Winter vs. All-Season Tires – What You Should Know

By our count, this should be the umpteenth time this debate would surface in the auto world. This time, it’s not so much about which tire is better, but rather what you need to know about their uniqueness and the right choice for particular seasons. Knowing the differences would ultimately help you make a more informed decision when tire shopping.

It is also important to note here that tires play a huge role in overall driver/car safety. While most modern cars now feature safety systems like the ABS, Traction Control, and Stability Control, the quality of the tire and its idealness for the weather/road condition remain superior. All these systems still rely on the tires to work effectively. 

Winter Tires vs All-Season Tires

Winter tires are specifically made for driving in the winter season while all-season tires can be used through the year, in any season at all. There is no doubt at all that all-season tires are useful all-year-long but they do not have marked features that are ideal for winter driving. Some people go as far as saying that all-season tires are better classified as 3 season tires – for Spring, Summer, and Fall. And if you think about it, they are not wrong. 

Winter Tires Have Better Acceleration and Handling in Winter

Thanks to its advanced rubber compounds and tread patterns, winter tires are more flexible on snow, ice and slush. This makes it easier for cars to have sufficient grip on snowy roads. All-season tires, on the other hand, struggle to maintain traction. No matter how much pressure a driver mounts on the gas, a winter tire would always pick up speed faster than an all-season tire would. 

If you are not living in Quebec (where winter tires are mandated in the cold season) and don’t mind spending more time on the road, all-season tires may be a good choice for you. But keep in mind that you may need to accelerate quickly out of a dangerous situation and this set of tires will likely fail you. Winter tires also allow for better handling and control of the car – without these, accidents are more likely to happen.

All-Season Tires are Less Expensive and More Convenient

All-season tires cost less than winter tires – but that’s something you probably already knew. They are also more convenient to use, as there is no need to have tire swaps because all-seasons can stay on your car for as long as they’re good. Since this is the case, it’s a good idea to evaluate what’s a much higher price to pay – more money for a set of winter tires that are safer during winter or a smaller amount for tires that can’t guarantee safety in harsh winter conditions. 

Apart from winter, all-season tires are perfect for the other seasons where they have more grip on the road, improve fuel economy, handling, and so on. But when it comes to the cold season, one is better off paying the higher price for winter tires. Statistics show that since Quebec passed the law for winter tires to be used from December to March, there has been a huge drop in road accidents and mishaps.

Winter and All-Season Tires Should not Be Used All Year Long

It is worth reiterating that all-season tires are best fitted for 3 seasons of the year and winter is not one of them. In the same vein, winter tires lose their touch after winter makes way for Spring. So, it is best practice to swap out these tires as soon as one season ends and another begins. The good thing about all-season tires is that you can use them in Spring, Fall, and Summer, so you only get to do this swap once a year – during winter. 

Using all-season tires all year long is not advisable unless you live and commute in areas without heavy snowfall. You’d be setting yourself up for all kinds of road mishaps and you’d be lucky to come out unscathed. Even if you do, your tires most likely will not. Winter tires, for one, wear down faster in a warmer temperature. And since winter tires cost more money, it would be an unwise decision to take that chance. 

The Verdict

Use winter tires during winter, and all-season tires every other time of year. These two types of tires are more efficient when used for the weather/road conditions they are built for. Remember to swap out tires too and store them well until it’s time for a swap. But if you live in cities like Brantford Ontario, or Victoria in British Columbia (where they record low amount of snow), all-season tires should work fine for you even in winter.

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