There is no question that winter driving causes the most accidents. Driving over snow, ice, and slush can be very dangerous due to limited traction and grip. On average, braking on snowy surfaces can be 2-3 times longer, and most drivers aren’t prepared for that difference. That is especially true if you don’t have winter tires on your vehicle.
I know there are many all-season and all-weather options that promise snow traction, but they are still incapable of providing drivers with reliable performance in those conditions. In my view, all-season tires aren’t very safe for winter driving, specifically when it snows, or when there is ice on the road.
For that reason, I always recommend proper winter tires. These products are designed to provide the driver with better traction, handling, and braking over slippery surfaces, specifically snow, ice, and slush.
That said, for places with constant snow and ice throughout the year, even the best winter tires won’t do the job. If you encounter deep snow often, then you probably need studded snow tires. These tires are specifically designed for very harsh wintry conditions and work even better over deep snow and ice.
The thing is, not many different studded tires are available on the market. The main reason is demand – people don’t buy a lot of studded tires. Another reason is that studded snow tires aren’t permitted in many states across the USA, but also in many other countries in the world.
So, when it comes to studded tires, a lot of factors are into play. First, you really need to live in areas with very harsh wintry conditions – studded tires don’t work very well over the pavement. Moreover, you will need to be prepared to install and remove the studs each year, which warrants visiting a tire service.
And then, you need to find studded snow tires. Most of them are probably not available in the nearest tire shop, so the best option is probably purchasing online. Fortunately, you arrived just in the right place to learn about the best studded tire deals on the internet.
In this article, I prepared a list of the best studded snow tires on the market right now. In that list, I included mostly studded winter tires, but also some studded all-terrain tires that I think are excellent for harsh wintry conditions.
Further down below, there is a buying guide on studded winter tires. I prepared that part to help drivers that don’t understand studded tires that much, but also things like restrictions in some states. I strongly recommend reading through that part to choose the best possible tires for your needs.
So, without further ado, let’s see what are the ten best studded snow tires on the market right now.
- The 10 Best Studded Snow Tires Available in 2020
- Buying Guide For Best Studded Snow Tires
- Final Words
The 10 Best Studded Snow Tires Available in 2020
I - Best Studded Snow Tires for Minivans, Crossovers, and Sedans
People that search for studded tires do it primarily for the added snow and ice traction these products offer. And, right now, there is no better tire for those conditions than the Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9. The Finnish manufacturer has long been our favorite among extreme winter tires, and the Hakkapeliitta 9 proves why.
Even if you don’t attach the studs on the tire, the snow and ice performance is simply exceptional. Snow traction is a step above what the competition can offer, possibly thanks to the cuts on both sides of the middle blocks, which provide sharp edges for improved grip and traction.
Moreover, Nokian managed to equip the Hakkapeliitta 9 with two types of studs. The studs on the middle are designed for better traction during acceleration and braking, while those on the edges are designed for better cornering performance.
The result is something special – we haven’t tried a studded winter tire that works on ice that well before. And, on top of that, the tire works tremendously well over slush and a combination of slush and ice.
As expected, the Hakkapeliitta 9 suffers a bit on dry surfaces – cornering isn’t very sharp. Wet traction is good, but not as exceptional as the best premium tires, and you can hear noise on the highway (at least the tire is comfortable).
But that shouldn’t detract from the fact that the Hakkapeliitta 9 is the best studded winter tire for severe weather conditions – it manages to keep you safe when you think it isn’t possible.
The Goodyear WinterCommand is an excellent tire for owners of sedans, minivans, and crossovers that live in areas with very harsh wintry weather. The tire is very tough and durable, unlike other studded tires, but it also scores highly in the performance department.
With studs attached, the WinterCommand provides the driver with simply outstanding traction, handling, and braking over snow. Furthermore, the tire performs greatly over ice, giving the driver great handling characteristics. Slush performance is very good as well.
The WinterCommand performs really well even without the studs attached, where it is comparable to the best studless winter tires on the market.
That being said, performance on dry roads is abysmal with the studs attached, and average without the studs. Also, the WinterCommand isn’t as comfortable as the Hakkapeliitta 9 with the studs attached, and it can be noisy on the highway.
Still, for the price, the Goodyear WinterCommand is an outstanding proposition for American buyers. On top of that, this tire is readily available, unlike the Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9.
Firestone recently launched the second generation of its Winterforce tire, which was one of the most popular studded snow tires on the market. Like its predecessor, the new Winterforce 2 model achieves excellent performance across the range.
The tire is super-usable without the studs attached, even over snow and ice. Moreover, the tire handles dry roads very well, and it works excellently in very heavy rain. That said, you should be prepared for a somewhat uncomfortable ride and more noise on the highway.
On a more positive note, the Winterforce 2 is simply outstanding for wintry conditions with the metallic winter studs attached. In this case, traction over snow is outstanding, and the tires work much better on icy roads.
Another great thing about the Winterforce 2 is the treadlife, which, according to owners, is very good for a studded winter tire – considering the low price, that surprised me positively.
II - Best Studded Snow Tires for Smaller Compact Cars
The General Altimax Arctic 12 is arguably one of the best winter tires on the market, with or without the studs attached. The best thing about the Altimax Arctic 12 is that it is also very approachable, just like most General Tire products.
Despite the low price, you’re getting outstanding winter performance. Without the studs attached, the Altimax Arctic 12 performs almost as good as winter tires from premium manufacturers, which is certainly commendable. Moreover, after you attach the studs, be prepared for exceptional snow and ice traction, braking, and handling.
Interestingly, the Altimax Arctic 12 also handles wet roads very well, and it works on dry roads in the winter. The only area where I would like to see improvement is the noisy operation at higher speeds, but I think potential buyers can live with that, especially considering the price.
The Goodyear Ultra Grip Winter is primarily designed to be used without the studs. That said, if needed, you can install #12 studs on the tread and improve winter traction greatly.
Not that you’ll need them a lot. The Ultra Grip Winter is already excellent when it operates without the studs. Snow traction and braking are excellent, and the handling is very safe. Ice traction and braking are also very good, and you will have no problems with slush.
Nevertheless, with studs attached, the Ultra Grip Winter transforms into a different animal. Snow and ice traction, handling, and braking are improved by a significant margin with the studs.
On dry roads, the Ultra Grip Winter is very safe, but it doesn’t handle as good as other winter tires. Also, treadlife is only average. However, Goodyear offers this tire at very competitive prices, which somehow mitigates these issues.
The Cooper Evolution Winter is another budget-friendly studded snow tire that performs admirably in almost every category. That is especially true for winter traction and handling.
Thanks to the Sawtooth circumferential center rib, the Evolution Winter handles surprisingly well over dry and wet surfaces, while also improving wintertime traction. Wet traction and braking are very good as well, at least when compared to other winter tires. That said, noise is still an issue at higher speeds.
Over the snow, the Evolution Winter handles as good as you can expect from such an inexpensive tire. That’s largely thanks to the Snow Groove technology, which traps the snow in the tread to improve traction. With the studs attached, you can expect much better traction over icy surfaces.
Finally, the Evolution Winter should be very durable, especially when it comes to treadlife.
Uniroyal’s studded snow tire is one of the cheapest around, but one that performs admirably for the price.
Of course, the tire has some disadvantages. Namely, the Tiger Paw Ice & Snow 3 doesn’t work very well on ice without the studs attached. Also, the tire isn’t very responsive, which hurts drivability and steering feel on dry pavement.
However, in other categories, the Uniroyal performs very well. Over the snow, the tire performs almost as good as its premium competitors without the studs attached. When you attach the studs, the traction, braking, and handling are much better, and you get better performance over ice.
Unlike many inexpensive winter tires, the Uniroyal works surprisingly well on dry and wet roads. Also, I heard very good things about the treadlife – owners seem to be very satisfied with the product.
III - Best Studded Snow Tires for SUVs and Trucks
The Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9 SUV is a similar tire to the Hakkapeliitta 9, albeit in larger dimensions. This raises the price to an uncomfortable level for some buyers, but if money isn’t an object, the Hakkapeliitta 9 SUV is the best studded tire for SUVs and trucks.
The tire already has a big advantage over its rivals without the studs attached. Snow traction is simply exceptional. You can accelerate, corner, and brake without an issue. Moreover, the tire performs excellently over slush.
Put the studs on, and the Hakkapeliitta 9 SUV becomes a real ice carver. The traction it provides over ice is stunning, which is probably due to the two types of studs – one type for acceleration and braking, other for cornering.
The Hakkapeliitta 9 SUV is also very comfortable for a studded tire, even on some rough roads. Nonetheless, noise is still an issue at highway speeds. Also, dry cornering isn’t as impressive as on some other premium winter tires, and the braking distances are longer.
Still, if you live in areas with very harsh wintry conditions and own an SUV, I can’t think of a better tire than the Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9 SUV.
The Goodyear Ultra Grip Ice WRT LT is a tough tire that comes in LT-metric sizes, and one that also performs outstandingly well in wintry conditions.
Thanks to the Winter Reactive Technology, the tire provides the driver with outstanding traction, handling, and braking over snow, but also on wet roads and slush. Without the studs attached, the WRT LT doesn’t work over ice, but that can be fixed by installing the studs.
Goodyear’s studded snow tire for trucks is also very durable and tough.
The Grabber Arctic LT shows that you don’t need to pay much to have good studded snow tires on your truck.
Despite the budget-friendly pricing, the Grabber Arctic LT provides the driver with excellent traction and braking on snow, ice, and slush, especially with the studs attached. On dry and wet roads, the tire continues to impress with the safe handling and good braking, and it is comfortable as well.
With that said, the Arctic LT can be noisy on the highway. Also, General offers this tire in only a few LT-metric sizes, which limits the availability for most trucks.
Buying Guide For Best Studded Snow Tires
1. What’s the Difference Between Studded and Regular Winter Tires?
To answer that question, let’s first see what makes winter tires better for freezing conditions than other tires.
The first thing that differentiates winter tires from other products is the tread compound. In winter tires, the compound is usually softer and more pliable, especially in very cold conditions.
Other tires will become too hard and brittle in those conditions, which can worsen traction and braking abilities over slippery surfaces, such as wet pavement, snow, ice, and slush.
The pliable rubber on winter tires, on the other hand, provides the driver with usable traction, grip, and braking in freezing conditions.
Then, winter tires also have much more aggressive tread patterns. The tread on these tires is usually deeper, but it also has much more biting edges.
Tire manufacturers achieve this by employing many small sipes inside the tires, which increase the number of biting edges when compared to all-season or summer tires.
The aggressive tread pattern on winter tires is able to provide drivers with much better traction over snowy surfaces and slush, but it can also improve traction over ice.
Nevertheless, even the best winter tires won’t be able to provide you with reliable handling over ice. Sure, they work better than all-season tires, but you still must use them with caution and drive carefully.
If you want your vehicle to have snow and ice handling just like it drives over wet surfaces, you will need studded snow tires.
These tires have small holes on the tread pattern, where studs (small pins) can be employed. The studs are usually made from steel.
As a result of that, studded tires can easily churn through snow, but they can also greatly increase friction over ice.
In my opinion, studded tires are a much better choice for drivers that often encounter ice. For snow driving, studless winter tires are more than good enough, and that’s true even for very deep and packed snow.
Still, I know many drivers that trust studs in harsh wintry conditions, which is understandable.
2. Studded Snow Tires Legality
The worse thing about studded tires is that they aren’t permitted in many states. Usually, northern states permit the use of studs on the tires, but only in certain months of the year.
Other states don’t permit the use of studded tires at all, and some permit them only when snow or ice is present on the road. Here is a list of all US states and their laws on studded tires.
Please note that if you use studs in places where they aren’t permitted, you risk receiving a fine.
3. Disadvantages of Studded Snow Tires
Studded tires might be outstanding over snow, ice, or slush, but they also have many disadvantages, especially when compared to other tire types.
The biggest disadvantage is the far worse performance over dry and wet surfaces. Then studs elevate the tread compound over the surface, which can greatly reduce the grip levels. In other words, you will experience much worse handling, lower levels of traction and grip, and worse braking.
Moreover, studded tires are also much less comfortable than normal tires. The studs produce a lot of noise, which can be heard even at lower speeds. Also, studded tires can be very uncomfortable due to the vibrations coming from the studs.
Finally, the studs can destroy the roads and streets when used in anything other than heavy snow and ice. For that reason, many states forbid the use of studded tires on public streets.
Now, sure, you can use your studded tires without the studs. However, in that case, it’s probably better to go for proper winter tires. In my experience, the best studless winter tires work better for winter tires than studded winter tires (without the studs).
Finally, manufacturers usually don’t provide treadwear warranties on studded tires, contrary to winter there, where you can find some models with warranty.
There is no denying that studded tires have their place in the automotive world, especially in northernmost places with a lot of snow and ice throughout the year. If you live in those places, I sincerely hope that the list of best studded snow tires helped you find a suitable model for your vehicle.
For those that live in places that don’t have wintry conditions throughout the year, I strongly recommend going for studless winter tires. Modern winter tires work outstandingly well over snow, and they are usable over ice.