Pros And Cons Of Studded Tires: The Ultimate Guide To Winter Driving

Studded Tires On Snowy Road

Winter roads can be treacherous, making tire choice crucial for a safe and smooth drive. Studded tires, as the name suggests, are equipped with metal studs that enhance grip on ice and packed snow.

However, they’re not without drawbacks. In this study, we’ll cover the pros and cons of studded tires so you can make an informed decision whether they’re the right option for your winter driving needs.

What Are Studded Tires?

Studded tires work by utilizing metal studs embedded in the tire tread to enhance traction on icy and snow-packed roads.

These small protrusions, usually made of tungsten carbide or similarly durable material, dig into slippery surfaces and provide extra grip compared to conventional winter tires.

Pros Of Studded Tires

Enhanced Traction On Icy And Packed Snowy Roads

Example of a Tire Stud

Studded tires offer enhanced traction on icy and packed snowy roads, providing drivers with more control and stability while driving in winter weather. Here are some ways studded tires improve traction:

  • The metal studs on the tire surface dig into the ice and snow, creating extra grip.
  • The studs provide added friction that helps prevent skidding and sliding.
  • Studded tires maintain their grip even when the grooves of the tire fill up with snow.

Better Braking Performance In Icy And Packed Snowy Roads

Studded tires significantly enhance a vehicle’s braking distance, improving safety when driving on slippery surfaces.

The metal studs in studded tires dig into the ice or packed snow, creating additional traction that allows drivers to stop their vehicles faster than non-studded options.

Braking distance difference between studded tires and studless tires

According to Kal’s Tire Testing results, when driving on an icy road at a speed of about 20 miles per hour, the studded winter tire required a distance of 74 feet to come to a stop.

In comparison, the non-studded tire needed 89 feet to stop, while the 3-season (all-season) tire required a distance of 111 feet to stop.

Tire TypeBraking Distance
Studded Winter Tires74 feet
Non-Studded Winter Tires89 feet
All Season Tires111 feet

Cons Of Studded Tires

While studded tires offer increased traction on icy and packed snowy roads, they also have some drawbacks to consider.

They Are Not Suitable For All Surfaces

Studded tires are designed to provide better traction and grip on icy and snowy roads, but they are not suitable for all surfaces.

When winter roads are wet or dry, studs can decrease the tire's traction. The tire tread compound is primarily responsible for providing grip in these conditions. 

Studs can slightly disrupt the interaction between the tire tread and road surface, negatively affecting stopping distances to some extent.

Higher Cost Than Non-Studded Tires

One of the most significant downsides of studded tires is their higher cost compared to non-studded options. Studded winter tires can cost up to 20% more than studless ones, which can make them an expensive investment for some drivers.

Tire TypeAverage Cost (Set of 4)
Studded Tires$400 – $1,200
Non-Studded Winter Tires$300 – $1,000
All-Season Tires$250 – $800

Increased Road Noise

Studded tires produce additional road noise because of the metal studs hitting the pavement as you drive.

However, in recent years, studded winter tires have evolved and offer better ride comfort. For instance, Nokian Hakkapeliitta studded tires have an eco-stud cushion made of soft rubber that acts as a spring to reduce road noise.

Nokian Hakkapeliitta studded tires with reduced road noise

Damages Roads And Pavement

One major con of studded tires is that they can cause significant damage to roads and pavement. The metal studs in the tire tread are designed to grip into ice and hard-packed snow, but they also dig into the road surface, creating ravels.

Damaged Road Due to Studded Tires

A study by the Oregon Department of Transportation has shown that studded tires cause more than $10 million worth of damage each year in Oregon alone.

Decreased Fuel Efficiency

Studded tires have their fair share of cons, and one of them is decreased fuel efficiency. Here are some reasons why studded tires reduce your car’s fuel economy:

  • Increased rolling resistance: Studded tires usually have larger and stronger treads with deeper grooves that can dig into the road surface, resulting in increased friction and rolling resistance. And the more resistance your car faces while driving, the more energy it needs to move, hence reducing its fuel economy.
  • Added weight: Studded tires are usually heavier than non-studded ones because they come with metal studs or hard rubber protrusions that can cause your car to carry extra weight. And when there is extra weight on your car, it requires more energy (and fuel) to move it around.

They Are Sometimes Prohibited

Studded tires are not always a welcome sight on public roads, and in some areas, their use is outright forbidden.

As previously mentioned, metal studs on studded tires can cause significant damage to road surfaces. In response, certain counties or states have banned or restricted the usage of studded tires to protect infrastructure from further deterioration.

To find out about the legal stud dates in your area, you can refer to the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association's state-by-state compilation of regulations regarding studded tires.

Studded Or Non-studded Tires?

Studded tires have their advantages, but they also come with drawbacks. Here are some factors to consider when deciding between studded and non-studded winter tires:

  • Climate and Road Conditions: Studded tires excel in icy and hard-packed snowy conditions, but if you live in an area with more mild winters or a mix of conditions, non-studded winter tires may be a better option.
  • Driving Habits: Studded tires tend to wear down faster than non-studded winter tires. If you don’t do much driving or only use your car occasionally during the winter months, this might not be as big of a concern.
  • Regulations: It’s essential to check local laws regulating the usage of studded versus non-studless winter tire types before making a purchase decision.

Regulations On Studded Tires

Studded tires are not always permissible, and there may be laws that prohibit their use in certain areas. Here are some factors to keep in mind when considering studded tire usage:

  • In some states and municipalities such as Minnesota and Washington D.C., the use of studded tires is restricted or prohibited altogether.
  • Some states allow studded tires only during specific times of the year, usually between November and April.
  • 4. Even in areas where studded tires are allowed, there may be restrictions on the studs themselves: some states will limit the number of studs per tire.

Alternatives To Studded Tires

Non-Studded Winter Tires

Non-studded winter tires are an alternative to studded tires, offering better traction on paved road surfaces. Here are some facts about non-studded winter tires:

  • Non-studded winter tires use deep tread patterns and special rubber compounds to provide improved grip in snowy and icy conditions.
  • They are usually lighter than studded tires, which can lead to improved fuel efficiency.
  • Non-studded winter tires do not damage the pavement or emit harmful pollutants like studded tires.
  • They are generally less expensive than studded tires.
  • While non-studded winter tires offer better performance on paved roads, they may not be as effective in extreme ice or deep snow conditions compared to studded tires.

All-Season Tires

All-season tires offer a balance of dry, wet, and light snow traction capabilities. Despite their versatility, all-season tires do have limitations when it comes to winter driving conditions.

While they can handle light snowfall or slushy ice on the road at low speeds, they may lack the necessary grip for more severe winter weather. For drivers living in areas with heavy snowfall and icy roadways, it’s recommended to opt for specialized studded or studless winter tires instead.

Consumer And Expert Reviews Of Studded Tires

Nokian Hakkapeliita 9 is considered to be one of the best in its class and has received favorable reviews from both consumers and experts. It offers excellent performance on ice without compromising safety or reliability.

For those looking to spend less money but still get good results, the General Altimax Arctic is also highly recommended by experts for its affordability and all-round winter performance.

Final Words: Pros And Cons Of Studded Tires

In conclusion, studded tires can provide enhanced traction and better braking performance on icy and packed snowy roads. However, they come with a higher cost than non-studded tires, increased road noise, and discomfort, and can cause damage to roads and pavement.

Additionally, some states prohibit the use of studded tires altogether. Before deciding whether studded tires are right for you, consider factors such as climate, driving habits and distance, cost, and environmental impact.