All-Season vs. Summer vs. Winter/Snow Tires
Your tires are the only point of contact between your vehicle and the road, and differences in tread design and rubber compound make these tire types very distinct from each other, making a huge difference not only in how they feel, but how they perform.
Many drivers think installing all-season tires will be ideal for year-round driving in all weather conditions. However, this is not true for many climates throughout the country. To achieve moderate traction in ice and snow, all-season tires sacrifice some wet weather traction. Additionally, to provide long-lasting tread life, all-season tires sacrifice flexibility and grip in cold weather.
Typically, all-season tires do not perform as well as summer or winter tires in wet conditions. In dry conditions, all-season tires generally perform better than winter tires, but still do not perform as well as summer tires. All-season tires by definition perform better than summer tires in winter conditions but not nearly as well as dedicated winter tires.
Depending on the expected climate and rainfall of where you drive, all-season tires could be a good option for a year-round tire or outside of winter months when temperatures are consistently above 45 degrees.
It's a common misconception that summer tires are designed only for dry weather performance, but most summer tires can deliver excellent traction in wet conditions as well. Summer tires feature wider tread and softer rubber compounds, allowing for responsive handling in dry and wet conditions. They also typically have deep circumferential grooves to provide wet traction and hydroplaning resistance.
As long as the temperature isn't too cold, summer tires generally perform better than both winter and all-season tires in wet and dry conditions. But it is important to note – for your safety – summer tires should not be driven in winter conditions.
Winter tires are designed exclusively for cold weather driving. They are constructed with rubber compounds that remain flexible in temperatures below 45 degrees and have aggressive tread patterns for grip in snow and ice, generally without a need for studding. Winter tires also feature siping patterns for extra biting edges on ice. All of these features combine to make a soft tire that has excellent winter traction, giving drivers the confidence to take to the roads in winter weather.
In the past, manufacturers offering "snow tires" only measured their performance in the snow against their standard tire designs. Though many folks still use the term "snow tire," it's no longer in use by manufacturers, who tout their winter tires as meeting or exceeding standardized requirements that must be met for a tire to be sold with that designation.
Winter tires are far superior to all-season tires when it comes to driving in any cold winter conditions: dry, wet, snow, sleet, and ice. Summer tires excel in both dry and wet warm weather conditions but become too stiff in cold weather to be able to provide reliable performance.
Winter tires are so specialized for winter that they do not perform as well in warm, dry conditions, and will likely wear very rapidly.
It is recommended that you install summer or all-season tires as soon as the weather is consistently above 45 degrees. Regardless of road conditions, once temperatures drop below 45 degrees, winter tires provide the most reliable performance over any all-season or summer tire.
WHICH TIRE IS THE BEST CHOICE FOR ME?
The tires you choose between summer, all-season, and winter tires should be based on the climate you live in and the road conditions you typically drive on. If you live in an environment that experiences harsh winter conditions, changing over to a dedicated set of winter tires is not overly cautious; it is a safety necessity. If you live in a climate zone that is typically warm and has a very mild winter season, a set of summer tires may do the trick. If you live in a climate zone that sees a wide array of weather conditions, an all-season tire may be the best choice for you.