Snow Tires vs. Chains: Everything You Need to Know

With winter firmly planting her feet in for the next six weeks (thanks, Punxsutawney Phil), it’s time to get serious about your tire choices and how it will affect your ability to travel. Four wheel drive or all-wheel drive: it doesn’t matter how powerful your car is – if the tires have zero traction, then you’ll be on the road to going nowhere fast. If you live somewhere that gets dangerously slick during the winter, having reliable traction is a must. The real question then becomes: snow tires or chains – which form of traction is better?


The debate has been going for years, with both having their benefits and disadvantages. Let’s weigh in on the pros and cons of both to help you make an informed decision this winter!

    Non-Studded Snow Tires:

  • Pros:There’s no doubt about it – snow tires provide excellent traction on snowy and icy road conditions. Non-studded snow tires perform extremely well on ice and packed snow. In particular, non-studded snow tires also perform well on dry roads, making them a great multi-purpose option. Additionally, they won’t cause any damage to dry roadways (which is a feature unique to non-studded snow tires).
  • Cons: They’re pricey. Not only will you have to fork out cash for the tires themselves (and they’re not cheap), but you will also need to front the cost of having them professionally installed and removed at the start and end of the season. Non-studded snow tires also do not provide great traction in deep snow and wear out faster when driven on dry pavement.
  • Studded Snow Tires:

  • Pros: Studded snow tires are also an excellent form of traction in the wintertime. The metal studs on the tire grip the snow and ice even better than non-studded snow tires. Just like non-studded snow tires, they are a very reliable option for navigating treacherous roadways; in addition to providing better traction and handling, the studs provide an additional point of contact on slick surfaces like ice and compacted snow.
  • Cons: Studded snow tires have proven to be quite damaging to dry pavement and should only be used when driving in slippery conditions. These tires may even be illegal in some states – or if they are legal, it’s only during certain months of the year (depending on your region). They are also quite pricey and like non-studded snow tires, you will need to pay to have them professionally installed and removed.
  • Chains:

  • Pros: First, chains are substantially less expensive than snow tires – to some folks, that fact alone may tip the scales in favor of chains. Chains also provide the greatest amount of traction on ice, packed snow, and deep snow (in which snow tires do not have the advantage). Another great feature of chains: you can easily install and remove them yourself! This makes them a fantastic option if you don’t typically need winter weather traction and are only traveling through inclement conditions temporarily.
  • Cons: If you have chains on your tires, you should not (and in some places, cannot) drive on dry pavement. Driving on dry pavement with chains will not only damage the roadway but will be a bone-rattling experience for all inside the vehicle. Some people equate driving with chains on dry pavement to the feeling of driving with square tires – yikes! While in use, you should plan to drive at a very low speed and should only use them when absolutely necessary, to avoid potential damage to your vehicle.

Non-studded, studded, or chains – one size definitely does not fit all! When weighing these options, consider the pros and cons to determine which would best fit into your lifestyle. Also, be sure get a quick free quote with Metromile now. Be safe out there this winter and see you on the roads!

Julianne Cronin is a Bay Area freelance writer, content creator, and founder/editor of the women’s lifestyle site, The Wink. You can find her working on her capsule wardrobe, collecting cacti, and trying out the latest beauty products on Instagram