How important is it to get winter tires in Canada?

By: Miral Naik on October 3, 2023
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It’s the time of the year to whip out your winter jacket, gloves, and beanie. While making sure you’re prepared for the Canadian winter, you’ll need to make sure that your home and car are well-equipped to deal with winter, too.  

While you can possibly get away with all-season tires in other parts of the world, that’s not feasible in many places in the Great White North. When the temperature hits -10 degrees Celsius, and you’ll have to tread carefully over snow, hail, or black ice, all-season tires just cannot provide the grip and traction that winter tires have.  

Winter tires are designed to withstand harsh winter conditions. The tire’s tread pattern is deeper and allows for a stronger grip and more control on the road; and the chemical composition of the rubber provides flexibility in low temperatures. Winter tires come with a three-peak mountain snowflake (or with a 3PMS symbol), denoting that the tires have been rigorously tested and can provide sufficient traction in extreme winter conditions. 

If you decide to continue driving your all-season tires during the winter, you could skid over icy roads, lose control of your vehicle, and are at a greater risk of a collision. And if safety is not reason enough, in some Canadian provinces, you will be fined if you’re found to be driving without appropriate winter tires. 

Winter tires in Canadian provinces  

Winter tires are mandatory in Quebec as well as some highways in British Columbia. Failure to comply with this mandate will lead to a fine of up to $300 in Quebec, and $121 in British Columbia. 

While not mandatory, winter tires are highly recommended in Ontario and Alberta. On the flipside, in these provinces, you are encouraged to install winter tires. Most insurance companies in Ontario and Alberta offer a discount of up to 5% on your insurance premium if you install winter tires before the winter season. 

Read more: Ontario’s winter tire car insurance discount: what you need to know 

When should you switch to winter tires? 

In Quebec, you should install winter tires from December 1 to March 15. In British Columbia, winter tires are required for specific highways that tend to see a high amount of snow, and this mandate is applicable from October 1 to April 30.  

In Ontario and Alberta, the window for winter tire installation may differ among insurance companies. To avail the discount on your auto insurance, you must have your winter tires installed throughout that time period.  

For example, if you want to qualify for TD Insurance’s winter tire discount in Ontario, make sure you get your winter tires installed before December 1 to March 30.   

Similarly, CAA Auto Insurance provides a 5% discount on insurance premiums, subject to installing winter tires on all four wheels, from November 20 to April 15. Be sure to check with your insurance company on what their specific requirements are. Also, make sure you keep all receipts of winter tire purchase and installation.  

How often should you replace your winter tires? 

Just like it’s not advisable to use all-season tires during the winter, it’s not advisable to use winter tires throughout the year. These tires were designed for winter driving and by using them in the summer, the tread pattern can wear out quicker, leading to greater wear and tear. Not only is this unsafe, but it also means you’ll have to replace your tires much more frequently.  

Most tire manufacturers state that a tire has a lifespan of six years, but frequent drivers might find that they last closer to three or four seasons. According to the Ontario Official Ministry of Transportation (MTO) Driver’s Handbook, tires should not be older than 10 years old, and must be replaced when the tread wears thinner than 1.5 mm deep.  

How much do winter tires cost? 

A full set of four winter tires can cost up to $1000, including purchase and installation. You can also save by buying a set of four, as many sellers offer a rebate when purchasing a full set. 

However, by changing it seasonally and using it solely during winter months, they can last up to a few years. It is not a recurring expense, and moreover, depending on your province and insurance provider, can help reduce your insurance premium.  

As we head towards winter, make sure you put safety first and get your winter tires installed.