Most All-Weather Tires Provide an Edge in the Snow

But CR's tests expose significant differences among these tires

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Toyota Camry Winter Tire Testing Consumer Reports -John Powers

All-weather tires—a variation of all-season tires designed to excel in tough winter conditions—can be a convenient option if you want to avoid switching to winter/snow tires in the fall and replacing them in the spring.

Consumer Reports’ snow-traction testing of 64 car tire models this year found that the best all-weather tires rival traditional all-season tires in mild weather and can provide traction in severe snow and ice during the winter. Based on our extensive, real-world tread-life tests that measure wear over 16,000 miles, they are expected to last 50,000 miles or more. This is far longer than what you'd get with winter/snow tires, which don't carry tread warranties. Some also compare favorably with regular all-season tires.

More on Tires

The length of tread life affects the operating costs. A longer tread life reduces your cost per mile, especially when you consider the cost for changing tires, including the purchase, mounting, balancing, and recycling. (Learn more about how we test tires.)

We tested several all-weather tires (a subset of performance all-season tires) using Toyota Camrys. The all-weather tires we evaluated were a size that's commonly found on new cars: 215/55R17. The five tested all-weather models are (in alphabetical order) the Goodyear Assurance WeatherReady, Michelin CrossClimate +, Nokian WRG4, Toyo Celsius, and Vredestein Quatrac 5. Of those, there was a significant difference between the top-performing and the bottom-performing all-weather tire.

Performance all-season tires are a step up from regular all-season tires. They place more emphasis on handling, though the trade-off tends to be shorter tread life. Signaling their road-holding capabilities, they have a V speed rating, which indicates a maximum speed of 149 mph. Such tires can better manage heat buildup generated in high-speed driving than those with lower speed ratings. They provide year-round grip tuned for enthusiastic driving.

All-weather tires build on the capabilities found on performance all-season tires with additional winter talents. In doing so, they bridge the gap between all-season tires and dedicated winter tires. All-weather tires can be used all year long, and like winter tires, they have a three-peak mountain and snowflake symbol, which signifies that the tire meets an industry-defined level of snow traction.

What speed ratings mean: On each tire there's a letter that identifies the tire’s maximum speed limit, but it's not how fast you should drive! Standard all-seasons are usually rated S (up to 112 mph) or T (118 mph). Climbing up the scale are the letters H (130 mph), V (149 mph), W (168 mph), Y (186 mph), and ZR (149+ mph). Use a tire with the speed rating recommended in your vehicle owner's manual or as listed on the tire information placard found on the driver's doorjamb.

Though few drivers would ever drive to these sustained speeds, higher speed-rated tires generally offer better handling and wet grip than lower-rated tires.

Snow Traction Performance

Our tests reveal that there is a significant difference in snow traction among tire types. This can be seen in how easily a vehicle can accelerate in foul weather. Dedicated winter/snow tires set the standard for grip on snow and ice, but all-weather tires have a significant advantage over the other types of tires. These are the average distances that it took for a car to reach 20 mph in moderately packed snow.

Winter/snow: 58 feet
All-weather: 64 feet
All-season: 76 feet
Performance all-season: 90 feet

All-weather tires don’t quite match winter/snow tires for maximum snow traction and ice braking, but they do have an advantage in dry braking, wet braking, handling, and tread life. They can be a year-round convenience and ultimately reduce operating costs, making them an appealing choice for drivers who face winter weather but don't need to tackle the most severe conditions.

Below are highlights on the five all-weather tires from our myriad tests.

Click through the model name to see the detailed ratings and to compare tires.

Tire Testing on Ice

Tires play a big role in how your car performs in winter weather. On the "Consumer 101" TV show, Consumer Reports’ experts demonstrate to host Jack Rico how CR tests tires for icy conditions.

Jeff S. Bartlett

A New England native, I have piloted a wide variety of vehicles, from a Segway to an aircraft carrier. All told, I have driven thousands of vehicles—many on race tracks across the globe. Today, that experience and passion are harnessed at the CR Auto Test Center to empower consumers. And if some tires must be sacrificed in the pursuit of truth, so be it. Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSBartlett).

Gene Petersen

Because I took the tires off my toys as a kid, my mother thought I would be a truck driver—not a tire-testing engineer for more than three decades and counting. I still marvel at how complex and durable tires are and how much they contribute to car performance and safety. When I'm not obsessing over tires, I enjoy carpentry, gardening, and just being outdoors every chance I get.