Is it worth splashing out on special tyres for winter driving or is it just a waste of money?
In many parts of Europe it’s a legal requirement for drivers to fit specialist winter tyres (and also winter wheels) during the darker months.
Winter tyres are made of a harder compound silica rubber and use a specific tread pattern to specifically allow greater flexibility in colder temperatures – leading to greater grip and therefore greater braking performance. The tread pattern is also designed to allow greater dissipation of water.
The sidewall of winter tyres are marked with a snowflake or snow-topped mountain for identification.
There’s no doubt that they do work – at temperatures below 7 degrees centigrade they perfom better than ‘normal’ road tyres and so there’s certainly an argument to be made in having them fitted – and when you consider that they are ‘winter’ tyres, not ‘snow’ tyres, then they can be run for 4 or 5 months in the UK whilst the temperatures are down at those sort of levels.
But what about the cost?
Well, they’re usually slightly cheaper than ‘normal tyres – but not much. But you do need to consider the cost of having them fitted and un-fitted. And possibly the cost of buying not just tyres but wheels to go with them. (You can get relatively cheap steel wheel supplied with the tyres – but do you really want to drive around with those on your car for months?)
On the cost flip side there’s the fact that whilst you’re running your winter tyres, you’re not wearing out your normal tyres, and vice-versa.
An alternative might be to buy All Season Tyres – tyres with a high silica content like winter tyres but also designed to run during the summer months. The best of both worlds? – or the best of neither?
There’s quite a lot to weigh up – you also should consider where you live and what type of roads you drive on (well maintained, urban roads or remote country lanes), and how long you’re intending on keeping your car (getting full value out of your winter tyres).
Personally I thoroughly recommend them. But I live in the countryside, in the north, at the top of a big hill.
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