Modern SUVs are some of the most capable vehicles you can buy. All of them come with a plethora of electronic driving aids, which can greatly improve the traction in inclement weather. Even better, SUVs and crossovers with AWD or 4WD systems can provide you with excellent traction on snow and ice. With these systems, you can accelerate and turn without too much fuss.
However, to truly get the most of your SUV or crossover, you’ll need dedicated winter or snow tires. Truth to be told, in some places, you won’t need these tires. For instance, you live in Florida or California, a set of all-season tires can work great throughout the winter.
If you live further north, though, things become a bit trickier. That’s because no car in the world can work well with summer or all-season tires in the winter. No electronic aid or all-wheel-drive system can help you if the tires can’t provide traction. And more importantly, your SUV won’t handle well, and the braking distances will be too long.
I would just say, driving without snow tires in the winter can be very unsafe. For that reason, I always recommend purchasing a pair, especially if you live in areas with harsh wintry conditions. With proper snow tires, you can extract all the performance of your SUV in the winter. Moreover, your car will be safer through the corners and always stop on time.
All things I mentioned are especially true if the roads are covered with ice. There is absolutely not a single all-season tire that performs well on frozen water. And, in most places, the winter means roads covered with both snow and ice. For those conditions, the only solution is – you guessed it – winter tires.
- Is there a difference between snow and winter tires?
- Best Snow Tires for SUVs for 2021
- Best Snow Tires for Compact SUVs and Crossovers
- Best Studdable Snow Tires for SUVs
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is there a difference between snow and winter tires?
You probably noticed that I mentioned both snow and winter tires. That’s because today, they are absolutely the same thing. In the past, snow tires were a category specifically designed for driving on snow, slush, and ice.
Today, though, we call them winter tires because they work on dry and wet surfaces as well. Even in some northern places, it’s not snowing every day of the winter. Because of that, winter tires must serve multiple duties. They need to be stable and drivable on dry roads, provide good traction in the rain, and work excellently on snow, ice, and slush.
Now, that’s a tall order. Usually, if you want to make a tire more responsive on dry roads, you lose snow and ice traction. And, vice-versa, of course. Some manufacturers do a better job than others, though. Usually, you can’t go wrong with premium winter tires. These products often come with the latest technologies and utilize advanced materials. Nevertheless, they are also far more expensive than budget alternatives.
Fret not – I prepared a list of the best snow tires for SUV, where I included both premium and budget options. Besides, I also listed tires for larger SUVs and crossovers, but also for compact ones. Make sure that the one you purchase fits your vehicle – you can find sizing information on our affiliate partner’s websites.
So, without further ado, let’s jump onto the list and find great snow tires for your beloved SUV, shall we?
Best Snow Tires for SUVs for 2021
Right now, there is no better SUV snow tire than the Latitude X-Ice Xi2. That’s because this tire does everything well. Apart from the higher price, the tire aces every situation it encounters. If you don’t mind the price, it’s a no-brainer purchase.
And it all starts with how it performs on snow. Traction here is unbelievably good – you certainly won’t get stuck anywhere. Handling is also exceptional. You will feel like you’re in control behind the steering wheel, something that most winter tires can’t do.
Furthermore, the X-Ice Xi2 works excellently on ice. Sure, a studded tire will work better, but as far as regular winter tires go, the Michelin is one of the best. Slush and rain also don’t pose a problem for the tire – the hydroplaning resistance is excellent, and there is a ton of traction. Dry traction, grip, and braking are also excellent for a winter tire.
Ultimately, Michelin provides an outstanding 40,000-mile treadwear warranty on the tire. No other manufacturer comes even close to that. Actually, they don’t provide any treadwear warranty on winter tires! Now you see why the Michelin X-Ice Xi2 is more expensive than some other options on this list.
The Blizzak DM-V2 closely matches the Michelin at overall performance and price. However, Bridgestone doesn’t provide any treadwear warranty on the tire, which is why it sits lower on the list. However, it’s still an amazing buy, especially since owners report excellent treadlife.
Moreover, the Blizzak DM-V2 certainly doesn’t disappoint in the winter. Traction and braking on snow are exceptional. Also, the tire feels surefooted in the corners and provides the driver with excellent handling ability.
Ice traction is another strength of the Bridgestone. Again, handling here is very good for a non-studded winter tire, and the stopping distances aren’t very long. The tire manages slush and rain with ease, too, providing the driver with a safe and sound driving experience.
Lastly, the tire feels very responsive and handles dry conditions with ease. It corners well, stops on time, and provides the driver with excellent highway stability.
Yokohama recently launched the iceGUARD G075, and the tire proved to be an instant hit. In terms of pricing, it sits much lower than the premium competition from Michelin and Bridgestone, yet it works excellently over various conditions and surfaces.
I found the Yokohama to be especially good in harsh wintry conditions. Thanks to the use of a specialized winter tread compound, the iceGUARD G075 provides very usable traction over ice-covered roads, something that you can’t say for other budget-friendly tires.
Furthermore, the snow traction is among the best of any winter tire out there. Your SUV will accelerate without too much fuss, both on packed and unpacked snow. Also, the tire feels surefooted in the corners and stops with assurance.
The Yokohama continues to impress on over slush and water. The hydroplaning resistance is excellent, and there is ample traction for safe driving. With that said, while the tire drives safely on dry roads, it feels slightly less responsive than I would’ve liked. Fortunately, Yokohama included a low-rolling-resistance technology for increased fuel economy.
Best Snow Tires for Compact SUVs and Crossovers
4. Bridgestone Blizzak WS90
The Blizzak WS90 is by far the best snow tire for compact crossovers and SUVs, such as Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, and Ford Escape. That’s especially true if you live in areas with very harsh wintry conditions, where the Bridgestone simply shines.
For a non-studded winter tire, the Blizzak WS90 feels simply outstanding on ice. I never experienced a tire that has such integrity on ice-covered roads. It accelerates without too much fuss, brakes well, and even it provides you with good cornering abilities.
You shouldn’t be afraid of tackling snow with this tire as well. Acceleration traction is best in the category, and the same accolade goes to the stopping distances. On top of that, the Blizzak WS90 feels very surefooted during cornering.
Bridgestone even managed to extract some dry-surface performance from the tire. Sure, the Blizzak WS90 is not a performance tire, but for the category, it drives surprisingly well. Rain and slush also don’t pose an issue for the tire – the hydroplaning resistance is excellent, and there is ample traction on board.
With that said, Bridgestone still doesn’t provide any treadwear warranty on its snow tires, which is a shame.
5. Continental VikingContact 7
In harsh wintry conditions, few tires can keep up with the VikingContact 7. For drivers that mostly encounter snow and ice on the road, the Continental is a truly exceptional tire.
For instance, the VikingContact 7 is the best-handling snow tire you can have right now. It almost feels like cheating when you turn the steering wheel. The tire grabs and bites the snow with authority, giving you a lot of confidence to push your SUV further. The stopping distances are also very short, and there is ample acceleration traction. Overall, this is probably the best tire for driving on snow out there.
Furthermore, the ice traction this tire provides is again among the best in its category. Traction is excellent here, the stopping distances aren’t very long, and handling doesn’t feel dangerous.
On wet roads, the VikingContact 7 impresses in the handling department. However, the braking distances are quite long, which was a surprise. Also, there is a noticeable tread growl on the highway. The tire redeems on dry roads, though, where it works outstandingly well.
6. Cooper Discoverer True North
The Discoverer True North shows that you don’t need to pay a lot to have excellent performance in the winter. Cooper’s completely-new snow tire works outstandingly well in wintry conditions, especially in places with a lot of snow.
Thanks to the tread compound with the highest silica content in Cooper’s lineup, the Discoverer True North stays super-pliable in very cold conditions. The soft rubber improves traction on snow as well. Your SUV will easily accelerate on snow, stop on time, and corner like the best out there. Most importantly, the tire is safe and sound when it snows.
However, the tire can’t compete with the best on ice. It’s not bad – it still works much better than all-season tires. Nonetheless, especially in the corners, the premium competition is better. In its defense, the Discoverer True North is one of the quietest and most comfortable winter tires out there. Your family will certainly love that.
Best Studdable Snow Tires for SUVs
7. Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9 SUV
The Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9 SUV is a tire for the harshest-possible wintry conditions, as the northern parts of Canada. There is no single competitor that does as well as the Finnish tire in those conditions.
The snow traction is unbelievable at moments. You can accelerate quickly on packed or unpacked snow, light, or very deep. The stopping distances are also super-short – it even feels like cheating. And, on top of that, the Hakkapeliitta 9 SUV handles on snow as some tires handle in the rain.
The tire continues to impress on ice. Even without the studs attached, there is ample traction for acceleration and braking, and the handling is very good. Attach the studs, though, and be prepared for riding on rails, even though there is ice underneath.
Nokian even managed to design a tire that works well over slush and in the rain. However, this tire doesn’t feel very responsive on dry roads, and it doesn’t possess an outstanding grip.
8. Firestone Winterforce 2 UV
The latest winter tire from Firestone packs advanced technologies and still doesn’t cost as much as premium tires. And more importantly, it manages to work excellently across various wintry conditions.
The aggressive directional tread pattern seems to be able to bite into anything cold. It works especially well on snow, where you can expect traction almost on the level of the best premium tires. You won’t have any issues accelerating over packed or unpacked snow. Meanwhile, your SUV will stop orderly and handle corners with ease.
Put those blue TSMI #11 studs, and the Winterforce 2 UV transforms into an ice carver. With the studs attached, traction on ice is outstanding. You can easily accelerate, steer, and stop, without worrying about losing traction. I was also surprised by the wet traction of the tire – no real disadvantages here.
That said, the dry handling is good, but not exceptional. Also, noise can be an issue, especially at highway speeds, and the ride is bouncy on uneven roads.
9. General AltiMAX Arctic 12
General Tire is a manufacturer that doesn’t cease to surprise us. It consistently provides drivers with high-quality driving experience at lower prices than the premium competition. And, they did it again with the AltiMAX Arctic 12.
Sure, you won’t be impressed with the handling on dry roads. However, that’s a small price to pay to get better winter traction. Besides, the AltiMAX Arctic 12 is capable at least to deliver a safe experience, which is more than enough on dry roads.
More importantly, the tire impresses on snow-covered roads. It accelerates without too much fuss, holds itself in the corners well, and stops on time. Ice traction is good without the studs attached, but you really want them on for these circumstances.
And, when you put them, expect outstanding levels of traction, handling, and braking. The AltiMAX Arctic 12 even works very well in the rain, especially thanks to the excellent hydroplaning resistance. General Tire even promises long treadlife, but we’re yet to test that – it’s the newest model on this list.
10. GT Radial IcePro SUV 3 Studdable
The GT IcePro SUV 3 is the cheapest tire on this list, and truthfully, it isn’t without its faults. Despite the aggressive tread pattern with multiple zig-zag sipes, the tire can’t keep up with the premium competition on snow and ice. Well, at least without the studs. The braking distances are longer, and there is an understeer during cornering.
Fortunately, the tire redeems itself when you attach the studs. Immediately, it starts biting into snow and ice, providing you with ample traction. Handling improves dramatically, and the braking distances are much shorter.
Interestingly, the GT IcePro SUV 3 impresses on dry and wet roads. That’s probably because the tread compound is more focused toward warm conditions, rather than cold. Remember, this tire doesn’t impress without the studs on snow and ice. Anyway, the stopping distances on dry and wet roads are exceptional, and the handling feels surefooted, if not dynamic.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- When should I replace my winter tires?
Immediately replace your winter tires as soon as the tread depth on your winter tires reaches 5/32-inch, or 4 mm. It is generally accepted that, below that, winter tires don’t work on snow and ice.
- Can I put winter tires only on the driven axle?
Absolutely not. Sure, you will get better traction for acceleration, but what about handling and braking? Having winter tires only on one axle makes the handling much less predictable. In fact, your vehicle will corner better with snow tires on both axles.
- Do I need to rotate my winter tires?
Sure! That way, you’ll keep the tread from irregular wear, which dramatically shortens the life of the tire. It’s best to rotate your winter tires each season, or every 4,000-6,000 miles.
- Do I need winter tires on my AWD/4WD car?
Well, if you live in an area with harsh winters, then absolutely. Your vehicle might have better traction for acceleration with the all-wheel-drive system, sure. However, as soon as you hit the brakes, your SUV will start sliding like a sled. Also, you might not be able to turn correctly into a corner.
- Should I use different rims for my winter tires?
Well, you can use your existing rims without any issue. However, winter conditions can damage or degrade your shiny rims. That’s because authorities use salt and sand to melt the snow and clear the roads. And, salt and sand are abrasive substances that can easily scratch your rims. For that reason, I recommend going for cheap old steel wheels in the winter.
Purchasing winter tires requires a bit more research than with all-season or summer tires. That’s because not all winter tires are the same. For instance, some can’t be studded, while others can. Non-studded tires are outstanding for snow but might suffer on ice. Meanwhile, studded tires are excellent on ice as well, but lose dry and wet performance.
Ultimately, it comes down to your needs. It’s you who have to choose what type of tires you need. If you closely follow this article, I think that you will easily find a solution, though. Pick a category that performs well in your area, and then choose your favorite tire. Be mindful of the advantages and disadvantages, and you shouldn’t have an issue finding the perfect one. And, most importantly, always be attentive on the road – driving in the winter is much more difficult!