The Best Winter-Biased All-Season Tires

Choosing the best all-season tires for winter depends on your budget and your climate. Overall, investing in tires that can stay on your car year-round, that work well in both winter and summer, is generally a whole lot easier and cheaper than switching between winter and summer tires. But there are tradeoffs. The differences between tires designed for summer performance and tires designed to function in snow makes it difficult to manufacture an all-season tire without some compromises that affect how the tire performs in the winter or feels while riding in the summer.

In our opinion, only a few all-season tires, which we like to call "winter-biased," are really designed to perform in snow and ice. And they generally must give up some warm-weather performance in order to do so. So, all-season tires are really three-season tires, trading true snow performance for great wet and dry grip. These could be known as “performance” all-seasons. To do justice to the entirety of the all-season category would require two lists, one for winter-biased and one for performance. Furthermore, these are entirely our definitions. If you go to a tire shop asking for a “winter-biased all-season,” you may get some blank looks.

In general, however, because all-season tires use a tread compound designed to stay flexible in cold temperatures, while not giving up too much wear in warm temps, what you are going to get is a tire that performs acceptably in a wide range of conditions but does not tend to excel in any of them. Which should be fine unless you live in a place with really brutal winters. If so, you might have to invest in some snow tires for three or four months out of the year. Otherwise, read on for some great options in the true "all-season" category.

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General Altimax RT

General Altimax RT
The Tire Rack, Inc.

General's tires have a long reputation for good quality at good prices, as well as a reputation for paying attention to snow and ice performance in their all-season tires. The Altimax RT is one of the best of their all-season offerings, boasting a high-density tread compound that splits the difference between cold-weather stickiness and warm-weather wear riding atop a low-density compound that is designed to damp out vibration and give a smooth ride.

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Goodyear Assurance TripleTred

Goodyear Assurance TripleTred
The Tire Rack, Inc.

Goodyear's Assurance TripleTred works to manage the inherent tradeoffs of all-season tires by dividing the tire into “zones” and using different tread patterns and even different rubber compounds in each zone. The outer edges are tuned for dry performance and stability, the inside tread has sweeping grooves to evacuate water, and the center is heavily siped for snow and ice performance.

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Michelin Defender

Michelin Defender
The Tire Rack, Inc.

Michelin's Defender deserves consideration for many reasons. Certainly, their breathtaking 90,000-mile tread-wear warranty immediately catches the eye, but the Defender also performs brilliantly in snow and ice. Michelin has packed a great deal of technology into this tire, including a high-silica tread compound and 3D self-locking sipes. Ordinary sipes increase grip in water and snow, but allow the tread blocks to flex, which increases wear on the tires. Three-dimensional sipes have an internal topology, which allows the tread blocks to flex only as much as they need to before the sipes lock together, providing great grip while cutting down significantly on tread wear.

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Continental ExtremeContact DWS

Continental ExtremeContact DWS
The Tire Rack, Inc.

The ExtremeContact DWS (dry, wet, snow) is another of those few tires that has managed to strike a very good balance between extraordinary snow and ice grip and excellent dry performance. In fact, the dry and wet grip of the DWS even exceeds the performance of its summer-only sibling, the ExtremeContact DW.

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Nokian WR G3

Nokian WR G2
Nokian Tyres plc

When it comes to winter-biased all-season tires, there is one that is simply head and shoulders above the rest. That is the Nokian WR G3, the update to the venerable Nokian WR G2, tires so good at what they do that they really belong in a category by themselves. In fact, Nokian gives the WR G3 their own designation of “all-weather” rather than all-season. This Finland-based company knows from winter conditions, so it's become a leader in areas like slush planing (hydroplaning caused by wet slush), something very few other tire companies have traditionally paid much attention to. The WR G3 has snow and ice performance that is only a small step down from the very best snow tires, while retaining extremely good performance on dry and wet roads. In fact, the dry road performance is good enough that Consumer Reports had trouble categorizing the WR G2 as an all-season, putting it at the top of their “Performance Winter” category—which means that they felt it performed better than UHP (Ultra High Performance) pure snow tires such as Michelin's Pilot Alpin PA3.