What is the Average Cost of Winter Tires?
With budgets squeezed in all kinds of ways, it’s easy to view winter tires as just another unnecessary expense. It doesn’t help that all-season tires sound like something you can drive on throughout every single season, including winter.
Learn why winter tires are essential for driving in Canada during the cold, plus what it costs. Also, find out how to select the right winter tires for your car, and how you can keep the overall expense as low as possible.
Winter Tires in Canada
Believe it or not, some Canadians still think winter tires aren’t really necessary. While Quebec is the only province to legally require them, winter tires really should be on every Canadian car at least from December through March.
The winters in Canada are famously brutal. Not only do temperatures take a dive, drivers are constantly dealing with snow, ice, and slush on the roads. These hazardous conditions can make getting from one place to another more dangerous and stressful.
Whenever the topic of using winter tires comes up, people understandably want to know about cost. It’s good to keep within a budget, especially if you’ve experienced financial stress in the past, and eliminating unnecessary expenses helps considerably. As you’re about to see, winter tires don’t cost as much as many Canadians fear, while not getting them can lead to greater costs.
Why Winter Tires Matter
The name for all-season tires is deceptive, considering they’re made for all but the winter season. This fact has fueled plenty of misunderstanding among Canadians who wonder why they need to pay for tires they only use for part of the year, versus tires they supposedly can drive on all year.
It’s the Design
The most obvious thing you’ll notice about winter tires upon seeing them is the tread pattern, or the portion of the tire that actually touches the road, looks completely different. Aggressive edges and deep grooves are designed to bite down into the snow and ice, helping snow tires to get the traction all-season tires cannot.
Siping, or small slits in the tire tread, provide even more gripping ability when the going gets slippery. You just don’t get that kind of tread pattern with all-season tires, and it make a huge difference.
It’s the Rubber
While your tires aren’t made of pure rubber, but instead are composed of rubber compounds, the mixture isn’t the same for all tire types. You might expect that winter tires are harder as a way to deal with the harsh winter temperatures and conditions, but the exact opposite is true.
Winter tires use a softer rubber compound than all-season or even summer tires. That means the tires don’t freeze as easily, so they remain pliant in sub-freezing temperatures and grip the road better. Even when there’s zero ice, snow, or slush on the pavement, winter tires provide superior handling in the bitter cold.
Of course, that softer rubber compound means winter tires are horrible for driving in the summer. The higher temperatures accelerate tire wear, which is why you shouldn’t use winter tires outside of the season.
It’s the Metal
While many modern tires have steel belts in them, winter tires can use even more metal to improve traction further. Certain winter tires accommodate small metal studs, which really bite into ice when road conditions are especially hazardous.
Not to exhaust a point, but you just can’t get this kind of traction with all-season tires. That alone is reason why all Canadians should be driving on winter tires when the temperatures drop.
Just how much you’ll spend on winter tires really depends on several factors, just like any other tires. Prices certainly run the range, with winter tires costing sometimes under $100 per tire all the way up to several hundred dollars each.
Keep in mind that the size of the tires your car needs has a big effect on price. The bigger the tires, in general the more expensive they will be. SUVs and trucks often top the list for winter tire expenses, especially if you’ve installed a lift and are using tires much larger than what come on the vehicle originally.
Just like with any product, the more features included with snow tires, the more expensive they’ll be. If you want an option that are rated to last longer, the cost will be higher. The same thing goes for winter tires made for improved performance or to operate more quietly.
Installing studs on snow tires also increases the end cost. If you need the studs, then you can justify the expense, but otherwise you might want to forget getting them.
You must find the balance between the features you need and the price, resulting in the best quality.
Rotation and Balancing
Don’t forget to take into account the cost of maintaining your winter tires, or more specifically rotation and balancing. This is something you should be doing with your other tires already, but just because you don’t use the winter tires as much doesn’t mean it’s not necessary.
Some shops allow you to come back to have your tires rotated and balanced without charging extra. This might be built into the cost of the tires, or you might find that shop’s tire prices are still competitive. Others might charge $20-$60 or even more each time you come in for this basic maintenance item.
Choosing Winter Tires
Of course, one of the most difficult parts of getting winter tires is choosing which ones to put on your car. Obviously, not all winter tires are made equal. So you can make an educated decision that will work for the long term, consider the following items.
Think honestly about how bad winter conditions get where you drive. Remember if you take road trips to visit relatives during the holidays, have a cabin in another part of the country, etc. that should be taken into consideration.
The more snow and ice an area sees each winter, and less often the roads are plowed, the more important it is to choose a better, higher-quality winter tire. After all, you’re asking the tire to do more, so it makes sense to get one which is up to the task.
How much do you drive in the winter months? If you’re going long distances each month, a tire which can handle that kind of use would be appropriate. Some drivers stick closer to home and don’t travel nearly as much, meaning you can get away with something which isn’t rated to last as long.
Automakers will often provide a list of recommended tires for a certain model. If nothing else, you could look over this list and see if there’s an option you’re already considering, or to give you a jumping off point for research.
Keeping a Budget
If you have a strict budget and are good about adhering to it, that’s an admirable quality. Financial discipline of that sort can get you further ahead in life, especially when it comes time to retire. With that kind of commitment, you’re likely always wondering if anything you’re buying is really necessary.
Instead of looking at tires as just another expense, reason through the benefits listed above, including the fact your other tires will actually last longer.
There are also some things you can do to keep the cost of winter tires down, so you can still keep a strict budget.
Shop for Deals
Just like with any major purchase, you shouldn’t just show up at a tire shop and decide right then and there you’re going to buy winter tires. Shop around first, learn how much they normally cost, that way you can hunt down the best deal possible. If you do that and are at a tire shop where an amazing price is being offered on winter tires, you’ll know exactly how much money you’re saving.
In this age of the internet, shopping for deals is so much easier. You can check the cost at dozens of retailers, including online stores which specialize in tires. Some Canadians look south of the border at the United States, where tires often cost less, then take a short trip down their to make their purchase.
Remember, though, that most retailers only have winter tires in the fall and during the winter season. They might run out of stock, and when supply gets low prices often rise.
Prolonging Other Tires
Don’t forget that when you’re using winter tires, you’re not driving on the other tires for your car. If you stop and think about that fact, it means your other tires will last longer than if you were to use them all year long.
This is a natural thing to forget, so if you did it’s not something to be ashamed about. You need to look at the long-term financial benefit, since up front you’re paying more. But, when your primary tires last a few years longer as a result, you start reaping the benefits.
One way people find to cut down on the expense of winter tires is to have them mounted on separate wheels. The advantage is of course that mounting tires on wheels, then taking them off later comes at an additional cost for labor. That means you must pay for removing the tires you drive on the rest of the year, mounting the snow tires on the same wheels, and then later the reverse.
Naturally, buying an extra set of wheels is another cost, but it’s one you pay only once. Instead of going for some fancy aluminum wheels which look really great, buy basic steel wheels for a fraction of the price. Wheels are often caked with snow, ice, and salt during the winter. Not only that, they deal with horrible conditions, and that means damage to the finish. Mounting winter tires on steel wheels keeps the cost down and means you’re not spending money on something nice which will be ruined anyway.
Keep in mind whatever price you’re paying for one wheel, you’re actually handing that over four times, plus tax. That means saving even a little bit per wheel by going with a cheaper option can translate into a significant savings.
Some Canadians on a budget will think getting just two winter tires is a wise way to manage the situation. Without thinking too deeply, this makes sense, since the drive wheels on a car are the only ones which seem to need the extra traction.
Putting winter tires just on the front or rear of a car can negatively affect handling or cause you to get stuck often. This is true whether your car has front- or rear-wheel drive. All four tires need to grip properly, otherwise acceleration, handling, and braking performance suffer.
The Cost of Accidents
If you think not getting winter tires is the best way to save money, sooner or later it’ll catch up with you. With the lack of control you have using all-season tires, eventually you’ll get in an accident.
Paying to have body damage or worse repaired on a car can really add up. Your insurance might cover a portion, depending on the kind of coverage you have and your deductibles, but you might need to bear part of the cost.
Aside from the cost of repairs, you could be injured in a car accident, leading to lost work. Your pain and suffering is a high price to pay as well, all because you thought winter tires were an unnecessary expense.
Just like with other tires, winter tires run the range when it comes to price. If you’re particularly budget-conscious, there are some rather inexpensive options available. High-end winter tires are probably well beyond what you actually need. In the middle are tires which can provide a nice mixture of features and cost, so you get the exact quality necessary for your needs.
Remember that the cost of not getting winter tires can be steep. A serious car accident can come with big financial burdens or even a life-changing event.