In many cases snow socks for cars are a much better alternative to use vs tire chains and in this post I’d like to share why that is the case (and when it is not).
Quick info on snow socks for cars (aka snow chains):
- Name: Snow socks (also known as snow chains).
- Price: Varies from $50-$200 (my top snow socks recommendation).
- How many snow socks do you get per pack? 2.
- Better than tire chains? In some regards yes (more on that below).
- Easy to use? Yes, they are pretty easy to put on tires.
- How long do they last? Up to 100 or more miles depending on how they are used.
- Rating: 5 out of 5 (very good product to have for winter travel).
- Recommended? I do highly recommend them, but read below to see when to have them and when they’re not as useful as tire chains (or snow tires).
My personal experience with snow socks (snow chains):
I’ll admit, I always knew what snow tires and tire chains were, but I had never heard of snow socks until very recently while trying to get into Yosemite National Park. I travel a lot through nature and often rent different cars when doing so. There are times when I travel to places that:
- Have or had blizzards before and so the roads are snowed in and slippery.
- Rain hits and because of the cold temperatures, the road ices over.
- Maybe there’s a combination of snow and ice on the road to be careful of.
- Places where the higher the elevation gets, the colder the temperatures get and that causes ice and snow to form on roads.
- There are times when I don’t even expect snow or ice to be an issue, but because of the nature of my travels, it can pop up at random times so having them on hand is massive.
And in some of these places I visit, having tire chains or snow socks becomes a necessary asset to keeping you safe. In my case, the day I wanted to visit Yosemite, a massive rain storm hit a day earlier and because of the temperature drop, turned into ice there. The national park put in requirements to have them on you when driving on the roads and at the time, I wasn’t prepared because I didn’t expect this bad weather to hit.
What followed was a huge waste of time looking for the “right” tire chains while I’ll talk about earlier, but the ones for my car’s tire size were not available.
After looking at 5 different places and wasting many hours off my day trip to Yosemite, I finally settled on snow socks. Ever since, I learned of their value and will explain more in a moment as to why I recommend you have them too so you don’t end up wasting time like I did when they were needed.
What are snow socks for cars? A beginners guide:
They are basically a “bag” made up of thick material that you wrap around your tires.
They are easy to install and are designed to basically protect your tire and because of the material, when you drive through snow or ice with them on, they stick to it better making the drive safer than if you didn’t use them.
Depending on the size, snow socks for cars can cost anywhere from $50-$200.
Snow socks vs tire chains. What’s better for your car?
It depends on the circumstances and I have a few of them listed here which will help you determine that. First:
When snow socks are better for cars than tire chains (6 circumstances):
1) Snow socks weigh less than tire chains:
I actually own a pair of tire chains (I got them after trying to visit Sequoia National Park during the winter, bad idea) and snow socks, and I’ll tell you what: I prefer to keep snow socks (they weight about 1 pound) on me when I travel way more than the heavy tire chains which weigh about 10 pounds.
Because they’re easier to carry, it’s just more convenient for me.
2) Snow socks are easier to install than tire chains:
Tire chains are not exactly difficult to install, but snow socks have a much easier installation process than tire chains. You just wrap them around your wheels and that set up process goes by way quicker. Tire chains involve more careful installation and sometimes moving your car around to properly test if they are installed correctly.
3) Snow socks can be applied to more tire sizes. Tire chains are more limited.
What I discovered when I had to get tire chains to enter Yosemite National Park was that I couldn’t just get any tire chains, but I had to get specific ones that would fit the wheels on the car I was driving. That made me have to go through 5 different places, and none of them had the right size for my car. However with snow socks, I had much more flexibility as to which ones I could get.
There are 6 categories of snow sock sizes for cars to my knowledge (it starts at size 52 and goes up to 72) and in each category you can install them on dozens of different tire sizes, giving you more flexibility with them.
With tire chains, it’s way more specific to the type of tire size you have.
So if you are in a situation where you are in need of tire chains or snow socks, there’s a much better chance you’ll find the right snow socks for them instead of tire chains.
4) Snow socks are better to use if you often rent cars:
I travel to different areas for nature exploration and I often rent different cars (typically SUV vehicles), but their tire sizes are almost always different. I can’t rely on one tire chain size to fit the different cars I get when I travel (plus it’s just a lot of extra weight).
Having snow socks on me when I travel makes it much more likely I’ll have the right size (because they can fit more tire sizes) for the vehicle I rent.
5) Snow chains/socks are easier to find in emergency situations:
Aside from my Yosemite situation, in general when snow storms hit and you’re in a touristy area, tire chains get bought up very quickly (that’s considering they are even lucky to find the right ones to fit their tires), and snow socks are just much prevalent to find in these circumstances.
6) Snow socks won’t damage your tires:
Tire chains when improperly installed and/or used in situations where snow and ice isn’t a problem (maybe you’re in a situation where snow, ice and clean pavement are mixed), then it can damage your tires. Snow socks do not damage tires. Click here to check out my top rated snow socks for cars.
When tire chains are better for cars than snow socks (3 circumstances):
1) Tire chains are better in the long run to have:
Tire chains are made of metal and more resilient material and you can use them for a lot longer than snow socks. The snow socks can last you for many miles of travel but that is in large park dependent on how you use them.
If you drive aggressively or over roads where the friction against the road, ice or snow is high, they won’t last as long and I have been told they can last at last 50 miles. Tire chains however can last way longer.
If you live in areas where snow is very common, tire chains might be a better investment for that. Snow socks can also tear if you incorrectly install them or pull on them too hard. Remember this is not a material that is meant to last forever.
2) Tire chains are better if you own your own car and use it often in snow:
Your circumstances might be completely different than mine. I travel and rent different cars so for me, snow socks are a much better asset to have, but if you don’t travel and rent cars, and use the same vehicle (especially a high clearance one), then it’s better to invest in tire chains for that specific vehicle’s tire size.
3) Tire chains can be cheaper:
Tire chain prices can vary from $30 to $100+ depending where you get them, what the demand is (typically when everyone needs them at the same time, the prices for them jump up).
Personally, I would let the price of tire chains or snow socks be the reason you decide on one or the other because after all, it is your safety in this case.
Snow socks vs snow tires:
Snow tires are very different than snow socks and tire chains and just in case you’re new, snow tires are literal tires that are meant to be used in snow and similar environments. They are expensive since you need to get more than 1 tire if you intend to use them, but they do last longer than snow tires, but in general they both give you the same benefits.
You may not always have the luxury of having snow tires handy if the situation calls for it, so in this case having snow socks or tire chains handy would be a better “fit” for you.
Here is a snow socks for cars size chart:
I do recommend having 1 pair (or 2) of snow socks (snow chains) handy in case they are required and typically here is how you identify if you’re getting the right sized ones for your tires:
- Get the size of your tire (the number is listed on them).
- Match the tire size with the snow sock sizing chart I’m including here.
- Get the right sized snow socks for your tires.
What are the best snow chains for tires?
I have looked around Amazon and other places with the best reviews for snow socks.
Currently the best snow chains for tires (snow socks) that come up are these Textile Snow Chains. They have the most/highest reviews and the most size options available.
Click here to see the reviews for ISSE Textile snow chains.
My conclusions on snow socks for cars:
I personally think snow socks are a necessary item to keep in your car and especially if you travel and rent different kinds of cars. They are light, easy to install and if a situation should occur in which snow fall occurs, it’s better to have them just in case.
I’ve had situations aside from the Yosemite National Park one which were much worse many years before I even knew what snow socks were.
Here’s some other personal examples:
1) I was driving to the Oregon Coast during a season when blizzards are not known to hit, and yet I had 3 of them pop up in a weeks time.
As I was driving very slowly on the roads, I constantly saw car after car off the side and in ditches and had I known at the time that snow socks existed, I would have definitely invested in at least 1 pair of them!
2) I actually got into a car accident when I was up in Mont Tremblant for New Years (it literally happened January 1st). An icy road at night and a sharp turn in the wrong area had my car lose control and hit a snow wall. Luckily the car and I were OK, but there was major damage that I had to fix later.
3) I like to do day hikes near NYC and sometimes they happen when it’s cold. When you’re in the mountains (like the Catskill Mountains here), bad weather can hit very quickly and with low temperatures, the odds of icy roads get high quickly.
Now I’m happy to say that I do have them handy and feel much safer traveling in cold places where snow and ice are likely to pop up.