Blog Winter Tires In Canada - Best Snow Tires, Tips And FAQs

Nov 8, 2018

A Guide Winter Tires In Canada

Winter Tires

Harsh and slippery driving conditions make winter tires in Canada a must. Whether you live in Ontario, Alberta or anywhere else in the country, you know how important it is to drive safe in snowy and wet conditions. Winter tires improve your ability to stop, prevent sliding, and help you be a safer and more predictable driver.

Here, we will take a look at just how many drivers in Canada use winter tires, winter tire laws, outline some of the best winter tires, provide tips for winter tire use, and answer common questions about snow tires.

Use Of Winter Tires in Canada Is On The Rise

As soon as the cool weather begins to creep in and the threat of snow is imminent, it’s time to start thinking about getting your winter tires installed, that is, if you install them. While there are many proven benefits of using winter tires during the winter months, there are still many drivers who don’t install them – But this is changing.

66% Of Drivers Use Winter Tires In Canada

A recent survey by Tire and Rubber Association of Canada (TRAC) found that two-thirds of drivers now use winter tires. This is up from only 35% of drivers in 1998. Tire and Rubber Association of Canada (TRAC)

Outside of Quebec, where winter tires are mandatory, 60% of drivers use them. Here’s a regional breakdown of snow tire use in Canada :

  • Canada wide : 66%
  • Quebec : 100%
  • Atlantic Canada : 83%
  • British Columbia : 60%
  • Ontario : 59%
  • Alberta : 57%
  • Manitoba / Saskatchewan : 48%

Do You Really Need Snow Tires?

About 40% of drivers in Canada do not use snow tires. They survey identified a number of reasons why some drivers are resistant to using them :

  • 51% believe all-season tires are good enough
  • 22% said they don’t drive enough to warrant buying them
  • 21% believe cost is a barrier
  • 8% had other reasons for not using snow tires

Why Install Winter Tires?

Winter Tires Canada When you install four winter tires it can greatly improve your ability to drive in snow, frost, slush, and icy conditions. Advantages of using winter tires include :

  • Better traction
  • Improved braking and handling
  • Better control
  • Increased driver confidence when behind the wheel
  • Prevention of accidents and related injuries and fatalities
  • Fewer insurance claims
  • Improved road safety
  • An safer winter driving experience overall

What Canada Can Learn From Quebec About Winter Tire Laws

While you might use the slippery logic that not having an accident – yet – is reason enough to avoid the expense and hassle of buying and putting on winter tires, the province of Quebec has decided it’s worth legislating winter tire usage. Winter tires have been mandatory in Quebec since 2008.

Introducing such a law didn’t result in huge opposition from the public, as it was estimated that 90 per cent of drivers in Quebec were already using winter tires in 2008. Even with the very high winter tire adoption rate in Quebec, a 2011 study released by the Quebec government found winter road-accident injuries had dropped five percent in the two winters since winter tires were made mandatory.

That translates to 574 fewer people suffering an accident. The study also found a three per cent reduction in deaths and serious injuries due to road accidents.

While winter tires are not required by law, they are recommended by Ontario and other provincial governments. There are currently now plans to make winter tires mandatory in Ontario. However, as of January 1st, 2016, all private insurance companies in Ontario must offer a winter tire insurance discount. So, if you have purchased and installed winter tires and have yet to receive your discount, make sure you contact your insurance provider to tell them you have winter tires.

Alberta Winter Tire Laws

Are Winter Tires Mandatory In Alberta?

Winter tires are not mandatory in Alberta. Alberta Transportation does recommend drivers install winter tires to drive during the winter months. There are no plans to make snow tires mandatory at this time.

The Benefits Of Installing Winter Tires For Ontario and Alberta Winters

Today’s winter tires are not your father’s snow tires. These days, advancements in both tread design and new rubber compounds deliver greater benefits, including financial incentives.

Here are some of the main benefits of installing winter tires :

5% Winter Tire Insurance Discount In Ontario

Snow Tires

One of the main benefits of purchasing winter tires in Ontario is the snow tire insurance discount. Installing winter tires on your vehicle automatically qualifies you for a 5% winter tire insurance discount. As they say, any savings is good, right?

The important thing to keep in mind about the Ontario winter tire discount is that you need to contact your insurance company to let them know you have purchased and installed snow tires. Depending on your insurance company, you may need to provide some proof, such as a receipt for the purchase of winter tires.

Alberta Winter Tire Discount

Alberta drivers may qualify for an insurance discount if they install winter tires. Discount availability and amount varies from insurer to insurer. Speak to your broker about available winter tire insurance discounts to see if you qualify.

A Bonus Of Winter Tires : 5% Fuel Savings

TIRF reports indicate that putting winter tires on your vehicle during the winter driving season will save you as much as five per cent in fuel costs. So, in addition to the added safety and security, there is money to be saved, especially over the course of several years. Add this to your insurance discount, and installing winter tires makes financial sense.

Peace Of Mind And Road Safety

Simply knowing that you have winter tires installed on your vehicle provides you with peace of mind in knowing you are doing your part to make Ontario and Alberta roads safe.

Tips To Get Cheap Winter Tires

Cheap Winter Tires

Much like other products, drivers want to save money when buying winter tires. We all want cheap winter tires. Winter tire prices can vary greatly. Here are some tips to get cheaper winter tires :

  • Shop around : Comparing winter tire prices is the best way for you to find the cheapest rates in your area.
  • Be on the lookout for deals and sales : Winter tires go on sale just like anything else. Be on the lookout for special sales and deals from local tires shops.
  • Shop off season : You can often find last year’s models on special or clearance sales during the spring and summer.
  • Check the tire rating : While price is important, don’t forget to check out reviews and ratings.
  • Shop based on value : Shopping based on value is important. You want a good idea, but you also want a good quality product.
  • Consider used winter tires : Buying used can greatly reduce winter tire costs.

All Season vs. Winter Tires : Winter Tires Now Dramatically Outperform All-Season Tires

It may not be surprising to hear the head of the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada (TRAC), which represents tire makers, promoting winter tires. But when TRAC president Glenn Maidment states that “today’s high-tech winter tires dramatically outperform all-season tires in all winter driving conditions,” there’s research behind his praise for tire technology. According to Canada’s Tire and Rubber Association, today’s winter tires offer up to 50% or more traction than all-seasons.

The benefits really kick in when the temperature starts dropping, whether there’s much snow on the road or not.

While all tire rubber stiffens as the temperatures drop – which can result in a reduction of traction and grip – the rubber used in today’s winter tires maintains its elasticity even at extremely low temperatures of -30°C and lower. With this technological advantage, the latest generation of winter tires offers superior traction and grip.

Best Winter Tires For Trucks

Finally, a recent report from the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) cites research indicating that even on dry pavement at below-zero temperatures, the stopping distance of vehicles with winter tires is as much as 30 per cent shorter than vehicles with all-season tires.

Although all-season tires provide traction in a variety of driving conditions, winter tires surpass them in performance when it comes to driving during snowy and icy conditions.

7°C Is The Magic Number For When To Put On Winter Tires

You may have heard 7°C – or the point at which you can see your breath – suggested in TV commercials as the ideal time to change your tires from all-seasons (or summers) to winters. Sources such as agree that once temperatures hit 7°C or less, that’s a good guideline for putting on winter tires.

Generally, this means that you will install your winter tires near the beginning or middle of November in Ontario and other parts of the country. However, driving conditions and temperature, of course, will vary by region and from year to year.

Tips For Buying Winter Tires

When buying winter tires in Ontario, it’s important to be diligent and purchase high quality tires. Therefore, it’s important to shop not only based on price, but based on rating and performance of the tire to ensure you get the traction you need.

  • Buy 4 winter tires.
  • Make sure all tires are the same make and model.
  • Make sure the tires are the correct size – tire size is embossed on the side of the tire.
  • The cost for winter tires vary, but on average they range from $120-$200 per tire, based on the size and make of the tire.
  • Consider purchasing rims for your winter tires.
  • Have your tires installed by a professional, especially if your vehicle has ABS brakes, all-wheel drive and tire pressure sensors.

How Do You Know If It’s A Winter Tire? Look For The Winter Tire Symbol

There is different tire labeling based on the style of tire. If you are not sure, confirm with the retailer before purchasing. As a general rule, drivers are reminded to look for tires marked with the peaked mountain and snowflake logo. Tires with only M + S labeling are not rated as winter tires.

What Are The Best Winter Tires?

Best Winter Tires For SUV

Best Snow Tires and Brands

Shopping for the best winter tires in Canada? The best winter tire for you will depend on the road conditions in your area. In general, just like when you purchase other items, brand names with a good reputation are the best option. They are proven commodities and will deliver the results you expect out of a winter tire.

Top Winter Tire Brands

Here are some of the best known and reputable winter tire brands to consider :

  • Hankook winter tires
  • Goodyear winter tires
  • Michelin winter tires
  • Toyo winter tires
  • Dunlop winter tires
  • Uniroyal winter tires
  • Pirelli winter tires
  • Winter claw tires
  • Nokian winter tires
  • Cooper winter tires
  • Continental winter tires
  • Yokohama winter tires
  • Kumho winter tires
  • Motomaster winter tires

Best Winter Tires In 2018

Best Winter Tires 2018

We know that you want reliable and reputable winter tires. We’ve put together a list of the top rated winter tires for autos, SUVs, and trucks :

Best Winter Tires in Canada For Cars

According to, here are the best winter tires in Canada for autos in 2018 :

  • Bridgestone Blizzak WS80
  • Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9
  • Michelin X-Ice Xi3
  • Goodyear Ultra Grip Ice WRT
  • Toyo Observe GSi6
  • Pirelli Ice Zero FR
  • Continental Winter Contact SI
  • GT Radial
  • General Altimax Arctic


Best Winter Tires For SUVs And Trucks

Top winter tires for SUVs and trucks :

  • Michelin Latitude X-Ice Xi2
  • Firestone Winterforce
  • Dunlop Winter Maxx SJ8
  • Yokohama IceGUARD iG51v
  • General Tire AltiMAX Arctic
  • Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V2
  • Continental WinterContact SI

Each of these snow tire options have pros and cons and are available at multiple price points.

Should I Buy Used Winter Tires?

Used Winter Tires

To save on cost, many drivers opt to purchase used winter tires. Other purchase used winters because they only need them for a year or two.

While this is a viable option, you need to be diligent when purchasing used tires. Here are some tips for buying used snow tires :

  • Tread depth : Ensure they have adequate tread depth – a good used tire should have a minimum of 5-6/32 tread depth left.
  • Right tire size : Make sure the tires are the right fit.
  • Source : Consider a tire dealer or known source over Kijiji or online.
  • Wear : Look for tread wear patterns and irregular wear.
  • Repairs : Make sure they have not already been repaired.
  • Age : Check the manufacturing date.

Buying used winter tires is a risk. There is no warranty and no guarantee. Make sure you are diligent and fully inspect the tires before purchasing.

Where To Buy Winter Tires

Where Is The Best Place To Buy Winter Tires?

When it comes to purchasing winter tires, you have lots of options. In addition to local tire shops in your city, here are some of the larger tire retailers to consider :

  • Canadian Tire
  • Kal Tire
  • OK Tire
  • Fountain Tire
  • Costco
  • Walmart

Where To Buy Steel Rims For Winter Tires?

You can buy steel rims for winter tires in the same locations that sell winter tires. You may also be able to find rims online.

Winter Tire Safety Info & Tips

Best Snow Tires

If you haven’t yet put on winter tires this year, it’s not too late. Winter storms can have a habit of hitting when you least expect it. If and when you do put winter tires on your vehicle, remember these four basic tips :

1. Always install four winter tires.
2. Don’t mix tires. Doing so will decrease your vehicle stability.
3. Check your tires for worn treads.
4. Check and maintain proper tire pressure, especially in cold weather.

Installing winter tires provides Ontario drivers with many benefits – safety, more control, cost savings and more. Learn more about Ontario auto insurance discounts for winter tires.

Winter Tire FAQ

How Much Do Winter Tires Cost?

Winter tires costs vary widely. It depends on many factors such as the size of tire, make and brand of the tire, date of purchase, and many other factors. You can get winter tires for as little as $50 per tire up to $300 or more per tire.

Can I Use Winter Tires In Summer?

It is not advisable to use winter tires during the summer. They will wear faster on warm and dry roads because the rubber is softer and more flexible than on all season tires.

How Long Do Winter Tires Last?

It depends on how much winter driving you do. Most manufactures say tires will last six years or more. If you drive more frequently, expect them to last about 4 years.

When Is A Good Time To Change Winter Tires?

Winter tires should be changed out for new tires once the tread reaches 5/32 depth.

When To Remove Winter Tires?

It is recommended to change winter tires to summer tires once the temperature is consistently above 7 degrees Celsius in your area.

What Is The Minimum Tread Depth For Winter Tires?

6/32 (about 4 millimetres) is the minimum tread depth that is recommended for winter driving. Anything less could result in less control and performance.

What Should New Winter Tire Tread Depth Be?

Most new winter tires have a tread depth of 10/32 or 11/32.

Can I Use All Season Tires In Winter?

While you can use all season tires during the winter, they do not perform as well as snow tires. They are okay for wet roads and light snow, but not equipped to perform well during extreme winter conditions.

How To Store Winter Tires?

Store your winter tires in a cool and dry area, such as a basement or garage. If your tires are on rims you should stack them.

Are All Season Tires Winter Tires?

Best Winter Tires For Auto

No. All season and winter tires are different types of tires. All season tires are ideal for spring, summer, and fall driving. Winter tires are meant to be used in cold and snowy conditions.

Do I Need Wheels For Winter Tires?

No. You can have winter tires mounted on the same rims you use all year.

Do You Need Separate Rims For Winter Tires?

While you don’t need separate rims for winter tires, it is a good idea. You can get rims that are designed to withstand winter weather. Plus, it makes changing your tires easier.

Should I Put Studs In My Winter Tires?

Depending on where you live, studded winter tires may not be permitted; you cannot use them in southern Ontario. There are no regulations in Alberta. Check with your province to see if they are allowed.

Can You Change Your Own Winter Tires?

Yes. Many Canadians change their own winter tires. If you know how to change a flat tire, you have the ability to change winter tires. You’ll need a jack, lug wrench, and breaker bar.

Are All Winter Tires The Same?

No. Winter tire designs and features can vary. They have different tread patterns, use different materials, and come in a variety of sizes.

Do Winter Tires Use More Gas?

Yes. Winter tires typically use more gas because of the increased grip and traction. Under inflated tires also use more gas. So, make sure your tires are property inflated.

Is There A Difference Between Winter Tires And Snow Tires?

Today, winter tires and snow tires refer to the same type of tire. The terms are often used interchangeably.

Can I Buy Winter Tires Online In Canada?

Yes. There are many online retailers and tire dealers that sell winter tires online.

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