Consumer Reports is gearing up for another tire program. Specifically, we’ll be covering family car all-season and winter tires. So far we’re in the midst of the challenging process of buying the tires now. Why challenging? Well, we’re finding that supplies are limited right now for winter tires. So if you have any thoughts about getting some, don’t wait for winter to arrive--it may be too late.
It’s a good idea to consider these tires before winter hits. Interestingly, one of the question most frequently asked is if it’s necessary to put winter tires on your car. Some wonder if they can get by with a good set of all-season tires.
Like most things in life, the answer is, “it depends.” Based on our testing, winter tires do have exceptional grip on snowy, icy roads. Even if your vehicle has all-wheel drive, winter tires deliver better stopping grip on snow and ice than most all-season tires. They are the right choice if you commonly drive in wintry weather, or if you just want a greater piece of mind.
On the other hand, if you live in an area with infrequent winter weather or can wait for the roads to be cleared after a storm before heading out, all-season tires are a better choice. The graph below supports what we’ve been saying for years: most tires are a compromise. Based on our last test on passenger car tires for SUVs and pickups, we see that winter tires deliver outstanding snow traction and braking on ice compared to all-season models. But on cleared roads, the advantage goes to all-seasons, with shorter stops on wet and dry surfaces.
While these are average trends, there is some winter and all-season tire models that bridge the gap better than others for all-weather grip. So consider your driving experience in deciding on tire type, and then refer to our tire ratings to select the best tire for your specific needs.