Are Winter Tyres Worth It? Pros, Cons & Costs Explained

Ellie Dyer-Brown, 9 months ago

5 min read

  • Tyres
  • Review
Close up of a winter car tyre on a snowy road.

WhoCanFixMyCar discusses the benefits of winter tyres and whether they are worth the money.

We Brits are famous for complaining about the weather. One blast of heavy snow is enough to bring us to our knees - or so the jokes go. Our main roads are usually gritted, fending off the worst weather, but minor routes aren’t always given the same attention. Head out after heavy snowfall, and you’ll likely see cars skidding their way down unploughed, un-gritted roads.

It is estimated that around 21% of all road accidents in the UK between December and March are linked to poor weather conditions such as snow, ice and hail.

But what if there was a way to avoid the stress and risks of driving in winter? Could a set of specialised car tyres be the answer, and even so, are winter tyres worth it? You can find answers to these questions and more in this guide.

Contents:

What are winter tyres?

Pros and cons of winter tyres

Can you use winter tyres in summer?

Can you use summer tyres in winter?

Is it illegal to mix winter and summer tyres?

How much are winter tyres?

Alternatives to winter tyres


What are winter tyres?

Winter tyres are specifically designed to adapt to colder weather. They are made of a softer compound, with deep sipes and grooves in the tread. As a result, they:

  • Grip better.

  • Offer better road handling.

  • Dispel water and snow more efficiently.

  • Maintain more contact with the road.

  • Reduce your braking distance.

Anytime the temperature drops below 7°C, winter tyres come into their own, delivering a considerably better - and safer - driving experience than their summer counterparts. Conversely, when the temperature is above 7°C, summer tyres are the safer and better-performing choice.

Read about whether summer tyres are worth it here.

You can identify winter tyres by looking for symbols on the sidewall - the three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMSF) and M & S symbols are industry standards.

The Three Peak Mountain Certified and M & S symbols, indicating a winter tyre meets the industry standard.

Pros and cons of winter tyres

Pros 

  • Safer in winter, including on roads that are wet, dry, icy or snowy.

  • Offer a better driving experience.

  • Provide significantly shorter stopping distances in snow and ice.

  • Better at resisting aquaplaning than summer tyres.

  • Less likely to get stuck on roads that haven’t been gritted.

  • Harder wearing than summer tyres.

  • More cost effective than summer tyres when used in wintry conditions.

Cons

  • Slightly more expensive than summer tyres.

  • Don’t perform as well as summer tyres in moderate weather conditions.

  • Having a set of summer tyres and another set of winter tyres is expensive.

Shorter stopping distances

One of the most significant benefits of winter tyres is that they offer shorter stopping distances. Tyresafe, the road safety charity, has investigated the effectiveness of winter tyres compared to summer tyres, and the findings are below.

TemperatureSummer TyresWinter TyresDifference
20 °C65.3m67m1.7m
5 °C70.5m65.7m4.3m

Can you use winter tyres in summer?

Winter tyres are optimised for colder temperatures - anything below 7°C. They are highly effective when used correctly, offering durability and grip. 

However, their flexible tread will wear down quickly when the weather gets warm, so you’ll need to replace them more often. You’ll soon see any savings draining away if you continue using them year-round. 

All-season tyres are an excellent alternative for drivers who want one set of tyres for the year.

Find out whether all-season tyres are worth it in this guide or click here for the best all-season tyres.

Can you use summer tyres in winter?

You can probably guess the answer to this question by now. Some drivers rely on summer tyres all year round, though it isn’t recommended. Just as winter tyres are optimised for colder temperatures, summer tyres work best in moderate weather. Their tread is more shallow with fewer grooves, making them unable to grip when snow or ice is on the road.

As a result, driving on summer tyres in winter can be dangerous, and if you have them, it’s best to avoid using your car when the weather is severe, if possible.

Is it illegal to mix winter and summer tyres?

There is no law forbidding you to mix summer and winter tyres. Although it isn’t illegal, it also isn’t recommended. The same applies to mixing all-season tyres. Different levels of grip between tyres is a dangerous recipe for disaster.

Until recently, the myth that winter tyres could invalidate your insurance was popular, but it has since been debunked.

Most insurers are signed up to the Association of British Insurers Winter Tyres Motor Insurance Commitment, so you don’t have to notify them if you’re using winter tyres at the correct time of year. 

However, when it comes to mixing tyres, the answer isn’t as clear-cut, and you don’t want to risk invalidating your insurance. If, for some reason, you have to mix tyres, it’s worth discussing it with your insurer first.

Read this guide for information on how to make sure you’re driving legally in winter. Alternatively, this article discusses more common winter driving myths.

How much are winter tyres?

The price of winter tyres varies. Premium brands like Continental and Goodyear can charge around £100-200 for their winter tyres, while mid-range brands like Uniroyal may charge around £70-100.

This guide discusses whether premium tyres are worth it.

Winter tyres are a little more expensive than summer tyres. When considering whether to invest in two sets of tyres, it’s worth remembering the long-term cost-effectiveness of this approach. Two sets will initially be expensive, but they will last longer than if used all year round, helping you save money over time.

Ready to buy a set of winter tyres but not sure which brand to choose? The following guides may help.

Alternatives to winter tyres

You have a few other options if you’re not keen on buying a new set of tyres for winter.

Snow chains

Snow chains are made from hard-wearing steel, making them ideal for use in heavy snow. They should be removed when the snow clears; otherwise, they may damage your car or the road. 

A man fitting snow chains to a white vehicle on a snowy road.

Snow socks

Snow socks are a fabric alternative to chains, providing a better solution for the British weather, which usually doesn’t deliver enough snow to warrant chains. 

Our ultimate winter driving guide contains more information on snow socks and chains, including when to use them and how to fit them.

All-season tyres

Rather than owning two sets of tyres, you could opt for all-season tyres instead. They are an excellent choice for our moderate climate, combining the best elements of summer and winter tyres. They usually feature plenty of sipes and are made of a compound that allows good grip in warm conditions without turning rigid when the temperature drops.

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