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 often 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.


  1. Why wouldn’t you just learn how to drive according to road conditions. Been driving for 55 winters and I’ll be damned just because the millennials can’t learn to drive cars properly why us olders drivers should be made to install winter tires. The tire companies and garages just wringing their hands on the way to the bank

    1. uhhh, except snow tires will improve stopping power and traction in snowy/icy conditions. You can be the best driver in the world, but it doesnt stop someone from pulling out in front of you when they shouldnt or forcing to to swerve or make a quick direction change. Also if your going to go on ragging young people for driving, snow tires have been mandatory for decades in alot of northern climates, way before millennials became a thing. So yes, in many places older drivers were made to install winter tires for a long time now.

    2. Kas, we don’t need tire companies to convince us on the wisdom of having winter on our vehicles during the winter season, since these are obviously safer. Tested the difference many times. But, I’m glad you are making the difference between winter tires vs snow tires, the former being the proper terme to use in this debate. The same is true for using the term <> rather than <>.

  2. Well again an article on snow tires that misses the most important point ! As an Automotive Mechanic for well over 40 years, I would like to point out why snow tires ARE A MUST on today’s cars ! Remember this, virtually all of today’s cars have A.B.S. brakes (anti-lock brakes) That means that the system built into your car will automatically release the brake on any wheel that slides ! So with tires not built for traction in snow , when you apply brakes in slippery conditions they slide quickly and the abs does its job , releases your brakes ! This Informed Observer will tell you that in winter today’s cars are Death traps without proper snow tires ! And remember we the Informed call all season tires (no season tires) because they are not built to be great in any conditions, they cannot be all things in all situations, it is impossible ! As a side note, I started preaching this message before Quebec legislated snow tire use, before Dealers started adding winter tire packages to sales and before insurance companies started offering discounts to snow tire users ! the next of course is what are good snow tires ? some are not bad, some are good and some are great, But some are useless. Eg. Blizzak are good when brand new, BUT are expensive and loose their ice capability quicker then others ! Be an informed snow tire Buyer !

  3. I have been in the tire business for 20 years now in Northern Montana and I can say for certain that a quality set of snow tires makes a world of difference on a vehicles control. That being said it also depends on the driver. Don’t assume snow tires + 4X4= ultimate control and you can drive 70 mph when you SHOULD BE DRIVING 50 mph. 4 wheel drive while it does give you better control does not mean safer all the time. 4 wheel drive or all wheel drive vehicles do not stop any better than their 2 wheel drive counterparts, be it rear or front wheel drive, on icy conditions.

    Be smart and safe. Combine quality snow tires with lower speeds in bad conditions and you will be a happy motorist. Quality snow tires and the attitude you are invincible is a fast trip to the ditch, hospital or morgue.

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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

  7. 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.

    2. The tires that are manufactured these days are amazing. I have been in the tire industry for 10+ years and TIA certified trainer through my full time employer.
      We sell the Studless winter tires from Michelin and Bridgestone (as they are usually top rated). When I was at TIA they explained the rubber compounds in depth as to why they can make a tire that is such great performing with only 10/32-12/32 tread depths. The studless tires compounds are designed to still grip when temps drop well below 0, the siping in the tire still flexes. With the Blizzak by Bridgestone it has some cool features where the rubber absorbs the moisture and uses it for traction.
      Today’s tires are not just hunks of rubber, they are designed, tested, re-designed, re tested, then before they leave the factory go through extensive review to ensure perfection.
      All season tires as a whole are only rated to about 40 degrees. So if your in an area that drops into the freezing temps regularly, consider winter tires. When your all seasons spin and slip on the ice and snow, it still generates heat, as we know heat causes wear, winter tires will spin less. Most folks see about 3-5 seasons depending on how much they drive.
      As someone commented previously, stopping power. Well most winter tires are going to stop you 40+ feet shorter than the leading all seasons. That can be the difference between stopping by choice or under the car In front of you when the light turns red.

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