Snow Tires vs AWD

Snow Tires vs AWD (is one a lot safer than the other?)

Picking the right tires for your vehicle is essential for staying safe on the road. If you own an AWD (all-wheel-drive) vehicle, maybe you assume you already have all the safety and protection that you need, but in some circumstances, this isn’t true. Keep reading to learn more about snow tires vs AWD.

When it comes to safe driving, is it best to choose AWD or snow tires?

Snow tires provide more safety on the road during winter conditions than AWD. While many drivers assume that AWD will keep them safe on the road and will just use all-season tires, when the temperatures drop and snow and ice are everywhere, you’ll see some of AWD’s limitations.

So, even if you have an AWD vehicle, if you drive in a region with severe winters, you should add snow tires.

Let’s get into my snow tires vs AWD comparison.

Accelerating: Snow Tires vs AWD

Going from a stopped position to a higher speed requires the right tire, especially if you need to pick up speed quickly, such as when you go onto the highway.

But which type of system will work the best for accelerating on the road?

Snow Tires vs AWD

When is AWD Best for Acceleration?

There are times when the AWD will be the best bet for accelerating on the road. These systems will move the car forward in snowy conditions when there is no grade, or at most a very small grade.

Snow tires are able to take off well, but they don’t have quite the same force that you get with four all-season tires spinning.

This makes the AWD a better choice if you have a few inches or less of snow and there isn’t a lot of ice around at the same time.

But if there is extreme ice and/or snow, you’ll want snow tires.

AWD vehicles will have two ways that they can work. If you are driving in conditions that don’t have snow, ice, or rain, 90 to 100% of the total power of the vehicle will go to the front or rear axle.

Power will be switched to all four wheels to give better performance and traction when conditions get slippery.

This can provide a bit more safety than you can get with 2WD vehicles, but without the traction you get from snow tires, you may still find it hard to accelerate.

When Are Snow Tires Best?

You should have snow tires if you’re going through an extreme winter with large amounts of ice.

When to Use Snow Tires?

In other words, if you live in a region that gets extreme winters, you should have snow tires. This is true whether or not you have AWD.

It is very hard to accelerate on icy roads if you do not have the right tires. Snow tires give you the extra traction you need to push through extreme icy and snowy conditions.

Handling and Stopping

While it is important to get the vehicle moving in snow and ice, being able to handle the vehicle and have it stop on the ice and snow is often more important to the driver.

You don’t want to keep sliding for too long on the ice and end up hitting the vehicle in front of you!

When to Use Winter Tires?

AWD by itself probably won’t be enough if you’re worried about having enough time to stop on slippery roads.

You could give yourself extra room to stop and make it work if you only get a little snow during the year. But for those long winters that seem to never end, you won’t be able to depend on AWD alone.

All-season tires aren’t able to handle a lot of snow and ice either, at least not safely.

If you insist on keeping these kinds of tires on your AWD vehicle throughout the winter, you’re likely to run into another vehicle or over a curb because you don’t have enough traction.

On the other hand, winter tires can make a huge difference in helping you handle and stop the vehicle, no matter the amount of ice and snow.


While all-season tires are perfect for most weather conditions, they just aren’t enough for severe winters.

Snow tires provide much more traction on icy and snowy roads.

Snow Tires Provide More Traction

The traction found on the all-season tires allows them to do well on regular pavement, water, and small amounts of snow and ice, which will help them last most of the year.

Snow tires are built for better road grip in all winter conditions. This means that they do well in slush, snow, and ice.

In fact, snow tires are made out of a special type of rubber that can actually stay soft, even when winter temperatures go extremely low.

The tread features have bigger grooves, sipes, and biting edges. If you’d like, you can choose winter tires that also have optional studs, for even more grip.

How Do Winter Tires Test (Compared to AWD)?

It has been found that winter tires perform better than all-season tires, even on an AWD vehicle, in all testing conditions. This is true by large margins.

Research has found that a 30-mile-per-hour panic stop on a two-wheel drive vehicle with all-season tires took an additional 40 feet for the driver to stop compared to that same vehicle being equipped with winter tires.

How Do Winter Tires Test?

This is enough of a distance to make you hit another vehicle when on the road.

The same results were found with a cornering test. When a car equipped with all-season tires went at 25 miles per hour, the car ended up in the ditch.

When that same car was using winter tires, it was able to go without an incident and kept the driver on the road.

Do Winter Tires Offer an Advantage for AWD?

There are many weather conditions where you can rely on all-season tires to help keep you safe.

These tires are going to do well when the weather is nice, when there is rain around, and when there is light snow and ice.

Do Winter Tires Offer an Advantage for AWD?

But if you live in an area that has a significant amount of ice and snow often through the year, all-season tires aren’t going to do a lot of good.

Winter tires will provide a good advantage, no matter the type of vehicle you drive.

They can provide considerable traction that you can’t find with other tires, making it much safer to be on the road.

Here are some of the advantages of snow tires over all-season tires (in severe winter weather).

  • 25 to 50% better traction
  • A specially formulated tread that provides pliability when the temperatures drop low
  • Tread designed to make maneuvering easier

While it is possible to drive on the road, even in the winter, with AWD and all-season tires, the winter tires will provide another level of comfort and safety.

Do Winter Tires Perform Well on 2WD Vehicles?

Winter tires can improve your vehicle’s performance in winter weather.

While they will be most effective on an AWD vehicle because you get the extra power behind them along with the tread and other features, they can keep you safe in a 2WD vehicle too.

If you have a 2WD vehicle and worry about how it will behave for you on the road, you should consider getting winter tires to put on it.

This will help you to stay safe on the road, handle your vehicle better, and avoid accidents.

Are Winter Tires Worth it for AWD Vehicles?

So, are winter tires worth it if you have an AWD vehicle?

AWD is going to be useful when you need to move or accelerate on some of the slick roads, but not so much when you need to corner or stop and the weather is not as favorable.

Are Winter Tires Worth it for AWD Vehicles?

It can work if you drive very carefully, but most agree that having AWD is not a good substitute for a good pair of winter tires.

You’ll have to consider where you drive and how you use your vehicle.

If you live in a state like Florida and rarely see winter weather more than once or twice a year, your AWD vehicle will be fine with all-season tires.

If you live somewhere with occasionally severe winter weather, you may consider bringing along tire chains in case you want to use them.

However, if you live somewhere that gets severe winters, you’ll probably find that AWD by itself isn’t enough. You’ll want to use snow tires, too.

You should consider getting a good pair of winter tires to help keep you safe and to make driving a little easier in the snow.

Final Thoughts: Snow Tires vs. AWD

AWD can be a great option to have on your vehicle, giving you more stability and power than you’d enjoy otherwise.

But for all its benefits, AWD isn’t a substitute for winter tires if you’re driving in severe and prolonged winter weather.

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