Snow Socks have grown in popularity in recent years, largely due to their being marketed as easier to fit and handle. We would agree that they are easier to handle, but not necessarily to fit. Another issue is price - although you would expect socks to be cheaper, a little research shows that budget snow chains for most passenger cars cost around the same (£30-£70). Note: premium chains and those for limited clearance or large vehicles can be significantly more.
So, here is our summary of the pro's and con's:
- Light & thin (fit limited clearance vehicles)
- Foldable (to a smaller size)
- Cheaper (sometimes)
- Best for traction
- Harder wearing
- Fit without moving the vehicle*1
- Less traction (especially on ice)
- More prone to wear/tear
- Requires moving the vehicle to fit
- Can be a fiddle to fit/untangle
- Can damage chain or vehicle if incorrectly fitted
- Importance of chain suitability for vehicle*2
- Car Chains: Mild-Steel from £35.96; High-Tensile Steel from £62.96
- SUV/4x4 Chains: Mild-Steel from £89.96; High-Tensile Steel from £125.96
As a piece of textile, socks are of course lighter and they don't tend to get tangled like chains can - but chains can always be untangled, while a torn/worn sock may prove useless.
In terms of meeting the legal requirements in places where chains are compulsory, socks are not always a recognised alternative. However, this remains a grey area and we have received reports where the authorities have allowed people to pass with socks, equally there are similar reports of people being severely delayed because they are not allowed to pass with socks alone if conditions warrant it. This situation persists despite the fact that socks have achieved the relevant certifications. Our view is that if you can fit affordable chains for your vehicle, then that's the safer option.
The larger the vehicle and longer the journey the wiser it is to choose a chain over a sock because chains give more traction and are harder wearing (i.e. more reliable), thus large commercial vehicles more often use chains. The same applies if it's icy - socks do not perform well on ice.
*1. Quick-fit chains are the norm for cars, vans and 4x4s but not for commercial vehicles (such as coaches and trucks/lorries) which more commonly do require you to drive onto the chains. Even quick-fit chains require you to move the vehicle to remove them (if the car is on top of any part of the chain you will need to drive off any parts trapped under the wheel).
*2. Chain suitability meaning size/strength for the weight/power of the vehicle, taking into account the clearance (space) around the wheels (more on this in our FAQs).