Informational Guide

Tire Chains Vs Cables

With some places in the U.S. getting an average of 645 inches of snowfall a year, you need to know how to provide optimal traction on the road. To do this, you want to decide between tire chains vs. cables. Understanding the differences helps you pick from the tire chains or cables before you head out in the snow.  

Car Type 

When it comes to tire cables vs. chains, you must first look at the type of car you drive. There’s normally enough clearance in the wheel arch for cables and chains on SUVs or trucks, but that might not be the case with a coupe or sedan.  

Cables might take up less room and be easier to install without an excessive amount of clearance. However, if you have a larger vehicle, you could easily get away with either option.  

Snow Depth 

Deciding between cable chains vs. tire chains requires you to examine what type of snow you get. If you are only driving in a minimal amount of snow, you will be fine with special tires. However, as it gets deeper, you need cables or chains.  

Cables are better to get a little boost in traction, but chains are meant for heavy-duty needs. The cables are thinner material, so they aren’t going to help in heavy snow the same way the chains will.  

Quality & Durability 

There’s a big difference between the durability of cable tire chains vs. chains. If you are only using them sporadically, the cables might hold up okay and be worth your money. However, the snow chains are much more durable, making them possible to use continually without worry. 

Of course, when you choose chains or cables, you want to make sure you are picking a brand that’s worth the investment. Read through customer reviews to evaluate the quality.  

Ease of Use 

Looking at the tire cables vs. tire chains, you need to look at which is easier to use. In general, the tire cable is going to provide an easier, seamless experience. If you don’t need added traction often, you will probably prefer the flexibility of the cable design. 

On the other hand, tire chains might be more of a pain to use, they are better for long-term or heavy-duty usage. You will want the peace of mind that comes with these heavier options.  

Ease of Installation 

With the tire chains vs. tire cables, you can install either option, but the cables are definitely easier to get on. If you don’t have a lot of experience working with these snow options, you will prefer the ease of cables.  

If you have a little patience or expertise, you can get the chains on with a little more time. You might also prefer to have a professional help you with the installation.  

Local Laws & Regulations 

You must also look at the legality of cable vs. chains for tires. For the most part, you won’t run into trouble using snow cables on your tires, although some local laws might be different. On the other hand, tire chains are illegal in several places. 

Tire chains can cause damage when not used properly. Cities and states don’t want to deal with the damage caused to the roads, so local governments outlaw them.  


The price is also quite different between the cable vs. link tire chains. If you aren’t using them often and you want to keep the cost down, it’s best to choose tire cables. These rubber materials are priced far less than the comparable chain. 

However, if you are using them often, you could go through several pairs of tire cables that would have paid for a more reliable set of chains. It’s important to outweigh the usage with the costs to determine what’s best for you. 

Tire Chains Vs. Cables

What Are Tire Chains & How Do They Work? 

Starting with the chains in the car tire cables vs. chains debate, we see these provide optimal traction and are heavy-duty. However, they can be illegal in certain states, so you must do your research before you opt for this solution. 

How Do Tire Chains Work

The tire chain should be used when you are driving in deep snow because it’s going to provide better traction than the cables can. Still, you must take into account that the tire chain is created from a more durable material, which also increases the cost.  

If you have an SUV or truck, there should be plenty of room to install a set of tire chains. However, you may need professional help getting these on as they aren't that easy to install. Also, while the chains shouldn't damage the tire, they can do a number on streets when not used properly.   


  • Cheaper than snow tires 
  • Provide superior traction in deep snow 
  • Heavy-duty construction provides durability 
  • Fit SUVs and trucks well 
  • Won’t damage tires 


  • Can’t be used on dry roads 
  • Must drive slower 
  • Difficult to install  
  • Illegal in some areas 

What Are Tire Cables? (Main Benefits Explained) 

Let’s look at the cables in the comparison of snow tire cables vs. chains. The cables have a similar design to the chains, but they aren’t as heavy-duty. They have a similar appearance, but instead of being created with chains, the steel cables are encased in alloy. You can find many sizes designed to fit a variety of vehicles. 

What Are Tire Cables

For the most part, tire cables aren’t illegal. Plus, you can install them yourself, making them a much cheaper option than both snow tires and snow chains. You can also take them off as soon as you hit roads without deeper snow. With that in mind, they don’t operate as well as the chains when the snow gets really deep or hard to get through.  

These also aren’t going to last as long as the snow chain. If you don’t plan to use them a lot, you might be able to get away with the cable, but keep in mind you might need to buy more sooner than you planned on.  


  • Cheaper 
  • Typically legal 
  • Fit a variety of vehicles 
  • Simple installation 


  • Not as durable 
  • Not for deep snow 

Frequently Asked Tire Chains & Cables Questions 

Do I need tire chains for all 4 tires? 

You only need tire chains on the ones that drive. If you have a two-wheel-drive vehicle, the chains will go either in the front or back, depending on the configuration. If your car is four-wheel drive, you should put them on all four tires.  

How fast can you drive on tire chains? 

Tire chains are meant to be used at slower speeds. You shouldn’t exceed 30 mph while using them to protect your safety and should probably go even slower than that when possible.  

How fast can I drive with snow cables on? 

While snow cables aren’t as durable as snow chains, you can still follow the same speed guidelines. Try to keep the speed under 30 mph while using snow cables on the tires. 

Where do you put snow chains on an all-wheel-drive vehicle? 

You want chains on every tire that drives on the vehicle. With an all-wheel-drive vehicle, all four wheels can be driven, so you want to put chains on each of the four tires to be safe. 


What is the difference between tire chains and cables? Our tire chain vs. cable comparison shows you when to use each option and which is better for various conditions. Stay safe in the winter weather and gain more traction for a better drive.