Do SUVs Need Snow Tires & Snow Chains? (Explained)

Even four-wheel and all-wheel drive vehicles struggle to make it through heavy snow and ice accumulation. So how can you make your drive a little safer for you and your kids?

Consider investing in snow tires or snow chains.

Both snow tires and snow chains offer excellent traction when driving in winter conditions. But which one is better – snow tires or snow chains?

In this article, we’ll answer that question so you can be prepared when Mother Nature unleashes a winter storm in your area.

Do SUVs handle snow better than cars?

SUVs handle snow better than cars due to their larger size and height, which gives these vehicles more clearance over heavy snowfall. They also offer better traction control as they often come with an all-wheel-drive option. Lastly, you sit higher in SUVs allowing for better visibility in snowy weather.

Some of the other reasons you may want to consider an SUV over a car if you live in a snowy area of the country include:

#1 Overall weight

According to Car Care Portal, SUVs are about 40% heavier than the average car. The sheer weight of sports utility vehicles helps prevent them from sliding as much as sedans on slick patches of snow and ice.

It’s important to note that SUVs will not make you invincible on the road, as they could still slip and slide off the road. However, the risk of an accident occurring is less.

The Chevy Suburban handles snow really well – a good example.

#2 More protection

You’ll be more protected in an SUV compared to sedans or compact cars because of its sheer size.

The larger frame and body can keep you better protected from injuries compared to the bodies of smaller cars.

#3 AWD

Most SUVs come equipped with all-wheel drive. AWD gives the driver more control over the vehicle.

Torque is sent to all four wheels instead of two to give you better traction in snowy, icy, or rainy conditions.

Do SUVs handle snow better than pickup trucks?

According to many articles found online that discuss this question in depth, there appears to be some debate regarding whether SUVs or pickup trucks perform better in snow. Some people prefer pickup trucks in snowy weather, while others are sold on the performance of sports utility vehicles.

Both pickup trucks and SUVs are ideal candidates to drive in snowy weather, and both are much more reliable in inclement weather than cars.

Some people prefer to drive pickup trucks in snowy weather because they have larger wheels and tires that cover more surface area, and therefore typically offer better traction.

Pickup trucks also typically have higher ground clearance, making them an ideal choice to clear ice-covered roads and deep snow.

Some drivers, though, believe SUVs are safer in snowy and icy conditions because pickup trucks are more front-heavy which can cause them to slip in inclement weather. Because the weight in an SUV is more evenly distributed, they can have better control when braking and turning the steering wheel.

How much does higher ground clearance mean for snow driving?

Ground clearance is extremely important if you live in an area that is prone to heavy snow.

You may notice very few cars on the road in cities like Buffalo, NY, or Minneapolis, MN during heavy snowfall. Instead, the roads will be filled with SUVs and pickup trucks – and for good reason.

Pickup trucks and sports utility vehicles are popular in areas that receive heavy snow accumulation because they are bigger and heavier and feature higher ground clearance.

If you’re shopping for a vehicle with good ground clearance, look for pickup trucks and SUVs with a ground clearance of at least 8 inches.

The ground clearance of a vehicle is the distance between the ground and the car’s axle. Some heavy-duty trucks such as the GMC Sierra 2500HD feature a ground clearance of over 10 inches.

The ground clearance of a typical sedan is about 4-6 inches, while the ground clearance of an SUV is about 6-8 inches; however, many of the newer SUVs such as the 2022 Land Rover Discovery and the 2022 Jeep Wagoneer come with ground clearances of 10 or more inches.

If your area received 8 inches or more of snow overnight, you’re not going to want to drive your sedan to work until the road crews clear the snow away. But your pickup truck or SUV with 8-10 inches of ground clearance might be up to the task.

Do SUVs with 4WD need snow tires?

There’s a common misconception that vehicles with AWD or 4WD don’t need snow tires during the winter months. Although 4WD or AWD pickup trucks, SUVs, and crossovers do provide more power and acceleration when driving on snow and ice compared to two-wheel sedans, starting and stopping can still be a problem.

Therefore, 4WD vehicles often offer little advantage when it comes to driving in snowy and icy conditions.

While you can get away without using winter tires in areas of the country that don’t receive much snow, it’s imperative to purchase a good set of winter tires in snowy climates. Snow tires are specifically designed to grip the road and provide more traction than other types of tires.

Snow tires are often effective in even the harshest weather climates.

A good set of winter tires can improve braking by up to 25% compared to all-season radial tires.

All-season tires have also been proven to be less effective when the temperature drops below 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

The best way to keep you, your family, and your friends safe, is to install a set of winter tires.

What about snow chains?

Many drivers aren’t as familiar with snow chains, but they can be incredibly effective – even more so than snow tires – when driving in snow and ice. Tire chains can be placed in your trunk and installed on your existing tires whenever the weather provides the need for you to use them.

You’ll often see them on SUVs such as the Toyota Highlander (that handles snow really well!)

Tire chains dig through the ice and snow to provide the traction you need to help prevent your vehicle from slipping.

States have varying laws when it comes to the use of tire chains, so it’s important to do some research regarding when snow chains are allowed to be used in your respective state.

It’s important to never use snow chains on tires when there is little or no snow, as the chains can dig into the highway and cause significant damage.

They can also damage your tires and wheels when used in little to no snow.

Snow chains are ideal to use during hazardous weather or when ice or snow is covering the road. If you live in a northern state that receives 100 or more inches of snow per year, it’s definitely worth considering buying a set.

How much snow can SUVs handle without snow tires and chains?

Determining how much snow an SUV can handle without snow tires or snow chain typically depends on how much snow is on the road and the ground clearance of the vehicle.

If the ground clearance of your SUV is only 6-7 inches and there are 8 to 10 inches of snow on the road, you may want to pass on driving until the snow plows make their way through town.

Even snow tires and chains may be ineffective when there’s that much snow on the road.

What are the best SUVs for driving in snow?

Finding an SUV that performs well in snow is more than just finding a make and model with 4WD or AWD. Advanced safety features, the type of tires and technology also play an important role.

U.S. News & World Report recently compiled a list of the best SUVs for snow in 2022.

They include:

  • 2021 Lincoln Navigator
  • 2022 Jeep Wagoneer
  • 2022 Kia Telluride
  • 2021 Toyota RAV4
  • 2022 Honda CR-V
  • 2022 Chevrolet Tahoe
  • 2021 Subaru Forester
  • 2021 Hyundai Kona
  • 2021 Ford Expedition
  • 2021 Dodge Durango
  • 2021 Lincoln Navigator


If you live in areas of the country that receive large amounts of snow and ice during the winter, you know full well how treacherous driving conditions can be. But no matter how much accumulation falls, life still has to go on.

That means you’ll need to find a way to work or drop the kids off at school even when the roads are covered in snow and ice.

Driving on the road can be dangerous no matter the conditions.

But if you’re driving in heavy snow or ice, it’s important to keep you and your family protected. Installing snow tires or snow chains to your tires is a proven way to do just that.

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