studded tires vs. awd vs. chains

studded tires vs. awd vs. chains

Written By

Alix Adams

I live in Utah where, in case you didn’t tune in to the 2002 Olympics, it snows a lot. So driving in the snow is inevitable. I didn’t always live in the snow, however. As a wee child (like from elementary school until high school) I lived in pleasantly rainy Seattle. Two inches of snow fall in Seattle and literally everything but the hospital and Starbucks shuts down. Countywide snow day! But now that I live in Utah, snow days are pretty much non-existent. Just last week I watched my 85-year-old neighbor shovel 3 feet of snow off his walkway for fun. Driving in the snow is a fact of life around here and having tires and a vehicle that handles snowy conditions well is a must. I asked some of my neighbors what they do to prep for snow driving, and here are a few tips I found useful:

Studded Tires and Snow Tires

Many driving-in-the-snow folks choose to gear up for winter conditions by putting seasonal snow tires or studded tires on their vehicles. There is a difference between the two. Studded tires are tires that literally have little studs on them to create traction when you drive over snow or ice. The studs are made of either rubber or metal and many states have regulations about whether studded tires are permitted and which type you can use. I hear that driving studded tires on bare pavement is bad for all parties involved—the road and your tires. Snow tires are legal everywhere and are like normal tires, but with a special winter tread and they are made of a softer rubber so that they don’t stiffen up in cold temperatures. While snow tires are an investment for sure, they seem to be a favorite of my neighbor Kevin. And Kevin knows what he’s talking about.


If you know what you’re doing, chains are a good option when faced with road-covering snows. Because chains are terrible to drive on bare pavement with (it feels like you are driving with square tires) you have to attach and un-attach them frequently during the winter season. And attaching the chains to your tires frequently might just be the worst thing about your winter.

However, chains are a great option if you ever have to leave your luxurious Palm Springs beach house to visit your weird cousins in North Dakota. You know who I’m talking about. Chaining up (a term I just coined) makes sense if you only do it once or twice a season.

All Wheel Drive (AWD)

Sick of me talking about tires yet? Well quit banging your head on then keyboard, I’m about done.

The last bit of advice that all my neighbors gave me was to buy an All Wheel Drive (AWD) vehicle. AWD provides way more traction in winter conditions than a Two Wheel Drive vehicle. If a Two Wheel Drive vehicle is the only thing that you ask for in this world, Kevin recommends buying some chains and snow tires.

Not enough snow chat for you? Here are even more posts about snow!

Make Epic Snowballs!

Get Off the Couch (I’m pointing at you)

Shoveling Ergonomics???