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If you’ve ever driven in winter weather, you know that the conditions can be intense. Depending on the amount of snowfall and ice accumulation in your area, your standard tires may not hold up, which leads us to the debate: snow tires vs. chains. Both have proven viable choices for ensuring your car can safely navigate through snow. However, each has its pros and cons. Prices for snow tires and snow chains can vary, with the latter specifically ranging between $50 and $200.  

So, what do both of these protections for your tires do, and which is the better option?  

What are Snow Tires? 

Snow tires are specifically engineered for winter weather. Winter tires typically have flexible tread rubber, which keeps them from stiffening in the cold. They have deeper tread patterns that protect against snow buildup so the tire can maintain traction with the ground so you don’t get stuck in the snow. Winter tires also contain biting edges, allowing drivers to drive over ice without sliding. The best snow tires make it easier to maintain control of your car. 

What are Tire Chains? 

Tire chains are especially helpful for vehicles traveling through heavy snow and mountainous areas. Tire chains typically come in various sizes, and drivers must select the right size, as the wrong one can damage tires.  

Like snow tires, they allow drivers to maintain traction in the snow, prevent slipping, and stop wheel spin. It’s important to drive at a slow pace when using tire chains and only use them on snow.  

product image of a tire and rim in snow chains
Tire Chain

What is the Difference Between Snow Tires and Tire Chains?  

Snow tires are actual tires, while show chains for cars are an accessory — metal chains — that you wrap around your tires. They help to accomplish similar things for your car’s safety. However, there are some advantages and disadvantages to both types of protection for your tires. 

The Pros and Cons of Snow Tires 

Snow tires are designed to offer you more traction as you drive in winter weather. This can improve your handling and braking as you navigate snowy and icy roads. Additionally, they have more flexible material, meaning they won’t face the same damage as standard tires and can likely even last much longer. 
 

Nevertheless, snow tires can come with some cons. The first is the type of snow tires you use may be restricted. For example, if you prefer studded snow tires, you need to look at the restrictions as some states do not allow the use of studded tires. Additionally, paying for another set of tires and changing them every winter can be a hassle. You must research and invest in the best winter tires for your car since they come in various sizes.  
 

The Pros and Cons of Snow Chains 

Snow tire chains can be a great alternative if you don’t regularly drive in ice and snow. Since installing them includes putting them over your regular tires, they are a possible temporary option. Additionally, if you have to traverse roadways with deep snow, tire chains allow for strong handling in deep snow. They are also ideal if you have to drive through mountainous areas or areas with bad weather.  
 
However, there are some disadvantages you should be aware of. Snow chains for cars may have some restrictions or use limitations, depending on the state. Also, they can be challenging to install if you aren’t experienced with them and can even damage your car if not attached to your vehicle correctly.  

Snow Tires vs. Chains: Which is Better?  

So, snow tires vs. chains, which one is better? Determining the option that’s better for your car will depend on these factors:

  • How often you drive in winter weather – If you know you don’t regularly travel in winter weather, a temporary option like snow chains may make more sense. However, snow tires are more appropriate for those dealing with cold weather routinely.  
  • State restrictions – Some states have restrictions against studded tires, while others may have specific requirements for tire chain usage. You need to check your state’s regulations to see what you’re allowed to use and when.  
  • Pricing – Depending on the brand, tire chains are typically cheaper than snow tires. Additionally, you can likely install tire chains yourself, whereas you may want to get a professional to help you install all the snow tires on your car.  

Whether you purchase snow tires and snow tire chains will depend on your preferences. Both items can help you winterize your car. Tire chains may be the best option if you want to save money and don’t often drive in winter weather. However, if driving in snow and ice will be a regular activity for you, and you don’t mind switching tires throughout the year, then snow tires are a viable option.  
 
For a look at some of our highly-rated snow chains, check out the Quality Chain 26lb Truck and SUV Cable Tire Snow Chains and Quality Chain QV343 Passenger Car Volt Cable Tire Snow Chains.  

If tire chains are your preferred tool for navigating treacherous winter weather, we can help! Check out the variety of tire chain products we have in our inventory at AutoZone. 

FAQ/People Also Ask 

Are snow tires better than snow chains?

It depends on what your winter driving needs are. If you regularly drive in winter weather, snow tires may be the better option.

Do you need chains when you have snow tires?

You may need to use tire chains depending on how the amount of snowfall and how mountainous the region is.

Do snow chains ruin tires?

If they are incorrectly installed, snow chains can damage tires.

Do all 4 tires need snow chains?

If there are no state restrictions, then yes. Doing so allows you to get the best traction and ensure the safety of your tires and axel.

Is it worth getting snow tires?

Yes, if you need to regularly move through snowy or icy conditions it may be worth it to get snow tires.

Can you drive on pavement with snow chains?

No, you can damage the snow chains and your tires if you drive on payment with snow chains.

Can you drive snow tires on dry pavement?

It’s not recommended to drive snow tires on dry pavement as the winter tire will lose flexibility and will not perform as well during the winter.

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