Best Winter/Snow Tires From Consumer Reports' Tests

CR's testing identifies standout tires with the best cold-weather grip

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2019 Toyota Prius r in snow Toyota

Tire shops, dealerships, and big-box stores are stocked with winter/snow tires, at least for now. If you think you’ll need them, it’s time to shop. We have seen that some tires are hard to come by due to complications from the pandemic.

CR has tested dozens of tires specially engineered to provide cold-weather traction, including 16 winter/snow tires for cars and crossover vehicles, eight performance winter/snow tires for sporty cars, and eight specifically designed for pickups and SUVs. All these tires are designed for seasonal use with special tread features to provide sure-footed grip for ice and snow.

Below are the top-scoring winter/snow tires, as well as all-season models that have good grip on snowy roads.

Shoppers can now also choose all-weather models, an emerging subset of all-season performance tires that can match dedicated winter/snow tires for their traction.

These tires have the mountain and snowflake symbol on the sidewall, indicating they meet snow traction requirements of winter/snow tires. There are some all-terrain truck tires that have some snow capability, but none of them can rival winter/snow tires.

Who Should Consider Winter/Snow Tires?

Consumers who must drive in snowy conditions or who just want the best grip possible in wintry weather should consider winter/snow tires. They provide optimum grip to stop, go, and take sharp turns on snow or on icy roads.

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These tires are suitable for any vehicle—front-, rear-, or even all-wheel drive—but always use them in sets of four for the best grip and balanced handling.

All winter/snow tires that we’ve tested have impressed us with their grip in wintry conditions, but the Achilles’ heel for most of them is that they have less grip on dry and wet roads compared with all-season tires. This is reason enough to take them off come spring.

@consumerreports @consumerreports When the weather is warming up, we cool down a bit to test all-season and winter tires at a local ice rink. See ratings and reviews at #carsoftiktok #tires #carlovers ♬ original sound - Consumer Reports

How We Test Tires

Consumer Reports tests more than 50 tire models every year for cars, SUVs, and trucks. A dozen or more tests are conducted by an expert team, mostly at our 327-acre Auto Test Center in Connecticut. We perform our snow-traction tests in New York state. In 2020, we did not perform ice-braking evaluations due to COVID-19 restrictions; normally, we evaluate each tire’s grip on ice at a nearby skating rink. We also commission outside labs to measure each tire’s rolling resistance, which affects fuel economy.

The Overall Score for each of these tires emphasizes snow traction and braking on ice—the main motivations for buying such tires in the first place. These tires typically have a tread compound that stays pliable in the cold and have numerous biting edges for gripping snow and ice. The trade-off is shorter tread life. We don’t test winter/snow tires for tread life, and most do not have treadwear warranties because they are intended to be used for just one season a year.

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