Studded tires become legal today (Nov. 1)
But just because you
can put them on, does it mean you
The only thing that matches studded snow tires' ice-gripping prowess is their taste for asphalt – as in, chewing it up and spitting back potholes. Minnesota and Wisconsin (two snowy states you'd expect to be stud-friendly) ban them for ordinary passenger vehicles to reduce road damage.
Adding to the stud-or-not-to-stud dilemma: studies show next-generation studless snow tires (that stay pliable when cold) can outperform studded tires in many conditions. Instead of using studs, they rely on contact from the whole tire surface to grip the ice and wick away the thin film of water that forms when warm tires touch ice.
Consensus seems to hold that old-fashioned studs still perform best on clear ice that's at or near the freezing mark. However, studless models have the edge in stopping and handling when temps drop below freezing and on wet or dry pavement, meaning they could be the right choice for drivers facing all but the most extreme conditions.
And the verdict is … still out
Before you buy any snow tire, talk to a trusted tire professional about how and where you'll drive this winter. That's probably your surest path to the right answer.
To help prepare for that conversation, you might want to check out
Car Bibles' 2018 "best of" guide to snow and winter tires. (Be sure to scroll to the end for the FAQ section and its final recommendation.)
And remember: Regardless of whether you go studded or studless, snow tires work best if you put them on all four wheels.