In the snowy Rocky Mountain region, wintertime protection for your car should be at the top of your winter to-do list. A common misconception in our area is if you have a 4WD or AWD vehicle, you don’t need snow chains or snow tires. While 4WD and AWD make it easier for you to accelerate, and less likely to get stuck, they don’t really add any advantages in terms of stopping or traction. In order to take care of these issues, you need to add snow chains or snow tires to your car, but which one is best?

Pros and Cons of Snow Chains

Snow chains are exactly what they sound like; chains that fit over your car’s tires to give you added traction in adverse driving conditions. The biggest checkmark on the “pros” side of the list for snow chains is that they are considerably less expensive than snow tires. That being said, snow chains can be a real pain in the butt in every other way.

You can’t drive on them at all on dry roads or you risk damaging the chains and your tires. This means you’ll have to be getting out of the car, probably in the middle of a snowstorm, to put them over your tires any time you need them, and then stop to take them off again as soon as the roads clear up. This process goes much more smoothly if you’ve practiced at home first, but it’s still not any fun, and causes a travel delay.

Pros and Cons of Snow Tires

Snow tires are made from a special kind of rubber that doesn’t harden in sub-freezing temperatures like all-season tires do. Their pliant nature, along with special tread and metal studs (on some models) give tons of extra traction to grip slippery winter roads.

Just like snow tires really have only one pro, snow tires really have only one con; they are pretty pricey. Some feel that the extra money is well spent though, since it saves you from having to get out of the car and put your snow chains on every time you need them. If you live in a warmer climate, and only use snow tires when you head out of town, you might be able to get more than one season of use out of them, which will save you some money.

What’s Your Best Bet?

If you only travel to areas where snowy conditions are common occasionally, you might want to save yourself some money and stick with some snow chains. Still, the inconvenience of putting them on in the cold might make the snow tires worth the money, even for short-term use. If you live in an area where snowy roads are common, the safest, and most convenient option is to go with snow tires. It’s always a good idea to keep snow chains in the trunk though, just in case the storm gets really ugly.