In every sphere of today’s modern world, many misconceptions can often result in making some poor choices. The same can be said about the tire industry – people who aren’t versed in the “language” can often make a mistake when it comes to choosing tires, depending on the type.
Thanks to the evolution of the tire industry, today, we have multiple types of tires, some of which seem to overlap in certain areas. Just like you have an all-terrain tire that can be driven on the road like a touring one, you also have all-season tires that can be driven in winter like proper winter tires. All of this can be confusing, but not as confusing as comparing all-season and all-weather tires.
Many people see these as the same type of tires, and in many ways, they are. As similar as the performance and features may be, we are still looking at different types of tires, so it’s not one of those cases where one thing has two different naming schemes.
We can talk for days about how similar they are, but at the end of the day, all-season and all-weather tires are different, and today I’ll talk you through their differences and explain which one may be a better choice for you.
What's In This Guide?
All-Season vs. All-Weather Tires
All-season tires are models designed to offer performance throughout the year. For the most part, these tires will be excellent in dry and wet conditions and will be usable in the winter. In most cases, they are designed to last longer and cover your driving needs in all seasons. With that said, winter performance is the weakest point, and these tires don’t handle harsh conditions.
All-weather tires cover a better gap between summer and winter tires. Like the all-season tires, you’re looking at performance throughout the year, but with the big advantage of having better winter performance. Despite the bump in performance, they still won’t perform as good winter tires and won’t last as long as all-season ones.
What are All-Season Tires?
I’ve talked about this plenty of times, but I’ll explain it again for the sake of this guide. As the name suggests, all-season tires are tides designed to deliver performance in all seasons. Considering what I just explained in the summary section, this may seem misleading, but it isn’t.
Tires that can deliver performance in multiple conditions rarely manage to be good in all aspects, which is evident from all-season tires. They are very good performers on dry and wet roads in non-wintery conditions, which is what most people are looking for in a daily driver.
In winter, the performance is limited but is available if you need it. Lighter conditions are as much as you should expect from an all-season tire, so coldish temperatures and shallow snow shouldn’t be a problem. If you’re going for anything more than this, you’ll probably need a set of dedicated winter tires.
The key that enables all-season tires to deliver their performance is the rubber compound, for the most part. Considering that we’re looking at a tire that will be used in summer and winter, manufacturers use a special compound that will remain pliable in winter but won’t get destroyed when driven in summer.
What are All-Weather Tires?
Based on the name, all-weather tires give you the idea that they’ll be able to deliver their performance in all weather conditions. Again, it may seem misleading, but it’s true.
Like all-season tires, all-weather ones are designed for performing in summer and winter, which is why some people confuse them. in this case, we have a group of tires that are inclined more towards performing better in winter conditions.
Since all-weather tires are designed for better winter performance, the rubber compound and tread pattern are different. To be able to perform in very low temperatures, manufacturers revert to using a softer compound. It’s not as “soft” as a proper winter tire, but it’s almost there.
Then there’s the tread pattern, which in some cases resembles a winter tire. The idea behind this approach is to have a tire with enough biting edges so that it can bite into snow even if the conditions are harsher. Combining the pattern and compound results in a tire with a 3PMSF rating, the same one you’ll find on dedicated winter tires.
Moving away from the winter performance, we come to the weaker side of all-weather tires – summer. Yes, they are designed to perform in those conditions as well, and if the summers aren’t too hot, the tire will be fine. On the other hand, the softer compound means that you won’t get excellent performance, and you’ll have to settle with pretty good.
Differences Between Studless and Studdable Tires
If I have to explain the differences in a single sentence, it would probably be: the difference is which season the tire will perform better. Based on the explanations I outlined, while both tires are designed to perform in all seasons, but not in an equal measure.
As tires designed for year-round performance, let’s start with winter, which is what both tires are designed for. All-season tires will deliver usable performance in lighter conditions, while all-weather ones will be better, so the second tires take the crown in this situation. The softer compound and the slightly more aggressive pattern with plenty of sipes give the tire better grip and traction in colder weather and deeper or packed snow.
When it comes to dry and wet conditions, things are more or less even as long as we avoid harsher conditions like hot weather. Sure, there may be some differences between these two, but for the most part, both do the job as commuters and you won’t feel like one is significantly better.
Hot weather is where you’ll start to notice some differences that go in favor of the all-season tires. In the simplest comparison, all-weather tires have a softer compound when compared with all-season ones, meaning that they won’t deal with those conditions as well. As a result, the longevity takes a hit, and all-weather tires won’t last as long as all-season ones.
When Should you Get All-Season Tires?
All-season tires seem to be a more common choice mainly because it’s more likely to have a milder winter than a colder summer. These types of tires seem to strike a better balance, and even if I weren’t going for a summer and winter setup, I’d probably go for a set of all-season tires.
All-season tires will have better durability in summer conditions mainly because the rubber compound isn’t too soft. It’s soft enough to deliver usable performance in lighter conditions, which means it will handle hotter temperatures better.
Moving on to winter conditions, an all-season tire will get the job done if you don’t have harsh winters and the temperatures aren’t too low. I constantly label the performance as usable, mainly because it can be used in lighter conditions and shallow snow. For anything more than that, you’ll need the second type of tires we’re talking about today.
When Should you Get All-Weather Tires?
All-weather tires, on the other hand, are the opposite of what all-season tires represent. This means that you’ll be looking at these tires if you need slightly better winter performance and you are willing to make some compromises along the way.
One area where you won’t be compromising is the winter performance. All-weather tires have the 3PMSF rating, making them better in wintery conditions than all-season tires. You can get better traction even in deeper or hard-packed snow. With some models, you may even have the luxury of getting some kind of traction on ice-covered surfaces.
If you decide to go for all-weather tires for the winter performance, you should know that the tires won’t be as good in hot temperatures. To be perfectly clear – the performance in summer isn’t poor, and all-weather tires will be safe with plenty of grip and traction. The problem is that due to the softer compound, the longevity takes a hit, so it’s something to consider when buying them.
Even though all-season and all-weather tires seem similar at first glance, they are different and are targeted at different drivers. Both are designed to provide you with one tire that can be used throughout the year, so you won’t have to go for a summer and winter tire setup.
In most cases, all-season tires will be the go-to choice for many people, as there are many areas where the winters are mild. This ensures that you will have some usable performance on snow without sacrificing longevity or performance in summer.
On the other hand, all-weather tires put a bigger emphasis on winter performance. Considering that they have a 3PMSF rating, you should expect to get higher levels of grip and traction, especially on icy roads, where these tires can be considered usable. With that said, you should be aware that with these, you are sacrificing longevity, as the rubber compound doesn’t “like” heat too much, so the lifespan will be reduced in extremely hot summers.