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Aaron Gold

Should you buy snow tires?

By November 14, 2012

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Bridgestone Blizzak snow tireWinter is just about upon us, and it's time to revisit that age-old question: Do you really need snow tires?

I learned to drive in Rochester, New York, where anything less than a foot of snow is referred to as "a dusting". I drove all four seasons on all-season tires; with my limited budget, a second set of tires simply wasn't even an option. (This was back when I could drive my '87 Dodge Omni for a week on $5 worth of gas. Sigh.)

Thanks to my job, I have had plenty of experience on snow tires, and I can't believe I ever lived without them. Snow tires make an enormous difference, and if I still lived in a place where it snowed, I wouldn't even consider driving without them. Well, that's not true... I would consider it, because I'm cheap. But I have no doubt that snow tires make you safer. If you're on the fence about investing in snow tires, I've written an article called Snow Tire Q&A that makes the case for snows.

Incidentally, if you're new to winter driving, Bridgestone (the Blizzak tire company) sells a great winter driving video based on their excellent winter driving school. You can read my review or buy it directly from them. -- Aaron Gold

Photo Aaron Gold

Photo Aaron Gold

November 14, 2012 at 3:47 am
(1) Hawaiian Don says:

I learned to drive nearby, Aaron…in the Niagara/Buffalo area and later in Boulder, Co, Ukraine and Russia.. I always used snows. I mostly liked the performance od Vredestein Tyres. The were not as spongy and were great value.

November 14, 2012 at 8:42 am
(2) Eric says:

Snow tires make a huge difference, even on FWD cars. They’re almost mandatory on a RWD. In most European countries, they’re required by law, although Germany just began allowing All Season tires last winter.

That said, this winter I’ll be using All Seasons on my RWD BMW E30, not because I’m cheap, but because I can’t afford anything else right now.

November 14, 2012 at 11:29 am
(3) lwatcdr says:

Living in South Florida the simple answer is no. :)

November 14, 2012 at 4:07 pm
(4) George in Ohio says:

I took the plunge two winters ago and bought snow tires for my two cars (Sonata, Legacy wagon). They definitely made the Sonata a much more stable car in snow, and my wife (who doesn’t care about car issues as long as the car runs) immediately noticed a big difference in handling/security – certainly a big improvement.

In the case of the Legacy, the tires gave the car near Sherman-tank handling capabilities. I almost look forward to a snow storm so I can go out in an AWD vehicle with snow tires. If we absolutely, positively have to go somewhere in a storm, we’re ready.

The downside to all of this is that I am always storing 8 tires in my attic above my garage, and have to switch them out twice a year. But I don’t regret my decision to go with snow tires one iota.

November 14, 2012 at 4:21 pm
(5) The Gray Adder says:

The Dodge Omni suffered from a lopsided weight distribution where 65% of the car’s weight rested on the front wheels. Bad for dry weather handling, particular if you were too cheap to pay extra for power steering, good for staying on the road in the white stuff.

November 14, 2012 at 4:31 pm
(6) Brian says:

The trend now is to refer to them as “winter tires”. Simply for the fact that even there is no snow, they still have an advantage. The main reason is that all seasons start to become ineffective below about 40F. So snow or not, you get better cold weather traction with winter tires. Conversely, winter tires having bigger blocks and being made of softer compound tend to heat up faster, so aren’t appropriate for driving year-round. The exception being Falken (there may be others) which has a winter-rated all-season tire.

The only problem I always have is whether or not to swap the snows off early before driving down to lwatcdr’s part of the country and risk hitting bad weather during the trip.

November 14, 2012 at 7:31 pm
(7) George in Ohio says:

Brian, I shared your same concern about driving snow tires on a trip down south. My wife and I have gone to the Florida panhandle the past few years in January/February, and I asked my tire dealer about the snows in hot weather. He said it shouldn’t be an issue unless temperatures get close to 90. That’s not going to happen during the winter in the panhandle, and we haven’t had any problems. And they did come in handy one time during some inclement weather traveling through Tennessee.

I will say that they are a bit clunky looking on a car in Florida, though…

November 14, 2012 at 9:15 pm
(8) Hawaiian Don says:

lwatcdr, in SoFla you don’t need tires at all…just saddle up one of those Palmetto Bugs and cruise down Biscayne Blvd!!!

November 14, 2012 at 11:37 pm
(9) three west says:

right on George, a Subaru with snow tires all around is a blast in the winter!

November 15, 2012 at 6:33 pm
(10) Brent says:

Here in Western Washington you could get away with one set of tires if you really had to, but going with just the all-seasons really means that you don’t plan any winter travel at all. Dedicated snow tires are an order of magnitude better if you need to go over any of the mountain passes. To visit the extended family I have to go over the mountains whether east, southeast or south, so I usually have mine on right before Thanksgiving and don’t take them off until the legal deadline on April 1st. Yes, they are a little noisier, and they tend to wiggle a little more when you hit grooved or uneven paving. But even in just the rain, the larger tread gap makes them less prone to hydroplaning when there is standing water on the road.

November 15, 2012 at 7:56 pm
(11) lwatcdr says:

@Hawaiian Don I live a bit north of there. You correct in that just about anything is safer than driving a car after the snowbirds come here.
Florida has two seasons hurricane and tourist season. Hurricane is the safer of the two.

November 16, 2012 at 12:39 am
(12) Hawaiian Don says:

We still own a home in SoFla. We moved to SoCal after Wilma kicked our butts. No electricity for a month. It was just us and the mosquitoes. Hungry little buggers!!!
Dont miss SoFla one little bit.

November 23, 2012 at 8:03 am
(13) WiscoRudy says:

We had a 92 Accord wagon that we started to drive through one of our Wisconsin winters. It was horrible in snow and on icy roads. Totally unsafe. We put a set of Blizzaks on it for the winter. It was as if we had bought a different car. Very sure footed and safe. We purchased a Mazda3 six years ago and I immediately bought another set of Blizzaks and had them mounted on separate wheels. The car is great in the snow as well. I agree with some of the others that it is a little bit of a hassle to have all of these tires sitting around in the off season, but it is well worth it for the safety and the ability to get where you need to go in the winter.

November 25, 2012 at 2:26 am
(14) outdoors says:

Having read this I believed it was rather enlightening.
I appreciate you taking the time and energy to put this content together.
I once again find myself spending way too much time both reading and commenting.
But so what, it was still worth it!

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