Thanks everyone. We are in Philly and up until this year, I would have had snow wasn't much of a deal, but holy cow, this past year was insane. Believe it or not, even with 65k, even the guy at the dealer is saying we have tread left, but why wait for something to happen?
So, yes, snow is a concern and I just want a nice safe reliable tire for my wife. Obviously, she is an easy going driver who takes it easy on her tires! I'm not made of money, but for this I would spend more.
Can I ask another dumb question. Last year there was all that news about tire manufacture dates and dealers selling tires that had essentially been on the shelf for years. Is this something to be concerned about?
In NJ I loved the contiextremecontacts. But they may be more performance oriented than you want, however they're probably the best all season tire for snow use (aside from the nokian tires). and they're not too costly
My friend just put the altimax HP on his 06 forester, and I put a set on our prius, and they're quiet good all around. Very impressed with them so far and for the money you can't go wrong! They also seem to get good snow ratings, and they look cool too!
If you're willing to spend a little more the goodyear tripletred is one of my favorite tires for a non performance oriented driver. I'd call them the "perfect minivan tire" as they perform great on a family vehicle if gas mileage isn't your major concern.
Which factors are most important to you? Tread life, noise, ride quality, traction, gas mileage, snow traction, turn-in/handling etc seem to be the main factors that you have to balance in your price range. Usually if you go cheaper you sacrifice noise and tread life, I like trying different tires so I prefer to spend less on a tire thats going to last 30-40k (about a year or two for me) rather than more on one thats going to last 60-80k.
I've been really happy with continental/general's offerings in the all season high and ultra high performance varieties. I've never been particularly impressed with the big names for how much they cost.
Also definitely visit tirerack to do research, its probably one of the best resources even if you don't end up buying from them (I usually go with either tirerack or discount tire direct), I NEVER buy tires at the local places, but I do goto them for balancing/mounting (they just have no way of keeping the inventory that the big guys have but they're usually the best for service, I really don't like most of the big chain tire shops like ETD or firestone, never had a good experience)