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Winter conditions contribute to 24% of weather-related collisions and crashes every year. And around 70% of the U.S. population see snowy and icy conditions during the winter, according to the Federal Highway Administration.[1] For drivers in those areas, snow tires may help reduce the risk of an accident in winter conditions.

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.[2] 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.[3]

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.[4] 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.[4] However, some states ban or limit the use of studded tires,[5] citing road damage from the metal studs eroding pavement.[6]

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.[7]

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.[8]

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?

When to use snow tires

Water’s freezing point is 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius). However, you should switch your all-season tires to winter tires when the temperature gets down to 45 degrees Fahrenheit (or 7 degrees Celsius).

When the air temperature reaches above 45 degrees Fahrenheit consistently, reinstall your all-season tires. The type of rubber material on a snow tire can’t withstand warmer ground. Your snow tires will wear out sooner if you keep them on all year.

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How long do snow tires last?

Your snow tires can last three or more seasons if you take care of them properly. One way to get the most out of your snow tires is to avoid using them when the weather gets warmer. While your snow tires are optimal for winter conditions, the pliable material may wear faster on warm pavement.

Another way to ensure your winter tires’ longevity is to store them properly. Keep them in a dark, dry place, away from heat sources like sunlight, heaters, and air ducts. Finally, perform regular air pressure checks on your snow tires. Having an underinflated tire isn’t only hazardous, but it can also wear your snow tires down more quickly.

Are winter tires worth it?

Winter tires may cost you a few hundred dollars but can be worth every penny. This type of tire will improve traction, braking, and acceleration in cold, wintry conditions. Above all, snow tires give you better control over your vehicle, reducing the risk of an accident.

Preventing an accident is vital to keeping your insurance premiums low. If you’re at fault in an accident, your insurance premiums may increase about 26% during your next renewal. So, if the average annual cost of your insurance policy is $1,452, you can expect to pay nearly $380 more next year.

So it may be worth shelling out a couple hundred dollars to buy snow tires. By doing so, you can avoid a potential accident and keep your premiums from increasing.

Snow tire FAQs

Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about snow tires.

  • Think twice about using your snow tires all year. The rubber component on snow tires can’t handle the warm ground, so your snow tires may wear down faster.

  • Yes, you must install all four tires with snow tires when temperatures drop below a certain point. All-season and summer tires don’t provide optimal traction on snowy and slushy roads. With less grip, you may have less control over your vehicle, posing a safety risk to you, your passengers, and others on the road.

  • Snow tires improve traction and stability. A 2011 study in Canada found a 5% decrease in winter-related collisions after enforcing the use of winter tires for two seasons.[9]

  • Yes, the flexible tread rubber and deep tread patterns on winter tires allow for more traction on slippery roads, which prevents sliding and skidding.

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  1. FHWA Road Weather Management. "Snow & Ice." Accessed February 22, 2023
  2. Edmunds. "What You Need To Know About Winter Tires." Accessed February 22, 2023
  3. New York Times. "What’s on Your Car? Winter Tires, We Hope." Accessed February 22, 2023
  4. Bridgestone. "Winter and Snow Tires." Accessed February 17, 2023
  5. Temple University Beasley School of Law. "Laws Banning Studded Tires." Accessed February 22, 2023
  6. Washington State Transportation Commission. "Studded Tire Fact Sheet." Accessed February 22, 2023
  7. AAA. "Winter Prep: Traction Devices and Snow Tires." Accessed February 22, 2023
  8. Less Schwab Tires. "How to: Put on Snow Chains and Drive Safely." Accessed February 22, 2023
  9. Tire and Rubber Association of Canada. "2021 - Winter Tire Report." Accessed February 22, 2023
Alani Asis
Alani Asis

Alani Asis is an SEO-savvy, personal finance freelance writer with nearly three years of experience in content creation. She has landed bylines with leading publications and brands like Insider, Fortune, LendingTree, and more. Alani aims to make personal finance approachable through fun, relatable, and digestible content.