Winter is coming and, once again, you have to buy winter tires for your car and, once again dealers, independent auto shops, and tire shops will try to convince you that they have the best tires you can find on the surface of the earth.
With all those different tire models, options and features made by numerous different manufacturers, how are you supposed to know which one is truly the best fit for you? In answer to that, we have created a list of some of the best winter tires based on your specific needs and budget, as well as a quick guide to help you find a set you will like without having to break the bank for unnecessary bells and whistles.
Table of Contents
Top 6 Best Winter Tires Reviews
Bridgestone Blizzak WS80
The Bridgestone Blizzak has been one of the best-known tires in the automotive industry for a long time now. With the WS80, the latest addition to the Blizzak range, Bridgestone unveils the sixth generation of this tire, first launched in the 90s.
Like its predecessors, the Blizzak WS80 uses a rubber designed to adhere well to ice and snow, even in freezing temperatures. Its behavior on the ice is exemplary while the design of the sole and the block design make it extremely effective in deep snow. The WS80 used to have a bad reputation of premature wear but this is now something of the past. Bridgestone engineers have completely redesigned the Blizzak to achieve better performances without sacrificing fuel efficiency and durability.
These tires feature the next generation of Multi-Cell Gum Compound to prevent skidding on icy surfaces. This special rubber compound helps to keep the treads as flexible as possible to achieve outstanding performances on ice and snow-covered roads.
It is, without a doubt, one of the best winter tires to help you beat snow and ice with its reliable cold weather grip and long durability while still having one of the most reasonable price tags compared to its competitors.
Michelin X-Ice Xi3
What makes the quality of a tire is first and foremost the rubber compound. Some manufacturers have developed a rubber compound that provides good durability while making no compromises in terms of grip and Michelin is one of them. The main advantage of the Michelin Xi3's compound is that it helps maintain the sportiness of the vehicle regardless of the temperature and that can't be said about most other tires on this list.
Some winter tires have very firm sidewalls, which reduces bending of the tires while cornering. Michelin has been able to maintain flexibility and thus, the performance of the tires, which brings a better feeling of the road to the driver while also enhancing the drivability on snow and ice.
Moreover, Michelin uses a good amount of silica in its rubber compound to increase the overall grip of the tire but also to reduce wear in warmer weather conditions. The Micropump technology is also used to draw water from under the tire to evacuate it more efficiently, reducing aquaplaning and enhancing grip at the same time.
Continental Winter Contact SI
The Continental Winter Contact Si (for Snow and Ice) has been developed to outperform and replace the Extreme Winter Contact, particularly in terms of braking power on ice, resistance rolling and fuel economy. The Extreme Winter Contact was really popular a few years ago and the Winter Contact SI clearly retains its main virtues of cornering and braking.
It is a lot quieter than the previous version though. The unidirectional outsole with its closer V-shaped blocks is quiet and filters the imperfections of the road. The tread has slicker blocks made of a strong rubber compound for a better grip, but at 10/32 "it is shallower than the former ExtremeWinterContact.
This Continental model comes equipped with traction grooves that provide more bite and the Polar Plus + technology, a silica compound that help the tires to remain flexible in very cold weather. This allows the Continental Winter Contact SI to provide an excellent traction on snow, better traction than most on slippery roads and a significantly reduced braking distance even in the worst winter weather.
Worth mentioning, the Continental Winter Contact SI also features an alignment verification system called the Alignment Check System, that allows visual detection of the parallelism of the vehicle's wheels and let you correct the problem before the tires are ruined beyond repair.
Goodyear Ultra Grip Winter
For an excellent choice as an entry-level product for drivers of passenger cars, sedans, SUVs and crossover vehicles that have a more limited budget but still desire solid performances in winter weather, look for the Goodyear UltraGrip Winter tire.
The treads of the Ultra Grip Winter feature an innovative compound that ensures stable, safe driving. Indeed, with wide circumferential grooves favoring the evacuation of snow, slush and water, a directional structure and many biting ridges, this studdable winter tire offers better handling, increased traction on roads covered in snow, slush or ice and maximum grip on wet or dry pavement.
The Goodyear Ultra Grip Winter has solid, shoulder-reinforced solid blocks that result in more even tread wear for a longer life-span. It's also designed to receive studs to optimize traction on ice and ensure even better performances are achieved in the worst winter conditions. Definitely, a tire to look for if you have to drive a lot on countryside roads, deep snow, and frozen roads.
Firestone Winterforce UV
The Winterforce is a general-purpose, mid-entry level, radial tire available at an affordable price. The spaced blocks of the sole make this tire especially efficient in deep snow. Sadly, because of the inherent design of those same spaced tread blocks, it's not a tire intended for driving on ice and it's worth mentioning that it's probably the noisiest tire on this list. It's definitely more oriented to fit off-road enthusiasts and those who like to wander off the grid where the ability to perform in deep powder overcomes the inconvenient of the higher noise level.
In addition, the slats are not full depth, so the grip on ice can decrease rather quickly. To compensate for the lack of performance on the ice, these tires are studdable for added traction on icy roads and this is where the tread design can come in handy. Shallower treads allow for a thicker sole which is perfect to achieve extended durability with studded tires.
I think it's pretty fair to say that the Winterforce is a valid compromise between high-end performance tires and cheap Chinese tires like Sailun, Triangle, Snow Lions, and the likes. Let just say it's an economical tire of acceptable quality without more. Perfect for those on a budget and customers looking for cheap and effective winter tires to install on their second car without cutting on safety and drivability.
Yokohama iceGUARD iG51v
The new Yokohama IceGUARD iG51v, replacing the Geolandar G072, represents a significant technological advance in winter tires for SUVs, vans and crossover vehicles. Designed to cope with the toughest winter conditions, the Yokohama Ice GUARD iG51V provides peace of mind and high performance on ice and snow. It is also an excellent choice for a smooth ride, durability and fuel economy.
The IceGuard iG51V features a multitude of three-dimensional serrated lamellae arranged in a zigzag pattern across the sole, variable width side grooves, and a continuous lightning-shaped center rib. These Yokohama-specific technologies provide the IG51V tire with more biting power to maximize grip on ice and snow, facilitate water, and snow removal for greater stability and powerful braking in difficult conditions.
The high-density compound and flexible polymer of the new generation provide a firmer contact surface and reducing rolling resistance for longer life and better fuel efficiency. Robust and durable despite a soft-looking rubber compound, the iG51v performs well in crazy snowstorms and on icy or wet surfaces.
In addition to the polymer rubber compound, the secret of its success lies in its directional tread made of longitudinal zigzag grooves which allows to quickly evacuate snow and water, thanks to its adaptive 3D slats working to increase stability and adhesion to surfaces.
Why winter tires?
As soon as the temperature drops below 7° Celsius, all-season tires are simply not up to scratch.
When the weather gets colder, the rubber compound of an all-season tire loses its flexibility, which affects the handling of a vehicle and its braking distance. A good winter tire, however, is designed with a rubber compound that retains its flexibility, even in freezing temperatures.
Winter tires not only have a special tread design to help better evacuate snow and slush from under the tire but are also created using a specific and complex rubber compound to increase the contact area with the road when driving on ice and snow.
That is also the reason why it is not recommended to leave your vehicle equipped with winter tires during the summer. When it's hot outside, the sole of winter tires wears out much faster and lengthens the braking distance.
Winter tires have deeper treads that reduce snow accumulation to provide the best traction possible in all weather condition. In addition to increased depth, the sole of winter-approved tires is sculpted in such a way that snow and slush are expelled to the sides. This ensures that snow piles do not accumulate between the tire and the ground, which could lead to aquaplaning and the loss of control of the vehicle.
It's all well and good to get rid of the excess snow, but winter tires also need to bite into the ice and snow to get your car running smoothly. This is made possible by the notches on the surface of the tire's sole. These more aggressive designs distinguish winter tires from other non-homologated tires for the cold season.
Obviously, winter tires cannot do everything for you. To survive the cold season, you will have to pair them with good driving skills and a lot of caution.
How to choose a good winter tire
1- What distance are you covering in the winter?
This question may seem trivial, but it should be the first to pop-up in your head when evaluating the type of winter tires you need. If you live in the city, have access to public transit and your car is parked all winter in your driveway, it would simply be unwise to spend hundreds of dollars on high-performance tires for nothing.
2- What type of roads are you driving on?
If you live in the countryside and your job is in the suburbs, the highway and even the small country roads are part of your daily life. You must, therefore, expect to meet partially cleared roads. If, on the other hand, you live in the city, you are likely to use mostly clean and dry roads. This second criterion will certainly help you eliminate some more expensive types of tires you don't really need depending on where you live.
3- What is your budget?
The question that kills! The budget for your tires should reflect your use. Unlike other products, the price of a tire is usually a guarantee of its quality. In other words, the more you spend, the better tires you get. So if you're traveling 40 000 km a year and your car is your second home, it makes sense to invest in more expensive tires. If, on the contrary, you only use your car once a week to go to the shopping mall, entry-level tires will be more than enough.
4- Studdables or not?
Studded tires offer an undeniable advantage in terms of grip on ice and snow. Studs are a great way to enhance cheaper or entry-level tires but it doesn't come cheap. If you live in a big city and drive mostly on dry pavement all winter long, you can definitely skip the studs and save some money.
Driving through harsh winter weather is never easy for anyone. Make sure to equip your car with the best winter tires you can afford and you will thank me later.
A good set of winter tires can truly make the difference between arriving safe and sound and ending up in a ditch and having to deal with even more unwanted and expensive repairs. Never forget to adapt your driving style to the type of tires you finally chose to buy; no matter how expensive they were. Nothing beats safe and cautious driving paired with a set of effective winter tires to drive safely until Spring comes around again!