A Michelin tire expert explains why winter tires are worth the extra cost

  • We asked a tire expert at Michelin why winter tires are worth the investment.
  • Winter tires are specially designed to deal with snow, slush, ice, and low temperatures.
  • A good set can cost more than $US500, before installation.

Winter has officially arrived, with the solstice on December 21. In much of the US, that means it’s time to prepare for snowstorms, large and small.

Many drivers use year-round, all-season tires, and that’s usually fine. These tires are designed to handle much of what nature can throw at them.

But for an extra level of security – and the ability to actually use your vehicle when conditions are truly nasty – you might want to consider a set of winter tires.

The tires are designed specifically to confront snow, slush, ice and the lower temperatures that can degrade the performance of all-season tires. A high-quality set of four will set you back more than $US500 (before installation), but remember that you won’t be using them year-round, so you’ll spread the lifetime of 30,000-40,000 miles over more winters.

We asked Tom Carter, technical communications director for product marketing at Michelin why winter rubber is worth the cost and trouble to swap for your car’s usual tires every year. Here’s what he had to say.


Winter tires improve safety.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, over 1,300 people are killed and more than 116,800 people are injured in vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy or icy pavement annually,” Carter said in an email.

“Many consumers – 38% according to a recent Michelin survey – believe they don’t need winter tires if they have four-wheel-drive,” he added.

“While four-wheel-drive is great for initial acceleration, it does little to assist with the most common hazard of winter driving, which is the inability to stop in winter conditions. Only winter tires are designed to handle winter’s worst. Increased traction during winter conditions [snow, ice, and just cold weather] is invaluable for safety.”


Winter tires can keep you on the road.

“Loss of work time due to winter conditions can be costly,” Carter said.

“For an employee making $US50,000 a year, a day’s wage is about $US200 per day. For emergency personnel, business owners, and health care professionals, often they cannot afford to miss a day due to winter conditions. The need for mobility has a cost that is hard to calculate, but certainly exceeds the cost of winter tires. Some people can afford to miss a day of work, but most people can’t afford to miss picking up their kids from school when winter comes suddenly.”


Winter tires can help avoid accidents and keep insurance payments down.

Matthew DeBord/Business InsiderBelieve it or not, that’s a Mazda Miata MX-5 with winter tires!

“According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average auto liability claim for property damage in 2017 was $US3,638 – and that does not include the increase in insurance premiums,” Carter said.

“So, if you avoid an accident with tires built specifically for winter roads, you are likely to save significantly more than you pay for the cost of winter tires by avoiding paying the insurance deductible and cost of rising premiums.”


So are winter tires ultimately worth it?

Carter would say, “Yes!” And I can back that up. I don’t use winter tires on my personal car – but that’s because I typically test vehicles during the winter months that have been equipped with seasonal rubber.

However, I’ve seen what can happen with tires when they have to deal with serious snowfall, low temperatures, and ice and slush. It isn’t pretty. I’d definitely make the switch to winter tires, if I had to go it alone. The moderate cost, relative to the return on safety and peace of mind, make it worthwhile.

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