Want to save money on car insurance? Purchase winter tires
If you drive in winter, there’s a lot riding on your tires. With the wrong rubber on cold, wet, snowy or icy roads, you’re not only risking life and limb, you’re playing with financial fire, say automotive experts.
A high-tech car could cost you $3,000 in repairs if you find yourself in even a minor fender-bender, according to Kaitlynn Furse, public relations manager for the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) in south central Ontario.
If you’re found at fault in that fender-bender, you could pay 10-30% more for auto insurance for several years.
Veteran Toronto driver Garth Woolsey has seen plenty of motorists playing Russian roulette on the roads with inadequate tires.
“They are the ones you see either stuck or spinning their tires on any kind of slope when you get those slippery snowfalls and slick ice,” says Woolsey.
To save on the “cost and bother” of switching tires on his 2011 Ford Fusion every fall and spring, Woolsey spent $667 on a set of all-weather tires that can be used year-round. They don’t quite match the performance of dedicated winter tires in the most severe conditions.
Michael Majernik, communications manager for the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada (TRAC), agrees all-weathers, introduced a decade ago, may be a good compromise “for year-round usage with winter edge.”
The experts agree however that a set of four dedicated winter tires is the safest and best performer in the season’s worst weather.
Their rubber compound maintains flexibility in cold temperatures and the treads bite better, giving them superior traction and grip on snow, ice and cold pavement. They also help reduce braking distance by up to 25%, according to the CAA.
Many Canadians vouch for their effectiveness, 80% of winter tire owners credited them with avoiding a potentially hazardous situation according to a TRAC survey.
Of the 30% of Ontario drivers who said they don’t own winter tires, 21% cited the cost while 54% thought so-called all-seasons were good enough.
TRAC prices a set of winter tires between $600 to $900, while CAA says the investment can range from $1000 to $1800.
CAA also reports that spring and fall changeovers cost between $100 and $200. Renting storage space for off-season tires can add $120 to $160 a year.
It all comes down to personal choice after doing the math and determining your comfort level, says Thomas. On the plus side, Ontario insurers provide a discount – usually 5% - for winter or all-weather tires identified by a mountain and snowflake logo.
It’s not recommended to lie about having winter tires because your insurer could deny your claim when it finds out you don’t.
The CAA recommends winter tires as the safest option for urban and rural driving in all types of personal vehicles. Driver behaviour also plays a big role.
Winter tires should be professionally installed once the temperature is consistently below 7 C, usually from mid-November to mid-April.
Driving with winters in the summer is also a bad idea, the softer rubber will wear out much faster on hot pavement, and continuous use could compromise vehicle performance.