What are snow tires?
Snow or winter tires provide drivers with enhanced stability and braking capabilities on snow, ice, and slush. So having snow tires may reduce the risk of an accident.
Snow tires typically cost around $150 per tire before installation. The tread rubber and pattern of a winter tire set it apart from regular tires.
Tread rubber: This part of the tire is the outer rubber layer that makes contact with the ground. The tread rubber on snow tires is flexible, allowing it to maintain better traction and grip the road well.
Tread pattern: The tiny slits on your tire are called sipes. Deeper tread patterns prevent snow buildup and improve grip against snow and ice.
See Also: How to Safely Drive on Black Ice and Avoid Accidents
How snow tires work
Manufacturers design snow tires to withstand cold temperatures and maintain traction in harsh winter conditions.
All-season and summer tires stiffen in freezing temperatures. Snow tires are made of a softer rubber compound than all-season tires, so they remain pliable even in cold conditions. The tread design on snow tires also helps channel away ice, snow, and slush, allowing the tires to maintain their grip on slippery roads.
Some snow tires have small metal studs that pierce snow and ice and allow the tire to better grip the road. However, some states ban or limit the use of studded tires, citing road damage from the metal studs eroding pavement.
Snow tires vs. tire chains
Both snow tires and chains improve traction in winter conditions like snowy and icy ground.
Tires chains can be cheaper than snow tires, but it depends on your tire size and vehicle weight. While using snow tires requires you to buy four new tires, snow chains don’t — and you only need tire chains on the front or back wheels, depending on whether your car has front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive. For four-wheel drive, you may need to install them on every wheel.
If you live in an area where snowstorms are common, snow chains may help you power through severe snow. For instance, many drivers traveling in mountains with heavy snowfall may prefer snow chains for enhanced traction.
Winter tires generally perform better on paved roads with minimal snow. Tire chains are best for unplowed roads and should only be used for especially wintry conditions, as chains can cause damage to your car and paved roads.
Snow tires vs. all-season tires
All-season tires are great for fall, summer, and spring. Unlike winter tires, manufacturers design all-season tires with pliable rubber material to withstand temperate conditions.
Drivers who live in regions like Hawaii and Florida may only need to stock up on all-season tires. Drivers in areas with minimal to heavy snowfall, like Colorado and Utah, should have a separate set of snow tires for when temperatures drop.
Learn More: Does Car Insurance Cover Natural Disasters?