How To Shop for Winter Tires

January 18, 2010

Sliding around a little too much this winter? Investing in some good winter tires might seem like a pricey proposition, but it could pay off.

Winter tires are usually more expensive than all-season radials, but since you'll only be using your winter treads for a few months a year, they'll last three or four winters.

Think of it this way. Having a better grip and more control in, for example, the Toyota Prius, might help you keep that client or have a more productive day…and it might help you avoid winter accidents. Just the insurance deductible for one minor fender-bender could cost you more than that set of winter tires.

If you have all-season tires, particularly a model with the M+S (mud and snow) rating, you might be able to get away with them through the winter, but only if you typically set out after the plows and salt trucks have already done their thing. The simple advice is, if you frequently have to drive in fresh snow, packed snow, slush, or on icy roads—or depend on your vehicle for your job—you should be getting a set of good winter tires. They really do make a difference, no matter what the type of vehicle and whether you have all-wheel drive or not.

Here are a few important winter-tire dos and dont's:

DON'T count on studs and chains. In the past studded tires were a good solution to get you traction on hard-packed snow and ice, but true winter tires are replacing the need for them altogether. Modern winter designs provide better traction and control on ice than studded tires, without doing damage to the road surface. And chains are strictly a last resort; they can do costly damage to wheels and bodywork if improperly mounted, or if they break.

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