The Top 5 Studless Snow Tires

Plus a Couple to Avoid

Tire on snowy road, close up
sot/Taxi Japan/Getty Images

Most dedicated snow tires nowadays are good enough that studded tires are not generally needed except in the absolute worst of winter conditions. If you do a lot of backcountry driving or get deep snow that comes and stays for months, you might want to look into studded winter tires. Otherwise, studless tires are probably your best bet. Their grip, for the most part, comes not from studs, but from some form of glass-fiber-reinforced rubber compound that is molded into a symmetric and independent block tread design.

If you read enough reviews or talk to enough customers, you will likely hear every winter tire ever made described as feeling “squishy” on dry roads. This is because compared to summer-only tires, all winter tires are, in fact, “squishy” on dry roads, due to the flexibility of the rubber compound and the many other tradeoffs that winter tires must make.

However, some winter tires are squishier than others and these degrees of squishiness are partly subjective and not always easily determined. That is why dedicated snow tires should be replaced with performance tires for summer driving, so thinking about a second set of rims for winter tires can often save on the long-term expense of swapping tires back and forth on one set of rims.

These five snow tires are some of your best bets for the safest and most comfortable winter driving. 

5. Dunlop Graspic DS-3

Tire on snowy road, close up
sot/Taxi Japan/Getty Images

The Graspic is very good in snow and handles well on cold dry pavement, but has some trouble with rain/ice/slush combinations. According to customers, they wear well, too, which is probably an effect of their dry road bias.

4. Bridgestone Blizzak WS-70

Year after year, the Bridgestone's WS-70 tires earn top marks from customers and tire testers in extremely snowy and icy conditions. However, there are enough reports about sloppy handling on very wet roads to keep these for snowstorm conditions only.

3. Continental ExtremeWinterContact

Some people disparage Continental for being essentially a second-tier tire maker. On the other hand, they are the best of the second tier, making decent, durable tires for daily drivers at great prices. Which is why this excellent winter tire gets a lot of respect from testers, reviewers, and customers. Continental's long relationship as a supplier of original equipment tires (OEMs) for BMW makes these an especially good low-cost winter tire choice for BMW owners.

2. Michelin X-Ice Xi3

The predecessor to Michelin's Xi2, which was manufactured to compete with Nokian, the Xi3 tires continue to play to Michelin's strengths: performance, performance, and performance. And at a relatively low price to boot. Users rave about its dependability and flexibility. Ice, snow, wet, or dry, these Michelins can handle it all, with minimal noise and almost no bounce.

1. Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2

The Finnish tire company Nokian has a long history of making the best winter tires and driving technological innovation in the field. In fact, Nokian invented winter tires back in the 1930s, and the company still holds more winter tire patents than all other tire companies combined. The nearly unpronounceable and un-spellable Hakkapeliitta R2 (Hah-kuh-puh-LEE-tuh) is currently the centerpiece of those traditions. They are, simply put, hard to beat for their lateral grip and slush-planing resistance.

Avoid These Two Studless Snow Tires

Yokohama iceGUARD iG52c and Winter Maxx WM01

If you're driving exclusively in snow, these tires will do the trick. But they don't handle quite as well on dry and wet conditions. In fact, they have noticeably less grip for stopping and cornering, which could be a problem if you're on a long trip and conditions change from snow to slush to dry driving conditions.