Originally Posted by Scott43
First off, rims of any diameter come in many widths. You can buy 17" rims that are narrow as well if you want to go that route. For the most part, the narrower the tire in snow the better. There are trade-offs on dry pavement obviously. Most people will drop down a rim diameter, partly for cheaper tires, partly for less chance of rim dings in pothole season. And they also generally drop a tire width or two as well for better traction in snow. You can go on a site like Tirerack.com and they'll give you the -1 options for going 16" and appropriate tire sizes. You do have to be careful that your car can actually drop a rim size. Sometimes you can't because of interference with the brakes for instance.
There are trade-offs going to 195 width..mostly dry traction. The interface between tire and roadway is not entirely understood. There is a "velcro-like" effect of hooks and receivers. You lose some of this by going to a narrower tire. And narrower tires obviously could overheat more quickly were you to hoon around in warmer weather.
I think the most important difference is getting a softer compound tire. The slush/water plus cold weather makes wet traction important and this is mostly a compound issue. So you will be trading off wear and tear regardless by getting a good winter tire.
And I don't think they make 200's...
I had been to TireRack quite a bit. It has the same problem as epic; all the information is there, but wading through it can be a chore. I decided to spend a bit of time dubbing around and came across this at their site:
Save Money While Enhancing Your Vehicle's Deep Snow Traction
Tire Rack's Preferred Winter Packages* often feature alternate sizes that combine smaller diameter wheels (that fit over the vehicle's Original Equipment brakes and within its wheelwell) with narrower, higher profile tires (that have equivalent load capacities and overall diameters). This not only promotes better deep snow traction, but also results in less expensive Winter / Snow Tire & Wheel Packages. An additional advantage higher profile tire sizes offer is they feature taller sidewalls and smaller diameter wheels that more easily resist damage associated with winter road hazards and early spring potholes.
Winter Tire and Wheel Packages are available for many vehicles. Select our Preferred Package* for your vehicle or build your own package today.
Winter tire sizes should be based on one of the following:
Your Vehicle's Original Equipment Tire and Wheel Size
While not offering a dimensional advantage, choosing winter tires and wheels in the Original Equipment size to seasonally replace the vehicle's Summer or All-Season tires will offer more traction in cold temperatures, slush, snow and ice thanks to the winter tire's tread design and compound that remains pliable in below-freezing and sub-zero temperatures.
The Tire and Wheel Size From Your Vehicle's Base Model
This is often an easy way to select an appropriate narrow tire for your car, van or truck. For example, a 2012 Honda Accord EX Sedan would store its original 225/50R17-sized tires in favor of the 2012 Honda Accord SE Sedan's 215/60R16-sized winter tires on 16" wheels. While only a small dimensional difference, this combination will reduce your cost while increasing your vehicle's wintertime traction.
A Minus Size Tire and Wheel
Minus Sizing uses traditional Plus Sizing techniques in reverse. It combines taller profile tires with smaller diameter wheels. For example, the owner of a 2012 Volkswagen Jetta SEL would store the original 225/45HR17-sized tires in favor of a Minus One 205/55R16-size on 16" wheels (where the wheel diameter is 1" smaller and the tire's sidewalls are ½" taller) or Minus Two 195/65R15-size on 15" wheels (where the wheel diameter is 2" smaller and the tire's sidewalls are 1" taller).
I think I'm going to go with the minus one and leave it at that. Getting steel rims cuts the cost for rims in half. I might even splurge for wheel covers .
Between theirs and Consumer Reports ratings for studless tires, I think I'm going with the Michelin Xi13. No tire is perfect but this seems to be a better match for where I drive and when/how I drive. Plus the have a 40K mile warranty.