Most people don't like having to drive in wet and snowy conditions during the winter months. You can alleviate some of our fears by having the right type of tires on your SUV or pickup truck during these rough, wintry months. Not all geographic locations require that you put on all-terrain or winter tires. In some cases, you can use your all-season tires and get away with it. In other area, you may have to temporarily put on snow tires to make it through the harsh conditions of winter. You can always check with your local tire shop to see what they recommend for your climate in terms of winter tires.
Before you rush to the store to buy a set of tires, consider the various types - all season, all terrain, and winter tires. The all-season tires will give you traction throughout the entire year and work best on paved roads. They also offer a superior "ride" and long tread wear. The drawback to an all-season tire is that you lose needed traction when on unpaved roadways or when driving on ice and snow. All-terrain tires work great when going off-road and you'll get better performance in snow or when on unpaved roads since the tires have more of a heavy duty tread. Most drivers report inferior handling when compared to the all-season tires. Winter tires are recommended for those that live in snow and ice for several months of the year. Areas like Minnesota, Wisconsin, and much of Canada experience icy temperatures and plenty of winter snow that will bog down any driver that isn't prepared. The top rated winter tires like the Bridgestone Blizzak DM-Z3 and the Michelin Latitude X-Ice are great for snow and winter driving but lack the same results when operating on wet and dry surfaces. Unlike tires for sedans and compact cars, most of the tires we list on this page will run you from $100 to $160 for each one making them an expensive proposition to any SUV or pickup truck owner. In Oregon, where I live, we are allowd to use studded tires from November 1st thru March 31 and in some years the dates are extended by a few days depending on the severity of the weather. I have tried the Firestone Winterforce studded tires but felt like the wet braking and handling were not sufficient enough so I went back to my original all-season Goodyears. Studded tires do cause damage to the roadways and therefore are illegal in many states for this reason. I take care of all my tire needs at our local Les Schwab dealer and they are the best in the Northwest on customer service and tire installations. Most all-terrain, all-season, and winter tires will fit on wheel sizes of 15 to 18 inches. If you want reviews on the "best winter tires" we recommend sites like Tirerack.com, 1010tires.com, and Epinions. We found some good car forums like Snowtire.info which have tons of customer feedback on the best snow tires. For all-terrain tire reviews check out Offroaders.com and Dodgedakotas.com which offer up lots of opinions and owner comments which should help guide through the dozens of tires in stores. Our last source for tire reviews was from Consumer Reports who test 34 all-terrain, all-season, and winter tires to see which ones scored the best in dry braking, wet braking, handling, hydroplaning, snow traction, ride comfort, noise, tread life, and rolling resistance. The CR tests were thorough and unbiased which is why they rate so high in terms of reliability. The top brands of tires are General, Michelin, Bridgestone, Cooper, Firestone, Nitto, Kumho, Continental, Yokohama, Pirelli, Toyo, Dunlop, and Goodyear. Some of the lowest rated tires from Consumer Reports were the Falken Ziex which scored only above the "good" level in 2 of the categories for the al-season tires and the General Grabber AT2 all-terrain tires also rated poorly by CR. The results from all the reviews we researched are combined down below.
Best All-Season Tires:
All-season tires are what I have on my Chevrolet Tahoe LT (2002). I recently had to get a new set since my original tires had about 55,000 miles on them. After talking with several local tire shops I decided to go with the Goodyear Fortera SilentArmor ($130) which gets great reviews online and from tire experts. They definitely are quiet to drive and provide a comfortable ride. The all-season Goodyear tires are just right for the wet roads around Portland, OR. It's not that great off-road, but 99% of all my driving is on regular, paved roads. Some reviews online note that the Fortera SilentArmor doesn't do that great in snowy, icy conditions but that is not what it's meant for. They obviously bought the wrong tire is those are the standard elements where they live. Another top rated all-season SUV tire is the General Grabber HTS which cost about $100/each. The General all-season Grabber HTS tires are top ranked in dry braking, wet braking, handling, and the ride comfort is superior to most other tires in this class. If you are looking for an all-season tire with good tread life Consumer Reports says that the Cooper Discoverer CTS is one to consider at $150/each or even the Continental CrossContact LX which is only $110. Now that gasoline is so expensive, choosing an all-season tire that will improve your fuel economy is not a bad idea. The Kumho Road Venture APT KL51 is around $100 and will get you better fuel economy on the roads.
Top Rated All-Terrain Tires:
When it comes to all-terrain tires, the Pirelli Scorpion ATR ($120) gets top billing. The Scorpion ATR was designed for on/off-road use and is meant for pickup trucks, crossovers, and SUVs. You get excellent on-road capability with great ratings in both wet and dry braking conditions. Tread life is above average in it's class and so are levels (or lack thereof) when on the road. The off-road grip these Pirelli tires provide is from the silica enhanced tread. Another top performer was the Bridgestone Dueler A/T Revo which is slightly more expensive at $145 for each tire. The Bridgestone all-terrain tire does well in snow traction situations and with controlling hydroplaning. Dry braking was no problem for the Dueler A/T Revo tires. It did lack stability on ice braking and tread life was only fair compared to the Michelin LTX A/T 2 which scored best in all terrain tires for tread life. The Firestone Destination got top billing for the least amount of noise coming from the tires.
Want a set of winter tires for your sports utility vehicle, then go with the Bridgestone Blizzak DM-Z3 ($130) which get the best ratings on several sites for snow traction and ice braking. Although the Bridgestone winter tires score less than adequately on dry and wet braking, they are meant to provide the extra grip that light trucks and four wheel vehicles need in harsh, snowy conditions. You can give up a little in ice braking to get superior handling and less road noise from the Michelin Latitude X-Ice tires which run about $130 as well. Michelin winter tires were amongst the top in most reviews we found and owners backed up the claims in online forums calling the Latitude X-Ice tires the "best" on the market.