Buying Snow Tires – What You Need to Know
Buying snow tires is something I have debated and put off for a couple of winter seasons now. Last year I got new all-season tires in the spring and assumed they’d get me through the winter. It wasn’t a super snowy year, but there were a few challenging winter road trips, especially on our annual trip to Vermont. This year with all the snow in the forecast, and the number of ski road trips we take, I knew I needed them so I started shopping months ago.
I had so many questions initially. Are they worth the money? What kind should I buy? Which snow tires are best with my type of vehicle? There are all sorts of things to think about when buying snow tires. Not everyone needs them, but odds are good if you live in Ontario, or most of the Canadian provinces, then you need good snow tires. This year we opted for Michelin X-Ice Xi3 winter tires. The Michelin X-Ice Xi3 winter tires are recommended for winter weather everywhere where temperature consistently reaches below zero degrees or freezing. Here’s what to look for if you need to buy winter snow tires.
Buying Snow Tires – Do You Need Them?
Snow tires are for snowy, icy, cold weather conditions. So the first question to ask yourself is do you actually need snow tires? If you live in Ontario like I do, the answer is a resounding yes. Ontario is a winter wonderland from December to March. Slippery and snowy and cold. We get snow and ice and all the other wonderful winter stuff that makes driving during the winter treacherous.
Perhaps you think: “Well, we get next to no snow or ice in my area, so I don’t need tires like this.” In fact, snow tires are made of more flexible rubber than all-season tires. That’s why they grip better. So even if you get little to no snow or ice in your area, you can still benefit from buying snow tires if your neck of the woods gets cold. The softer rubber will provide better grip and stability in the cold months.
We have two vehicles and we use them both daily. One car, a Saturn Ion, is mostly intended for the fast in town trips and the travel to our local ski hill. The van is the one we drive long distances with skis and boots and suitcases in the back. Both carry my family in winter and that means safety is vital.
Buying Snow Tires – How to Choose Them
Get GOOD Tires
If you’re committing to buying snow tires, don’t be cheap. Almost any snow tire will provide better performance in the cold than an all-season tire, but the better the tire the better the performance. You get what you pay for, and since a good snow tire will last you three to four winters, it pays to get quality ones that last. Plus, I hate waste so get the kind of snow tires that will endure (and take care of them too) so you don’t end up wasting your money and buying more often than necessary.
Studded snow tires have metal studs embedded into the treads for added traction on ice. The studs can damage your driveway and roads as well. Double check the Transportation Board or Highway Safety Authority for your area rules for your province or state. Read Ontario winter driving information here. In mountainous Vermont, studdable tires are permitted for instance. In Ontario they are prohibited, unless you dwell in northern Ontario.
Now, last year when we needed to climb a mountain in Vermont, the amazing Eric at Mad River Glen came to get us in a vehicle with studded tires. Those things are heavy duty and great for climbing mountains in Vermont. But that was literally one day of our winter so clearly we wouldn’t need that level of traction very often and they aren’t allowed in southern Ontario, my home, anyways.
Buy a Full Set
You’ll also need to get a full set of tires. Some people think they can just buy two snow tires for their vehicle, but that is a mistake. You need the same level of grip from all four tires. If you just put snow tires on your drive axle, you’re setting yourself up for possible pinwheeling and spinning out. Also the tires will wear differently and potentially might not last as long if you only get two. So don’t think that you can get away with two tires. You NEED all four for maximum efficiency and grip.
Don’t Forget Installation
You can’t just throw on snow tires all by yourself. You should have them mounted and balanced by a professional. Don’t forget to budget in the average $10 to $20 per tire mounting and balancing fee that most places charge. You may also need new rims and potentially new sensors for the tires too. Budget for that and decide how much you need to replace and what you can afford. Apparently salt and winter conditions can be harder on your standard rims.
When buying snow tires, consider investing in a wheel package. A wheel package means you buy the tires and four wheels to go with them. When it’s time to change from all-season to winter tires and vice versa, it makes things easier. That ease also can translate to a savings of up to $50 each time you swap out tires.
Check The Insurance Snow Tire Incentives
And don’t forget when you buy snow tires to check in with your insurance company or broker. There might be a savings incentive. Today I learned that we save 5 % discount on auto insurance because of the snow tires. That makes me happy.
Final Notes on When to Replace Your Winter Tires
Three to four seasons use is standard for winter tires. BUT, if you use them too long in the spring, or summer, and forget to switch them out you may do damage to your good winter tires. Also of course this depends on the roads you drive on and how much you use them. Good winter tires are meant only for winter use. Summer use can wear them down.
[tweetthis]Do you need snow tires and what should you know about them? [/tweetthis]
The Quarter Test?
Michelin X-ICE Xi3 tires are the ones we chose this year. This brand is expected to last 60,000 kms. When we want or think we need to replace them, three or four seasons down the road, we will take a quarter and place it head first into the tread. Michelin indicates that the top part of the figurehead should be covered by the tread. If you can see the whole head, then it’s time to replace the tires.
[tweetthis]Still debating getting winter snow tires? Here’s what you should know. [/tweetthis]
Buying Snow Tires is Worth It
Buying snow tires can be an excellent investment in your family’s safety. Winter driving is hard enough without getting stuck and worrying if your tires will grip. Even without snow and ice, buying snow tires offers an increased level of grip in cold weather in general, and are an excellent investment. That is especially true when you split the cost up over three or four seasons.
This is one of two posts about snow tires. This series has been sponsored by Michelin Canada. I received product in exchange for consideration here. My opinion is all my own and it is also truthful.
I had never heard of the quarter test- that’s a great idea! I’m so glad we have winter tires- I remember how scary it was to drive in all seasons before we got them!
Years ago, we once used all-season tires, what a mistake. Living in this climate, a good set of winter tires is a must!
It is law to have winter tires on vehicles here as of Oct or insurance will not cover you if you have an accident. I see many people pulled over not having them. Snow tires are so important and a great way to keep families safe. we get two seasons out of ours but we do a lot of driving
Actually the sign says winter tires or chains. I assume it is just the higher elevations
We just got a new set. Even in Vancouver, last year’s winter was so bad we decided to get them in case. I’m glad we did, I don’t want to take a chance with my kids in the car.
It amazes me the number of people that don’t actually use winter tires. We always take our vehicle into our local tire shop to make sure we’re good for the season, proper tires are essential here especially since we live in the mountains.