Three or four years ago, did you even consider buying winter tyres? Since the cold snaps of ‘09 and ‘10, they’ve become more commonplace, increasingly advertised and recommended. But do you really need them?
Winter tyres are one of the hottest motoring topics here on Which? Conversation, and it’s one that’s close to the Which? Car team’s hearts.
We’ve tried them, we’ve tested them, and we’ve also put alternative products like snow socks through their paces. And while we’re happy to recommend winter tyres to those living in remote or rural areas, we don’t think the expense associated with them is justified for many UK dwellers. And I believe the industry is pushing winter tyres on consumers with more vigour than I think is required. One example of this appeared in my inbox last month.
Reasons to buy winter tyres
The press release, headlined ‘147 reasons to consider winter tyres’, draws on Met Office figures for the five months from October 2011 to the end of March 2012. It suggests that for 147 days in that period the average temperature was below seven degrees (the maximum temperature at which winter tyres are claimed to out-perform summer tyres) during prime commuting hours.
However, when I looked at the Met Office’s monthly summaries of those same months, I was less convinced by the argument. According to the statistics, October 2011 was the eighth warmest October of the last 100 years, November 2011 the second warmest, December 2011 was five degrees warmer than 2010 and the mildest since 2006, January 2012 was ‘significantly milder’ than those of 2009 to 2011, and so on.
In conclusion, last winter was exceptionally mild. And when I look at this information and take into account that I’ve been able to drive safely and comfortably where I live without winter tyres for the past 10 years, I don’t see these 147 reasons as a compelling argument for me personally to buy winter tyres.
Winter tyres vs snow socks vs summer tyres
Of course, that doesn’t mean you should discount them altogether. Winter tyres do offer better grip in cold conditions, not just on snow and ice. When we did test the braking distance of winter tyres, snow socks and summer tyres on compacted snow, the results were quite telling:
Still, I would urge you to really think about whether you need winter tyres. For a lot of people, their profession and/or surrounding area makes winter tyres a logical, safe and cost-effective purchase. And if you can afford the added expense, they are a worthwhile investment – especially for drivers in Scotland and more mountainous areas.
However, for those living in towns and cities spending around £200 on four Best Buy winter tyres is an expense they probably don’t need.
What measures are you taking for driving this winter?
I'll be keeping my summer tyres (42%, 697 Votes)
I'll be fitting winter tyres (31%, 513 Votes)
I'll be fitting/keeping all-season tyres (15%, 247 Votes)
I'll be using snow socks (6%, 91 Votes)
I'm not sure yet (5%, 80 Votes)
I won't be driving this winter (2%, 27 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,653