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Best Tires to Buy for Winter Driving

CR shows you how to choose the best tires for your seasonal needs, with specific recommendations

Winter driving in a 2015 Toyota RAV4.

Cool weather is a reminder for those in snowy regions that now is the time to inspect your tires and choose the right set to use during the winter months. You want to be prepared for snow, and tire inventory also tends to melt away as the end of the year draws closer.

If your tread is worn down to 4⁄32 inch or less, or you crave better traction than your tires provided last winter, consider what type of tire might be right for your needs. The answer to this question depends on how much snow you drive on, your confidence in driving on snow, and your wallet.

How to measure tread depth: Place a quarter head down in a tread groove. If the top of George Washington’s head is just visible, the tread has about a 4⁄32-inch depth. That’s enough to offer some all-weather grip, but it’s time to start thinking about replacement.

Tire Type Considerations

All-season tires: With the exception of high-performance models, most cars come with all-season tires. They are a good choice in areas where snowfall is infrequent or doesn’t stay around long, or if you can wait until the roads you need are plowed. All-season tires are labeled “M+S” (mud and snow) on the sidewall. Our testing shows there is a wide range of snow traction among these tires.

If you want to stick with all-seasons, pay particular attention to our detailed ratings to ensure you’re getting the most ice braking performance and snow traction, without compromising on warmer-weather capabilities.

To find the best tires in each category that fit your car,  use our tire selector, which you'll find at the top of our tire ratings.


Winter/snow tires: Dedicated winter/snow tires are the way to go for areas where snowfall can be significant and you frequently have to drive on snow-covered roads. Most offer more snow traction and grip on icy roads vs. a typical all-season tire. Winter/snow tires are the best choice for all types of cars and trucks, including front-, rear-, and all-wheel-drive vehicles. Make sure all four tires are winter/snow for balanced handling and optimum grip.

Winter/snow tires are easy to identify because they have a sidewall symbol of a three-peak mountain with a snowflake inside. This indicates that the tire meets the industry standard for snow traction. The secret to the winter/snow tire is a tread that stays pliable in cold weather and has many slits that can bite into and cling onto snow and ice.

The down side is they lead to long stops on cleared roads and wear faster than all-season tires. Come spring, winter/snow tires should be removed and replaced with all-season tires.

All-weather tires: A subset of performance all-season tires, all-weather tires are an emerging category that's intended for consumers who want winter/snow tire traction but don’t want to bother with the cost and inconvenience of changing tires twice a year. The performance all-season tires tested have this enhanced ability and get the same three-peak mountain and snowflake symbol you'll find on a winter/snow tire. In addition to snow traction, they come close to achieving the road grip and tread life of an all-season tire. We’ve tested a few, and the best models provide a good compromise, with better winter traction than a regular all-season tire can provide.

Below we present specific recommendations for each tire category, highlighting several models for each and explaining how to select the right one for your needs.

General Altimax RT43 is a good choice for winter driving.
General Altimax RT43
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