Snow Tires vs. Chains: Everything You Need to Know

Snow tires and snow chains can help keep you safe when driving in the winter. Here’s what you should know.

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!

Winter driving can be dangerous, so it’s time to get serious about your tire choices and how they 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?

Should you get non-studded snow tires for your car?

There’s no doubt about it – snow tires provide excellent traction on snowy and icy road conditions. Non-studded snow tires perform exceptionally 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.

But understand that non-studded snow tires can be 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 do not provide great traction in deep snow and may wear out faster when driven on dry pavement.

Should you get studded snow tires for your car?

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 offer an additional point of contact on slick surfaces like ice and compacted snow.

Keep in mind that 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 they might only be permissible during certain months of the year, depending on your region. 

Studded snow tires can also be expensive, and like non-studded snow tires, you will need to pay to have them professionally installed and removed.

Should you get snow chains for your car?

First, snow chains are substantially less expensive than snow tires – to some folks, that fact alone may tip the scales in favor of chains.

Snow chains also provide the greatest amount of traction on ice, packed snow, and deep snow. Snow tires don’t do as well as snow chains in deep snow.

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.

Don’t forget: 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-shaped tires – yikes! 

While in use, you should plan to drive at a very low speed and should only use them when necessary to avoid potential damage to your vehicle.

What happens if you don’t have snow tires or chains during the winter? Can it damage your car?

You might have heard that chains can snap off and damage your car. While that can happen on rare occasions, it shouldn’t be your only concern. 

The fact is that snow tires and chains are intended to give you more traction on slippery roads. So without them, if the road conditions are bad enough, you might be more likely to get into an accident, which could do even more damage to your car.

How can auto insurance help during the winter?

If you have comprehensive coverage, damage to your car that’s caused by winter driving might be covered by your insurance policy — even if you aren’t involved in a collision.

Of course, that’s not the only reason to get car insurance. 

It’s essential to have auto insurance just in case you get into an accident. This is especially true in the winter when bad road conditions caused by snow and ice can increase your risk of crashing.

We certainly hope you stay safe out there. If something goes wrong, having car insurance can cover you for damages to your car, the other driver’s car, and any injuries.

The bottom line

If you don’t drive as much in the winter because of bad road conditions, or you don’t like waiting 15 minutes for your car to heat up and the frost to clear off your windshield, you might be able to save money with a pay-per-mile insurance policy.

Get a free quote from Metromile today to see how much you could save with pay-as-you-go auto insurance

You can try Ride Along™, a free app feature that helps you get a more accurate rate before buying auto insurance. 

First, download the Metromile app, and Metromile will consider how you drive to show you an accurate rate. You’ll keep your current coverage and drive as you typically would for about two weeks. We want you to have confidence you’ll save money before you switch to Metromile.