Minnesota winter means icy, snow-packed roads, and that means finding the best snow tires for your vehicle is imperative. Maybe you’ve asked a few car-expert friends which winter tire is their favorite. You probably got different answers (we did, too).
Which snow tires are the best of the best, then? So-called car experts might have their opinions, but when it comes down to tire specs, ratings, and reviews, some winter tires stand out above all others. We analyzed several tires on the market and selected five winter tires that we found the very best.
Keep reading to see the best snow tires for ensuring a safe winter drive! We’ll also walk you through the data we considered when selecting the best snow tires, as well as some frequently asked questions by snow tire buyers.
Our Top Picks
Michelin X-Ice Snow Winter xi3
Best for All Vehicle Sizes
Continental VikingContact 7
Best for Icy Roads
Cooper Evolution Winter 205/55R16XL 94H Tire
Best All-Season Tire
Firestone Weather Grip
Available in 138 sizes, the studless Michelin X-Ice Snow Winter Tire is designed to give your vehicle maximum mobility for many winter seasons. It’s protected by the Michelin Promise Plan–a 60-day satisfaction guarantee, roadside assistance, and a 40,000-mileage warranty.
They’re available in sizes from 15 to 22 inches in H or T speeds (130 or 118 miles per hour). These snow tires perform especially well on ice, claiming a 10-foot improvement from prior Michelin tire editions.
Third-party testers have shown these tires beat out all of the competition, making them our best overall snow tire. These tires are also EV-compatible.
- Reliable braking power on snow and ice
- Better hydroplaning and slush performance than competitors
- Longer mileage warranty than its top competitor (Bridgestone)
- Not the quietest tire you can buy
The studless Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V2 Winter/Snow tire was designed for crossovers, sport-utility vehicles, and trucks. These winter tires have about three times as much traction as most all-season tires and a remarkable grip control.
These tires come in several sizes ranging from 16 to 22 inches with speed ratings of either R, S, or T (106, 112, or 118).
- Comfortable and quiet
- 90-day buy and try guarantee
- Tiny pores to remove the top layer of water on icy roads
- No mileage warranty, expected to last 12,000-15,000 miles
- Not EV compatible
Best for All Vehicle Sizes
The studless Continental VikingContact is compatible with hybrid, electric, and combustion engine vehicles. It is available in a wide array of sizes, from 14 to 22 inches. This tire is suitable for nearly all passenger vehicles, crossovers, and light trucks.
This snow tire’s grip is incredible on all wintry surfaces and has powerful traction and braking on icy roads. It includes ContiSeal to seal a damaged tire tread in the event of nail penetration. Continental SSR system is a run-flat technology for low-section tires, making a spare tire unnecessary.
These tires are available in speed ratings T and H (118 and 130).
- Great value and performance
- Save trunk space not needing an extra tire
- Tire comes with 3-year roadside assistance
- Noisy on bumpy roads
Best for Icy Roads
The studded Cooper Evolution Winter Tire offers maximum traction in the iciest conditions. If you live in a rural, mountain, or coastal town that sees a lot of snow and ice, then studdable tires are a must, and these winter tires are ready to protect your vehicle from ice-related accidents.
These tires are available in 15- to 20-inch diameters. Speed ratings range from T to H (118 and 130).
- Ideal for extreme weather conditions
- Studdable tires grab better on snow and ice than studless tires
- Snow-Groove Technology traps snow for better snow traction
- Studded tires are noisy
- It doesn’t work as well when the road isn’t icy
Best All-Season Tire
The Firestone Weather Grip tire is one of the best in its class when it comes to snow driving. This all-season tire is certified with the Three Peak Mountain Snowflake Symbol, meaning it is suitable for snow conditions–This is an incredibly important feature for an all-season tire to have since not all do.
This all-season tire will keep you safe regardless of the weather conditions and offers a versatile performance for cars, minivans, and CUVs. The tire is available in 19 sizes, ranging from 15- to 19-inch diameters. All tires have a speed rating of H (130).
- 90-day buy and try guarantee
- Open shoulder slots for enhanced water evacuation
- Very solid and long treadwear warranty (65,000 miles)
- Not available in as many sizes as other snow tires on this list
- Harsh when driving over big potholes, especially in warm weather
Snow Tires Buyer’s Guide
Understanding the Tire’s Sidewall Numbers and Letters
The numbers and letters that appear on a tire’s sidewall provide important information that identifies the tire’s specs. This information tells the buyer what type of road conditions and vehicle the tire is best suited for. Snow tire buyers need to evaluate these numbers and letters before making their purchase.
These are letters to look for when selecting the best snow tires for your vehicle: M and S. The letter M stands for mud, and the letter S stands for snow. All winter tires will have the M+S coding on their sidewalls.
Three Peak Mountain Snowflake Symbol
The next symbol to look for on a snow tire’s sidewall is the Three Peak Mountain Snowflake Symbol (3PMSF). This symbol communicates that the tire meets the U.S. Tire Manufacturer Association (USTMA) requirements for severe snow conditions.
Tire Type, Size, and Capacity Information
A series of numbers are used to tell snow tire buyers more information about the tire’s capabilities and intended use. This is a list of codes currently used on tires.
(Note: If a letter does not precede a three-digit numeric section of the tire, this indicates the tire is a Metric size and was manufactured in Europe.)
- P: If the code begins with the letter P, this means the tire was designed for Passenger vehicles
- HL: If the code begins with HL, it will also end with XL. This means the tire has a higher load-carrying capacity than an XL tire of the same dimensions
- T: If the code begins with T, this means the tire is a Temporary Spare that was designed for temporary use until a flat tire is replaced
- LT: If the code begins with LT, this means the tire is a Light Truck-metric size that was designed for vehicles capable of carrying heavy loads or towing large trailers
- LT: If the code ends with LT, this means the tire is a Flotation Light Truck size (able to pass over soft surfaces like sand) and also capable of transporting heavy cargo and towing trailers
- C: Some Metric-sized tires end in C, and this means the tire is a Commercial tire, meant to be used on vans or delivery trucks capable of carrying large loads.
- ST: Tire sizes that begin with ST are Special Trailer Service tires designed to only be used on trailers.
The first three numbers on a snow tire tell the buyer the tire’s section width in millimeters.
The following numbers are the snow tire’s aspect ratio. This is a two-digit number in millimeters. The number represents the percentage ratio between the sidewall height and the width of the tire.
For example, if the width is 245 and the next two numbers are 75, this means that the aspect ratio is 75 percent.
The next letter identifies the snow tire’s internal construction. These are the letters you will see and what they mean:
- R: Radial construction–This means ply cords radiate at 90-degree angles to the center of the tread. The crown is made from layers that form a belt. These tires provide more comfort at higher speeds, and these tires are used by most modern vehicles.
- D: Diagonal bias–these are the oldest type of tire on the market. These tires are made from two or more texture cord layers, which are crossed at certain angles. These are ideal for smaller motorcycles, scooters, and older motorcycles.
- B: Belted bias–These are diagonal tires with a reinforced diagonal belt under the tread surface. These are intended for higher-capacity motorcycles whose chassis is not adapted to radial tires.
- RF: Run Flat construction–This means the tire features construction to continue supporting the vehicle in the event of air loss. This type is not available for all models of tires.
The next number on the snow tire is the measurement of the rim or wheel in inches.
The Load Index is the number after the rim diameter. This number is the maximum weight the tire can support when it’s inflated.
The Speed Rating is the last number on the tire. It tells the buyer the maximum speed capability or limit for which the tire was designed to perform.
Speed ratings appear in a variety of symbols. For example, a speed rating of W means the tire can handle up to 168 miles per hour.
The Uniform Tire Quality Grade System (UTQG) is a system for rating tires intended to help drivers understand how their tires will perform with treadwear, traction, and temperatures. This rating is molded onto the tire sidewall and on your tire’s sticker label.
A 7,200-mile test was done in West Texas with tires rotated every 800 miles. In the end, the wear on the tires is compared to a reference tire under the same conditions.
If it’s expected to last just as long as the reference tire, it gets a score of 100. If it’s expected twice as long, the tire scores 200. If the tire is expected to last three times as long, it’s given a score of 300.
This is the tire’s ability to stop in wet conditions, but it doesn’t determine the tire’s capability on wet, snowy, or icy roads. The grade simply gives you an idea of how well your tires can stop.
This rating is the tire’s resistance to heat buildup and its ability to dissipate heat under regulated operating conditions. Federal safety regulations require a minimum of a C-rating.
Studded vs. Studless Snow Tires
Studs are small, lightweight metal spikes that are staggered and inserted across a winter tire’s tread. Studless tires do not have these spikes.
If you drive on icy roads in the mountains or near the coast, studded winter tires are superior. Non-studded winter tires are a better choice for snow-packed roads.
Frequently Asked Questions About Snow Tires
Do you need four snow tires?
Tire consistency is important, so if you’re going to replace one tire with snow tires, you should replace all four tires with snow tires.
Can you drive year-round on snow tires?
You should not drive all year on snow tires.
What’s the difference between all-season and winter tires?
Soft rubber compounds used on winter tires make the tires ideal for cold weather. All-weather and all-season tires use harder rubber compounds, which work better on summer roads.
Why are not all winter tires electronic vehicle-compatible?
Electric vehicles (EVs) are heavier than regular combustion vehicles due to the battery’s weight. Tires designed for EVs must have additional friction grip for maintaining control when the vehicle is accelerating, steering, or braking on icy roads.
Wrapping up the Best Snow Tires
These are the five best snow tires for keeping your family safe this winter. The Michelin X-Ice Snow Winter xi3 is an impressive, versatile tire that will keep you on the road longer, though all of these tires are great picks.
Looking for more tips and tricks for surviving a Minnesota winter? Check out our Minnesota Winter page.
- About the Author
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Nicole Kinkade loves taking regular road trips with her family around Minnesota. She especially enjoys visiting the Twin Cities area, where she can often be found hanging out at Mall of America and Como Park. Her favorite Minnesota restaurant is Fat Lorenzo’s!
With a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and an associate’s degree in Media Communication, Nicole is passionate about sharing her experiences with others through writing. She is currently writing full-time and loves every minute of it.
Nicole can be reached at email@example.com