The Best Winter/Snow Tires [2020], from Budget to Premium: Our Top Picks

24 top options to kickstart your winter tire research for cars/crossovers & SUV/light trucks.

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Editor’s Note: in compiling this list of the best, we did our best choosing brands & models based on our own tire experience, reviews, research, and opinions.

Passenger cars to full-size SUVs, winter-rated tires – and not all-seasons – are the way to go when it’s time to conquer the snow, sleet, and ice. This guide includes our top picks for 1) CARS & CROSSOVERS, and 2) SUV & LIGHT TRUCKS, each category including:

  • Best Budget-Friendly Winter Tire: rubber at a good price without compromising quality
  • Best Performance Winter Tire: for ultimate handling and control in the white stuff
  • Best Midrange Winter Tire: priced and positioned right in the middle of the pack
  • Best Premium Winter Tire: top-of-the-range snow tires with pricing to match

Followed by answering two common winter tire questions: Are snow tires even worth it? and Do winter tires provide good value? If new snow tires aren’t possible (expense, lack of storage space, etc.), we also pick the best all-season tires here. In which case, also considering reading 4 Winter Driving Tips from a Pro Racecar Driver.

Now, let’s get on with it…

CARS & CROSSOVERS

Best Budget-Friendly Winter Tire

Sailun IceBlazer WST1

Top Pick: Sailun IceBlazer WST1

The IceBlazer WST1 is a studdable winter tire by Chinese manufacturer, Sailun, that comes in more than 60 sizes. It’s the company’s biggest-selling winter product and in total, more than a million Canadians have bought Sailun IceBlazers for winter use.

A specially formulated, silica-reinforced compound is designed keep the rubber flexible for maximum grip in extreme cold temperatures. In a comparison test for Finnish publication Tuulilasi the WST1 performed particularly well in snow braking and in wet conditions. Here’s another review from auto site DoubleClutch.

Sailun is part of Mesnac, a company you won’t have heard of, but which provides tire-building technology to many of the world’s top tire companies. It has also invested in cutting-edge tire materials and environmental technology.

Takeaway: Sailun’s best-selling winter tire is aimed at cars and crossovers, offering good snow performance for buyers on a budget.

Why we like it:

Winter performance at a budget price

Directional tread pattern with aggressive sipes for grip on snow and ice

Excellent size coverage

IceBlazer WST1 Sizes & Info (US)

IceBlazer WST1 Sizes & Price (Canada)

Top Contenders:

Cooper Evolution Winter 

The Evolution Winter’s tread is optimized for deep snow, with Cooper’s patented saw-tooth design trapping snow in the tread to provide snow-on-snow traction. The tire can be studded for even greater grip and is available in dozens of sizes from 14-18in rim diameters, for cars and crossovers.

Uniroyal Tiger Paw Ice & Snow 3

The affordable Tiger Paw Ice & Snow 3 is made with twin steel belts on top of a two-ply, polyester casing. Uniroyal – part of Michelin – says that this combination balances strength and durability with ride comfort. The tire is studdable for extra grip on hard-packed snow and ice and is available in 47 sizes for 13-19in wheels.


CARS & CROSSOVERS continued:

Best Performance Winter Tire

Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3

Top Pick: Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3

Dedicated to high-end, premium vehicles, Pirelli deployed new compounds and a new sipe design when it introduced the Winter Sottozero 3. The tire was co-developed with luxury-vehicle OEMs, has been homologated by brands including Bentley, Maserati and Tesla, and is available in rim sizes from 16-21in.

There are 3D sipes for improved handling in dry conditions, with high sipe density for better grip on snow. Two wide, longitudinal grooves benefit wet handling and braking. Inside the tire, the ‘Seal Inside’ technology enables you to to drive on without losing air pressure even after a puncture and is said to cover around 85% of possible accidental causes of pressure loss. The Winter Sottozero 3’s are a good choice for sport sedans too, according to TorqueNews.

Takeaway: The Sottozero 3 has performance that’s backed by luxury car manufacturers and incorporates innovative technologies to keep you mobile in an emergency.

Why we like it:

Available runflat, self-sealing and noise-cancellation technologies

Homologation from 11 prestige car manufacturers

High scores in hydroplaning resistance, snow traction and ice braking in Consumer Reports testing

Top Contenders:

Michelin Pilot Alpin 5

The latest generation of Michelin’s acclaimed Pilot Alpin (PA) series is said to improve braking performance and hydroplaning resistance, compared with the previous PA4, while a new functional polymer is incorporated to provide more grip in all conditions. The recipe has been enough to secure homologations from BMW and Mercedes-Benz. In Germany, a highly regarded ADAC winter tire test (think AAA/CAA) placed the PA5 at the top of the tree in 2020.

Bridgestone Blizzak LM-32

Blizzaks of any description are always a solid winter tire choice. The popular WS90 for mainstream cars and minivans, for example, scores well in comparison tests. The runflat LM-32 meanwhile has a directional tread pattern and is designed for the drivers of luxury sports cars and performance sedans, “who need premium performance on winter’s demanding snow-covered roads,” according Bridgestone.


CARS & CROSSOVERS continued:

Best Midrange Winter Tire

Goodyear WinterCommand

Top Pick: Goodyear WinterCommand (CUV)

The studdable WinterCommand is also available for cars and minivans, but this CUV/SUV version is aimed at the performance demands of crossovers, SUVs and light trucks. As such, there are variations in the tread pattern, which boasts full-depth, zigzag sipes.

In Consumer Reports testing, the WinterCommand got maximum points for snow traction and solid scores for ride comfort and fuel-saving rolling resistance but was less impressive in wet conditions.

Takeaway: Dedicated truck version of the WinterCommand is well suited to snowy conditions.

Why we like it:

Excellent snow traction

Good size coverage

Performance tailored to different vehicles

Top Contenders:

Cooper Discoverer True North

The Discoverer True North performed superbly in Consumer Reports testing, collecting maximum scores for snow traction, ice braking and ride comfort. Cooper says it’s ideal for commuters who drive cars and minivans on plowed and treated roads, dealing with slush and black ice through the winter months. The coupled silica compound is designed to improve traction on ice and negate the need for studs.

BFGoodrich Winter T/A KSI

We were impressed when we reviewed the Winter T/A KSI, which is available in Canada. We liked its blend of winter-conditions performance – enhanced by saw-toothed groove edges for better grip – and measures to reduce noise and handling compromises on clear pavement. The tire’s high-density silica compound is said to deliver traction in sub-freezing temperatures and extended durability on warmer winter days.


CARS & CROSSOVERS continued:

Best Premium Winter/Snow Tire

Michelin X-Ice SNOW

Top Pick: Michelin X-Ice SNOW

Brand new for the winter of 2020-21, the X-Ice SNOW is the successor to the much-lauded X-Ice Xi3 and Latitude X-Ice Xi2. Developed at Michelin’s Nordic test centres and produced mostly at the company’s plant in Nova Scotia, Canada, the X-Ice SNOW improves on its predecessor’s snow traction and braking. Michelin claims the newcomer also comes out well in treadwear testing against leading competitors.

A new, V-shaped tread is designed to maintain its shape – and therefore its performance – even when worn, as does the deployment of the EverGrip technologies that we’ve seen on other Michelin products. The company’s ‘Flex-Ice 2.0’ tread compound is said to consist of, “a unique rubber mix with a full silica-based compound,” to maintain flexibility in severe cold-climate conditions.

Takeaway: Picks up where the X-Ice Xi3 left off, adding new technologies for long-lasting performance.

Why we like it:

X-Ice Xi3 already a top performer; SNOW should be even better

Performance may remain at a high level for longer than on some other tires

82 sizes already in the market, a further 41 to follow in 2021

Top Contenders:

Continental VikingContact 7 

The VikingContact 7 made its debut in 2019 and is available in a market-covering 91 sizes. Conti developed the tire to provide a balance between flexibility and stiffness, so that it performs well in both wintry and wet conditions. Canadian tire buyers looking for a tire specifically for extreme cold conditions should also check out the Canada-only IceContact XTRM (see our review here), which comes in both studded and non-studded versions.

Goodyear WinterCommand Ultra

New to the market in 2020, the WinterCommand Ultra is said to be Goodyear’s best winter tire yet. It features a ‘Cryo-Adaptative’ compound that’s engineered to stay pliable in extreme cold conditions and ‘V-Tred technology’ – hydrodynamic grooves to evacuate water, slush and snow without compromising ride comfort. It’s been launched in 23 sizes to cover 15-18in rims, with a further 30 sizes up to 20in to come in 2021.


SUV & LIGHT TRUCKS

Best Budget-Friendly Winter Tire

Sailun Terramax A/T

Top Pick: Sailun Terramax A/T 3PMS

Sailun recently upgraded its Terramax A/T for better winter performance, enabling the tire to achieve 3-peak mountain snowflake certification. It’s designed to deliver excellent traction for SUVs, pickups and vans, on and off the road, while also delivering good handling, stability and a quiet, comfortable ride.

The tire features an aggressive, open-shoulder tread design that aims to improve traction by expelling water, snow, slush and mud. A solid centre rib is employed for better ride comfort and handling precision, while deep, multidirectional tread sipes are said to improve comfort without sacrificing traction.

Takeaway: Versatile, rugged all-terrain tire that is approved for winter use with 3PMS certification.

Why we like it:

All-terrain tire with winter certification

Design features to improve comfort

More than 40 sizes available for 15-20in rims, including LT sizes

Terramax A/T 3PMS Sizes & Info (US)

Terramax A/T 3PMS Sizes & Info (Canada)

Top Contenders:

General Grabber Arctic LT

With the exception of wet braking performance, the Grabber Arctic LT from General Tire, another of Continental’s brands, scored highly across the board in Consumer Reports testing. With durability in mind it features a robust, cut-and-chip-resistant compound and high-strength belts. The tire is studdable and comes with a 6-year treadwear warranty.

Firestone Winterforce 2UV

Available in more than 50 sizes, all studdable, the Firestone Winterforce 2UV for crossovers, SUVs and pickup trucks is billed as, “an affordable, long-lasting, next-generation line of tires that dig into snow and slush and offer reliable grip in winter driving conditions”. It features a redesigned, full-depth tread pattern and open shoulder slots for better snow performance, which was proven in a top rating for snow traction in Consumer Reports testing.


SUV & LIGHT TRUCKS continued:

Best Performance Winter Tire

Bridgestone Blizzak LM80 RFT

Top Pick: Bridgestone Blizzak LM80 RFT

The LM80’s direction tread pattern features an uninterrupted central rib for more precise steering response and better high-speed stability. As with other Blizzak designs, the LM80 features the Lamellen ‘edge effect’, whereby differently oriented sipes in the tread blocks create edges to bite into the snow, aiding snow grip and traction. Transversal grooves remove water and slush from below the tire’s footprint to resist hydroplaning.

Bridgestone makes two versions of the LM80 – the RFT with runflat capability, and the Evo, without.

Takeaway: With low-profile sizes for drivers who want to retain their vehicle’s sporty appearance, the Blizzak LM80 is aimed squarely at high-performance crossovers and SUVs. 

Why we like it:

Available reinforced sidewalls for runflat capability

Low-profile sizes to match summer tire appearance

Outstanding Blizzak brand reputation

Top Contenders:

Dunlop Winter Sport 5 SUV

The Winter Sport 5 SUV is aimed drivers of high-performance crossovers, combining winter performance with fuel efficiency. Available since 2015, it has racked up several strong performances in independent tests. Even in 2020, five years after its launch, the Winter Sport 5 SUV came fourth in a test by Germany’s ADAC, ahead of rival products from Continental, Bridgestone and Pirelli, and received a ‘Good’ rating in a test by German magazine, AutoBild.

Continental 4×4 WinterContact

Conti describes the 4×4 WinterContact as, “a rugged winter tire for four-wheel-drive vehicles”. With a focus on snow braking performance in cold conditions, the asymmetrical tread pattern is also designed to provide excellent winter handling. All sizes of the 4×4 WinterContact are rated for speeds above 200km/h and some are available with Conti’s SSR runflat technology.


SUV & LIGHT TRUCKS continued:

Best Midrange Winter Tire

Yokohama iceGUARD iG51v

Top Pick: Yokohama iceGUARD iG51v

There are several winter tires in Yokohama’s iceGUARD family, including the recent iG53 for cars and minivans and the G075 for vans, crossovers and SUVs. This iG51v is designed for crossovers, SUVs and light trucks. The tread design features zigzag circumferential grooves with a 3D-shaped wall to pack and expel snow, as well as grooves to disperse slush and snow. Interlocking and adaptive 3D sipes – the small grooves that enable the tire to generate friction on ice – are said to enhance stability and grip, while a variable-angle centre rib improves rigidity on dry pavement.

Don’t miss our full review of the iG51v, which pointed to its excellent grip in snow and highlighted how the Yokohamas’ tread squirm – always an issue for winter tires due to the softer tread compounds – was less than on some designs we’d tested.

Takeaway: The iceGUARD iG51v offers a great blend of value and performance in the midrange sector.

Why we like it:

Good winter performance for the price

Proven capability in our real-world test

Centre rib for stability in dry conditions

Top Contenders:

Cooper Discoverer Snow Claw

The Discoverer Snow Claw is Cooper’s brand-new, studdable SUV and light-truck tire for extreme cold, snow and ice. It was tested in four countries on three continents and has a tread compound that has been engineered to stay supple in bitterly cold conditions. The ‘Snow Groove’ technology featured on other Cooper designs is also present to enhance traction, handling and braking. 

Toyo Open Country WLT1

This Toyo offering is aimed at vehicles that typically carry a heavier load than the average light truck. The maker says that the Open Country WLT1 delivers secure ice and snow traction and that it has a deeper tread depth than average, for longer wear life. There’s a longitudinal waved-sipe for improved cornering performance on ice while the straight sipe and dimple design on the outside of the tread increases the tire’s resistance to wandering.


SUV & LIGHT TRUCKS continued:

Best Premium Winter Tire

Pirelli Scorpion Winter Tire Review
Pirelli Scorpion Winter

Top Pick: Pirelli Scorpion Winter

The Scorpion Winter has a been a leader in its class since its launch eight years ago, with several comparison test wins to its name. It was designed to provide high traction and grip for the high power and torque delivered by luxury SUVs and crossovers from the likes of Audi, BMW and even Lamborghini. According to Pirelli, engineers paid particular attention to downhill braking on low-grip surfaces and cornering. 

A dozen luxury manufacturers have homologated the Scorpion Winter for use on almost 50 of their vehicles, including on the latest luxury electric vehicles such as the Jaguar I-Pace and Mercedes-Benz EQC. The available size range – from 16-22in – is said to cover more than 85% of the market. Read our full Scorpion Winter review here.

Takeaway: The Scorpion Winter has proven performance and excellent size coverage for luxury SUVs.

Top Contenders:

Why we like it:

Available technologies to reduce noise and self-seal/run flat after a puncture

Excellent size coverage, especially for larger rims

Homologations from many luxury manufacturers

Goodyear Ultra Grip Ice WRT

This studdable Goodyear is available in different versions for light trucks or crossovers and SUVs. Design features include two-dimensional blades in the centre zone that are said to offer enhanced braking and traction on snow and ice, 3D tread-lock blades in the shoulder that lock together for grip in turns, and a rim protector to guard against curb damage.

Nokian Hakkapeliitta R3 SUV

Finnish brand Nokian is the oldest name in winter tires, having produced its first in 1934. One of its latest products is the non-studdable Hakkapeliitta R3 SUV, which has sidewalls strengthened with Aramid fibre and a tread containing microscopic, ‘Cryo Crystal 3’ particles that work like built-in studs, creating sharp, tough grip edges inside the rubber. The R3 SUV has good size coverage in rims from 16-21in, with most marked ‘XL’ for the highest possible load capacity. It secured ‘Recommended’ status in Consumer Reports testing.


Snow Tire FAQs

There you have it, our picks for some of the best winter and snow tires for cars, crossovers, sport utilities, and light trucks. Now, a couple popular FAQs answered, explaining whether snow tires are worth the time and expense, and if they offer an real value (short answer: yes). Read on.

Are snow tires even worth it?

All-season tires come as the default option on most cars, trucks and SUVs sold in North America. All-seasons are designed to keep you moving in most conditions and many will have an M+S (mud + snow) designation on the sidewall, but they are not designed to perform at their best in temperatures below 7°C/45°F. For anywhere that experiences these low temperatures for more than a few weeks a year, winter tires are well worth the expense – and in some territories, they’re mandatory.

Winter tires – the term ‘snow tire’ is a misnomer – come into their own in cold conditions, as they feature a softer, more flexible tread compound that’s designed to generate friction even when other tires go hard. Certified winter tires carry the 3-peak mountain snowflake (3PMS) symbol.

Traction in snowy or icy conditions is important, of course, helped by the many small grooves or ‘sipes’ that dig into the surface, but the main safety benefit lies in the braking and handling performance. With or without studs, winter tires will stop considerably faster than typical all-seasons on snow or ice and enable you to hold a turn much better, reducing the risk of an accident. Studs will further enhance grip if you drive regularly on ice.

Note that 4WD or AWD will help with winter traction – getting you moving on a slippery surface – but won’t help you stop faster. Any vehicle is only as good as that all-important connection between the tire’s ‘footprint’ and the road surface.

Do winter tires provide good value?

Winter tires do represent an additional expense. However, aside from the important safety benefits, they can pay back some of that cost over time by prolonging the life of the all-season or summer tires that you remove from the vehicle during the winter months.

The softer rubber compound used means that winter tires do not usually enjoy the same treadwear performance of a typical all-season tire, while the importance for grip of the myriad sharp edges in the tread pattern means that performance can drop off noticeably as the tire wears. Treadwear warranties are correspondingly lower for winter tires, or not available at all, although regular warranties against a defective product are normal. Michelin’s is one of the best, guaranteeing treadwear for up to 60,000km (40,000 miles), depending on the product.

An interesting study from Kal-Tire showed how the relative performance of premium winter tires, economy winter tires and all-season tires deteriorated over time. As ever with tires, aim to buy the best-performing product that you can afford, as better tires will likely retain their performance over a longer period of time.

Graham Heeps
Based in Calgary, AB, Graham’s outlets include Autocar, Professional Motorsport World, Turnology.com and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology. A lifelong motorsports fan, he’s a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), the Guild of Motoring Writers and the Motor Press Guild, speaks German and collects Matchbox cars (at the same time).

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