Michigan recently saw its first snow of the season and I can’t tell you how many people I saw riding around on their summers or all-seasons, thinking it’s okay. I’ll give them the benefit if the doubt—maybe the first snow snuck up on them before they had a chance to change tires—but it’s undeniably winter tire season now. Should you buy the expensive ones or will a set of the cheap ones cut it?
Our friends at Tyre Reviews are back yet again, this time asking that very question.
First test up, snow braking. Very important, since stopping is way more crucial than nearly anything else when you’re driving. The two Volkswagen Golfs the team used are wearing a set of budget tires and expensive ones, respectively. They get up to speeds of 60 kph and brake. What we’re looking for here is the distance it takes to get from 60 kph to five kph. (They aren’t getting all the way down to zero because then ABS kicks in.)
As you can see, the more expensive tire held up better in the braking. This could very well mean avoiding a fender bender in real-world situations. That distance only increases as your car gets heavier, as demonstrated by the bigger and weightier Volvo S90.
For snow handling, the cheap tire caused the car to feel more vague and less balanced, two things you do not want when there’s very little grip and a lot of things around to potentially hit.
The results here are similar to the ones gathered when Tyre Reviews tested out regular cheap tires versus the more expensive ones. Tires are the only part of your car making contact with the road, so it’s definitely worth paying attention to which ones perform the best. It doesn’t matter if you have the most technologically advanced car on the planet or if you can out-drive Walter Röhrl. If your tires suck, you’re going to be in trouble.
How do you find a good winter tire? Reading reviews helps, as does being willing to spend a little extra when a good set is recommended. We’ve got a guide here that could help you out.
To see the rest of the tests, you can check out the video.