Snow Tires vs. All-Season Tires: Worth the Cost?

Snow Tires - Winter DrivingDuring my last post on preparing your vehicle for winter, one of the comments that came up was the use of snow tires. Of course if you’re living in the desert or tropics, heavy snowfall is likely the least of your worries. But, if you’re a winter road warrior, a set of snow tires can be beneficial. I drive a pickup, so I have the mindset of not needing them. However, even when I’m cranking it in four-wheel drive, I must admit there have been times when I’ve had to reconsider my life choices. Those four wheels are handy when accelerating, but for stopping power, they provide little value.

It all comes down to friction. With lubricants, the idea is often to minimize friction as much as possible. But with tires, more friction equals better traction, whether you’re hitting the gas, cranking the wheel or slamming the brakes.

Here are a few key points on how snow tires can help you on slushy, snowy and icy roads:

  • The Right Tread Rubber: Extreme cold tends to stiffen rubber. Snow tires have a special blend of rubber that can stay soft and flexible in the cold, giving you better traction and control.
  • The Right Patterns: When you look at all-season tires, they tend to have a straight, even pattern. Snow tires have a deeper tread design that reroutes the snow and slush out of the treads, keeping water from building up. The treads also have biting edges with many slits that give you extra grip on slick roads.
  • The Right Investment: The initial cost of getting snow tires can be significant, depending on what you drive. Generally, you’ll want to get all four for even performance and wear. Since you won’t be using them year-round, they won’t wear as fast. Tire companies will oftentimes guarantee their snow tires for around five years, allowing you to get the most value. It’s a good investment in safety and helps keep your vehicle out of the body shop.

So, are Snow Tires Right for Me?

If you wake up most winter mornings to temperatures below freezing with a white backdrop outside, snow tires are worth considering, especially if your vehicle is rear-wheel drive. But, if snow and ice grace your neck of the woods only occasionally, all-season tires should work just fine for most vehicles. If you decide to get snow tires, be sure to switch back when the season is over, as snow tires wear out faster in warmer climates.

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  1. Guys at AMSOIL, so glad to see quality information being provided! Thank you….. hopefully you’ll be able to continue this kind of information. I’v been a long time user for motorcycles, trucks, SUVs and have always been pleased with how well your products work!

  2. We first used winter tires about 17 years ago. My wife has always been fearful of winter driving.
    She actually called me up and said; ‘Dwight you’ve got to drive this car, it is amazing’
    Now, we won’t be without them.

  3. I live near Vancouver, BC and have been running Nokian Hakkapeliitta snow tires on my VW Tiguan for several winters now and they are amazing. They completely transform the vehicle and make winter driving much safer and easier. Highly recommended

  4. Dear Amsoil People

    When I was a young boy growing up in St.Paul Minnesota my father gave the responsibility of putting the snow tires on the family cars for the winter. They were V8’s with rear wheel drive. The snow tires had extremely deep tread. The cars went through deep snow with the greatest of ease. I would like to know what brands of tires have the deepest tread. In todays world the “all season” and “mud & snow” tires do not have any where close to the depth of tread as they did back in the day. I have looked at some of the current snow tires and still, not very deep. Any ideas ?

    Independent Amsoil Dealer

    1. Hi Steve,

      That’s a good question. As a whole, tread depth, materials and design all work together and are not mutually exclusive in tire performance. We’re not tire experts, but our friends at Car and Driver have a good review article that you can check out.

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