Is Narrower Always Better When it Comes to Winter / Snow Tires?

Recently, I received a call from a longtime Tire Rack customer who was looking for a new set of winter / snow tires for his hybrid SUV. He was surprised to see our Preferred Winter / Snow Tire & Wheel Package didn't feature a narrower tire size. Many drivers benefit from a narrow tires ability to cut through deeper snow, but every driver needs to weigh both the advantages and disadvantages of a narrower size. Below you will find what you need to consider when you assess whether or not to go narrow.

Across the snowbelt, there's a wide variance in the intensity and frequency of deep snow blizzards. If you're not residing in the darkest blue areas in the map above, you have to weigh how much grip you’ll lose with a narrower tire on dry roads. All snow tires, especially those in the Studless Ice & Snow category, will sacrifice dry grip and the narrower footprint will exacerbate this loss.

The weight of your car also will play a role in your selection. Does it have all-wheel drive to power through snow? Narrower snow tires are particularly helpful on lightweight cars like the MINI Cooper because you end up with more weight per square inch of contact patch; and more weight equals more grip. Your narrower snow tires will let you cut through deep snow. With a heavier car like the Toyota FJ Cruiser, you can run a moderate size and still be fine. 

For additional help in choosing the right winter tire, read "Size Selection of Winter / Snow Tires."


Friday, November 8, 2013 by Michael

I always recommend slightly taller also.
For example: summer/all-season size 225/45 17, winter size of 215/50 17 instead of the exact diameter of 205/50 17.
Friday, October 7, 2016 by Gene Blodgett

I have the opinion that a wider tire gives you more surface contact, resulting in better traction, carry that narrow is better far enough and you get a motorcycle tire on your car and see how far you get in the snow.
Friday, October 7, 2016 by cy

Gene, thanks for your input. We definitely have to balance the deeper snow advantage of a narrower tire with dry road and ice strengths of a wider tire. Cy

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