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In much of the country, dedicated winter tires are a must, changing them on and off a seasonal ritual. But they are a confusing topic and are offered in many variations. We turned to Tire Rack to help make sense of it. Tire Rack's rankings are based on user reviews, and it also does its own tire testing — in this case, even using an ice rink.
Related: Best cars for winter driving
For a deeper research dive, you can go to tirerack.com., But here's a rundown, with links, to some solid choices in winter tires.
In budgeting for this purchase, keep in mind that it's highly recommended you run a full set of four matched snow tires. The olden days when your grandpa would put on just two are long gone.
Blizzack has become practically synonymous with tires for snow and ice. The WS90 works for passenger cars, minivans, crossovers. Tire Rack likes its braking performance on wintry surfaces and its steering feel. In traction and handling tests, it ranks a very close second to the next tire on our list. But nothing beats it for stopping distance on both wet and dry surfaces.
It beat even the Blizzak in snow traction and handling. Says Tire Rack's testers: "Excellent road manners combined with balanced traction for all road conditions."
This tire is described as "competitive" with the others and earns praise for low highway tread noise, though it can be noisy on rough surfaces. It also gets dinged slightly for steering feel.
This Goodyear is lauded for its traction on both snow and ice. "Traction in line with the best with a distinct connection to the road."
Good ice and snow traction. Not the best of this bunch, but it's the best price here and may be good enough for your needs. Tire Rack's verdict: "A good value that performs well on ice and in the snow."
If you're a believer in studs, this tire gets a 100% rating from Tire Rack customers. Tire Rack has not done testing on this class of tire.
No. 2 on Tire Rack customers' list of studded favorites.
If you don't want to spend much on tires you run just a few months a year, but you want studs, this might be the bargain buy.
Good handling and great traction in all conditions. (It's derived from the Pilot Alpin PA/4 N-Spec, which was the highest-ranked tire in this category, though the N-Spec was developed specifically for Porsches, is extremely expensive, and is available only in 19" and 20".)
This one was tested against two Michelins and was competitive for wet and dry traction, and tops in ride quality. Tire Rack testers deemed it a bit noisy but call it a "strong contender" in this category.
Not tested. But it's a Blizzak and well-liked by customers.
Trucks and SUVs
The benchmark Blizzak for pickups, vans, crossovers and SUVs. Testing showed "very good capability in all winter conditions — ice, snow, cold, wet." Snow traction and handling was particularly impressive.
The Blizzak for medium- and heavy-duty trucks.
Others in this category:
The following tires show in limited sizes, but if they fit your vehicle, they're worth a look: Yokohama IceGuard IG51V, Michelin Latitiude X-Ice Xi2, Firestone Winterforce CV
Top marks in this category, designed for heavy-duty rigs.
Available in limited sizes.
The Grabber Arctic LT's lighter-duty brother. Limited sizes.
Another choice for medium- to heavy-duty, even commercial, trucks, vans and SUVs.
If you have a luxury performance SUV that needs to be shod for winter, this is the only choice on the Tire Rack rack. Rated "excellent" across the board by TR customers.
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