Are Tire Socks Better Than Winter Tires? Consumer Reports Says It Depends

It’s time to bundle up for the cold weather and prepare your car for the snow. Winter tires are a great solution for many, but there are alternatives. Tire socks, for instance, may work better for environments where snow occurs but isn’t frequent. But what are tire socks, and should you buy them instead of snow tires?

Woman installing tire sock to her car in the snow
Woman installing tire sock to her car in the snow | Pochard Casabianca/AFP via Getty Images

What are snow socks, and how do they work?

Tires socks are, as the name entails, covers that go around your rubber. But the textile material used provides extra grip in snowy conditions. One of the main advantages is that a set of these snow socks are significantly cheaper than a set of winter tires, and can be removed once the pavement is clear again. After all, snow tires aren’t built for regular road conditions, they’re built for the snow.

To purchase these tire socks, you’ll first need to know the size of your tire. You can find this information on the sidewall of your rubber. Once you’ve found the correct size of tire sock, putting on these tire socks is both easy and difficult. But once installed, these tire socks will help you accelerate and decelerate in snowy conditions

First, you slide the top of the tire sock onto the tire. Then, you roll the car forward so all the wheels turn about halfway, compressing the part of the tire sock you just attached. Finally, you tuck in the rest of the tire sock in and you’re done. This sounds more straightforward than putting on a new tire, but the hard part is having to do all this in the cold and snow, which may be a dealbreaker for some.

On top of that, there are some contingencies with tire socks. Depending on the manufacturer, snow socks are only rated for speeds of 25 to 30 miles per hour. In other words, you aren’t replacing your winter tires with them.

Snow socks are designed to compliment winter tires, not replace them

Car driving on highway in snow
Car driving on highway in snow | Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

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Snow tires are built to give your car traction on city streets and highways, whereas tire socks are limited to how fast you can go. They’re designed to get you out of icy driveways or assist your car if it ever gets stuck. They’re not the be-all-end-all replacement to winter tires.

In fact, in certain conditions, some northern states require snow chains to be used. These tire socks aren’t a replacement for those either, though depending on the state, they are acceptable. In other words, using these tire socks depends entirely on your situation.

If you live in a place where snow is frequent and intense, buy a set of snow tires. From there, determine if you want a set of snow socks. Even winter tires can lose their grip, and if you ever get stuck, these snow socks are a great solution. Likewise, if you live somewhere it doesn’t snow often, but still want to be prepared, having a set of snow socks on hand allows you to go out in limitation.

So if you’re sold on getting a set of tire socks, there are three brands Consumer Reports has put to the test

Consumer Reports tests the three best tire socks

Well, technically, Consumer Reports tested two tire socks and one snow grip device. The two tire socks used were AutoSock and ISSE, while the Micheline Easy Grip is more of a woven rope that surrounds your tire. The installation method for these three products is identical.

In terms of pricing, again, these tire socks are cheaper than brand new snow tires. The Michelin Easy Grip cost $139, the AutoSock cost for $109, and the ISSE was the cheapest at just $71. But for all of these tire socks, you get what you pay for.

Consumer Reports tested the acceleration and braking distance of each of these snow solutions. Their reference was a Toyota Camry, which took 73 feet to reach 20 mph with no traction devices attached. From there, the AutoSock and ISSE tire socks took 58 feet to get to 20 mph. And the Micheline Easy Grip took only 49 feet.

However, in terms of acceleration, the Micheline Easy Grip beat out a traditional Dunlop Winter Tires. It took the Camry 57 feet to accelerate from 5 mph to 20 mph on winter tires. And the snow socks came fairly close to beating the snow tires as well. In other words, if you don’t want to commit to full snow tires, these Consumer Reports tested tire socks are adequate solutions for the cold season.

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