an excellent choice for winter weather conditions.
Nokian Nordman 7 winter tires are available from Discount Tire for between $66.00 and $167.00 per tire.
The Nokian Nordman 7 is a low-priced winter tire with a wide stance that’s especially good on slick snow. Works on cars, trucks, and SUVs.
4. Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9 Studded Winter Tires
For serious snow and ice, studded tires hold a clear advantage. The Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9 is a studded winter tire that combines Nokian’s superior winter tread compound with the ice-breaking capabilities of steel studs.
Studded tires aren’t ideal for use everywhere, which is why this tire doesn’t earn a higher spot on our list. But if you live in an area that permits studded tire use, the Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9 could be one of your best choices.
Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9 tires utilize a stud pattern that spaces four studs lengthwise between each area of the tread. This provides excellent traction across the ice and packed snow. In slush and loose snow, the tire’s wide footprint and directional tread pattern takes over.
It’s difficult to beat true studded tires for starting and stopping traction on icy roads. These exceptional Nokian studded tires are some of the best on the market, thanks to their long lifespan, deep tread, and aggressive self-locking sipes.
Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9 studded winter tires are available from Discount Tire for between $105.00 and $352.00. Prices vary based on the size, speed, and load index you choose.
Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9 studded tires are best for northern states with severe winter weather and long stretches of ice-covered highways.
5. Pirelli Scorpion Winter Studless Tires
Pirelli makes the final spot on our list with their Pirelli Scorpion Winter tires. These studless tires are designed for exceptional traction at normal tire pressures and feature some of the most extensive siping in the industry.
Pirelli tires are known for quality and longevity, and the deep tread cuts of the Pirelli Scorpion Winter tire ensure it will last a very long time. Additionally, the Pirelli Scorpion is exceptionally good at shedding water thanks to its wide void channels.
The Pirelli Scorpion Winter is designed for larger vehicles, like crossovers, SUVs, and small trucks. It can handle ice and snow, along with sub-freezing temperatures thanks to its cold weather rubber compound.
The Pirelli Scorpion Winter has a notable set of ridges around the tread, which serve a very important function. These ‘Snow Booster Ridges’ cut into deep snow and pack itself, as snow provides excellent traction on snow. It’s counterintuitive, but it works.
You can purchase a set of Pirelli Scorpion Winter studless tires from Discount Tire for between $127.00 per tire and $1,245.00 per tire, depending on your vehicle.
The Pirelli Scorpion Winter is a premium winter tire that works best on SUVs, crossovers, and small trucks in high-snowfall areas.
About The Author
I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.Read More About Charles Redding