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Confused between Winter Tires or All-Season Tires or All-Weather tires?

Wondering if your car needs Winter Tires or All-Season Tires or All-Weather Tires? A deep dive by our experts to resolve your confusion.

Whenever one decides to buy a new car or a used one, few dealers always try to push and upsell all-season tires. The argument they give is intuitive and may sound logical then, from a purely economic perspective. However, you need to ask yourself these two questions: Which location will I be driving the most? Secondly, what is essential for me - economics or safety.

But even before we ask ourselves this, let us first find out the difference between winter and all-season and all-weather tires.

Key Difference


As the name suggests, winter tires are for the Winters. However, winter here means weather where it SNOWS. If the place you live has cold weather, but it doesn’t snow, voila, it does not fit in the definition of winter.


The two significant differences between winter, all-season, and all-weather tires are the rubber compound they are made up of and their tread design Winter tires have soft rubber that provides extra grip on the snowy surface. All-season tires harden during extreme weather and tend to slip quite often. In contrast, all-weather can withstand mild winter conditions and heavy rainfalls.

Winter Tires Vs. All Seasons Tires Vs. All Weather Tires
Weather vs. Tire Recommendations

The second difference is the tread pattern.  In layman terms, tread means the design on the surface of tires (refer image below). Each design has some relevance and scientific research behind it. But that’s something which we will discuss in our other blog post. The significant difference in tread pattern is the numerous narrowly designed cuts winter tires have on their surface that helps cut through the snow and provide an extra grip. Thus, cars having winter tires are more stable when driven in snow. However, it does not mean that one can drive faster in the snow!

Tire Treads based on weather conditions
Source: OK Tire

One question often pops up – if winter tires can skid, how about owning studded tires?

Studded Tires
Metal studs being shown in Studded Tires.
Image Source: wheels.ca

As you can see in the image above, Studded tires have metal studs embedded within the treads, which provide added traction and grip in snow compared to regular snow tires. However, they do the risk of damaging the roads if used when it doesn’t snow. The technology of studded tires has revolutionized, and they are much safer and efficient now. But some laws govern their use. For example, studded tires attract fines in Southern Ontario, whereas in other regions, such as Nova Scotia, one cannot use studded tires between May 1 and Sept 30. Our Dr Car expert mechanics will always advise their use and legality before installation.


Coming back to our basic questions on location and economics:

Location

Winter weather condition for driving
Winter conditions on the road.
Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash


All-season tire is the right decision if you end up driving at a location where weather may become dry and cold – but does NOT snow and weather stays above 7 degrees Celsius. So generally speaking, Canada is not the country where you would want to fit all-season tires. But then there's Vancouver! And the thought is a provoking one. Though, there's no snow in Vancouver. Does that mean one doesn't need a winter tire? It is true if one only plans to drive all around the Lower Mainland and southeastern Vancouver Island. But, if one plans to even visit, say, Whistler to ski, winter tires are MUST for highways.

Economics

How snow determine what tires to install
Rule of thumb for winter tires.

Irrespective of the weather conditions, car owners are often motivated by the economics of owning an all-season tire (or all-weather). Let's try to break this myth:

Assuming a tire's average life is 40,000 KM, one drives 10,000KM every year, and each season lasts 6 months.

The average cost of owning All-Season tires – $600

Life in terms of years – 4 years (i.e. 8 seasons)


No tire change cost | No tire storage cost | No wasting time finding a mechanic | No waiting at auto-shop


The average cost of owning Winter-tires – $600

Plus, the average tire change cost per season – $100

Tire Storage cost per season – $80

Summer tires + Winter Tires will last ---> 16 seasons (i.e. 40K KM – 5000 KM each season)


Additional cost for Winter Tires – (100*16+80*16) ---> $2,880 over the period of 8 years with given set of assumptions.


Intuitively, it makes sense to own All-Season tires. However, some intangibles come into the picture while taking this decision. And it's the safety and the cost of insurance!

Considering the harsh weather conditions in Canada, insurance generally provides a 5% discount if one uses winter tires. And with an average cost of insurance in GTA being around $1600, 5% means $80 every year.


Thus, your cost comes down from $2,880 to $2,240 over a period of 8 years.


Now, one should never put a value on safety. However, to put in context, if a car slides because of regular or all-season tires and gets into an accident, not only you risk yourself and others, but also cost of insurance will shoot up way beyond $280 every year (which is $2,240 over the 8 years).


Therefore, we recommend always valuing your lives more than anything. And in a country like Canada, Winter Tire is the answer.