Rivalry in the tire industry is something we see every day. Brands aim to make the best tires they can, so you’ll often see them compare with their main competitors. Having a feisty competition is healthy, as it pushes the manufacturers to improve themselves.
The biggest competition is in the premium segment, where a handful of manufacturers aim to make the best tires possible, only for the rest of the pack to follow. Don’t get me wrong, the mid-range brands don’t make terrible tires, but for the best possible performance, the premium are the ones to go to.
There aren’t too many brands in this segment of the tire industry, and one of the most popular rivalries comes from a French and a German company. Both companies were founded at roughly the same time, which sparked a battle that’s been going on for over a century.
To settle the differences, in today’s comparison, I’ll look at both manufacturers, compare their lineup, and outline which is a better option for which scenario.
In the blue corner, we have the tire brand with the blob mascot. Michelin’s existence dates back to 1889 and was founded by the brothers Andre and Edouard Michelin. The idea for the company rose from the problematic and tedious repairs people were facing in those days. Two years after the company was founded, the brothers managed to develop a removable bicycle tire that didn’t could be replaced in a few minutes. The first test run of the product was a long-distance race, and the bicycle fitted with Michelin’s tire won.
The success in this area put Michelin on the map, and the company had plenty of tire orders even in the early days of its existence. Around that time, the car industry was starting to grow, and the brothers decided to start producing car tires as well.
To ensure that its products were good and people were actually buying them, Michelin constantly worked on improving them. Among the many things that this brand is known for is introducing a run-flat tire, which was a technological marvel at that time. Also, the company was among the first to develop and release a radial tire.
The years the company put into research and development meant that it could also compete in racing. Like in the early days when it provided tires for bicycle races, Michelin began to include its tires for multiple racing series ranging from various endurance series to Le Mans and Formula 1.
Despite being a bit younger, Michelin managed to get on top even in the early days and remained there until today.
Michelin’s Tire Families
I’ve covered Michelin in the past, so you know the drill – a traditional naming scheme and plenty of overlaps with similar tires in multiple families.
Michelin is known for making some of the best-performing tires, and for those, you have the Pilot family. Designed for maximum grip and traction in various conditions, these are the models you’ll look at if you’re driving a coupe or a sporty sedan. Despite the performance badge, some options won’t be a poor choice for daily driving.
In the Pilot family, there are models like the Sport 4s, Alpin 5, or Sport All-Season 4 designed for passenger cars. Based on the naming, you can probably guess these are summer, winter, and all-season options. These models also come in an SUV variant, so you’ll be getting a similar performance on larger vehicles as well. With that said, models like the Pilot MXM4 are also set up for excellent grip and traction, but it trades a bit of that performance for comfort.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, you have tires like the Primacy, which are the ones that most people would be after. The main feature of this family of tires is to provide a well-refined experience and be able to last longer than their premium cousins.
Within this family of tires, you have all-season and summer options only. For performance throughout the year, Michelin offers the XS, LTX, Tour A/S, MXM4 and MXV4 that come in a wide range of sizes covering the passenger cars, CUV, and SUV segments. On the summer side of things, the Primacy 3 and HP are tires that you can only fit to a passenger car.
In Michelin’s entire lineup of tires, you’ll find multiple models with similar features, something which can be said about the Premier family of tires. These tires are more or less similar to the Primacy, so you’re looking at touring tires with an emphasis on refinement and longevity.
Unlike the previous family, there aren’t loads of options. Within the Premier family, there are the A/S and LTX models, and they are all-season options, meaning that you won’t find summer or winter tires here. While it seems limiting, these offer quite a lot in terms of fitments. Essentially, you have one model for passenger cars and the other for SUVs and CUVs, so Michelin covered quite a lot.
Even though Michelin has models for larger vehicles as part of the other families, there is one dedicated to them. The Latitude tires are the ones people would want to get if they own an SUV or CUV and want a touring-like tire with various performance features.
There are 3 models, based on the weather conditions, so you have the Sport, Alpin, and Tour, which are summer, winter, and all-season tires. At the same time, depending on the tire in question, you can get slightly different performances. The Tour, for example, is designed to be more comfortable, while the Sport is a bit stickier and has a lively handling character.
Some people live in areas with harsher winter conditions, so a proper winter tire is necessary. Luckily, Michelin covers that portion of the market with the X-Ice family of tires, and through several models, it ensures that these tires can be fitted to a wide range of vehicles.
On the passenger side of things, there are the Xi2, Xi3, and Snow, while for CUVs and SUVs, there is the Snow SUV model. All of these come as non-studdable tires, so you’ll be getting excellent snow performance, but they may struggle on ice a bit. For the best performance on ice, Michelin has the North, a studdable tire, and comes in sizes that cover the passenger car and SUV segment.
In some ways, the Defender family of tires is similar to the Premier one. It offers touring-like properties from models that cover a wide range of applications. With that said, unlike the Premier family, these tires can come in a size for larger vehicles.
You also have only 2 models here, but they cover almost every aspect. The T+H is the one that covers the passenger car aspect along with part of the smaller SUV market. On the other hand, the LTX M/S is the tire that comes in sizes designed for SUVs and light trucks.
Continuing the trend of touring tires, we come to the Energy family. While the general purpose of these tires is similar to some of the others I’ve mentioned, these are the slightly more affordable options. This is Michelin’s answer to having more affordable tires for people on a tight budget or driving an older car.
You can pick these tires up in the form of the Saver and LX4, which come in a decent range of size options. While both tires can be purchased as summer ones, the LX4 also comes in an all-season variant.
The latest and greatest that Michelin offers in the touring segment is the CrossClimate lineup of tires. These are made with the newest technologies and are considered among the best in the class, delivering excellent refinement in combination with superb performance.
You can get the CrossClimate+ and CrossClimate 2, with the second one being the latest addition to the family. As all-season tires, these can offer performance throughout the year, and with the wide range of sizes, you can be sure that fitment won’t be an issue even with some slightly larger cars.
This isn’t the first time the LXT name gets mentioned on this list, but it’s the first time it comes as a dedicated family of tires. Among these models, there are the ones Michelin designed for people that do the occasional off-roading.
The reason I said occasional off-roading is because the A/T2 is an all-terrain tire designed to offer balanced performance in both conditions. On the other hand, there’s the M/S2 which is the touring tire with minimal off-road performance. Naturally, both models come in sizes for SUVs or light trucks and are all-season tires.
Michelin’s next-door neighbor is Continental, a company founded in 1871 in Hanover, Germany. Considering the era, this is a manufacturer that’s among the oldest in Europe and overall in the world. Considering that the car industry was still in its infancy, the company’s first products weren’t related to it. Initially, the company worked with rubber products like belts, boots, and various accessories. Meanwhile, the market for bicycle tires began to increase, which allowed Continental to attack that segment.
Things started off well for this manufacturer once Mercedes began making cars, and considering that it was a local company, it sourced the tires from Continental. This put the company on the radar and helped it reach the level of popularity it has today.
Let’s be honest, being among the first isn’t the only reason why Continental is considered among the best tire manufacturers today. Over the years, the company has been working on improving its products and technologies, which through research and development, helped reshape the tire industry.
Everything that Continental has achieved has also been put to the test in racing. Throughout its history, this manufacturer took part in plenty of popular racing series like Formula 1, quite a long time ago, IMSA, Extreme E, and some of its own series like the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge. Also, this manufacturer is also still very active in the bicycle industry, so there are racing tires from that aspect.
It’s clear that Continental has achieved a lot over the years, which is why it’s on top with Michelin and the rest of the pack.
Continental’s Tire Families
Continental is quite similar to Michelin in many ways, one of which is how the tires are grouped. As a result, the families of tires are set up pretty standardly.
As you can probably guess from the name, the SportContact family of tires are the ones that are the direct competitors of the Pilot ones from Michelin. These are the options you’ll be looking at for maximum grip and traction, so you’ll be giving up a bit on the comfort and noise levels.
The latest addition from a few months ago in this family of tires is the SportContact 7, which I’ve already praised as the best UHP tire on the market today. Continental also still offers the SportContact 6, which may not be as good as the newer model, but it can be a good bargain if it’s at a discount. Both of these are summer options that can be fitted to passenger cars and CUVs, and SUVs.
Continuing with the performance-oriented models from Continental’s lineup, we have the ExtremeContact tires. Even though these are designed with slightly different technologies and the set of features may not be identical, the end result is the same – maximum performance.
Unlike the previous family, with the ExtremeContact one, you have summer and all-season tires, so it covers a broader group. On the summer side of things, you have the models like the DW, Sport, and Force, which are designed for passenger cars only. For the all-season segment, there is only the DWS 06, a model that covers everything from passenger cars to light trucks.
For driving in winter, Continental has a separate family of tires that deliver performance in those conditions. The WinterContact tires are designed to handle snow and cold weather while delivering superb performance with some slight touring-like properties.
There are plenty of options to choose from here. The TS 870 and TS 870 P are the latest addition to this lineup, but the older models like the TS 860, TS 860 S, TS 850, TS 850 P, or TS 830 P are still available. Depending on the model, it can be either for a passenger car only or a combination of CUVs, SUVs, and passenger cars. Since these models are studless, the performance on ice may be a bit limited.
In many ways, the VikingContact family of tires is similar to the WinterContact ones but with slightly different performance. While the previous family is leaning a bit towards the performance side, this one is more touring-oriented.
For this family, you don’t have too many models to choose from. The only ones available are the VikingContact 7 and 6, with the first being the newer one. These are set up to be a bit more comfortable than the previous family, and like those, they can be fitted to passenger cars, CUVs, and SUVs.
If ice performance is what you’re after, the IceContact tires are the ones to look at. In many ways, these models are similar to the VikingContact as they can be considered to be touring ones, but with the added benefit of delivering improved performance on ice.
There are only two models here as well, the 2 and 3, meaning that the one with the bigger number is the newer option. Like with the previous family, these studded tires can be fitted to a wide range of vehicles, so even though there aren’t too many models, the options are quite flexible.
Most manufacturers have a separate family of tires that cover the CUV, SUV, and light truck segment, and for Continental, that’s the CrossContact models. These tires cover a wider range of applications, so owners of larger vehicles can stick with this group of models.
The only summer option you’ll find here is the UHP, which, based on the name, is the performance-oriented model. There is a similar option with all-season properties called LX Sport, but it’s still more towards the touring side. For the rest of the pack, you have LX20, LX25, or RX, which are the most common options people would go for. There is also an all-terrain model, the ATR, and for winter driving, Continental still has the ContiCrossContact Winter.
Since Continental is all about sustainability and being green, it designed a separate family of tires focusing on reducing rolling resistance. As a result, these models help lower fuel consumption, thus reducing CO2 emissions. Despite that, they are still very good performers in the touring market.
The oldest model in this group is the 3, which can only be fitted to passenger tires, even older ones with smaller wheels. Next up are 5, 6, and 6 Q, models that come in a wider size range, covering the CUV and SUV segment. One thing to note here is that all models in the EcoContact range are summer tires.
We’ve seen plenty of overlaps with tire manufacturers, and the same can be said about the PremiumContact. Continental sells these as luxury touring tires, meaning that refinement plays a key role without a massive sacrifice in performance and handling.
In this lineup of tires, there are 3 models still offered by Continental, 2, 5, and 6. The first one is a passenger only, while the other two can be fitted to some SUVs and CUVs, meaning that things are more flexible. Like the previous family of tires, these come only in summer variants.
The rise of electrified cars, regardless if they’re hybrids or fully electric, opened the door for Continental to show what it can do for them, and the result is Conti.eContact. These tires reduce the rolling resistance without downgrading the performance in other areas. In many ways, they are similar to the EcoContact tires.
There are two models available, one for hybrid cars and the other one for electric, while both being summer tires. As for applications, unfortunately, these only cover the passenger cars, so SUV owners will need to look elsewhere.
This is a group of several families that Continental sells for commercial purposes, primarily vans. Despite that, some of these can get fitted to SUVs or light trucks, so I’ll mention them as well. Considering that they come from multiple families means that they cover pretty much the entire segment.
There are loads of models here, and for the most part, you’re looking at summer tires. You can also find a few winter ones, but there aren’t any all-season models. In terms of the features, these are more or less touring tires, but some slightly various applications.
Differences Between Michelin and Continental
It’s no secret that bot manufacturers offer superb performance, so the differences wouldn’t be massive. With that said, there may be situations where one or the other may be a bit better for specific situations.
Starting off with the performance, Michelin and Continental a tied very close together, regardless of what type of tire you want to compare. With that said, recently, I found that Continental stepped up the game.
In the performance segment, the premium manufacturers are battling fiercely, so the tires will be very close. In the summer UHP segment, Continental’s latest addition, the SportContact 7, outperforms the Pilot Sport 4s in almost every scenario. In grip, traction, and handling, the German tire delivers better results, setting the new benchmark regardless of whether it’s dry or wet. It does fall behind the French tire a bit in the aquaplaning resistance, but it’s still an excellent package.
The differences in the summer touring tires aren’t as significant, but Continental still manages to hold on with Michelin’s options. When you compare the EcoContact 6 with the CrossClimate+ and Primacy 4 you’ll notice a pattern. In dry braking, both of Michelin’s tires are falling slightly behind Continental’s model, while it falls a bit behind in wet conditions. This changes with the EcoContact 6 Q, which improves over its predecessor, closing the gap between the Michelin models.
Since both manufacturers have performance all-season tires, it’s natural to compare the ExtremeContact DWS 06 with the Pilot Sport All-Season 4. Across the board, the Michelin tire is slightly better than the Continental one, except in wet handling, where the DWS 06 feels a bit more planted. Another area where this tire is slightly better than the Pilot Sport All-Season 4 is refinement, where the tire is a bit more comfortable and quieter.
Considering that you can find performance-oriented tires even in the winter segment, the WinterContact TS 870 P goes up against the Pilot Alpin 5. The Michelin tire is a bit better both in braking and traction on dry roads, while on wet roads, the results are mixed. In an emergency braking situation, the Continental option stops in a shorter distance than the Michelin one, while in the handling department, the performance is reversed. Snow performance is very close, almost to a point where you may not even notice any differences unless you are looking for it.
A bit of a mixed bag are the results even when you compare two studdable tires – the IceContact 3 and the X-Ice North 4. The dry braking of the Continental tire is a bit handicapped, and it’s quite behind the Michelin tire, while for wet conditions, the IceContact 3 stops shorter than the North 4. With the studs on, a noticeable difference can be found in ice performance, where the French tire offers better results. On the other hand, in snowy conditions, things are much closer.
Continental and Michelin both are doing very well in terms of available options. Comparing the families, you can see that both manufacturers offer more or less similar types of tires.
When it comes to the actual models, I’d have to say that Continental manages to get ahead of Michelin. I’m not saying that the French manufacturer has poor options, but Continental seems to offer a bit more, regardless of which category you’re looking at.
To be honest, the differences are not big, and whichever you go for, you won’t have any problems finding the right one. One area where I have to give Continental credit for is that you can find smaller sizes, so people with older cars may benefit from that. Michelin has a few models with those sizes, but the choices aren’t as extensive.
Continental is known for being a premium manufacturer and a bit more affordable one. It’s not like you can expect the prices to be half of what Michelin has to offer, but for the most part, you should expect to get slightly lower prices.
The PureContact LS and CrossClimate 2 are both excellent grand touring all-season tires, and the Continental one is slightly cheaper. A 16 inch model with identical sizes, load, and speed ratings comes with an almost $30 price difference. A more noticeable difference can be seen when comparing the CrossContact RX with the Premier LTX. The Michelin Model is over $40 more expensive than the Continental tire, but for a 19-inch model.
In the winter segment, the VikingContact 7 is a little under $20 cheaper than the X-Ice Xi3. The sizes of both models are identical, but the Continental tire has a slightly higher load rating.
Both brands aren’t too known for being extra flexible with off-road capable tires, but there are some models available, like the TerrainContact A/T and the LTX A/T 2. The Michelin is again the more expensive tire, and for a 16-inch model, you’re looking at roughly a $30 difference.
When it comes to warranty, we can see mixed results favoring both brands in various situations.
The all-terrain options I just mentioned are identical, and both tires come with a 60,000-mile treadwear warranty. On the other hand, in the CrossClimate 2 vs. PureContact LS duel, you have a 70,000-mile treadwear warranty with the Continental tire, while only 60,000-miles with the Michelin one.
In the summer performance options for the SUV segment, things favor Michelin. The CrossContact UHP has a treadwear warranty, while the Pilot Sport 4 SUV comes with a 20,000-mile warranty.
There is no clear winner here, as there are options where Continental is a better offer, while in other cases, Michelin comes up ahead.
Advantages of Michelin
- Some models may offer a bit better performance
- Available warranty for some models where Continental offers none
- A slight advantage in the handling department in some of the UHP tires
Advantages of Continental
- More affordable option
- Some models come with a longer treadwear warranty
- Slightly wider options even for smaller cars
Which Brand Should You Choose?
Considering how close things are between Michelin and Continental, it’s almost impossible to say which brand is better or worse, so I’ll keep this section brief.
Continental is a bit more affordable, so this manufacturer is the one to look at if you’re after a better bang for the buck. On top of that, you also have slightly more options than Michelin, so if these two things are what you’re after, you won’t make a mistake.
On the other hand, Michelin is a manufacturer that can deliver tires with a bit better performance in some conditions. With better performance, you also have a slightly higher price tag, so if the budget isn’t your priority, you won’t go wrong with this manufacturer.
Even if I had to get new tires today, I’d struggle to decide which brand to choose. This is the main reason why I always recommend making a comparison between several models and deciding which one would be the best option for you.