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Are 17 or 18 Inch Wheels Better in Snow? A Comprehensive Comparison

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Wintertime may make driving difficult, particularly in areas that get a lot of snowfall. One of the most important choices drivers must make to guarantee both safety and best performance from their cars is selecting the appropriate wheel size. Wheels of 17 and 18 inches are among the most often used options; each has its benefits and disadvantages for winter driving. Azara Wheels offer a variety of sizes and styles suitable for winter conditions. This page examines the elements affecting how well certain wheel sizes perform in snow and offers a detailed comparison to enable you to choose wisely.

Understanding Wheel Sizes

A wheel’s diameter and width define its size. Whereas the breadth is the distance across the wheel, the diameter is measured from one end to the other. The handling, stability, and traction of the car are among the aspects of driving performance that these measurements affect overall. For added cushioning, smaller wheels—like 17 inches—usually feature a larger profile tire. Conversely, lower profile tires that come with bigger wheels—like 18 inches—can impair the car’s ability to react to changing road conditions.

Factors to Consider for Snow Driving

To drive on snowy surfaces safely, one has to have great grip and traction. Regarding these elements, wheel size is quite important. The contact patch of the tire—the portion of the tire that makes contact with the ground—determines traction in major part. Better grip—which is necessary to keep control in snowy conditions—usually comes with a larger contact patch. Another important aspect is stability; larger wheels may be more likely to hydroplane even though they can offer more support. Performance in snow is also greatly influenced by the kind of tire and its tread pattern. 17 and 18-inch wheels can be much improved in performance by winter tires, which are made especially for cold weather.

Pros and Cons of 17 Inch Wheels in Snow

The fact that 17-inch wheels work well with larger profile tires makes them popular for winter driving. With their greater cushioning effect, these tires can withstand the usual wintertime hits from potholes and rough road conditions. Better deflection of mud and snow made possible by the higher sidewall height also enhances traction. Better grip and handling are also provided by the narrower 17-inch wheels’ ability to cut through snow.

Still, 17-inch wheels are not without their disadvantages. Because of the higher sidewalls, they may handle less precisely than bigger wheels when cornering. Furthermore, the cushioning effect might somewhat lessen the response of the car even if it is good for comfort. These few drawbacks aside, 17-inch wheels are still a popular option because of their general dependability and performance in snowy weather.

Pros and Cons of 18 Inch Wheels in Snow

Winter driving presents a new set of benefits and difficulties when 18-inch wheels are combined with lower profile tires. Better handling and stability are two big benefits. Less flexing of the tires during corners due to their lower sidewalls translates into more accurate steering and improved road feedback. Where control is critical, this can be especially helpful on icy or compacted snow conditions.

On the down side, smaller profile tires on 18-inch wheels could not be able to absorb road irregularities as well as 17-inch wheels. Riding on roads clogged with potholes and other wintertime debris can be more difficult as a result. While the larger contact patch is good for stability, in slushy weather it could potentially make hydroplaning more likely. Furthermore, the traction may be reduced if the lower profile tires are less effective in deflecting snow. Even with these drawbacks, 18-inch wheels are valued for their improved handling and fashionable look.

Performance Comparison

Because 17-inch wheels may employ larger profile tires, they typically have an advantage when it comes to traction and grip in snow and ice situations. Grip is improved by the bigger surface area these tires have to make contact with the ground. The lower profile tires on 18-inch wheels, however, lessen sidewall flex and offer more accurate steering, making handling and stability often better.

There can be little but noticeable variations in stopping distance and braking ability between 17 and 18-inch wheels. Because of the larger profile tires’ enhanced traction on snowy roads, 17-inch wheels might brake better. On slippery roads, where exact control is essential, 18-inch wheels may, however, provide shorter stopping distances.

Wheel size also affects comfort of the ride and fuel economy. Generally speaking, 17-inch wheels can help with fuel economy because of their reduced weight and lower rolling resistance and higher profile tires. They absorb more of the flaws in the road and provide a more comfortable ride. On the other side, 18-inch wheels provide better handling and stability, which may somewhat lower fuel economy.

Expert Opinions and Studies

Often, winter driving specialists and automotive experts stress that tire selection is more important than wheel size. Research shows that although wheel size affects performance, the kind of tire is significantly more important. Specifically made for snow and ice, winter tires can greatly improve the performance of 17- and 18-inch wheels.

Because 17-inch wheels offer better traction and comfort, experts advise them to be the best option for areas with regular heavy snowfall. Better control and stability, however, may come from 18-inch wheels fitted with suitable winter tires in places where roads are more likely to be icy or where precise handling is essential.

These results are also emphasized by actual driver experiences. While 18-inch wheels work well in ice and mixed winter conditions where handling accuracy is critical, many drivers find that 17-inch wheels offer a smoother and more controllable ride in deep snow.

Tire Selection and Compatibility

Maximizing the performance of your wheels in snow requires careful choice of winter tires. Winter tires offer better grip and handling because of their unique tread patterns and rubber compounds that keep flexible in colder weather. Find tires with wide grooves and deep tread patterns on 17-inch wheels to direct snow and slush away from the contact patch. Well-known manufacturers, renowned for their excellent winter tires, are Michelin, Bridgestone, and Continental.

Lower profile winter tires are a must for 18-inch wheels. For the demands of winter driving, these tires should feature strengthened sidewalls and aggressive tread patterns. For 18-inch wheels, brands like Pirelli, Nokian, and Goodyear provide great choices that strike a mix between handling accuracy, durability, and traction.

Among the compatibility factors are making sure the wheels and tires fit your car properly without creating clearance problems. Maintaining the right tire pressure is particularly crucial as, in the winter, this can have a big impact on performance.

Cost Considerations

Selecting between 17 and 18-inch wheels for winter driving also involves cost. Generally speaking, 17-inch wheels and tires are less expensive than 18-inch ones. The more durable higher profile tires that go with 17-inch wheels can result in less expensive long-term maintenance bills.

By comparison, low-profile tires and 18-inch wheels might be more expensive initially and over time. Driven on slick winter roads, in particular, the lower profile tires may wear out more quickly and require more frequent repairs. Still, the expense of 18-inch wheels and premium winter tires can be justified for drivers who value handling and performance.


Your particular requirements and driving circumstances will eventually determine which of the 17 and 18-inch wheels you should use for snow driving. For regions with a lot of snowfall and poor road conditions, 17-inch wheels are a great option because of their exceptional traction, comfort, and price. But 18-inch wheels offer better handling, stability, and a more accurate driving experience—perfect for areas with slippery roads or where performance is crucial.

Choosing the appropriate winter tires and weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each wheel size will help you to maximize the performance and safety of your car in the winter. Choosing 17-inch wheels for comfort and traction or 18-inch wheels for handling precision can greatly improve your winter driving experience.

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